Well, I just returned from Tennessee, first I went to Nashville, the country music capitol of the world, and I heard plenty. I love country music, but when it is piped into every store, elevator, shop and hotel, suffice to say I got my fill. Country music and Elvis are the focal points of Nashville. I like Elvis as well, but frankly, if I don’t see another coffee mug, calendar, shot glass, napkin holder or what ever, with his face on it for a while, I’ll do just fine. The man refuses to die.
I did go into the most famous honky-tonk called Tootsies, and I did hear some of the best guitar picking ever. One guitar player in particular, made you think he could make that guitar do just about anything he wanted it to do, while he was talking or maybe even reading a book, he new his way up and down the neck like he was born with it.
I always try when traveling to show myself extra friendly and talk with locals every chance I get. I find everyone reciprocates and loves to give their insights and interests about their home. I had many enriching conversations and felt I really got the flavor of the south. The weather was in the high eighties to low nineties and somewhat humid, not as bad as it was here last year, but it didn’t slow me down or make it too uncomfortable.
I went to Memphis after my sales work to spend a couple of days with Richard, who moved to Memphis about six months ago to work with his father and learn some mechanical skills. We spent the night in Memphis and most of that on “Beale” St.
Beale street is a three block area where all the music and food is. Lots of out door bands as well as blues clubs. BB Kings restaurant is the most well known and the music was great and the down home southern food is unmatchable. I ate so many ribs and pulled pork sandwiches, I could have sworn I felt a pig-tail developing. The Rendezvous is the most famous rib restaurant in Memphis and the décor is rustic, to understate it. It is down an alley, hidden behind big trash containers. But all the locals are quick to ask if you have eaten there and if not, give you directions.
Oddly enough, one of my favorite times there was sitting in a little park where a band was playing in the distance, and a Rib shopkeeper was firing up his BBQ’s preparing for the late night crowd. There was an older black man waiting patiently for the coals to heat up and enjoy a late night snack. The smoke worked up Richard’s appetite and so we decided to have another dinner. Ribs were six bucks for half a rack. Price was right and while waiting I struck up a conversation with this older man. He was one of four brothers, the oldest at 69. He had another brother 67, 63 and 61. The brother that was 67 lived there in Memphis not two blocks away from him. They were very close. A month ago he went to visit his brother and found him at home dead, with an apparent overdose of insulin, he was diabetic. He disguised his sorrow, but I could tell he was deeply grieved.
We sat and ate ribs and talked about his life for an hour. The weather was warm with a nice breeze coming off the Mississippi River and he talked about how he used to sell cotton candy and candy apples on Beale St. as well as at the county fairs. After our bellies were full and the night was getting late I stood up to leave and told him how nice it was to talk with him and offered him a hand shake. When I loosened my grasp and began to withdraw my hand, he took it again and squeezed it as he looked into my eyes and I suspect inwardly said “thank you, this is just how I spent my evenings with my brother”.
Funny how a little kindness makes a difference.
I think I could live in Memphis, it is warm ten months of the year and the pace is far slower there. Miles of rolling hills with lush deciduous forests; and I’ve always been a sucker for a southern drawl.
I decided not to go to Graceland, but on my last night there while looking for a hamburger stand I drove in front of Graceland. I have seen pictures of Graceland hundreds of times and I had a strange almost haunting spell come over me. Kind of felt a sense of kinship with Elvis at that moment as I overlooked his little piece of heaven on earth. I spent many hours as a boy listening to his music and pouring over pictures of this explosive entertainer.
Kind of had to be there.