A Brief Taste of the South

Trip Start Mar 10, 2011
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Trip End May 05, 2011


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Flag of United States  , Tennessee
Saturday, April 16, 2011

It's certainly a good thing I don't live in the Southern states because if I did I would be headed for an early grave. The combination of rich, plentiful quantities of food, grand excess of alcohol causes a slowing of the constitution. Slack jawed it may not be, but certainly lackadaisical.  Luckily between meals I managed to sneak in some essential sights of Memphis.
The Gibson guitar factory is where the fabled instruments come together from blocks of rare woods.  As much as this may be a Mecca for musicians, the tour made some of the magic disappear.  Rather, it seemed as if the Gibson factory was more of a production line, with workers in harsh industrial conditions on their single workstations, with tight targets to meet.  It seemed from the tour, it was rather difficult to justify the outrageous cost of their guitars.  More sentimental was the Sun Studios.  Here in the dilapidated shack just out of central Memphis, Rock-and-Roll exploded into the world.  The studio was home to the Gods such as Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Roy Orbison.  Even current generation rockers come for their pilgrimage to record in the still functioning studios.  Hallowed grounds indeed.  Yet all this fame has done little to change the character of the place. It still stands in the same place, with the same unassuming exterior and crowded interior.  The final attraction was the Lorraine Hotel, the site of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jnr. and the site of the Civil Rights Museum.  The historical significance of the man and the nation's turbulent movement were illustrated by an immense number of displays and placards.  I could not help but notice that although voluminous, the text and audio offered something of a sanitised version in favour of the persecuted.  Now I understand that the cause was one against a prejudiced community and that some means are justified, but the displays seemed to play down the role of non-pacifists such as Malcolm X and his Black Panthers.  It was nonetheless, an educational experience and provides some insight into the great cultural divide that still exists, especially here in the South.
It may have just been Memphis, but there seemed that I arrived in a never-ending procession of festivals.  Africa in April this year was to be an ode to Senegal. The cheap carnival rides, generic food stalls and imitation goods made me wonder what if Senegal was merely a namesake and a means to party.  Also present was the Corvette convention. A celebration of an already outlandish car by parading the most outlandish examples.  The streets were full of custom paints, murals, kits and boomboxes.  Even one batmobile.
My final goodbye was said along the banks of America's vein of life.   Mud Island along the banks of Memphis now exists as a giant diorama of the river and it's history.  It is probably better known for where singer Jeff Buckley tragically decided to swim the big river and drowned. The island, with its exhibit and breathtaking view gave an idea of just how breathtaking the scale of this majestic river was.
So my brief time in the South ends.  There is so much of a divide between states that I wonder how the country was ever united. The food and drink are more vibrant and the people are less frenetic.  Between all this, the certain sense of mysticism that extends into the culture are reflected in its greatest export - Music. 
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