Rainy Day Down Memphis Way

Trip Start Nov 10, 2009
Trip End Dec 18, 2009

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Flag of United States  , Tennessee
Sunday, December 13, 2009

We were off to Memphis, TN. As you may have guessed (or I may have written) I have been joined on my journey by Kevin Laake, Baltimore based bon-vivant and general good fellow.  He's also a whiz at anything numbers which works out well with my no planning big picture approach to this trip.  So when you hear me referring to Kevin, It's not me.  I haven't gone mad and am not thinking of myself as two distinct people with the same name.

Getting There
Getting to Memphis was a challenge because our GPS did not recognize the major interstate that incessantly appeared on signs pointing us to Memphis.  I-69 opened up in September 2009 and the GPS has not updated this just yet.  We ignored the GPS and traveled on this new road willfully defying the GPS.  There were a solid 10 minutes spent excitedly marveling at our traversing a road, a major interstate even, that was there but, wasn't really wasn't but, was.

The Ballad of Little Shun and Pierre
The first stop in Memphis was Corky’s BBQ but, more GPS hi-jinks crushed that dream.  We drove by the place Corky’s was supposed to be and to our stunned disbelief it was not nor was there any evidence that a place like this was ever there.  This brought much consternation to our reroute to The CC.

We ended up at The Cozy Corner which has been operating for  some 50 years.The place doesn't exactly welcome you.  There is no ambiance to speak of and the staff kind of expects you to make your way up and order whenever you feel like it.  This was an order, then pick it up, then eat it at any table you like joint.   At the register was a 12 year old seeming black boy named "Little Shun".  We quizzically asked Shun “what the best thing on the menu was and he was all business.  "It’s all good”  he stated plainly yet convincingly.  "Yeah but, what do most people order?" I ask.  Shun looks back at us with the seriousness of a monk “Everything is good here” he emphasizes nodding his head from side to side as an exclamation.  We order ribs and some choice sides the most notable was the Barbecue Spaghetti.  The ancient place offers portions that are huge and quite tasty.  An older gentlemen was shyly and fastidiously busing the tables.  Pierre has worked there for nearly 40 years.  He shared that he will hit his 40Th anniversary on June 10Th 2010.  Pierre directed us to the restrooms and said that it was OK for us to use the women’s room and said "if anyone gives you any trouble about it,  just tell them that Pierre from the back said it was OK”


I Will Ultimate Fight You For A Hotel Room

We left The Cozy Corner bound for Memphis’ famed Union Avenue and Beale Street.  It was rainy and raw and the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championships) was in town.  Sticking to my plan of not having a plan we did not reserve a hotel.  It became apparent that this was a problem when we couldn’t  find a hotel due to The UFC  invasion.  We went through this ridiculous exercise with AAA and Hotels.com and finally made a reservation with "H" folks only to be denied lodging by the very close to the action, Best Western Gen Ex Inn (I kid you not, they named themselves after a dated term for my generation, what if you are older or younger, are you not welcome then, Hmm).   Gen Ex couldn’t’ honor it because of overbooking and because the owner of the hotel had left the country for a couple of weeks leaving Vic in charge.  Vic was a short, thin Indian fellow, FOTB (Fresh Off The Boat) as my buddy Sai might say.   Vic was in his mid-20s and barely knew how to handle stressful situations.  His hair and clothes were mildly rumpled and his eyes were glassy from the stress. He said that they had faxed Hotels.com two weeks ago telling them not to take anymore reservations but, they keep on taking them and we were the 3rd group that he had to turn away.  I was thinking faxing is so 1995.  E-Mail is where it's at man.

Vic tried to help us and I chilled in the lobby as Kevin contacted Hotels.com to cancel this reservation that wasn't really a reservation.  Then we saw a couple of very attractive and very pissed off young women go through a similar exercise that we were encountering with the added twist that they got a room but, it had one King bed, not two Queen and since it was the two ladies and their consorts this was not going to work out so well.  They were mortified at this turn of events and one of them was about to dive through her skin at Vic.  Their conundrum was made worse by their a-hole boyfriends who decided to make them feel bad about their travel-misstep.  This downtime was good for me.  I logged in caught up on some e-mail and generally decompressed as the situation got more stressful.  While I'm destressing Kevin is getting a bit agitated at the Hotels.com folks that have transferred to four different customer service agents.  The problem was that Hotels.com will jam you up with a reservation that you have to pay for if you don't take care of it right away.  So about 90 minutes later we get a go ahead on the cancellation.  Vic tried to call some other places for us but, just looked more confused.  In the meantime I'm getting my figure it out vibe on and I ring up The Courtyard which is located at the airport which seems like light years away from the action but, is only 6 miles.  We lock down a rate and decide to keep the car at the Gen Ex and zip into the UFC 107 event and see about last second tickets. 

