|Tee and I were able to take a few days away thanks to my sister Heather and cousin Annie and her husband Dan
looking after the kids. Tee had a conference in Memphis that had originally been scheduled to be held in New
Orleans prior to Hurricane Katrina. I had been planning to visit New Orleans when the conference was scheduled
to be there, but once that option was no longer available I thought I would skip this particular trip. However, when
Tee told me that the new location for the SLA (Special Libraries Association) conference was to be Memphis, I once
again was motivated to take the trip. Having never been to Memphis, there were several particular things I was
looking forward to doing there, and I'm happy to report that the trip was a success.
Tee and I flew out together on Thursday evening (3/23), taking the direct flight from Salt Lake on Delta Airlines.
We checked into the Peabody Hotel around midnight and only had time for a quick (and expensive!) beer that we
ordered through room service before turning in. The Peabody Hotel is "the south's grand hotel," and is THE
destination hotel of the mid-south. Originally built in 1869, the Peabody is not only famous as a center of
southern hospitality, culture, and history, but is also well known as the place that has the famous Peabody
Fountain Ducks, which make a grand entrance into the lobby fountain at 11:00 each morning and an equally
grand exit from the fountain each day at 5:00 each evening. The lobby and it's bar are known as "The Living Room
of Memphis," and has a tradition of being the place to see and be seen for southern celebrities and socialites for
generations. On my last night in Memphis I couldn't resist asking the waitress at the lobby bar where the
"Bathroom of Memphis" might be. Our room was beautifully restored, with an authentically historic feel, but was
also small and contained only a queen-sized bed. I didn't sleep very well due to the size of the bed, and we were
lucky enough to switch to a much more comfortable room the next day. (Remind me not to travel with Tee when
we're staying in a hotel with which she has no status!)
A mediocre sleep aside, I felt pretty good the next morning (No screaming kids after all). We spent a lazy morning
in the room, then set out to walk around. The temperature was cold (as cold or colder than those we left in Salt
Lake) and remained so throughout my stay. I must say that this was somewhat of a disappointment and kept us
indoors a bit more than we would have wanted. But, wrapped in two layers of shirts and a jacket we exited the
hotel to find that the Memphis Redbirds ballpark, AutoZone Park, was right across the street. The Redbirds are
the Memphis Triple A baseball team, and I had always heard that they had one of the best ballparks in the league
(our Bee's being in the same Pacific Coast League). We walked up to find the gates of the park wide open, so we
let ourselves in and snapped several photos of this very impressive facility. We even took care of gifts for the kids
with a stop-off at the on site store, purchasing some Redbird socks, tee-shirts, temporary tattoos, and a poster of
all the minor league team ball caps. Tee also bought a pair of "temporary" sunglasses thanks to her having lost her
nice ones on the flight into town.
We then walked straight down Union Avenue about 15 minutes to the legendary Sun Studios. For those who don't
already know, Sun Studios (originally known as Memphis Recording Services) is the birthplace of Rock N' Roll,
having been the studio that not only recorded the first Rock N' Roll record, "Rocket 88," but is also the place that
gave birth to the careers of many musical legends including Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Roy
Orbison, B.B. King, Howlin' Wolf, and of course, "The King" Elvis Presley. We spent a couple of minutes taking
pictures outside the front of the building, then entered to find the studio tour just about to start. The tour was a
highlight of our trip; fun and informative. We had a big group despite it being mid-afternoon on a Friday, a great
tour guide (up and coming musician David Brookings), and the ability to take some unique pictures (I'll include
some here at some point). Because the small, humble building that is Sun Studios is a national historic
landmark, everything is still in it's original condition, including the sound-tile ceiling which is falling apart. The
tour was very informative and even allows people to stand and take pictures on the exact spot and with the
microphone Elvis used for many of his first recordings. Great fun! We bought a couple of post cards and a tee-shirt
from the shop at the front of the building.
We stopped into the Lansky Bros. clothing store located within the Peabody hotel on our way to lunch. The
Lansky Bros. are famous in Memphis for being Elvis Presley's personal tailors, and the signed guitars and
memorabilia that fill the store could rival many Hard Rock Cafés. I picked up a nice Nat Nast shirt off of the sale
rack and got a tip on some great Memphis BBQ. We went directly to the recommended Charles Vergos
Rendezvous BBQ where we blew right threw our orders of pork ribs, beans, and mustard slaw. The ribs are done
in typical Memphis dry rub style, and customers are able to apply the desired amount of either spicy or sweet
versions of sauce themselves. Not much sauce is needed as far as I'm concerned. The dry rub itself is enough to
keep me coming back! In fact, the next day we couldn't resist going back for another rack as a "snack!"
