Day 15 – Memphis

I wonder if the chinches bite in Beaumont, like they do in Beale Street town The first night I stayed in Memphis, chinch bugs turned my bed around. —Blind Lemon Jefferson, “Chinch Bug Blues,” 1927

Breakfast first, we head to Cafe de Frida a local Mexican Cantina which was named after the famed artist Frida Kahlo I had my first Spanish Latte. Great coffee but oh so sweet.

We are off to Memphis today for a three-night stay. But first, we must visit the other music studio, Muscle Shoals which is in nearby Sheffield. An observation, nearly all the small businesses we have looked at are closed on Sunday. I guess attendance at one of the many churches in the area is compulsory.

We make a quick stop at the Florence Marina Harbor on the Tennesse River. As well as being churchgoers the people of this town are also boat owners. A picturesque spot.

We arrived at the Muscle Shoals Studio in time for our 10:30 tour. I got myself a Swampers T-shirt and a bound leather notebook. This studio was a break-away from FAME and in its nine-year recording history produced over 360 albums. Many of them are big hits. It was a fantastic tour, the guy leading us has an intimate knowledge of the studio and got emotional when talking. Lynard Skynard started their life in this studio.

Now Muscle Shoals has got the Swampers
And they’ve been known to pick a song or two (yes they do)
Lord they get me off so much
They pick me up when I’m feelin’ blue
Now how about you?

Sweet home Alabama
Where the skies are so blue
Sweet home Alabama
Lord I’m comin’ home to you

I will again leave the detailed history to the experts:

Back in the car and we go past the birthplace of Helen Keller. We are heading toward Corinth which is 45 miles down the track. It is a cloudy day and looks ominous. Yep, here it comes, starting with a few spots of rain and then into a downpour. We pull off into Corinth at 12:40. We had been told to try out a diner, the Dinner Bell (Steak and Fish). Our waitress is very excited as we are the first Australians she has ever met. I went for the fried pork chops, fries, and ‘slaw with a large root beer. If your root beer gets to be half-empty another full one arrives at the table. Hoff finished up drinking three root beers. After finishing our meal and getting the bill our waitress told us not to hurry, y’all sit a while, if you want.

Now we are heading to Memphis, 66 miles to go. The rain has let up much to all our relief. Wendy got a message from Skye to stay that have just hit Nashville and will be following the same route to Memphis that we have taken. Thick forest on either side of the road. Bugger, the rain is back as we pass the Bird Dog Museum. Now it is pissing down and very dark as we cross into Tennessee at 2:50. Hoff is playing Supertamp’s ‘It’s Raining Again’, very apt. On the other side of the freeway, we see three cars that have run off the road in this very heavy rain, one being a Sherriff’s car, and an ambulance with lights and sirens blaring is trying to get through. Most cars are slowing down but there are a few cowboys charging through. Bernie did a magnificent job driving through this monsoon. I keep thinking of Suster Rosetta Tharpe’s classic song, ‘Didn’t It Rain’!

Didn’t it rain, children
Talk ’bout rain, oh, my Lord
Didn’t it, didn’t it, didn’t it, oh my Lord
Didn’t it rain?

It rained 40 days, 40 nights without stopping
Noah was glad when the rain stopped dropping
Knock at the window, a knock at the door
Crying brother Noah can’t you take on more
Noah cried no, you’re full of sin
God got the key and you can’t get in

We decide to take a tour of the Stax Museum before going to our Air BnB. I have been to Stax a couple of times but there is always something new to see. It is Hoff’s first visit to Memphis and a visit to Stax is definitely required. The last time I was at Stax, the Memphis Slim house across from the museum had a serious lean to it and a sign said it was to be renovated. That did not happen, the good news is that there is a new tastefully built Memphis Slim visitor’s center on-site. Here are just a few of the artists who recorded at Stax: Otis Redding, Johnnie Taylor, Isaac Hayes, The Bar-Kays, Sam & Dave, The Staple Singers, Booker T. & the MGs, Ike & Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin, Al Green, Rufus & Carla Thomas, Eddie Floyd, and many others.

Back at the car and Hoff noticed something hanging from the bottom of it. He got down on his back and saw that a piece of the protective casing had come loose. The car is still drivable and we head to our accommodation which has a locked garage. The car hire company insists that all its cars be securely garaged if you are going to Memphis. Hoff turned into McGyver and fixed the loose panel with make-shift tools.

