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Memphis is like that hot slutty chick from high school. You’ve heard that she’s kinda dirty, but you’ve never really hung out with her, and she smiles when you walk by her in the hallway. Supposedly she REALLY likes Elvis – like, obsessed. Then one day you see her at a party, and you take a couple shots of bourbon together…she’s definitely sexy, but it turns out she’s a lot cooler than people give her credit for! She’s into the blues, she’s a good dancer, she can shoot some pool, and she can cook some mean BBQ. She LOVES the Mississippi river, she says it’s magical. As you leave the party you get some concerned looks from your friends…fuck them, they’re just jealous. She takes you down to the banks and starts getting handsy- yeah she’s definitely a bad girl, but you could see yourself dating her, she just got a bad rap. Then you take off her pants, and…something…something smells funny.
Yep…Memphis is a hot chick with a really bad STD.
Thaaat’s what everyone at the party was trying to tell you.
Memphis is the first city where I was using couchsurfer to find a place to stay. Couchsurfing is a website that connects travelers with hosts that will put them up for a day or two. You make a profile and either offer up your couch or spare bedroom, or you can request places to stay in cities anywhere around the world. I put in a bunch of couch requests for Memphis a few days before I left Atlanta, but because I’ve never hosted or traveled using the site, I didn’t have any proof that I was not in fact an axe murderer. The site uses a verification and reference system to give you credibility…if you’ve hosted or traveled with people and they had a good experience, they can leave you a reference that makes your profile more trustworthy, but without any references, I was having a hard time finding anyone who would host me. Luckily, about an hour before I arrived in Memphis, I got a message on the site saying that there was a couch available. It was a guy named Aaron, about my age, a couchsurfing veteran who said that he likes to give people without any references a chance to get into the community. I went and met him at his place in North Memphis. We sat down over a beer and I told him about my trip. Turns out he was the Memphis couchsurfing ambassador, and had hosted hundreds of surfers in the span of a couple years. “Wow, I bet you’ve had some nightmare situations.” “No, not really. A couple awkward guests who overstayed their welcome, but besides that, most people have been great.” For some reason, I didn’t believe him. Hundreds of hobos had stayed at his place and he’d never had a bad experience?
We set out to go to the AAA Redbirds game downtown. The first thing you notice when you drive into the downtown area is a giant glass pyramid, a 20,000 seat venue that’s 16 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty. It used to host the Memphis Grizzlies, the NBA team that moved to Tennessee in 2001, but has now been sold to Bass Pro Shops, and is being built into this giant megastore with archery and shooting ranges, climbing walls, and restaurants. The Grizzlies don’t play in the pyramid anymore, but the downtown area was riddled with references to the team, who the day before I arrived had just lost the final game of the NBA Conference championship. Aaron mentioned that the downtown area used to be complete shit, but that the Grizzlies had injected some life into the city, even though many of the restaurants and shops were boarded up. We passed a couple horse-drawn carraiges on the way to the stadium, which I’ve just never understood. I can not think of something less romantic than riding around downtown Memphis three feet behind horse ass.
It was two for one tuesday, meaning two for one tickets, and two for one beers. The tickets were only 6$, about a third of what it costs to park at a Braves game. We drank some cheap beer and watched the game (click here for gifs of the game), which was against the Albequerque Isotopes, a team I would be seeing in their own home stadium a week later. Aaron pointed out a “controversial” mural by the left field bluff, which was just a collection of people’s faces painted on a large brick wall. One of the faces was that of a black woman flashing a big smile, featuring a gold tooth. Obviously this is incredibly offensive and racist. Aaron grabbed a hotdog and we headed out to check out Beale Street, the famous strip downtown of blues clubs and touristy gift shops. Memphis locals don’t tend to go down there too often, but Aaron was happy to humor me for a couple hours on a Tuesday night.
Beale street is one of the only places in America where you can walk the streets with alcohol. The others include the Las Vegas strip, the Power & Light district in Kansas City, the historic downtown district of Savannah, Georgia, and the cities of Butte, Montana and New Orleans, Louisiana. People often talk about Memphis smelling bad, and I think it’s a combination of river stank, stale bar smell, menthol cigarettes, and puke. We stopped by this outdoor patio area where this large chocolate maltball of a man had propped himself on a stool and was singing blues and rock classics. It was not the most….professional set I’ve ever seen. At one point, he asked the bartender for a coke over the speakers during the middle of a guitar solo.
He got up and waddled around the back of the stage at one point, I think he had some kind of chicken wings, because when he returned he was wiping buffalo sauce from his hands and mouf, and by wiping I really mean just licking everything his tongue could reach. The bass player wanted to sing a song, but they didn’t have a microphone stand (what band doesn’t bring a mic stand?) so some random guy from the bar came over and held up a microphone awkwardly next to him. The music wasn’t too bad I guess, at least some people were enjoying it. Afterwards we drove to east Memphis, an area frequented by more locals. We hopped around some semi-dead places before settling down at this bar where they were showing a Harry Potter movie on the big screen behind the bar. But they had turned the volume off, so me and Aaron started doing our own voices to the characters, making them say offensive and sexual things in squeaky british voices. We were laughing so hard we couldn’t breathe…you had to be there. Actually, you had to be there and you had to be pretty drunk. (side note: after watching the part in Harry Potter where the centaurs attack, I wondered: how do centaurs masturbate? Think about it…)
On the way home we walked past a cat adoption store that keeps all the cats on “display” overnight. We headed home and I passed out, only to be woken up sporadically throughout the night to Aaron’s cats fighting and hissing at each other. The next morning, after being stealthily attacked, I headed to Central BBQ to get some lunch before heading to Little Rock. I ordered the pork sandwich and a side of greens and baked beans. It’s 7 oz of pulled pork on this massive bun, which is an essential part of the BBQ experience too often overlooked. The sandwich is served with just the right amount of coleslaw, enough to give that creamy crunch but not enough to overpower the flavor of the pork. I asked the girls sitting next to me if I could take a picture of their BBQ chicken nachos, which a few other people in line had ordered.