I’ve been wanting to write about Memphis ever since I left, ever since I was there.
I was completely taken with the place.
The night before I’d been in Nashville. I expected to find some heart and soul there in Nashville but… I felt nothing. I know there was stuff to do. I found the cool part of town (or so I was told) – Five Points, and wandered around there, had a nice lunch at Marché Artisan Foods and wandered through some great little small business shops. But I was unimpressed. Inspiration level – flatline.
So I hit the road headed west. To Memphis. After spending the whole day in Nashville I arrived in Memphis in the dark. I grabbed a room online from a rest area because it looked pretty central to Museums and other things that looked interesting at first glance. When I arrived I asked if there was a room with a view and they hooked me up with a room that overlooked the trolley lines and Court Square. Court Square was decorated with a blue light fountain in the middle, and surrounding residential balconies dripped with colored lights. I was immediately charmed.
Now it was time for food and so I took a walk out onto the trolley line. The place was deserted and looked enchanting all decorated with Christmas lights twirling up the street lamps and trolley stations adorned with glowing snowflakes. I wandered alone down the street. I felt completely safe and son found a restaurant that I’ll swear for months is my favorite place to eat in the entire US. It was called Flight and its entire concept was brilliant. Not only were the wines served in flights, but so were the apps, the salads, the soups, the entrees, the desserts and the after dinner cordials, and bourbons and gins and so on and so forth. Everything. And not only was the idea over the top, so was the food.
It is believed that the Mississippian Culture tribes (Tribes known mostly for the Earth Mounds they built.) and later the Chickasaw tribes occupied the area for well over 10,000 years. The land Where Memphis sits is one of four natural bluffs that overlook the Mississippi River, making it ideal for settlement. The Spanish bought the land from the Chickasaw in 1795 in order to build a fort. When Spain agreed the leave the area, this bluff was decided to be the westernmost point of the newly admitted state of Tennessee.
Memphis wasn’t official founded until nearly 20 years later. It was named after the Ancient Egyptian city probably due to some similarity to its position on a major river. And later, this spiritual connection would lead a visionary builder to erect a huge pyramid right there in downtown Memphis, TN. (But that’s a whole ‘nother story.)
The history of Memphis fascinated me. In 1878 a yellow fever epidemic destroyed the city. So many people died or fled that the city’s population was reduced by 75%. Property tax revenues dried up and city infrastructures crumbled.
The march of history astounds me. Determined never to suffer such a disease induced population decrease, Memphis rebuilt with state of the art sanitation methods. And oddly enough, a few decades later, it was a Sanitation Worker’s Strike that put the spotlight on Memphis as a hotbed of Civil Rights issues.
And sadly, it was in Memphis that Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4th, 1968.
I awoke the next morning knowing I was not ready to leave Memphis.
I spent the next three days exploring and I did not even come close to seeing one quarter of all the things I wanted to do while here.
I almost forgot that I had an old friend who used to write for my magazine a decade ago, that lived in Memphis. We’d sort of lost touch because she doesn’t use social media. But I was able to find her working two blocks from my hotel. After work we jumped in her car and toured the city. I love seeing a place with a local!
From Sun Studios to The Cotton Museum, from Otherlands, one of the coolest coffeehouses I’ve see since Klekolo, to The National Civil Rights Museum, from Trolleys that travel in loops past the pyramid and the South Main Art District to Beale Street, from The Arcade restaurant (where Elvis hung out as a teen) to myriad city parks, from visual beauty to music history, Memphis captured my heart.
I can’t wait to come back!
Fun Fact – Memphis is thought to be the city with the most mentions in all recorded music and the Memphis Rock N Soul Museum keeps a running list of songs on their website.