Archive for August, 2013

Sliding Into A Southern Attitude in Tennessee

The Mississippi delta was shining/ Like a national guitar/ I am following the river/ Down the highway/ Through the cradle of the civil war/ I’m going to Graceland/ Graceland/ In Memphis, Tennessee/ I’m going to Graceland/ Poor boys and pilgrims with families/ And we are going to Graceland/ My traveling companion is nine years old/ He is the child of my first marriage/ But I’ve reason to believe/ We both will be received/ In Graceland”

Graceland by Paul Simon

I grew up listening to this album on my parent’s record players. I grew up also hearing a few Elvis songs and knowing of his legend, his story, and oh those thrusting hips that changed history. I have always somewhere wanted to visit Graceland myself and see if these feelings that Paul Simon sang about and the spirit of Elvis really was there. It was one of those odd things I always wanted to experience for myself with my own eyes and my own breath. Elvis has always been in my imagination one of those truly America stories, a man born into a two room house in Mississippi can become this icon; it was his music, his contribution to a changing landscape of history, the kitsch of what he now embodies, I wanted to experience it all.

A few months ago I found out that a job I had was going to take me to Nashville Tennessee, and it didn’t take but a moment for me to look up and see if I could make this Memphis and Graceland dream a reality. I found a friend who wanted to join me and together after we wrapped up work we headed down this highway that Simon sang about. I loved my week in Tennessee and my days in Nashville were great and at the bottom of this post I will share my lengthy but worthy list of eats, drinks, and sees from a local in Nashville.

It had been months since I have driven but we made our way along 40 through land with dense beautiful green trees heading west, west, west to Memphis. There is nothing like a road trip to make a new and lasting friend, hours together to talk as road signs blaze by. I drove the most in these few days as I possibly ever have (over 400 miles), may not be much to some but was a lot to me.

We loved the city of Memphis. It was steeped in history and rich pulsing with life that reached back and forwards at the same time. We ate BBQ and I could not possibly get enough of any Southern eats while I was there. We walked both nights up and down Beale Street. We danced and listened to music, music everywhere. Blues City is full of the music and we never wanted to get away from any of it.

Graceland at first viewing was a vast strip of commercialism off the side of an enormous and heavily trafficked boulevard but then when we stood on the steps to the house it all faded behind the hush of green trees and lawn and felt like another period. From the ornate peacock room, to the jungle room that is carpeted floor to ceiling (yep that means walls and ceiling too) in green shag; there was a sense of something other. I could almost imagine Elvis in these rooms and hear the way people loved him. Graceland was everything I had imagined and pictured and in a fitting way it mirrored exactly how I perceive Elvis in my mind – a man who had this amazing talent and way of affecting people but was somehow misunderstood and packaged into this thing entirely different. Women cried, seriously cried at the grave. And I felt an appreciation for a legend in a different way after walking the halls of his house.

After some grilled peanut butter and banana sandwiches for lunch we headed back into downtown Memphis. We decided that after a confectionery visit like Graceland a visit to the other museum The National Civil Rights Museum was perhaps the best way to substantiate our selves. Located at Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King Jr was assassinated in 1968 this experience lingers as the far more prominent and resounding. Standing on the landing where Martin Luther King Junior was standing when he was shot and seeing the windows across the street where the shot came from, seeing how close it all is feels powerful. Mahalia Jackson sings from his funeral as you stand at the very door and with goose bumps up and down my arms there was the resounding sense of wanting to say nothing more than Thank You. To thank Martin Luther King Jr, Rosa Parks, Linda Brown, Addie Mae Collins, Carole Robertson, Cynthia Wesley, Denise McNair, and most recently Trayvon Martin. We may not have yet made it to the Promised Land that Dr. King spoke of but I believe we have made it so far and I feel so indebted to so many whose lives have come before, and I felt so inspired to never move back but to merely carry on forward after standing here.

My time in Memphis was everything I could have wanted, it felt like a world apart from the one I grew up in along the Pacific and I loved discovering the history and vibrancy. I want to go back with my dad or Bari who both would have love it here. And in the end the Paul Simon lyrics may be true for me, maybe not at Graceland but in Memphis I do feel like I was received.

And for the greatness that is Nashville below is the best list I could ever imagine in one place thanks to my fabulous local friend Katie.

Katie’s list of must eat and must drink places in Nashville.

BREAKFAST OR BRUNCH SPOTS:

Pancake Pantry (world famous)

Marche (french toast made with croissants) – we had an amazing dinner here. Shrimp and grits and fried okra outstanding!!

Germantown Cafe (frittata is awesome)

Fido (great food anytime of day and fabulous coffee)

SkyBlue East (great family spot)

Loveless Cafe (southern cooking)

Mid-range food:

PM (sushi/asian fusion)

Burger Up (higher end burger joint)

Smiling Elephant (indian food)

Silly Goose (local organic)

Rosepepper (mexican)

Whiskey Kitchen (good food, good drinks) – strong but great drinks. I had a blackberry julep that had me on the floor and a friend had some new fashionds that were delicious. Also good fried pickles, fried green tomatoes, and hot chicken all Nashville traditions.

Jack’s BBQ (bbq)

Edleys BBQ

Wild Cow (vegan/vegetarian)

Upper Eschelon of Food and Drink:

City House

Rolf and Daughters

Husk Nashville

Holland House

Kayne Steakhouse

Margot – Seasonal, farm to table. We had a really good dinner here. Plus the best peaches for dessert

Flyte

DESSERT/DRINKS:

Patterson House (high end drinks)

Jacksons (cookie dough egg roll and fried twinkles)

12th South Taproom (great beer selection)

Pour House

Lockeland Table – ricotta donuts are amazing! was sorry we didn’t have a full dinner here.

Only in Nashville…

Robert’s Western World and Broadway in general for tourist stuff

Centennial Park which houses a complete replica of the Parthenon

Opryland/Grand Ole Opry

Bluebird Cafe for songwriters night (Mondays)

Station Inn (bluegrass)

Ryman Auditorium (original Grand Ole Opry)

Country Music Hall of Fame

 

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08 2013