Joie de Vivre


Nancy was so happy. It made us so happy.

Now, I am not really an Elvis fan, but I’ve long acknowledged his importance and impact on American culture and music. It was a lot of fun to see Graceland, and in particular, the marketing juggernaut that still functions on behalf of the Elvis Presley Corporation Enterprise. Here, then, are a few of my favorite photos from the many I took.

Joie de Vivre

The Civil Rights Museum

I think everyone needs to go through this place. It’s built into/around the motel where Martin Luther King Jr. was killed. It’s moving, tragic, uplifting, heart wrenching and I learned a great deal. It’s also heavy, and we were very spent by the time we left, which I think is the point. I am very glad I got to visit. I took many notes, and have a lot of further reading to do. It runs the visitor from the early beginnings of slavery in this country, and documents decade after decade of injustice. It’s a lot to take in, and so well done.

I knew systemic racism is real. It’s pretty obvious, when you watch any moderate to left news channels, and pay attention just about anywhere in public. I’ve considered my own bias, privilege and advantage in this area. Yet, I left the museum stunned at the staggering breadth and consistency of systemic racism.

I didn’t take a lot of photos, as I was reading and watching the videos. It’s very much worth the trip to Memphis.

Joie de Vivre

Memphis Food

We had some lovely dining experiences, starting with the Blues City Cafe on Beale street. I had the excellent catfish, but the chili was very good, too.

We stopped in the City Market Food and Pharmacy in Cooper-Young, after visiting Burke’s. We ate tuna, chicken salad and pasta salad on crackers that night.

On Father’s Day, they took me to “The Beauty Store” for brunch. They have a photo booth in there, and powdered hot doughnuts. Beverly had chicken and waffles, where the chicken is actually spicy crunchy Chinese chicken.

My favorite meal was at Mulan’s asian bistro. We ordered too much, and ate this for two days. The very best thing was “Tiny crispy fish,” which features tiny sardines, jalapeño peppers, chunks of sliced garlic, and peanuts. Just WOW.

To our great surprise, the hot dogs in Gladys’ at Graceland were supurb.

Joie de Vivre

Burke’s Books

After checking into our AirBnB, we wandered around Coopers-Young, which is the neighborhood in which we stayed. We discovered the most charming bookstore – Burke’s Books.

They photograph all the dogs that visit!

I found some treasures here, too. I came home with 4 Edward Gorey titles, several novels from Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin series, and a particular triumph – a used copy The Secret of Ventriloquism by Jon Padgett. There is something magical about traveling and discovering a writer who speaks to oneself.

I Love Love Love this bookstore. We bought a very sturdy bag to haul our books back to Baltimore – here’s the quote on the reverse side:

Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read. Groucho Marx
Joie de Vivre

Sun Records

We did the tour of Sun Records. A lot of cool stuff happened there, and this filled in a chunk of my Elvis education. Here’s what I particularly enjoyed.

Ludwig drums

The house drumset was donated by U2’s drummer after they recorded there. Sun is still a functioning studio, although there is a bigger, more modern facility a few streets away.

Rocket “88” was a single by Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats. The story goes that his amplifier fell off the back of his truck, and the cone was damaged. Sam Philips stuffed some newspaper around the damaged cone, and they recorded. In that moment, amplified distortion and rock & roll were invented.

Elvis’ manager Colonel Tom Parker persuaded Sam Philips and Sun to sell their contract to RCA records for around $35k (something like $350,000 in today’s money, or so the guide said). While, in hindsight, that seemed like a mistake, given how big Elvis got, it set Sun Records up nicely, and they went on to do other great things.

Joie de Vivre

Duck Soup

While we wandering around Beale Street, Nancy mentioned that the Peabody Hotel was nearby, and that it had a connection to Elvis. We found our way over there, and knew we were in the right place when we saw the Lansky storefront window. Nancy explained that Elvis had many of his clothes made here.

Lansky Bros. store front

Mr. Lansky jr. himself sold me a pretty fantastic shirt (Thank you Beverly!). And there is a ladies shop, too.

By now, the day was even more sweltering, and the air conditioning of the lobby was magnificent. We sat in what I thought must be a restaurant or parlor, and no one seemed concerned we were there.

That’s when I noticed the ducks swimming in a fountain.

Someone in a lobby shop explained the ducks live in the building, and there is a parade every day to the fountain. She invited us to visit the roof, and inspect their “palace,” so we did.

Sure enough, the location was clearly marked in the elevator.

On the roof deck, which was being prepped for a wedding, we found their home:

Around the back of this structure is a day duck day room, and this (next to another fountain) is what we saw:

The view from up here was great – and we just walked in off the street and got up there. Such a friendly place.

From the Peabody website:

How did the tradition of the ducks in The Peabody fountain begin? Back in the 1930s Frank Schutt, General Manager of The Peabody, and a friend, Chip Barwick, returned from a weekend hunting trip to Arkansas. The men had a little too much Tennessee sippin’ whiskey, and thought it would be funny to place some of their live duck decoys (it was legal then for hunters to use live decoys) in the beautiful Peabody fountain. Three small English call ducks were selected as “guinea pigs,” and the reaction was nothing short of enthusiastic. Thus began a Peabody tradition which was to become internationally famous.®

In 1940, Bellman Edward Pembroke, a former circus animal trainer, offered to help with delivering the ducks to the fountain each day and taught them the now-famous Peabody Duck March. Mr. Pembroke became Peabody Duckmaster, serving in that capacity for 50 years until his retirement in 1991.

Nearly 90 years after the inaugural march, the ducks still visit the lobby fountain from 11am to 5pm. each day.

The Peabody is fabulousness from a past era. We were told that up to three generations from the same Memphis families work there. It was splendid. Elvis signed his deal with RCA there.

Again, from their website:

The Peabody’s story as one of the grandest, most historic hotels in downtown Memphis dates back to 1869 when the original Peabody Hotel opened on the corner of Main & Monroe, immediately becoming the social and business hub of Memphis. In 1925 a newer, grander Peabody was built at its present location of Union and 2nd Street, continuing the legacy of the “South’s Grand Hotel.” It was 1933 when ducks were originally placed in the hotel’s lobby fountain, setting in motion an 85-year tradition that continues today with the March of the Peabody Ducks.