Walking in Memphis
In a country where every street name, every city, every state, is an inspiration for a song, I was always going to end up, in Mark Cohn’s words – “Walking in Memphis”, and my feet really were 10 feet off of Beale as I wandered that legendary street yesterday afternoon. Walking into a CD shop, I stopped and chatted with an old bluesman who was selling one of his albums, autographed on the spot for willing takers. This guy had been playing the blues for 60 years, and had a ‘golden note’ with his name on it embedded in this historic sidewalk. I was blown away. He asked me what I did and I almost apologetically told him I played in a band that had had a number 1 hit, and I’d been professional for a mere 30-odd years! I had so much to learn here.
As with any site of public interest, there was an element of rampant commercialism living as an uneasy bedfellow with the blues, but the flavour of the area won through. One T-shirt slogan caught my eye: Not Black, Not White, just The Blues. I like that.
I saw a wonderful 30’s (?) style skyscraper – a beautiful building, which when I got closer seemed to be completely abandoned, which was a shame. I hope it can recapture its former glories. The Peabody Hotel, which apparently has resident ducks which make an appearance every day on a red carpet, also caught my eye. We’ll be checking that out later this week.
The element of fun the Americans bring to their businesses, particularly food was evident yesterday, when I saw a restaurant called the flying fish, with a giant aeroplane catfish rocking to and fro atop the building and neon signs advertising gumbo and poboys. For a brit like me, its hard to convey just how exotic it is to see these southern dishes come to life in blood red neon.
While I was looking for somewhere cheap to park, I happened upon a curious parking system. I’ve never seen a system like this, and it’s simplicity is quite endearing. You park in a numbered bay, and in the centre of the carpark there is a huge metal box with around 50 small 1 inch slots in it, numbered corresponding to the parking spaces. Attached to the box by a cable is a flat sliver of metal. The sign above advertizes a flat rate of $2 for your stay, and instructs you to fold two dollar bills into one inch strips and individually feed them into the slot that corresponds with your space number, using the sliver of metal as a ‘stuffer’. Being British, and wary of a scam, I stood there some time, trying to work out what the catch was. I concluded there probably wasn’t one, and sure enough parked for the afternoon for two dollars.
After this initial scouting mission to check out the area, I jumped in the car and headed back to the apartment, where Miki waited. Switching on the radio, I hit the highway south to BB’s “Let the Good Times Roll” . The blues is a movie and I just got the part.