Pyramids and Rivers

[This series of posts is brought about by my attempt to relive what I did on my vehicular walkabout which lasted from December 8, 2013 to May 3, 2014. I’m attempting to sorta keep pace with myself last year.]
I liked what I wrote last time, so that stopped me from writing.
I don’t even think what I wrote last time was all that, but yet… I was pleased with it. So I congratulated myself on finally writing something I didn’t hate completely, on being able to see the smallest glimpse into my own potential, and I shelved it amongst the laundry, dishes and recycling, caused by the xmas carnage of two expensive cameras, lobster dinner, and life.
I really need to stop that. I need to commit to the daily process. Sometimes I write relatively well, sometimes I suck – but that is part of the process. Just keep writing.

My desire to relive and document my experience from the now – as it happened a year ago – seems vitally important and I cannot let it get away from me. There is something here to learn that I’m quite sure I can pinpoint if I look closely enough. Some juxtaposition between then and now and the past. I think.

Trying to remember what each city felt like to me. How I felt when I was there. What stills stands out with its memories and its lessons yet unnoticed?

So yeah. It’s an exercise in writing – but more than that it has the added benefit of learning what the point is. I hope.

I left myself off headed to Nashville in the last post and that leaves me quite far behind myself; for as of today, one year ago, I was in Tucson. That means I am 2000 or so miles behind myself. A lot happened that week. I’ll get as much of it as I can today.

Nashville meant nothing to me. I stayed one night, felt nothing at all and moved on.

Oddly, and part of the dimming of Nashville I’m sure, Memphis was calling to me. Who thinks of Memphis? I certainly hadn’t. Not by a long shot. And yet here I was, close enough to hear it beckoning.

I loved everything about Memphis. One planned night turned into three.
The downtown décor, where I landed,touched me. It seemed soft and elegant while at the same time a bit rouge. Untamed. Blue. Blue stands out in my mind. Memphis
The trolley cars were gaily decorated with wreaths and garlands and pine and bows. Everyone was as friendly as can be. Jolly and welcoming. I gave xmas cookies to the front desk clerks and the valets, Trolley drivers told me the stories of their lives, the history of Memphis, and that if I ever visited in May I’d never leave. One kindly driver with sparkly eyes grilled me about my own life choices as I rode the trolley loop around and around. And too, I’d come from Atlanta, where MLK’s presence loomed, where his tomb rests, to the place where he was killed. I passed the Lorraine Hotel every day. Somber.
The Pyramid that was a developer’s dream, a concert venue for a minute and now defunct with hotel dreams. The majestic river and bluffs that account for Memphis’ placement in the world. The Peabody Hotel and their famous ducks – ducks that spend their days in the lobby fountain and their nights in a luxury duck penthouse. Watching them parade towards the elevator to call it a day, as tourists jostled for a view from the mezzanine around the massive xmas tree. Famous record studios and radio stations and many music museums. A Cotton Museum that I truly enjoyed. Housed in an old cotton exchange, they made it seem like the entire history of America as we know it pivoted on cotton. I had a very strong moment of… recognition?… when I came upon the small tools for carding the cotton. Something akin to a wire scrub brush, raked across another of its kind in order to comb the cotton. I’ve seen this before. I’ve DONE this before. I still cannot place any event of such in this lifetime of mine but I have deep awareness that I’ve used these tools. I knew at once the certain way it had to be done, the angles that make it work smoothest. It was a powerful moment. I stood there with my head cocked, thinking, reaching, trying to remember, trying to understand the moment.

I didn’t go to Graceland. I had joked that it was required since I was here, but I felt liberated in not going. I didn’t go to Al Green’s Church either. I also didn’t go to the Museum at the Lorraine Hotel – but that was only because I saved it for my last day only to realize all too late that they were closed on Wednesdays.

Here in Memphis I met another old friend that I only knew online. Dawn.
Back in the day she ran a newsgroup for diarists and artists called Purple Ink. We were in close touch for years. She even wrote a couple or three articles for my magazine when I had it. But as the years had gone on, newsgroups faded, life went on, facebook came along and she never joined the lemmings. We’d lost touch. I only remembered that she worked for Downtown Memphis which made her pretty easy to find. Bonus points – Her office was about three blocks from my hotel.
Any city gains extra layers when you can explore it with a local. A nice drive around the city outside of downtown revealed coffeehouses, restaurants, bookstores, and all of it in the conviviality of the Holiday Season. Dawn’s crew had been responsible for most of the holiday decorating I was appreciating so much, so I got a full tour of trees and lights. We ended that evening with a late night wander along Beale Street. Dawn was a trooper on a work night and I had so much fun meeting her and hanging out. So classy she is, with things like a personalized glass drinking straw that she carries in her purse for her iced tea. I hope I get to visit Dawn again someday.

