That ain't no trash can!

Trip Start Jun 24, 2012
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Trip End Sep 21, 2012


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Flag of United States  , Tennessee
Friday, August 31, 2012

Although still feeling a little under the weather, when we got up this morning I
felt better than I had yesterday, and so we decided to get out of the hotel room
and do something. We'd planned to go to the National Civil Rights Museum and Sun
studios anyway, and so decided we would visit these places today in lieu of
anything else to do. We had already bought Graceland tickets before leaving the
UK, which are for Sunday, so our options were somewhat limited.

We had breakfast in the hotel, and then set off, walking down Beale. The street
is really small - much smaller than we were expecting- and at 10am lacked the
impact it probably would have had if it had been the evening. The only people
around were a really old group who looked like they were on a tour or something,
which I imagine is different from the alcohol fuelled blues crowds that Beale is
purported to attract. We walked down the street, past B.B. King's and Pig on
Beale, and ended up walking past the Fed Ex Stadium. I spotted the logo of the
Memphis Grizzlies, which is the city's basketball team and because it was a
giant blue angry bear face - and was therefore automatically awesome -I decided
I wanted to try and find a t shirt with it on as a souvenir, so we went to the
team shop to get one.

I was left disappointed, however, upon learning that the sports team stores
don't stock t shirts smaller than a medium in the men's section ( I needed a
small) and the women's section only stocks pimped up blingy or saccharine sweet
versions of the t shirts (think big fat gypsy wedding-esque), which is not my
style in the slightest,and reduces the effectiveness of the great angry bear. Oh
well.

Leaving the store in a haze of bewilderment -what do small skinny guys wear?! -
we headed towards the Civil Rights Museum as our next port of call. We walked
through a neighbourhood which looked decidedly dodgy, but ultimately was fine as
there was no one around at all, and came upon the infamous Lorraine Motel, the
site of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr by James Earl Ray.

The great civil rights leader had been staying at the motel on the day he was
shot, April 4th 1968, and had been due to participate in a march for sanitation
workers rights, ahead of the wider civil rights protest he was organising. As a
way of commemorating the tragedy and the struggle for equality that black
Americans have endured, the National Civil Rights Museum was set up on the site,
and incorporates the room that MLK was staying in, and the balcony where he
died.

The museum itself was wonderfully done; it documented the plight of black
American slaves through the abolition period, and right the way up to the modern
day. The exhibits were well laid out and clear and made good use of contemporary
documents and images. There were also a number of more interactive exhibits,
including a replica bus that Rosa Parks had refused to move seats on, that you
could go on board. The museum was excellent, but we both came out feeling a
little bit blue and just feeling that people in general were awful, which isn't
great!

After spending about three hours in the museum, we headed out into the sunshine
and decided to walk up to Sun Studios on the other side of town. The walk took
about 45 minutes and we ended up wandering through what looked like an abandoned
industrial estate, although google maps had assured us we were going the right
way. We have since come to the conclusion that all of Memphis looks dodgy and
rough, even when it's not, and it's lovely....that just what Memphis looks like!


We'd had a quick glimpse of Sun Studios as we'd driven past in the taxi the
other day, and it had looked small, but when we arrived we realised just how
titchy it actually was. The building stuck out in a wedge into the middle of a
couple of small roads, and pretty much just consisted of a front 'shop' where we
bought our tickets, and which was stuffed floor to ceiling with t shirts, CDs
and other memorabilia, and the recording studio itself.

We bought our tickets and had to wait for half an hour before the tour started.
Laura and I were the youngest people on the tour by an easy 20 years, and we
were also the only non-Americans....especially as I'm not really into the whole
'rock and roll / blues' scene, and had only heard of Elvis and Jonny Cash, I
felt VERY out of place! The others on the tours were all singing and bopping
along to the music..Laura knew it though, so at least she got something out of
it!

We were taken around the tour by a hugely enthusiastic and loud girl called Rae,
who shouted "Y'ALL" a lot and did rock on/devil horn hand signs so often it was
like a tic. The first part of it consisted of a museum room, with cabinets
around the wall containing photos and knickknacks of the musicians who had
helped to launch Sun Studios - Elvis, Jonny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl
Perkins -the million dollar quartet - amongst them. After being in this room for
a while, and hearing snippets of their songs, we then went downstairs to the
actual recording studio, and got to see where these musicians had recorded.
Apparently they still hire out the studios to modern day artists, including U2.
Everyone ooohed and aaaahed. Not me, I hate Bono. Haha. The studios have never
been refurbished since their heyday, and you can tell...the ceiling is peeling
away and the walls are shabby, but apparently it has great acoustics, and so
this is alright. The highlight of the tour was posing for pictures with the
actual microphone that Elvis and Cash used..there was an actual queue to get to
it, and the poor thing is battered to hell....you have to hold the top bit on
otherwise it flops off!

After thanking Rae and cursing the decibels she could achieve, we headed out
from Sun Studios and walked back to our hotel through town, and another maze of
industrial estates. We also walked past (technically through) a wonder bread
factory, which made the surrounding air smell sweet and yeasty and lovely
(although American bread is weird and everything tastes sweet enough to be a
Greggs iced bun, even their artisan loaves...Laura and I have had many a
discussion about whether American visitors to the UK would find our bread
bitter or not).

As we returned to the hotel, we had to battle our way through a crowd of newly
arrived eldery patrons, fresh off their tour bus and clogging up the gangway to
the elevators. I had been carrying an empty soda can with me until I could find
a bin, and -on Laura's urging, I might add- deposited it in what I thought was a
trash can as we walked past. It turns out that what I'd chucked my can in wasn't
a bin, but was in fact just a large, empty, plastic container that looked
suspiciously like a trash can and which belonged to a grizzly old matriarch, sat
on the floor smoking a cigar. As I walked off, in blissful ignorance, she
snarled "that ain't no trash can"...I said sorry to apologise and she repeated
it louder as I turned round to retrieve my can. The rest of the bus were staring
at me like I was an alien, and I said I was very sorry again, but the old crone
just glared at me until I left. It had been an accident, and nothing was damaged
(except my feelings, sob!)...what a cow. Haha.

After having a little nap in the room to recover from my ordeal (and all the
walking) Laura and I decided we were hungry and so ventured back out of the
hotel - the witch was gone, thankfully - and mindful of our dwindling budget, we
went to Denny's! Laura ordered a ridiculous burger which involved bacon, eggs
and hash browns, but it did the job and we returned to the hotel with full
bellies.

An update on Isaac - he's currently flooding out parts of New Orleans, and
generally causing a nuisance, although thankfully the reporters don't think he's
going to be as bad as Katrina was. However, they do think he'll hang around for
longer, which may be worse in a way as the damage will be sustained. I'm
actually glad we didn't go, as it looks horrible. Good luck NOLA!

Deej x


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