Accommodation is very good and only a 10-minute walk down to Beale Street. We decided on take-out for dinner. The world-famous Gus’s Fried Chicken is a block away. Fried chicken, fried green tomatoes, and baked beans are the order of the day with sweets being a chocolate chess pie. As their slogan states, ‘If you haven’t eaten at Gus’s. you haven’t eaten fried chicken’. I think they are right!

Hoff’s Food Blog – Parts 2 & 3

Now some people say chitlins are good to eat I’ll never eat chitlins long as a hog got feet. —Papa Charlie Jackson, “Mama, Don’t You Think I Know?” 1925

Saturday, April 15th

Santa Fe

One day in Santa Fe ……. Starts with a walk into town in search of caffeine ……. Yes, you’re getting the drift. Not too much open early but we find the plaza and there it is The Plaza Café. This is a super arty town, artists are not known for getting up early, so we must take the plunge or wander aimlessly like bloody tourists. Looks a bit spiffy, staff everywhere in starched white shirts and pressed black slacks, could be charging a premium ….. but unlike Spain, France, or Italy ……it is not the dodgy plaza café We here for the coffee but don’t turn down the option of breakfast, Bernie the breakfast burrito, me a piñon corn pancake with orange butter and cinnamon syrup. The coffee is good, and the food is very tasty – we’ve done well. Wendy and Rob are Ubering down, a delayed breakfast for them.

We’re goon’ upmarket again to a recommenced Italian restaurant, Osteria D’Assisi just outside the Plaza area. We are doing Super Tuscan …..  Bernie is keen but at a similar price point, I also offer the waitress a Rosso Di Montalchino and an aged Barbaresco option – no hesitation, she goes the SuperTuscan and we enjoy it during the meal and dessert. The meals a bit of a mixed bag, my chicken stuffed with spinach and wrapped in prosciutto in tomato sauce topped with Parmesan, worthy indeed. Wendy’s octopus and exotic lobster/fish pasta are both underwhelming. Rob’s lasagne is a trusty & safe option. We have room for dessert and they are pretty good although I am now worried about that Tiramisu weighing on the valve overnight! This is the sort of place that is within 3 standard deviations but will never be memorable.

Sunday, April 16th

Fly to Nashville

Bernie is a predawn planner- up at 4:30 am, shower & pack the mothership for its last voyage. Of course, the rental car return is a bus trip to the terminal, check-in, screening and it’s time to board – time only for a cookie and a slurp. At least we are on time to Houston, but the second leg is late by 2 hours, sufficient time for a double espresso and chicken Caesar wrap – great job BB.

We find our apartment, drop the bags and hurtle toward a hastily chosen Martin’s BBQ …… whoa, there is a line, too hard so Broadway and the Honky Tonks beckon. Wall-to-wall saloon establishments – bands virtually play next to each other,  feels like Moses has brought all the people to this spot and they are ready to play. We go to the Assembly Food Hall to improve the chance of a beer and food. As a rule, I’m not a fan of food malls and after a $50 round of drinks, I’m still there.

Monday, April 17th 

Nashville Day 1 We meet up for lunch at Rob’s choice, Princes Hot Chicken ……. We track it down – it’s In The Assembly Food Hall …I’m forlorn. It is still a swathing mass of people, but I may have been a little harsh in my jet-lagged judgment.  If you forget the booze and ignore the masses, there is a huge variety to choose from. Perhaps not at the standard of the archetypal Lisbon model, which emulates the city’s better restaurants, but this is Downtown Nashville and the alternatives are queues, noise, or $$$. Three of us opt for the hot chicken ….. not for the faint-hearted and trust me it’s as hot coming out as it went in ….. I may have to refrain from further valve action for some time.

3rd & Lindsey tonight, first music, first real tight Nashville sound – there are 4 fiddlers In the Country Hall of Fame, 2 are in the band tonight – Time Jumpers, a slick act of Western Swing from yodel to Jazz & Blues,  this is the jizz.  The food is possibly not stunning but fills the gaps ….tonight it’s about the music, Rob has a res – erectIon, and the change from deserts to music suites him just fine – perhaps the cider helps!