Wednesday, 16 April 2008


Memphis is a town of ghosts, and is trying to recover from being a ghost town. Around the time of Martin Luther King's death, there was a huge population decline. People are coming back slowly as the downtown is being re-niced, though most of it is still hurry-past territory. The waterfront by the Mississippi has been landscaped, the tourist hotspots of Beale St and 2nd Avenue have been tidied up and there is a general feeling of momentum, though I had so many black guys asking for change I thought I was at an Obama rally. Ba-doom-doom-chsh.
On Beale and Union Sts there were touristy things to look at. There was a hotel with a procession of ducks choreographed at 11 and 5. The oldest store in the city, a quirky emporium, was good for trinkets and rock candy, and I wandered up Union to Sun Studios, where Elvis, Johnny Cash and miscellaneous bluesmen got their start. There was a shuttle from there to Graceland which took about twenty minutes, a journey shoulder-to-knee with hairy fanboys and agog Midwestern dames. After we had passed the various stores selling Elvis crap, chain restaurants, fast food joints and alighted at Heartbreak Hotel, I was ready to vomit in my boots. From the pictures I had seen of Graceland, the slight video footage, and now this trip with a bevy of widemouth consumers, I stayed on the shuttle and went right back to Memphis.

I took a bus out to the Pink Palace, a former palatial home turned museum, which was passive in its mediocrity.

I ate some rock candy and went back downtown, walking along some side streets to get a feel for the place. I stumbled upon the factory shop for the company which makes such diabetes-causing foods as Wonder Bread and Lil' Debbie's Partially-Hydrogenated Obesity Bombs Disguised As Food and bought a bag of 'expired' doughnuts. Come on, we all know these things will outlive us all.
Memphis is a sad town. The memorial to MLK was open to the street, just a generic upstairs-downstairs family motel with a wreath on the railing and two tailfin period cars parked underneath. There was a gaggle of Japanese tourists pottering in circles out front, but also a guy sitting in his car with a King speech turned up on the stereo, just looking at the motel. I took a wrong turn twenty minutes later and ended up back at the motel, and he was still there, listening and looking.

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