Kevin has been hinting about UFC for a while and I am not a fan of this kind of thing.  Too graphic for my taste, this is clearly a contradiction because I like boxing but, I don't know.  Too atavistic for me (get your dictionaries out folks).  I decide we should go because, the hotel thing has been a nightmare, everyone in town seems to be intent on going and it's simply a new experience. 

Thinking that my travel savvy is rising we take a cab to the Fed Ex Forum in Memphis.  It's a whopping 6 or 7 minutes away and we have a nice if not challenging discussion with our cabbie abut The Memphis Grizzlies and Tigers and all other animal nicknamed teams in the general area.  It's rainy and raw and we stroll around for tix.  Within 20 minutes we've scored 2 Club Level Seats at face value from a military guy who's buddy couldn't make it because his daughter is having heart surgery (I can't make this up).  He's shipping out to Afghanistan himself in a few months.  Kevin questions the veracity of the tickets we just bought but, I feel that I have asked enough questions to believe they are legit paper. 



Pre-Gaming at Silky O'Sullivan's
Across the street for the Forum is Silky O'Sullivan's.  It's an Irish bar playing off the mystique of places like McSorely's in New York or other such haunts. We grab a table and a couple of Harps and check out the scene.  Our server, Matt, did a year or so in college and waiting tables is his main gig now.  He is slightly pudgy and full of charm.  We ask him when the fights start and he tells us he too has tickets and is heading over in an hour.  He's excited to see the action but, had to work out some scheduling with his boss to make it happen.  We quiz him on the downtown scene and he tells us that it has been dead of late and that the UFC is the only thing that has brought in the business of late.  We are surprised and somewhat dismayed by this revelation. 

We depart Silky's just after the Heisman Trophy Winner is announced and make our way to the forum.  The good news is that it is right across the street so we were traversed the gates in no time and the tickets did work. 

UFC 107

Arriving at our club level seats came with the validation that the guy selling us the tickets was indeed telling the truth.  We sat right next to him, his gal and his buddies.  Kevin noted that every fighter we rooted for he happened to be rooting against. 

My strategy with viewing the fights was simple.  Watch the big video screen a little but, watch the Octagon a little bit more.  I do not particularly like to see the graphic violence of someone getting severely cut or their jaw broken or things of that sort so when it got hectic down there I kept my eyes on the ring not the video.

In between matches they played psyche-up music and showed clips of memorable kicks, punches and moves.  Most of the fighters played up their culture.  B.J Penn played off his Polynesian heritage and Diego Sanchez his Latino roots.  They borrowed some WWE and some Pro-Boxing style but, moreover they kept the crowd well excited and ready for the next bout. 

The fighters were very cautious in their approach to each other.  They focused on balance and finding a good striking angle.  When they did attack and achieve an upper hand they were relentless in their efforts to finish the bout.  This resulted in some very bloody moments. 

I liked the event more than I thought I would but, do not see me being a fan anytime soon. 

Pushing Forward to Beale Street:
After the show we went to find some food, some drink and some music.  I was fading fast.  Too much driving the few days prior combined with the excitement of the bouts and hotel hassle and I had little left in my tank.

We were recommended food at the Black Diamond but, as soon as we got in there we left.  It was dingy, we saw no menus and no servers.  Onward we went to Dyer's on Beale.  http://www.dyersonbeale.com/. They are famous for their heavy grease cooked/boiled burgers and they did not disappoint.  Their slogan was "Have you had your Vitamin G today?  You can imagine what the "G" is.  The place was bustling and the food was just what the Dr. ordered.  Serious bacon too.  I'm just saying.

We left Dyer's and roamed around Beale St. ending up at The Beale Street Tap Room http://www.myspace.com/bealestreettaproom.  There were cover charges all along the street and this indignity and the tiredness did not make for a good combination.  We ended up going to the BSTR via negotiation.  They wanted a $3 cover for entry and we negotiated it down considerably and achieved entry.  Kevin deftly pulled off this negotiation.  They had a decent band and a serious selection of beers and a man who looked like a gnome who we thought was the official dancer of the band.  He was not.  He was about five and a half feet tall with a furry beard and jorts.  His shirt said something British and he decided that he wanted to be Kevin's friend.  Shortly after we arrived he engaged Kevin in conversation a chat that Kevin wasn't exactly understanding or enjoying.  I broke out in a big smile as people had been approaching Kevin all day due to his multi-team attire.  Capitals Hat,  South Carolina Sweatshirt and Maryland Jacket.  Many folks chose one of these items as an entre to conversations with Kevin. It was hilarious. 

We left the taproom and cabbed back to my car.  From there we drove to and checked into our hotel and called it a night.   

The next day is Graceland and other such things.

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