Nov 302005
 

- Just got home. I had meant to take a quick walk down Beale Street and come home a couple of hours ago but I walked past Blues City Cafe and the Dempseys were playing and they saw me walking outside and said, “Come on in, Paul!”

- Before that I went to the Flying Saucer. Native Son was playing but all but one member were on a break and he was fooling around. He played “Ice Ice Baby” by Vanilla Ice and “Bust a Move” by Young MC. Then, just joking around, he said, “We’re Cheese and the Sausage Plates!” These three dumbasses on the couch to my right went, “Cheese and the Sausage Plates, write that down, that’s the name of the band.”

- Speaking of which, I know a guy who looks just like a blond Vanilla Ice and… oh, never mind. At least a couple of readers know who I’m referring to though.

- Before that, I had wandered through Peabody Place mall on the way home. A band was playing in the middle of the mall and they were selling wine outside Dan McGuinness. Apparently this is an every-Wednesday thing. Ran into a friend of mine who is a country singer who has sang in Nashville. Made tentative plans to go to Raiford’s Friday night.

- Before that I was walking home from a housewarming party. As I walked past a stained-glass business on South Main the owner knocked on the window. He motioned “come in” and handed me a beer. Then he handed me another beer. We knew each other but he again reminded me, “you’re ‘that guy’ who everyone knows downtown.” He told me how he had enjoyed having a huge space for his shop but had recently subdivided into condos; I told him how I discovered Raiford’s seven years ago.

- Before that I walked down South Main past GE Patterson where friends of mine had bought a condo and had a housewarming party. One of the other guests told me my name in Arabic is “Boulous.” My neighbor Carmel was there. For those of you who read this blog to keep up with Carmel’s social life, her date last night (which she missed trivia for) went very well, better than expected. She hopes for another date soon.

- Before that I drove home from work as I listened to the Leon Gray Show

- Before that I developed database queries to pull voids and stop-pay fees for one of our vendors at work. When that got boring I pulled up a web browser and searched on “teach English in Romania”. Found out that such a position pays 100-200 euros a month. 100 euros = $117.88 US dollars. Guess I won’t be going to Romania anytime soon.

- Before that I made emergency changes to the programming logic of one of our spiff vendors’ websites.

- Before that I made a Walgreens trip at lunch. There’s this girl at the neighborhood Walgreens who is pretty hot.

- Before that I got some work done, read the Commercial Appeal online, and checked W’s popularity ratings. Still in the crapper, in case you’re wondering.

- Before that I took my morning break.

- Before that I figured out why a database wasn’t copying, voided some rebate claims, and changed a few website registrations where users had put their last name in the “middle initial” field. I suggested changing the “middle initial” field to a max length of 1 character but that’s apparently a violation of IRS code.

- Before that I drove to work.

- Before that I got up.

- Before that it was yesterday.

- It was funny typing this post drunk, let’s see how it stacks up tomorrow when everyone’s sober and checking this blog from work. Carry on!

200

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Nov 282005
 

I’ll be at the Saucer to drink my 200th beer this evening around 7:00. Anyone who wishes to join me is welcome to do so. (NOTE: This is not the same thing as my plate-unveiling party, that will happen several weeks from now.)

Other news:

- I’ll be updating my “Downtown on the Cheap” article with some additional finds, and recommendations from a vegetarian when I have a little time.

- Went to the Soul Party at the Hi-Tone Saturday night – great music, great videos, but I hardly knew a soul there, and it was packed. After about an hour I got tired of elbowing my way through the crowd, and left. Next time they have soul night I’m going to have to round up a posse of downtowners and take them with me.

- Last night I learned from neighbor/trivia team member Carmel that there’s such a thing as a “winter tube top.” It’s thicker than traditional tube tops, and as she explains it, you wear it under a jacket to an event, but once you’re in a heated building, the jacket can come off. She has apparently owned a winter tube top for two years, but has not worked up the nerve to wear it – something about being afraid that it won’t stay up. You may recall that this is the same person who borrowed a tube top from her sister last summer and then never actually wore it, and then wore a halter top and claimed “it’s almost a tube top, except it has straps.”

- She needs to learn to conquer her fear… for example, she could wear this winter tube top the next time she misses trivia night because she has a date.

