Sunday, March 17, 2013

Sun 17 Mar - Memphis, TN

We wake up to an overcast and much cooler morning than yesterday. OK, we did had a nice lazy late start and were not out until perhaps 10am or so, but yep, it was pretty cool.

Our general plan was to see if we could wander across to Mud Island via the long footbridge from downtown over the Missisippi. We walked Main Street and took some photos of some nice historic buildings that were saved.

This building is now part of a Marriott complex but the outside facade is original.

Our hopes of getting onto Mud Island were dashed - it's closed for the season and will not be reopened until 2nd April. The bridge to Mud Island was also closed and this was a shame because we wanted to recreate Tom Cruise running across it in the movie "The Firm". Oh well we still enjoyed the walk along the river front.

We noticed this enclosure of homes whilst on the tram yesterday, with locked gates, high walls and a security guard in their post at the gate (see the little booth on the right in the photo). This is the "rich man's row" and given the crime stats of Memphis the 1% seem to be taking no chances.

The view across the Missisippi into Arkansas. We looked for a way to get across to yet another US state, but found no easy way.

The pedestrian path up on the side of Missisippi is well defined and you get similar views as they would have in the expensive houses.

Why can't Sydney public sculptures be this good?

The story behind the sculpture is below and we get the impression that Tom Lee was an African-American boatman and he saved a lot of white folks, so he was a hero. Hmmm... Would it have been the same the other way around, with black men and families in the water?

A well-to-do part to town so they have lovely Magnolia trees, and women with matching excercise gear. Not Di.

At 11.30am we put our name on a waiting list to have brunch at the very popular cafe below - the Arcade Restaurant, which is the oldest cafe in Memphis (since 1916) and the greek Kapatos family have owned it all that time. Elvis was a regular customer and they even have his favourite sandwich still on the menu.

Although we thought the ultimate sandwich Elvis ate was the "Elvis death sandwich" - a full white Vienna load, hollowed out and filled with 1 jar of peanut butter, 1 jar of strawberry jam and 2 pounds of cooked bacon.

"Unfortunately" that version was not on the menu, instead a fried peanut butter and banana sandwich, with fries. Perhaps the Arcade is partly responsible for his heart attack...

We waited nearly 30 minutes before being seated and they were so busy it took another 30 minutes to get our food. The waiting was no problem as it gave us a good chance to soak up the atmosphere and read the history. See photos inside below.

Elvis apparently sat mostly in the left hand corner near the Arcade sign and under the mirror so that he could check out what was happening at the place.

Hans is anticipating a "Eggs Redneck" special breakfast. Di ordered the country ham breakfast.

The food was ok but we have had better in less well known diners and paid a less for it too. Never mind, we are talking sacred ground here and Elvis spirit. The food did fill us up well and prepare us for the 1pm opening of the National Civil Rights Museum, our next stop a few blocks up the road on 3rd Street.

The museum is located at the Lorraine Motel and also across the road in the old boarding house. Why? Because Dr Martin Luther King was shot outside room 306 of the motel by James Earl Ray from a bathroom window of the boarding house. They have preserved both locations true to the time and the National Civil Rights Museum is build around that boarding house.

The museum wasn't quite what we expected.

As a source of information, analysis and forensic evidence about the assassination of Dr King the museum is amazing. The museum has all the FBI evidence and files, including the rifle and the bullet from his body that killed him. Gruesome but fascinating. Below in the centre is the actual rifle that killed Dr King.

And the bullet is supposed to be in here below, but it was not that easy to see.
However, the National Civil Rights Museum actually has very little on the civil rights movement before or after the assassination of Dr King. The fight for equal rights and removal of segregation had already started from WWII and in some states was still being finalized in 1980. Still we learned a lot.
National Civil Rights Museum charges $10 for adults to enter BUT for the first time ever Hans got a seniors discount! You just need to prove you are over 55 and you pay $9 instead. He was thrilled with his $1 saving.

Below is the view from the bathroom window of the boarding house. Dr King was staying in room 308 but was coming out of a meeting with friends in room 306 when he was shot on the balcony.

He died fast as the bullet caught a major artery.

This is the actual bathroom from where the shot was fired. Apparently James Earl Ray balanced on the rim of the tub to take the shot.

Zoomed in photo of the trajectory and balcony outside room 306. And yes, the cars were parked below there then, and are still there.

As part of your entry fee to the National Civil Rights Museum, you can go up on the balcony to the Lorraine Motel and look into rooms 306 and 308. This is room 308 where Dr Martin Luther King was staying on that day and recreated as it was then.

Di on the spot where Dr King died. She is brave...

Hans outside room 306.

A view inside room 306 faithfully recreated from all the evidence photos.

Whew - that was 2 hours of pretty heavy stuff so we decided that we need something to lighten the mood. What better way to do that then to go back to Beale street to continue St Patrick's Day celebrations. Weather had dramatically improved since the morning.

We found a beer garden with a band playing at Silky O'Sullivans and settled in.

Kiss me I'm Irish??? Well, if every second black guy here is Irish today, why can't Hans be?

The band at Silky O'Sullivans was just 2 guys and they were not very good, nor were the drinks (and a bit expensive). Still we liked the sunshine so stayed there for a while.

After a while, we get sick of the ordinary music from the band at Silky O'Sullivans so moved on to find a gem just opposite of Beale Street. These dudes were great musicians and lots of fun.

Plus they sell Big Ass Beer, which is appropriate here given the size of many posteriors but did not really fit a skinny hipped man. When in Rome...

The crowd were mainly African-American and they were loving it. Dancing and goofing around. The woman in white and green was shaking her booty and boobs so hard the singer with the microphone was mopping the sweat from his brow with the white towel. Then her man in the blue got into the act and they were all hamming it up. We were all cheering and laughing. Fabulous fun.

The band eventually finished so having spent all our cash on alcohol we decided to keep it cheap for dinner and came back to the motel for microwaved sludge.

We are not sure when we can have our next alcohol free day - we just find ourselves caught up in the fun and music of Beale Street. We like Memphis a lot and the locals are into it too. Beale Street is not just tourists as Bourbon Street in New Orleans seems to be. Music here seems to be very ingrained in the day to day life.

We head home after a full day. Our hotel is pretty good and in a great location but this is our neighbour, a closed down Tattoo Burger joint. We stick to the main streets in well lit areas at night. Photo taken because Hans just loved the look of it...

And of course, like most US cities lots of car parks are nearby with downtown just a few blocks beyond.

Our hotel outside is not glamorous but is freshly painted.

The rooms are recently renovated, a good size with a very good bed. It's a popular place and last night the car park and all rooms were full.

Di heading into our room to make sludge dinner.

We do some basic hand washing cum laundry to keep us going for a few more days and then enjoy our dinner on our verandah at sunset and then a lazy night. Another great day.


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