My Life and Other Stuff

Our first stop was Memphis, Tennessee. It's about 530 miles south from Chicago. As we were approaching the city our GPS took us through the countryside, around the traffic. Tennessee countryside looks a little different from Illinois countryside.

There were a couple of things that stuck in my memory. One was a broken down house with one wall recently painted bright pink. Another was a sign that said "Dangerous intersection" and right after it a normal T intersection and next to it a cemetery. We thought some people had an interesting sense of humor.

Memphis is famous for a lot of things like BBQ, Elvis, B.B. King, Rock 'n' Roll, Jazz, Black gospel, Soul music and the Blues. While we were there, we took a tour of the city. The tour started on Beale Street, the most famous street in Memphis.

Beale Street

B.B. King's portrait

Those notes are from the Walk of Fame on Beale Street. Over 80 brass notes are embedded into the sidewalk.

We saw the apartment Elvis Presley lived in as a boy. It was in a project house. That means people with a low or no income could afford it. In this apartment, Elvis had his own room. He was very happy about it. The home Elvis lived in before had no separate rooms for anybody. It was a shotgun house. You know why they called it that? It was long and narrow and had no walls inside, so that if somebody shot a bullet through the front door, it would go straight out the back door without hitting anything.

While we were driving around the city, the guide told us about the city's musical history and famous people who lived in the city. The founder of the Holliday Inn lived in Memphis. He once took a trip to Washington D. C. and the hotels were so terrible that he decided to found his own hotel company.

The guide also told us some amusing anecdotes, like this one: When the founder of FedEx turned the plan for FedEx in as a colledge project, his proffessor gave him a "C" and told him it would never work. And now it's a multi-million dollar company! By the way, the FedEx headquarers is in Memphis, too.

I took some pictures of the city from the bus window.

More street graffiti

You can really see what the city got
from it's Egyptian namesake.

Street graffiti

Elvis's shirt

Mississippi marina

Bridge over the Mississippi
to Arkansas

We're off to see
the wizard, the
wonderful wizard
of Memphis.

Next, we saw the Peabody duck march. It's a tradition at the Peabody Hotel.

Five mallard ducks live in the hotel. Daily, at 11:00 AM, the Duckmaster takes them to the lobby. There, they march from the elevator, down a red carpet and into the fountain, where they play and take a bath. People always gather around the red carpet and fountain and watch. Oh, and the Peabody hotel restaurant never, ever serves duck.

The tradition started as a practical joke back in 1933. Frank Schutt, the hotel manager, went hunting. He took three things with him: three live duck decoys, a friend and a bottle of Jack Daniels whiskey. After the trip, the manager and his friend were quite drunk, and decided to put the decoys into the fountain. After they had done so, they went to bed. In the morning, all the manager expected to hear were stories of hotel staff chasing ducks, but instead he heard that the ducks had stayed in the fountain. He said that he would get rid of the ducks, but the hotel visitors insisted that the ducks stay. Frank decided that the ducks should be trained to march down a red carpet and into the fountain in the lobby. Except poor Frank was the one who had to train them. Well, that's what you get for drinking too much, Mr. Schutt!

The tour guide said they swap the ducks every 90 days, and on the days they swap them there are rumors about duck specials in other restaurants nearby. In truth, the ducks go back to the farm.

A plaque dedicaded to
Martin Luther King Jr.

The Lorraine Motel sign

Where the shot
was fired from

The wreath marks Martin
Luther King Jr's room.

Next, we saw the Lorraine Motel. It was the place Martin Luther King Jr. always stayed at when he came to Memphis. Every time, he took the same room: 306. Back then, it was the only hotel or motel in Memphis that allowed African Americans, so a lot of famous African American musicians stayed there too. Now it's a civil rights museum. It's also the place where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. He was shot from a building across the street from the Lorraine.

We then went to the Rock 'n' Soul museum, the last stop on our tour. The museum has a lot of cool items from the old times, most of them are related to the city's musical history. Some belonged to the musicians, like their old stage costumes and musical instruments. Others are just remind you of the 50s and 60s, like jukeboxes, performance posters from that time, old vinyl record players and radios, a Coke machine, and even a sewing machine! They also have areas set up like old rooms that poor African Americans and migrant workers could live in during that time. The rooms were very small and didn't have much furniture. The blankets were thin and threadbare, and the clothes were old and worn. Hard to believe that the people who lived in those rooms started all that music.

Rock 'n' Ghoul


Elvis's concert suit


Electric Guitars

Migrant workers traveled around the country, looking for part-time seasonal jobs. Lots of them were African Americans and they played music that was influenced by their culture. When they got together, they played a lot of different types of music. People heard it and started playing it. That's where Rock 'n' Roll, Jazz, the Blues and Soul Music started.

Another thing included in the tour was lunch at the Central BBQ restaurant. We ate there right after we watched the Peabody Ducks. We ate pulled pork sandwiches. I liked the meat, but they put too much barbeque sauce on it.

Our tour bus

After the tour, we got in the car and drove south to New Orleans.