Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Adventures in Memphis Part 1 – Goin’ Down South (Main)

Like many Memphians, I sometimes get down on my city. The news reports of corruption, crime and poverty, the oppressive summer heat, our low ranking on almost every best cities list and the general consensus that Memphis just isn’t a good place to live make it hard to remember the many great things this city has to offer. And as my friend Anna said in her blog a while back, don’t even consider reading the comments section of any news story in our local media; good or bad.

Living here, we deal with a lot of problems that are merely an abstract thought to outsiders. However, most large cities have comparable problems and being careless in even the safest of big cities can get you into trouble pretty quickly. So maybe Memphis isn’t really that much worse than the cities we like to compare it to (I’m talking to you, our hilly neighbor to the east). Of course there is the option of staying in a small town, but I enjoy the benefits of the city too much for that. So, in an effort to improve our outlook on our city, Crystel and I decided a day of Memphis adventure was in order. A staycation if you will. We decided this at the last minute on Saturday morning, and left the house without a plan. Since we had so many interesting experiences, I’ll be splitting this blog into two posts. This post, Part 1 focuses on our downtown experience, while Part 2 will describe our experiences once we made our way east to Midtown. You can check out my wife’s blog for pictures of our day.

We began our adventure in the South Main Historic District. We wanted to pick up a few items from the Memphis Farmers Market and check out the bikes at Midtown Bike Company. As a side note, the bike shopping was brought on by the upcoming grand opening of the new greenline that connects our neighborhood to Shelby Farms. That’s something to get excited about in Memphis. With the recent hiring of the city’s new Bike / Pedestrian Coordinator, it looks like Memphis might start shedding its image of being a terrible biking city. This may be a future blog post in itself.

After picking up a few items at the farmer’s market, checking out the bike shop (if you’re thinking of buying a bike, stop in and talk to the friendly and knowledgeable staff) and popping in and out of a few interesting shops, we decided to stop by Earnestine & Hazel’s for our first Soul Burger. Earnestine & Hazel’s is one of Memphis’ oldest dive bars and has a rich history. At one point it was a brothel, and tales of ghosts haunting the premises abound. These days, it’s known as a place where celebrities stop by while in town and numerous movies have been filmed. Check out the pictures on the wall for a sampling of the celebrities who have visited. Don’t forget to check out the jukebox for a history lesson in Memphis music.

Our first Earnestine & Hazel’s visit was an excellent and unique experience. We’ve wanted to go there since watching the movie Elizabethtown, in which Orlando Bloom’s character made a pit stop for a quick beer and some conversation, but for some reason we’ve never made it until last weekend. The bartender on duty was the perfect mix of entertainment and information (Crystel thinks his name is Clarence). I loved how he referred to the stars who have visited by their first name. When I mentioned Elizabethtown, he said “Ol’ Orlando, yeah he loved this place.” And “Norah is my girlfriend. She can sing to me anytime.” He told us about the party the night before and the crowds brought on by the South Main Trolley Tour (Definitely check out the Trolley Tour if you get the chance. It’s the last Friday of every month).

Earnestine & Hazel’s lack of a menu was great (When I asked for a menu, I was told “We keep it simple. Burger with grilled onions, cheese and a bag of chips.”), and the soul burger was one of the best I’ve had. Plus, it wasn’t so large that I left there feeling like I needed to be rolled down the street after eating it. I’ll be taking my friends and family there in the future.

After leaving Earnestine & Hazel’s we decided to stroll around South Main a bit more, and wound up standing in front of the Lorraine Motel, home of the National Civil Rights Museum. As I stood there taking in the scene of Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination, I couldn’t help but wonder how race relations in this country would be different had he lived a longer life, and felt a deep sadness when I thought of the events that transpired there. His message of non-violent protest and a color-blind society should be more widely taught today. I recommend that everyone who has the chance go and take in the scene and really think about what happened on that balcony over 40 years ago. We’ll probably never know the entire truth surrounding Dr. King’s assassination (as numerous conspiracy theories exist), but what is known is that we lost a man who dedicated his life to the struggle for necessary change in this country.

So the beginning of our Memphis adventure turned out to be a mini stroll through history. It was fitting that the soundtrack to our day was Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland, which was released a few months after King’s assassination in 1968. I’ll follow-up in a few days with Part 2 which will continue our day into Midtown.

What are some of your favorite things to do in Memphis? We are constantly looking for new experiences, and we know we’ve only scratched the surface of all Memphis has to offer.

1 comment:

  1. I read Crystel's blog. And now yours. And I was already having a Memphis-sick few weeks, but now it's pretty fierce. Good for you, getting out and enjoying the town! Just about two years ago we made a now immortalized Soul Burger stop while in (on?) South Main... good times. Miss y'all.