And.
Memphis had my favorite restaurant of my whole journey. There’s a few others that stand out – but none quite as much as Flight. Found by accident on my first arrival night because it was the only thing open near the hotel. Anything could be ordered in a full size app or entrée, dessert or drink, but their brilliant concept was that everything was generally offered in flights. Everything you can imagine came in flights. This was made for my way of wanting to eat. I always want the different tastes.
Wines flights determined by region or winery or type. Martini flights, bourbon flights. Salad flights and soup flights! Ah the choices! The flavors! Beet Pear Salad, roasted veggie soup, – Ah! Where have I put the menu? Of course I took a copy. I salivated over every option both times I visited. Suggested flights could be mixed or matched to one’s choosing. The Fish Flight, the Meat Flight (which had better names) with Bison, Elk, Filet Mignon. The Foul Flight with small portions of duck, Cornish hen and chicken. And Oh! That chicken dish. I have yet to recreate it, though I talk about it often. It was my first ever chicken and waffles. And though I tried many more chicken and waffles dishes on this journey, none was so inventive and well executed. The key was the mushroom maple cream sauce. Yeah, I want that again – I will have to invent it soon.

From the food to the land to the people – Memphis mattered.

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“Well Nashville had country music but Memphis had the soul
Lord, the white boy had the rhythm and that started rock and roll
And I was here when it happened don’t you all think I ought to know
I was here when it happened, yeah, yeah, yeah
I watched Memphis give birth to rock and roll, Lord, lord yeah.”

Roy Orbison

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Atlanta Whirlwind

I had these images of having plenty of time to write interesting, informative and pleasing blog posts about the things I’m doing.
Instead I find myself running ragged ever since I left CT – with no end in sight.
Yesterday in Atlanta I visited The Jimmy Carter Presidential Museum and Library, the historic home that Margaret Mitchell lived in while she wrote the majority of Gone With the Wind, and I ended the day visiting The High Museum of Art ( It was half price on Thursday nights!)
I really enjoyed The Carter Center. As a child my first awareness of politics was Watergate. (Wait. What? What’s a President? We have a President? And he lied?) So by the time Carter was being elected I totally wanted him to win. I had a teacher at the time who made us engage with the political process by choosing sides and visiting the local Party offices and volunteering.
I was so displeased by what I’d seen since becoming aware of politics that of course I chose to campaign for Carter.
Since leaving the Presidency the man has done many commendable things in this world and I enjoyed immersing myself in the facts of it all.
Plus it was kind of awesome to stare upon an actual Nobel Peace Prize.
A helpful museum guide named Tony broke the rules and took some pictures of me. He also gave me the Jeopardy-worthy little bit of trivia: There are only two cities in the world which house two Nobel Peace Prizes. One is Atlanta (I went and saw King’s today!) and the other is Soweto, where medals for Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela reside.
Somehow I enjoyed that tenuous connection, what with the week’s news being filled with the goings on at the memorial ceremony to honor Mandela’s passing.

(More text below photos.)

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Here in Atlanta I’m staying with a nice older gentleman named Al. It’s a booking I made via Airbnb – a service born of the sharing economy whereby you rent out extra bedrooms in your house, or pay a cheap price to stay in someone else’s extra room. I’ve been renting out my extra room that way for a few years but this trip is my first chance to really utilize it for myself. (If you don’t know Airbnb yet, do check it out.)

Anyway, Al lives just on the outskirts of Little 5 Points. I spent a good amount of time here in the 80s when Vette (my lifelong best friend) lived here.
Today I started the day with a short walk to Little 5. Truly worthy coffeehouses and a collection of stores I wish I had access to on a daily basis. I spent a few hours wandering and browsing. Enjoyable day.

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A Facebook post, saying where I was, got me a message from a friend saying she had people not too far from here and that I should visit and deliver a hug and greeting.
So I did.
That introduced me to the Lake Claire Land Trust.
What a fantastic place! With land bought from Marta, they have created a meandering little city oasis with playgrounds, sweat lodges, a small amphitheater, performance spaces, and I met an emu named Lou!
That was a great detour and addition to my day!

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Then I jetted off to The King Center to pay my respects and learn a thing or two. The complex is rambling and covers many blocks. I got to see Atlanta’s second (or was it the first?) Nobel Peace Prize.
I was somehow humbled to stand near his tomb. The gravity of it all. A friendly pool cleaner named Lawrence took my photos for me.
I really like meeting real people to chat with.

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I was going to go back to the Lake Claire Land Trust tonight for a Friday night friendly jam but that’s not gonna happen.
I walked a couple blocks from Al’s for dinner at a place called Babette’s and, at 9pm, have landed next door at JavaVino – a coffeehouse wine bar combo and I’m downing more wine than would allow me to be comfortable driving back to the Land Trust.
Here I sit writing this bit on my iPhone in hopes that when I get back to the house I’ll upload some photos and make this a real blog post.

My original plan for this trip was to cruise along the northern reaches of these southern states as I head west but a Facebook post last week from a friend might be sending me north from here to Tennessee – to McMinnville – where there is a concert tomorrow known as Bluegrass Underground. Once a month they have concerts that (I think) are filmed for PBS and December’s is tomorrow and billed as “A Pirate’s Christmas.” So yeah. I think I’m changing my plans and going north tomorrow.

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