This past week end I took a friend and headed to Memphis to spend the week end with Joe! How do you show off a city that is not really your city? You do the tourist thing…and bring lots of money. I will always remember my brother in laws famous words about traveling to Ireland, “Bring half the clothes and twice the money.” Can the same be said for any vacation no matter how large or small?
We began at Beale Street and ate barbecue and drank Big Ass Beer. Not me! I was the designated driver! Recently Beale Street, along with Memphis, was highlighted on the main screen of AOL as a cheap vacation! One thing for certain, Beale Street is entertaining if for nothing else than the free music provided in the open park in the middle of the strip. And to experience the hawkers whose main duty is entice you into one of the numerous restaurants/bars. My favorite was this gentleman who stood at the front door playing a dreamy trumpet. I was mesmerized, as I often am by the unexpected beauty of music. I was on the opposite side of the street and was the only one clapping when he finished and disappointed when he put the trumpet away. Oh, I would have loved some more!
It’s not difficult to describe Beale Street. Three blocks in the downtown area, a stones throw from the famous Peabody Hotel with the duck show in the lobby each day, and around the corner is the FexEx Arena that basically closed down the Pyramid. Now, I don’t know about you, but I like my pyramids and find the FedEx Stadium just a big box with a bunch of balls in front of it….but the Pyramid! My God, a huge blinding mouth dropping silver monument to an ancient civilization!
What I love about Beale Street and keeps me returning are the lights! I’m a sucker for illuminated neon in blues and red. I’m a sucker for the music that flows from the bars and entices you to darken their doors and plunge into the smoky recesses of worn wooden floors, comfy bar stools and tables that have seen better days, funky interiors and the promise of a boozy night, excellent entertainment, and amusing patrons. This is local color that is rivaled only by Bourbon street, which I hear is inferior, mainly from Memphis-ites.
I love the free music in the Park. I love the hustlers, dancing, drinking and waving the performing band’s CD in your face. They weave and snake through the standing crowd carrying the obligatory Tip Jar…a five gallon dirty white bucket with TIPS stenciled in black across the front. It is always there, always pushed towards you. Accompanied by a smile and a nudge to toss some bills into the pot, for the band, they are not paid to do this, don’t you know, it’s for the love of their art and the tips.
As the night progresses the music becomes louder and street becomes crowded, the hustlers become more frantic and the magic engulfs us all.