|Tee on the Memphis
|In the outfield of
|Tee and I at the 'Elvis Mic',
|In front of the Memphis Recording Service
|After taking a little break in our room, we headed out to the famous live music heart of the city, Beale Street. We
settled into a couple of seats at the front bar of B.B. King's Blues Club. We took our prime seats facing the street
at just the right time. Within 30 minutes or so there were hardly any seats left in the place, let alone those with a
prime view of both the street and the stage. The food was lousy and service slow, but the beers were cold and the
music was jammin'.
|After a couple of hours at B.B. King's we moved on to Silky O'Sullivan's and were lucky enough to take an open
seat right near the stage. I didn't quite know what to think at first about the woman singing as we took our seats.
She sort of scared me at first; big, brassy, and tattooed. Once she had made her way through a couple of songs
however, I was happy to let her go on singing. Her name is Barbara Blue and is a regular performer at O'Sullivan's.
She's got a voice much like Janis Joplin, and a repertoire big enough to accommodate most requests. Her forte is
the blues, but sounds great singing most anything. We had such a good time watching her perform that we went
back the next night to see her again. We also ended up buying one of her Cd's, which she signed for us.
Once Barbara Blue had finished up at O'Sullivan's we decided to cross the street to the Rum Boogie Café. Once
again we timed our entrance just right and again got a great table in front of the stage. I was ready to be
unimpressed with the music because it had been so good at the other two spots, but James Govan and The Rum
Boogie Blues Band turned out to be fabulous. They played mostly blues (much of it original Memphis hits) with
some R and B numbers thrown in. They also had a great horn section which was a change of pace from the other
clubs. We stayed almost until closing time, then walked the block and a half back to the hotel.
I slept in again the next morning while Tee went to work out in the make-shift hotel gym (the regular gym was
undergoing renovations). We lounged around in the room until about noon, then went out to walk toward the river.
Downtown Memphis is a quiet, somewhat desolate place. There are many nice old building that bear witness to a
once thriving downtown business and social life, but many of the office and retail spaces are now empty. I suppose
the newer shopping/entertainment complex (read: shopping mall) known as Peabody Place has sucked up most of
the retail business. This aspect of Memphis was somewhat sad. We did find a very nice little cafe/sports bar named
Sol on the way over to the river where I ate a traditional southern breakfast of biscuits, gravy, and eggs (Tee had the
grits). It was just what we needed as we continued onto the river and a riverboat tour aboard the Memphis Queen
III. Our tour of the Mississippi River was a relaxed and informative couple of hours. Neither Tee nor I had ever been
on the Mississippi before and it was a great introduction. I particularly enjoyed the sound of the riverboat captain's
Cajun accent as he delivered his commentary about the history of the river and of the Memphis region.
After the riverboat tour we again stopped by Rendezvous BBQ for our "snack" of ribs, then went to watch some
NCAA basketball at the Peabody Hotel's Corner Bar. This bar is exactly the kind of spot I wish we had more of here
in Salt Lake; a classy bar with low lighting, lots of dark wood. Once LSU had beaten Texas to get to the Final Four
we made our way to our room and made arrangements to meet some of Tee's business colleagues at Silky
O'Sullivan's during Barbara Blue's set (which also happened to be during the Memphis/UCLA game). At the bar we
were successful in ditching some of the less desirable colleagues and headed out to dinner with one of Tee's
favorite sales staff, Karen Mirable. Karen suggested a restaurant just outside the door of our hotel called Texas de
Brazil which features a wonderful "salad" bar and a variety of grilled meats. It was a wonderful meal, accompanied
by some REAL martinis (something we don't get in Utah!), but with all the meat I had consumed over those couple
of days I felt fat and bloated for the next couple. The night ended with the three of us again joining some other
business colleagues and customers at The Corner Bar where I really enjoyed the talented jazz trio, especially the
piano player who was more than happy to play a couple of my requests ("Making Whoopee" and "Fly Me To The
Although I was able to sleep in once again the next morning I was still quite tired (yet surprisingly not hung over)
the rest of the day. I left for the airport at about 11:30 in the morning, leaving Tee to work a couple of days at the
SLA Conference. I was so tired that I slept at the airport gate for about 45 minutes before boarding, and although
I'm rarely able to sleep on planes, was able to sleep about half of the flight home. The kids were excited to see me
and I was excited to see them. They seemed to have dealt with their time with the cousins well and all reports were
good despite Henry having taking ice cream from the freezer and putting it under the sink, and taking frozen
chicken fillets and putting them under the sofa. Well, it's better than burning down the house!