Time to ease on down the road

We decided to forego Little Rock in favor of more time in Memphis. Although Bill Clinton’s library would have been interesting, we opted for a trip back to the 60’s via Stax Museum, but first we needed to sample another fine Memphis eatery, Huey’s.

Those toothpicks, blown into the ceiling by customers, will all be taken down and counted. Huey’s is sponsoring a contest for the benefit of the Memphis Zoo. For $1 per attempt, customers can guess the number of toothpicks, with the three closest to the correct number winning gift certificates. The ceiling gets cleared, and it starts all over again. Pretty creative, no?
Huey’s encourages it’s customers to leave their marks on the walls, so of course, I did. Why didn’t I think to bring along markers, like Aunt Stacy?

Next Stop, Stax.

The introductory video was well done, and truly was a trip down memory lane for me. Growing up, I boogied to Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Booker T and the MGs, Sam and Dave.

The museum included memorabilia from other artists, including Ike and Tina Turner.

I would have had trouble WALKING in those shoes, never mind dancing in them!

Greg particularly enjoyed Isaac Hayes’ Shaftmobile. Don’t know what was the best part–the shag carpeting inside or the sign in front.

There was still lots more to see in Memphis: The civil rights museum, Sun Studio, the Rock and Soul Museum, the art scene, but we needed to move along.

Here’s what was noteworthy enroute to Fort Smith.

To end on a positive note, the view got progressively better.

Next up, Oklahoma City.

“Something tells me it’s all happening at the zoo”. Simon and Garfunkel

Memphis was having a heat wave while we were there,but that didn’t stop us from visiting their fantastic zoo.  We decided to get there when it opened and stay until the heat did us in.

Our favorite spot was the big cat exhibit.

We started and ended our visit there. Can you see why?

The African penguins were cute, but we were spoiled by the Antarctic trip, seeing the chinstraps, gentoo and adelie penguins in their natural habitat.

Memphis is rightfully famous for its giant pandas.

I always regretted not riding a camel when we were in Egypt, so when this opportunity came a knockin’, I jumped aboard.

Okay, so maybe this ride was intended for kids, but hey, I’m down with having a second childhood!

I’ve had mornings when I felt like this elephant looks.  In fact, I’ve had mornings when I’ve LOOKED like this elephant looks, especially around the eyes…

Whenever you start feeling that your job is a little too stressful, just think, at least you don’t have THIS guy’s job.

Although I have lots more animal shots, I’m going to end this post before wordpress crashes on me. Remote blogging on the iPad is a bit of a challenge, as I’m sure my fellow bloggers will attest. (any tips or hints would be most appreciated!)

One parting image from the zoo parking lot. Remember those Nashville brides? I think one of them may have followed us here.

“Goin’ to Graceland, Graceland, Memphis Tennessee”–Paul Simon

Greg was about five years old when Paul Simon released his Graceland album.  I have wonderful memories of the two of us singing along all the way to daycare, Greg’s little blonde head bobbing in time to the music.  I never thought that decades later, we’d be visiting Graceland together! Elvis purchased Graceland when he was 22, and for the time, it was quite a mansion, but not so much by today’s standards.  According to the audio guide, this is the way the living room looked when he lived there. Growing up, I wasn’t a big Elvis fan, but over time, I’ve come to appreciate how much he contributed to popular music.  His achievements are impressive, and the Graceland tour does an effective job highlighting them.

Elvis’ racquetball court is now a display room for his hit records. Pretty impressive, when you see them all amassed in one place.

How sad that his life ended the way it did.   Are there many music superstars that have been able to manage their celebrity? I’m thinking of Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, the list goes on and on.
The Graceland complex is a marketing machine. We bought the “platinum” tour, (but found a half price ticket on the Internet) which got us into the car museum, the planes, and a couple of rooms with videos of Elvis on tour. Here’s Greg, doing his Elvis imitation, as he climbs into the Lisa Marie, an early jet, that was customized with a bedroom, living room and conference table. Ah, those most definitely were friendly skies!
Other than the mansion itself, every site is accessed through a gift shop containing every item imaginable with Elvis’ name or picture slapped onto it: pajama tops and bottoms, trivets, key chains, sunglasses. It is a money machine…and I’m sure, very good for the city of Memphis, providing jobs for lots of its citizens.
One of the things that I loved most about my former job was my wonderful customers. I traveled to Memphis at least twice a year for the past 10 years, visiting International Paper. We would conduct our meeting then enjoy a fantastic dinner together. Let me tell you, Memphis has some of the best restaurants in the United States!
This time, I had no business responsibilities, but was fortunate enough to spend time with Jim, who graciously took us to lunch and gave us a tour of places I hadn’t discovered on prior visits. The highlight was his partner’s studio.   Brantley has done some amazing pieces, one of which is hanging in the Memphis Civil Rights Museum. Enough for this post…but more on Memphis to follow.