Day 162

Over the weekend, I was trying to think of how to best describe downtown Memphis. Every time I came up with a new adjective, another one would pop in my head and completely negate the first. What I came to find is that it’s extremely difficult to encapsulate the vibe of a city that has so much to offer, yet so far to go.

So, what can I tell you about downtown Memphis? Well, I’d argue that if you randomly woke up here, you’d be hard pressed to know what decade you landed in. A lot of the architecture blends designs from the 50s and 60s, while the newer buildings exude over-the-top 80s style with neon lights and oddly placed waterfalls. There’s also the staggering number of empty lots that harken back to the lowest points of the 1930s.

That’s not to say all is lost though. Yes, as a whole, downtown lacks that certain youthful exuberance I found in parts of Cleveland, Philly and Charlotte. But there are several pockets starting to build things back up. From the neighborhoods that surround the visible music college and AutoZone Park to new hotspots like Tamp & Tap and Local, there are glimpses of a turnaround everywhere you look. The city is even in the process of building a Centre for Performing Arts next to the Orpheum Theatre, which is sure to help boost another section of the downtown area.

Is the lack of modern aesthetics a bad thing? It all depends on how you look at it. I’ve heard this city’s history from several people over the past week and while I won’t bore you with the details, I do have a firm understanding of why the city is the way it is. Yet, despite it all, the people here are extremely passionate about the place they call home and will happily tell you about the wonders of Memphis. They know that for every down the city has seen, there’s always an up to counter it. As the Grizzlies' “growl towels” stated at their last home playoff games—We Don’t Bluff.

From Graceland and Stax to Sun Records and Beale Street, this is a city that knows what it’s made of and won’t back down from anyone. Hell, this is also a lifelong wrestling city—home of Cleveland Indians fan and WWE Hall of Famer, Jerry the King Lawler—who’ll happily send a personalized chair shot to anyone who talks ill of his salt-of-the-earth, nitty-gritty, for better or worse city of Memphis, Tennessee.  

Over the next three weeks, I hope to expose some of the city's bright spots—from the awesome theater system and “must-see” museums to the hip midtown area and the various Memphis in May festivities. I’m excited to share what I find, but first I need to grab some more of this city’s incredible BBQ. As they say, if you want to win the heart of the masses, always start with their stomachs.


Day 155

Court Square

New Orleans, I had an absolutely wonderful weekend with you. The ride was long, but the experience was well worth it. And even though I wasn’t able to find Boz Scaggs or Eric Clapton, I did happen upon the Bourbon House for some crawfish and caught a jazz performance at the Little Gem Saloon. I hope to visit again someday, because you really know how to throw a party. I'd have a lot more to say about my time with you, but some things just shouldn’t be blogged about. So, let’s move on shall we?

After 2 days of non-stop travel, I officially arrived in Memphis on Saturday night. While this is stop 6 of #TGAA, it also stands as the first city on my journey I’ve never visited before. I have high hopes for my time here, but I should admit that night one did not go well… at all. My train arrived an hour late and while walking to the apartment, I got caught amongst the hordes of Beale Street partiers, fresh off night 2 of the Beale Street Music Festival. Once I finally made it to the AirBnB, I was met with broken Internet, a towel-less bathroom and a bed that lacked any sheets whatsoever.

I called my host, only to find they had seemingly fallen off the grid, even though we were chatting as I walked up to the building. Since I was unable to shower, sleep or surf the web, I finally contacted AirBnB to weigh my options. I have to say they really won me over with their response. After sending out a single tweet, they asked for my phone number and called me up within 5 minutes. They arranged a hotel room and offered to put me up there until I could get things under control. So around 2am, I got checked in and managed to catch a few hours of much needed rest.

Anthrax @ The Beale Street Music Festival 

When I awoke the next morning, I received a call from my host who apologized for everything and promised the issues would be taken care of immediately. Having now been able to breathe a sigh of relief, I set out to explore the city for a few hours. If there’s one thing I can tell you from my stroll through town, it’s that this city truly loves and celebrates music. Its presence is everywhere you go and it fills the city with a unique and powerful vibe. That afternoon, I headed to the final day of the Beale Street Music Festival, where I got to see bands like The Dandy Warhols and Anthrax take the stage. I even had some time to check out the various stands, shops and tents that gathered as part of the festivities. The park itself is a beautiful green space and it’s only a short walk from where I’m staying. So, I can already tell you that I’ll be jogging through it at least a few times while I’m here. Honestly, there are a lot of awesome places nearby, including Court Square, Main Street and Autozone Park. I feel like I really hit the jackpot with my location, as it looks like I’m going to enjoy a true downtown experience.

In addition to all of the other great sights in the area, I’m also only a 5-minute walk from RedDeluxe, my agency for the month. While I can’t wait to begin my tenure there tomorrow, I’m also a bit nervous because I’m not sure what to expect. Out of all the agencies I’m visiting, I think I’ve had the least amount of contact with them. That’s not a bad thing by any means, but it does leave me very interested to discover what kind of culture they have and what the office is like.

As for today, I plan on walking around my area to check out some more of those awesome places I was talking about. If this weekend was any indication of what my time here is going to be like, I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings… as long as there’s towels.