Saturday, May 9, 2009

Hoofin' it in Nashville and Memphis

Here I am in Memphis. I'm not going to lie to you. I'm in Elvis town. I need to backtrack a bit. On the way from Chattanooga to Nashville, we took a detour to South Cumberland State Park which was by Tracy City (big ups!). Off the road about 10 miles we found Foster Falls, which was majestic from the overlook. It was a real freaking treat. It's spring and everything is wet and green and the falls were robust from recent rains. 

My mom's bff's sister (also my friend Camille), Suzanne, lives in Nashville with her husband Andy. He's a professional musician, and they were kind enough to open their home to us and also take us on a kickass car tour of the city. The downtown area is all neon lights. It's quite small for a big city, but feels larger because the buildings are close together and tall, gives the feeling of the Wall Street area. We drove over near Vanderbilt where it looks more Gainesville than NYC. Across the street from the school is a full scale replica of the Parthenon (check it below). We drove past Belmont University which is beautiful. It looks like the Ritz. It's right by all the studios where country greats record. We even saw Reba's studio (Reba RULES)!

OK, so that night I awoke to the loudest thunderstorm I've ever heard. I literally almost shit myself. Literally. The lightning was insane. This was definitely not the kind of tropical storm I'm used to. I eventually fell asleep and dreamt of tornadoes, or course. Now here are some pics and then I'll continue...

After sitting in traffic for an hour and a half we made our way to Memphis. Nashville is more of a traditional American city in the sense that it's attractive, livable, there's stuff to do and it has it's own character and also the character of a typical U.S. city. Memphis, though, is a southern city. From the first houses I saw off the highway, I recognized The South. This is to me a fabulous thing. It seems to have a thicker personality than southern cities back east. I'll try and describe the vibe through my next few posts.

I'm staying in Cooper Young, a sort of artsy neighborhood with independent businesses and bike riders. On Cooper Street are an abortion clinic, gay and lesbian alliance, literacy coalition and a place you can adopt older cats. Awesome? Yes. Right now I'm in a shop called Java something - Java Cabana, and it's adorable with its mismatched, antique kitchen furniture, two old ladies chatting next to me, local art on the walls, Pavement playing and the mean, gay barista. Still, it has the feeling of being in this city and no other. 

Below is a picture of the location where Martin Luther King Jr was shot and killed. The Lorraine Hotel was transformed into the National Civil Rights Museum. I don't understand why they didn't have tissues at the door at this place. Like LOTS of tissues. 

On the way in to town, the guy at the visitor center told us to do the audio tour because there's a lot of reading. Chris was insulted, and after said - I can read... But there was a ton of reading to do. It's all reading and some video - very informative and educational. And then you go into the room where MLK stayed before he was shot. Very sad. The people that worked there were really friendly young kids, all African American. The whole museum was very much geared toward the struggle of blacks in America, and my one critique was that it did focus more on struggle than triumph, but it was something EVERY child should see. Adults, too. For all those shitheads out there that are against affirmative action, a visit here would be an ethical check for them. I mean, so much of this is in recent history. Horrible things Americans have done to Americans. We're barely a few generations past the civil rights movement. Think about it, racists.
Because I didn't want to end up hanging myself from the rafters in sadness, we ended the day at Sun Studio which is where Elvis first cut a record. For $12 they show you around the studio, and it's worth it because it's such a historic place. It's on the National Register of Historic Places. One anecdote told to us by the cute, blond tour guide with a chest tattoo that said "Honky Tonk Girl," was that Bob Dylan came in recently just to kiss the X on the ground that marks where Elvis stood when he first recorded a hit song. 

I'm going to Graceland today and I'll have more to write later! 

1 comment:

Emily Sue said...

I'm glad you made it to both of these historic locales, very powerful and moving in their own special ways. Wish I were there! Is that lady still camped out in protest across the street from the Lorraine? She used to live there before they turned it into a museum and is not very happy about being displaced.