Friday, July 25, 2014

Memphis (BBQ and Elvis)

My dear friend Julie and her boys live in Memphis and have for a year or more now. The boys were back in the Peoria area with their dad and grandma for some summer vacation, so I visited for some girls time :)! 

Julie has been in Memphis for a year or so now and this was my second visit. Their move was driven by the location of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and the discovery that their then ~18 month old had a stage 3 brain tumor. After two surgeries and a slew of chemo treatments, he has come out with NED (no evidence of disease) on his recent scans.  He has also been tested for any developmental deficits from his treatments and he's right on track for a two and half year old little boy. All such wonderful news!! (You can learn more about Ryan and his journey at St. Jude at His older brother went through his own health issues before baby brother came along, including heart surgery. Needless to say, the last few years have challenged Julie and her family so much and I'm in awe of how she deals with it and keeps an upbeat outlook. 

Anyway, she's probably blushing at reading that, but we've been good friends since starting our job together the fall after we graduated from our respective universities back in 2003. We worked together until I left for Singapore and even travelled together (Greece in 2006). I arrived Thursday evening and we were up late catching up with so much changing in both our lives in the past year. I felt bad that she still had to work Friday morning and I could sleep in :). 

Last time I visited, they were still at Target House and her son was mid-chemo. So this visit, she did a great job of showing me Memphis!

Friday night we went for barbecue at a very local, unassuming place. I forgot to get a picture of the "shack" though :). The food was awesome. We split fish tacos (grilled trout I think) and a pulled pork sandwich. I also tried the chili and we had a side of jalapeƱo coleslaw that had bleu cheese crumbles (yum!). All was so good! I was completely stuffed and no room for desert. 

Picture doesn't do it justice

Based on our feast the night before, we were a little more active Saturday and took a bike ride on the Greenline, which is a 6.5 mile paved path for running, biking, walking and roller blading. I'm typically not a good biker. But she assured me it was pretty flat and would be fine. And it was! We rented some cruiser bikes and stopped along the trail for lunch. 

We stopped at a neighborhood sandwich shop and I did a 'create your own' that was a little crazy....egg salad, artichokes, roasted red peppers, tomato, feta, mustard, hummus spread...I think that was it. It was awesome but very messy. Afterwards, we stopped in at the local grocery and I found some fresh baked molasses cookies that lasted me about three days :). 

After the bike ride and some errands, we planned to head to Beale Street which is the party street in downtown Memphis. But first got some more barbecue. :) It was also really good and we split the pork nachos and ribs. Yum!

Then we walked to Beale Street. The police block off the street for a few blocks and there are people, drinks and live music everywhere. Very interesting people watching :). We saw the church group of teenagers from dinner in line at security, a bachelorette party, people dressed for clubs, others barely dressed, the old, the young (who brings their infant?) and everyone in between. 

The security line in the "front" was crazy long. We asked and went down to the next block/side street and got right in. We basically walked up and down each side and took in the sights and visited some of the souvenir shops. I really wanted a cheap, tacky Elvis tshirt but had no luck (for the $5 price point). 
Years ago the two of us would have lived it up a little but we are older and were tired. :) So we did our walking loop and headed back to the car. 

On our walk back we ran into the mounted patrol. I think Beale St is open til like 3am. There were tons of cops on foot and these three mounted cops looked to be joining the fun. 

Sunday we went to the church of Elvis ;)..... i.e. Graceland. We toured the house/mansion along with some of the other exhibits. It was interesting as I knew next to nothing about Elvis. It was done better than I expected at first sight. It makes Elvis sound so wonderful and doesn't mention hardly anything negative. It had about one sentence that he took some prescription drugs and ultimately died of heart failure (not necessarily even linking to two). So probably a bit one sided but still good. You couldn't use flash really anywhere but you can see some of my no flash pics. 

Elvis was a car guy....and he had a little Honda motorcycle like me :) (note the pink Cadillac as well)

They sold photos and I managed to get a quick photo of our official photo as the guy angrily swiped it out of our view (note his hand at the top). $25, I think not.

The house was not that big considering it was Elvis. I loved this stained glass wall in the living area. Also see the kitchen that was remodeled in the 1970's - recognize anything :)? 

Perhaps my favorite room design ;) - I actually do love the look of the ceiling though. 

Outside the house is the meditation garden with the graves of Elvis, his parents, his twin brother who died at birth and Grandma Minnie Mae who outlived them all remarkably. Elvis died in 1977, Grandma 1980. 

Outside the house is a stone fence in front of the road. People from all over and for years have signed and left messages. Julie and I each left our own stamp that will probably wash away after a thunderstorm or two. It is weird to see the mansion plopped down in the middle of town with normal middle class housing all around. 

I found out Elvis never forgot the tiny Tupelo, MS house where he was born and lived for the first portion of his life before the family moved to Memphis. He was a great humanitarian and very generous with his fame and fortune. Below is a plaque of some recipients of his donations, including St. Jude. He also had a big donation to the USS Arizona memorial at Pearl Harbor, among many, many others. 


A couple fun suits on display. The replicas in the shops were only like ~$2,000.

And perhaps my favorite moment of the day.....a boy in grade school asked his dad, "hey Dad, what's this? What's this box?"

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