A February 2001 trip
to Memphis by Desiree Koh
Quote: If they ever had to drag you kicking and screaming from Memphis, grab two very important things before you leave: A slab of ribs, and the ghost of Elvis.
These are affectionate after-thoughts, like the moment you realize an acquaintance has become a friend, after my third trip there.
2. Graceland. Some travellers may argue against visiting such a tourist-worn attraction. Some may shudder at the plastic souvenirs and neon shot glasses. Like it or not, you'll have to succumb to pop culture, and soon enough, you'll realize that the Elvis kitsch IS part of the trip itself, and nothing to be ashamed of at all.
3. Barbeque. Sauce -- rich, thick, clingy, smothering. Ribs -- big, juicy... there is no better description for it than the aroma of pork on a BBQ pit.
4. Beale Street. Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil for the skill to play the sweetest blues known to man -- and the devil has clenched it ever so tightly since then. Beale Street, unlike Bourbon Street, has not sold out to drunken college frat boy debauchery and discos. If B.B. King doesn't find it beneath him to return here and play at his club, then everything's gonna be all right.
Hotel | "Heartbreak Hotel"
Rooms are more sparse than the lobby and hallway decor, but nevertheless are spacious and comfortable. Don''t worry if there''s nothing good on TV when you finally retire -- there''s always an Elvis movie or TV special playing. Before you leave for the day, why not lounge on a leopard print velvet settee, or run your fingers through the thick shag of the maroon carpet?
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on March 20, 2001
Elvis Presley's Heartbreak Hotel
3677 Elvis Presley Blvd.
Memphis, Tennessee 38116
Restaurant | "Corky's BBQ"
The best thing about being in the south is that redemption is always around the corner for sinners. So, unleash those gluttonous cravings!
Succluent pork ribs slathered with great sauce -- you don't have to be a connoisseur to taste, to KNOW, that these ribs have been cookin' forever. At Corky's, patience is a virtune.
Note: Corky's does not accept reservations, so please try to feel lucky and pray for salvation.
5259 Poplar Ave
Memphis, Tennessee 38119
3734 Elvis Presley Blvd.
Memphis, Tennessee 38116
B.B. King's Blues Club
143 Beale St
Memphis, Tennessee 38103
+1 901 524 5464
As you drive across the Mississippi and Arkansas-Tennessee border, Memphis has the appearance of a tight midsize city with a smattering of lights - not at all like a town that produced the kings of rock & roll, BBQ, and the blues.
But look closer - and the devil will be the first to let you know that appearances can be deceiving.
Here's what I mean: everything in Memphis comes in biggie size. Humongous servings of ribs, hordes of tourists at Graceland, high hunk-a hunk-a burning love temperatures, and best of all, a great big ole heart.
And then you realize that any less than this, the denizens of Memphis will be crying foul play. Because this is the way of the south, the opulence of hospitality and the abundance of soul. You'll see what I mean as we explore the four pillars of society that make up this compact town.
Graceland: This is an exercise in the excess of a poor boy made good. The five TV sets in the basement, the African safari-themed Jungle Room, the indoor squash courts, the kitchen capable of dishing out fried PBJs around the clock, and the smacks of a blithe spirit set loose in a departmental store. In true Sixties fashion, the tackiness of the decor and furniture are displayed behind velvet ropes or plastic casings. Still, these barriers are but mortal hindrances -- more than a few visitors are moved to tears by the time they reach the final destination on the self-guided mansion tour -- Elvis's grave.
Beale Street: Forget Times Square and Dick Clark on New Year's Eve -- this is true party central with a soul. As the nightlife surges down the three blocks making up the main artery of Beale Street, the energy doesn't abate if you decide to take a trip into one of the night clubs. OK, so there's Hard Rock Cafe and there's Dick's Last Resort, which means that the national chains have arrived. Play the reverse psychology mojo card, and duck into a dark, cavernous dive for the sweetest blues you will ever hear. Don't worry if the Hurricanes can't seem to stop appearing in your hand -- the Harley-Davidson riders at the end of the strip will keep you in check.
BBQ: At the Pig-N-Whistle Barbeque Restaurant (7144 Winchester Road), the beef ribs are so huge, you'll need both hands to grapple with them. At Corky's (see entry in this journal), they bring you a new glass of home-made lemonade even before you've made it past a third of your gigantic first glass. Too much of a good thing is not enough of a good thing. Yes, the waitresses are loud and friendly, too.
The Peabody Hotel: Historian David Cohn once said, "The Mississippi Delta begins in the lobby of the Peabody Hotel... If you stand near its fountain in the middle of the lobby... you will see everybody who is anybody in the Delta..." The opulence rivals top hotels in the country, but top this: the twice-daily Duck March where mallards strut from their Plantation Roof residence to frolick in the lobby fountain, to the music of John Philip Sousa (11am). The parade begins again at 5pm, when the ducks return to their roost. A NYC-style deli and a French restaurant in the south? Yep.
Of course, like any other thriving city, Memphis is not immune to gentrification. Mud Island is a peculiar little enclave that houses the new school bourgeoisie of the city -- neat condos arranged symmetrically, surrounded by faux sand volleyball patches and clay tennis courts. The white wash, the well-manicured lawns and the gym seem to belong to an alien city -- perhaps that is why the area is separated from the Memphis mainland, and quaratined to its own insular neighborhood.