Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Long Distance Information...

As alluded to in the previous post, I recently made another trip down South - this time to accompany Goof to a wedding in which she was a bridesmaid, and I, her fortunate date. Unlike all previous trips to Dixie, however, the city of New Orleans was not involved. Alas, it will probably be a while before ol' NOLA and I cross paths again, as Goof no longer lives there, and there aren't too many legitimate reasons for me to be on Bourbon St. otherwise.

Not to worry, however, as the trip still had plenty of noteworthy moments. One does not have to travel to Louisiana to have a journey worth writing about. One can actually spend their entire vacation in the state of Tennessee and have a fantastic time - hard as that may be for us Northern folk to believe - and that is, in fact, exactly what I did.

You'll have to trust me when I tell you that I made four previous attempts at writing a sort of "travelogue" for this post. None of those attempts proved fruitful (I'd write a few paragraphs, stop, erase the whole thing, and start over again) and I am thus forced to admit that as a formerly lapsed blogger, I'm struggling to find my voice once again. So, rather than start attempt #5 in "story form", I decided to list the highlights with bullet points. Believe me, it'll be easier on your eyes. So, without further ado...

Reasons why I enjoyed Tennessee, and which you may or may not (some of them, hopefully not):
  • Arriving in Nashville to be greeted at the baggage claim by Goof and her mother. Now we see where Goof gets her good looks, charm and sense of humor.
  • Eating lunch at the White Trash Cafe in Nashville immediately after landing. The White Trash Cafe is built out of cinder blocks and has an old metal bathtub and sink right outside. Inside is full of all sorts of kitsch, and you could spend the entire day just scanning the walls. Thankfully, however, we were distracted by our waiter who greeted us by saying, "How do?" Not to be outdone, Goof's mother, upon hearing this, looked up from her menu and said, "Oh! How do?" I, of course, was delighted, and immediately gave Goof a grin that would have made Guy Smiley jealous. You see, way back when we first started dating I used to greet Goof on the phone by saying, "Howdy do?!?" When she asked why I always said that, I responded by asking, "Don't all Southerners say that?" Truthfully, I didn't need to even ask, because I already knew the answer. Of course they do. I'd seen it on Deputy Dawg when I was a kid, and more recently in the movie The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada when Levon Helm (yes, that Levon Helm, from The Band), playing the role of a blind 80 year old Texan, greeted authorities as they visited his shack. So yes, Southerners say it. However Goof, refusing to see the light, has protested vehemently against this fact for the entire year and change that we've been dating. Yet, how does the first person I encounter in Nashville (aside from Goof and her mother) greet me? With a hearty "How do?" He even did me the favor of dropping the '-dy', making it sound more authentic. And, how does Goof's own mother respond? With the exact same phrase. Case closed. (Side note: To be fair, Goof's mother mentioned afterwards that she had NEVER used that phrase before that moment, and I believe her. It might have been an unthinking reaction type of thing. Still, precedent has been set. Let there be no doubt.)
  • The drive down I-40 from Nashville to Memphis, known as the Music Highway. The reason for the naming is obvious enough. Memphis and Nashville are (or was at one time, in the case of Memphis unless you count Hustle and Flow) music industry powerhouses. Both have contributed mightily to American music history. Still, the highway didn't really seem to reflect this, and for the first half of the four hour trip, I wondered why they bothered to name it the 'Music Highway' at all if they weren't going to have some sort of other recognition/roadside memorabilia to go along with it. That was until we stopped for a break at a rest area and found out that it was, in fact, the 'Johnny Cash Rest Stop.' There was nothing to indicate this other than the sign proclaiming it so. No guitars, no Johnny Cash music wafting overhead. Just a sign saying 'Johnny Cash Rest Stop', but I could only conclude that the other rest stops along the highway were named after other famous musicians. So, it was a little boring in that respect, but still, it's comforting to know that I took a long piss in Johnny's urinal.
  • The Memphis Public Library. Now this, my friends, is a cool library. Yeah, they might lack the tomes and treasures that Boston may have but at least the "new addition" to their library doesn't look like the headquarters of an accounting firm. In fact, the entire library is new, and architecturally, is VERY pleasing to the eye. Plus, the layout makes perfect sense. Things are easy to find, and they were selling remainders for cheap, cheap, cheap. Good books, too. I bought a Dennis Lehane offering in hardcover for a whopping $2.00.
  • Eating dinner at Charlie Vergo's Rendezvous. Located in an alley in downtown Memphis, the Rendezvous is perhaps one of the most famous restaurants in town. The ribs and sauce were excellent (although not the best ribs I had on the trip - I'll get to that in a bit), and the place was surprisingly crass, yet comfortable. Paper plates and napkins are pretty much thrown at you, and the whole restaurant has a loud, boisterous atmosphere. I left the place a barbecue sauce covered mess - but a very happy one.