- Yesterday afternoon, while sitting at the bar at Sleep Out’s getting drunk, something crossed my path which may turn out to be a very intriguing opportunity. Can’t write about it in the blog yet though. Ask me about it in person when you see me around town. Once I have more info I’ll decide whether to mention it here.

Not a very exciting blog entry but it’s Monday morning. Maybe I’ll take pics of the 200th beer tonight and post them.

Nov 262005
 

You have to be careful with your money when you live downtown. The bars are in walking distance, and very accessible. You can easily blow $200 or more a week going out if you don’t know how to do downtown on a budget. Below are some suggestions to live it up downtown without spending a lot. A couple of notes before we start;

  • I’m not a vegetarian. I am, as my 5-year-old neighbor Dara would say, a “meatatarian.” There are probably some cheap veggie eats downtown but I have no idea what they are. I know I have some regular readers who are vegetarian, and if they want to e-mail suggestions I’ll add them.
  • I have no idea what there is to do downtown that’s cheap and family-friendly. Unless your family likes to go to bars.

I’ll try to update this list from time to time, and change the timestamp so that it bumps up to the top of my blog. Okay, let’s get started with the list:

$1 PBR, Sundays at Sleep Out Louie’s – A friend of mine hung out at Sleep Out’s for 5 hours recently on a Sunday, and his bill was $6.24. Not bad. You’ll have to endure the stupid antics of the drunks at the bar, though. One of the drunks will be me.

$1 PBR, Mondays at the Tap Room – Not positive this is still going on, but I think so. They’re getting annoyed because the bums will beg for change on the street, then come in and pay for a beer with pennies. Anyway, cheap way to drink and watch Monday Night Football.

Pint Night, Mondays at the Flying Saucer and Dan McGuinness Pub – Your chance to drink some beers that are normally in the $4-5 range for $2.50. The Saucer has a wider selection of beers, and they have waitresses in miniskirts, so I tend to hang out there more. But both are good choices.

Pint Night, Tuesdays at the Tap Room – Again, $2.50 for all their drafts, which would cost $3-6 any other night. I usually stop by for a Stella Artois or a Bridgeport IPA. In addition, the bartender, Maurice, has excellent taste in TV and usually has the Cartoon Network on, so I get to watch Family Guy and Futurama while I drink.

Pint Night, Tuesday’s at TJ Mulligans – Never been to this, but their ad says $2 for draft pints.

Lunch at Cafe Samovar – Samovar, in my opinion, is among the best restaurants in town. Their lunch menu has many of the same selections as dinner, but you pay $8-9 instead of $15-25.

Food at the Black Diamond – The Black Diamond on Beale (open 6 pm – 5 am) has surprisingly good food, and except for the large pizzas nothing is over 6 bucks. Great way to fill up on a budget. They’re also the only bar downtown to serve PBR properly – ice cold, in a can.

Dyer’s on Beale – Instead of paying $19 for ribs at one of the surrounding restaurants, come here and get a really good burger for 5 bucks. In my opinion Dyer’s burgers are far better than Huey’s, which always wins the Best Burger polls. My recommendations: the double-double with fries, or the split dog sandwich.

Beef Salad at Sawaddii – Thai beef and vegetables for 6 bucks. Enough food to call a meal, and I doubt there’s a single carb in this thing if you’re watching your weight.

Sasquatch Burger at Big Foot – I’m listing a $20 burger as a value? Yes, if you’re there with a big group. A group of 6-10 could dine on one 4 lb. Sasquatch burger, be quite full, and have a check that amounts to only a few bucks a person.

Court House Deli - Really good Cajun dishes (try the crawfish etoufee, or the cajun chili) for under 5 bucks. They also serve sandwiches. Lunch-only. I always ask for extra crackers with my chili, then after I’m done eating I walk outside to Court Square and feed the pigeons.

Omelets and egg platters at Blue Plate Cafe – for under 7 bucks, you can get your choice of several omelets, or egg dishes (benedict, florentine, huevos rancheros, etc.), and they come with biscuits and sawmill gravy, and your choice of hash browns, grits, or 3 buttermilk pancakes. This is enough food to fill you up for the rest of the day.

$5 Fish and Chips at Dan McGuinness - every Thursday, all day long, unless they’ve changed it.

BBQ Buffet at Leonard’s, Main at Adams – the buffet here is not an incredible value (with soft drink, $10) but you get all the food (ribs, smoked sausage, pulled pork sandwiches, baked beans, etc.) that you’d find on a $19.99 platter at Rendezvous or Blues City or King’s Palace, and you can eat as much as you want.

