DAY 21: Memphis, Tennessee
Miles traveled: 3,412
States visited: 12
Weather: 72, rain all day
I’m writing from a supermarket parking lot in Memphis. I just got a new phone with modem capabilities, which means that I can connect the phone to my laptop and get online anywhere in the country that Verizon has a wireless signal. No more driving around aimlessly to find wifi! This is a breakthrough moment, please celebrate with me.
I feel like I’ve been a broken record so far when talking about the cities I’ve visited and how beautiful they are. Not so, Memphis. Memphis is one butt-ugly city. Every neighborhood looks like the ghetto. There are more abandoned strip malls and boarded-up storefronts than you can imagine.
Memphis has a lot of bosomy bridges.
Despite its lack of beauty, Memphis has been one of my favorite cities to visit. There’s so much to do here. Tomorrow I’ll write about the other stuff I’ve seen, but today I should focus on what brought me here – the Beale Street Music Festival at Tom Lee Park.
It rained all day Saturday and Sunday, so the park became a disgusting mud pit. My favorite shoes were ruined. Does anyone have an extra pair of white Chuck Taylors in size 12?
I saw about a dozen bands over 3 days. Many didn’t live up to my expectations (hello, Steve Miller Band), but I got to see some legendary acts. In fact, I saw live performances of what I think are 4 of the top 100 songs ever recorded: Let’s Stay Together (Al Green), We Want the Funk (George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic), Great Balls of Fire (Jerry Lee Lewis), and Nuthin But a G Thang (Snoop Dogg).
I was most amazed with Jerry Lee Lewis. I’d heard that in past years he sometimes cussed out his band and cut short his set after only a few songs. But he was in great spirits despite the weather, cracked jokes, and played 12 songs total. His voice was stronger than I expected and while his fingers seemed to move slow you wouldn’t have known it by listening to the music.
My favorite act of the weekend was Elvis Costello, followed by Snoop Dogg, Jerry Lee, and John Lee Hooker Jr. Fall Out Boy and James Taylor weren’t bad either. See my music blog for a more full review.
I didn’t want to pay $10 to park in downtown Memphis each night, so I drove around until I happened upon a solitary parking space without a meter. That became my parking space for all 3 days. I love it when I beat the system!
From there it was a 20-minute walk to the festival site. That part of downtown was abandoned at night, so every night I had to walk back there with my eyes open for any potential muggers. The same was true of my last night in New Orleans when I strolled home at 2 am. This means I’ve spent the past 4 nights wandering the streets alone after midnight in sketchy neighborhoods of the two most statistically dangerous cities in America. I’m invincible now – just wait til I get to Compton!
One more morning in Memphis and then it’s off to Arkansas. See ya’ll there!