  • Southern Accents. Back when I was 12 years old and had nothing better to do on a Saturday night, I used to watch the TV show Cops, largely because there was little else on. Of the multitude of episodes that show aired, my favorites would be those that were filmed on location in some area where the cops in question had an accent (except if they were in New York - then I knew to skip it.) Invariably, they'd go to some Southern state, and the show would be that much more enjoyable. A Southern drawl has to be one of the best accents this country has to offer. Charming, yet not too sophisticated, the accent just puts you at ease in a way that other accents can't. And, if you're really unfamiliar with it, it might just make you laugh (although that might be considered rude. Still, sometimes I can't help myself.)
  • The Stax Museum of American Soul. Located on the site of the former Stax recording studios (where Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, and Booker T. and the MG's recorded) this small little museum has some great exhibits, displays and memorabilia. Well worth a visit, and at $10, a very cheap entrance fee.
  • Presbyterian Weddings. I'd never been to a Presbyterian church service before, much less a wedding, and it was, without question, the quickest nuptials I've ever been fortunate enough to witness. Clocking in at just about 30 minutes, it was as if the celebrant had one eye on the bride and groom and the other eye on the time clock for the UTennessee football game (and make no mistake, Southerners LOVE their college football. Wedding guests were constantly checking scores, starting immediately after the proceedings and into the reception.) It was a delightful ceremony which, while quick, still maintained it's poignancy and seriousness throughout, and the bride and groom and their families can look back and remember a very special and meaningful celebration. Plus, one of the bridesmaids was shockingly attractive. Were I not already a lapsed Catholic, I might have considered jumping ships.
  • Home cookin' (and hospitality.) My last night in Tennessee, I had the pleasure of driving back to the middle of the state (although unfortunately chose to stop at a Phillps 66 with the nastiest bathroom ever as opposed to Johnny Cash's Rest Stop again) and spending a night under the roof of Goof's parents, who are the very definition of Southern hospitality. They served a feast of Southern food for dinner, with the highlights being the ribs (cooked by Goof's father, and which were the best ribs I've had - seriously) and the Key Lime Pie (made by Goof's mother of 'How do?' fame - simply delicious.) Dining with us were several members of their extended family who came up from Alabama (and surprised me with a 'Bama football t-shirt) and later several neighbors stopped by to say hello. This being the first time I'd met any member of Goof's family, immediate or extended, I fully expected to get grilled and ribbed (pun intended) about my "Yankee" heritage. Nothing of the sort happened, however. In fact, everyone managed to make this northern boy feel quite welcome and at home. Goof and I closed out the day with a nice walk around the town square (exactly as you'd think it might be - city hall and the common in the center, with lots of independently owned shops and boutiques surrounding it - very Southern, and very nice) and it ended up being a great ending to a great trip.
And, as if all that wasn't good enough, I somehow managed to snag a free round trip ticket from the airline by volunteering to fly on a later flight (the plane I was on was over its weight limit. I didn't know such things were possible, and I was only too happy to let them book me on another aircraft - even if the flight they booked me on was delayed by two hours.) That means, of course, that I can do it all over again. Although next time, I think I might look out for the Faith Hill Rest Stop, as long as the bridesmaid don't object, y'all.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't believe you forgot to mention my old stomping grounds, The Artisan Hotel! I'm pleased that you and your ladyfriend chose to stay at The Artisan - and even happier that they haven't washed the carpets nor fixed the elevator since I slept there! It's as authentic as the rhinestones on my jumpsuit!

Congratulations on escorting a Southern belle to Memphis. I saw those dance moves you pulled at the reception...did you borrow them from me? Thank you, thank you very much. You are more sizzlin' than a fried peanut butter and banana sandwich.

10:29 AM  
Blogger Eric said...

How the hell could I have forgotten the Artisan? And the mad rhymez created as a result of our stay there?!?

"So long, hotel!
It's time to say farewell.
We'd really like to come back
But our stay was less than swell.

The halls, they smelled!
The room was hot as hell.
And the elevator?
Bah! We had to crawl up the stairwell!"

10:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lawd a mighty...
Forgot you were Northern the whole time you were here....you blend well!


4:13 PM  
Blogger GB (admin) said...

Dude, your first bullet just said that you think her mom's hot.

1:03 PM  

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