Happy Hour at LoLo’s table – well drinks, half off, 4-7 weekdays. Excellent value. A lot of people from my building (No. 10 Main) hang out there. If the bartender is a redhead named Alyssa, tell her I sent you.

Happy Hour at Swig – again, 4-7 weekdays. This is a chance to try some of their normally expensive martinis and mixed drinks at deep discounts. I forget exactly how much off you get, but it’s substantial.

Gin & Tonic at Swig – if you go there late night, and want to soak up the atmosphere without busting your budget on $10 martinis, order a well gin and tonic. Last time I had one it was $4.75, which is about as good a value as you’re going to find at Swig.

Fire Sale at the Flying Saucer - every day the Saucer puts one of their beers on sale for $2.50 (except Monday, when almost all of the drafts are $2.50). This is your chance to hang out there and enjoy a good beer without spending a lot. Typical Fire Sale beers: J.W. Honey Brown, Harpoon IPA, Pyramid DPA, Abita Turbo Dog, Abita Amber, Abita Purple Haze, Flying Dog Doggie Style, Sam Adams.

The Call-a-Cab at Wet Willie’s – Wet Willie’s Call-a-Cab is a daiquiri made of three ingredients – strawberry drink mix, cherry drink mix, and 190 Everclear. The large Cab ($7.25) has almost as much alcohol as a six-pack of beer. A good way to enjoy Beale on a budget is to start at Wet Willie’s, drink a Call-a-Cab, and then hit the pricey tourist traps and drink water. NOTE: absolutely NOT recommended if you have to drive a car home.
Also – I’ve heard that the food portions at Wet Willie’s are HUGE. Friends of mine have told me that an order of nachos (around $8) is more food than two people can finish.

Big Foot Beer at Big Foot Lodge – If you can tolerate Coors Light, you can get 34 oz. of it for $3.99. You can also get a 34 oz. Newcastle for $6.50, which is an excellent value.

Celebrity’s on Beale (in the building that used to be The Field and before that Dick’s Last Resort, Fourth and Beale) – This place is at the far end of Beale Street and has to try harder to get people down there. They often have the cheapest beer and drink prices on the street.

Never pay a cover at the Flying Saucer – Join the UFO Club for about 14 bucks. You get a free T-shirt, and you get a UFO Club card. Show the card at the door and you’ll never have to pay the cover (usually $3) again. Five visits and it’s paid for itself. I like this a lot, because I like to walk through bars and see if there’s anyone I know – if so, I drink with them, if not, I leave and go somewhere else. With the UFO card, I don’t have to pay just to go inside and see who’s there.

Mug Club at the Tap Room – If you spend any amount of time at the Tap Room on Beale, join the Mug Club. It costs $20 for the mug, but you get your first beer free, and after that you get $1 off any draft and you get a 22 oz. pint instead of the usual 16 oz. In the long run it pays for itself.

South Main Trolley Art Tour – The last Friday of every month, the galleries of South Main stay open until 9, and many of them put out free wine and food. Good atmosphere, good times. If you’re there for the art: Be sure to check out Jay Etkin (Main at Huling), Etched Art (505 S. Main), D. Edge (Main just south of GE Patterson), and the gallery on GE Patterson next to the Cheesecake Factory (can’t think of the name at the moment). If you’re there for drinks: Most places have wine out, but Gestures in particular usually has something unique and tasty.

$10 wristband Friday nights on Beale – if you want to go out clubbing on Beale, this is your chance to do it without blowing all your money on cover charges up and down the street.

Free wireless Internet for customers at the following places downtown: Cafe Francisco, Empire Coffee, Quetzal, Sleep Out Louie’s, Dan McGuinness, Flying Saucer, Swig. There’s also free wireless in Court Square park, but you’ll have to deal with some of downtown’s more… um, “interesting” residents while you use it.

Free Internet terminal – If you don’t have a Wi-Fi enabled laptop but need to surf the net, head to Dan McGuinness – they have a free Internet terminal for customers’ use.

A. Schwab’s – they sell porcelain pigs, funny hats, and size-64 overalls. But sometimes you can find something you actually need there at a value price. For example, I recently needed black socks, and picked them up at Schwab’s for $1 a pair. Try finding socks at that price anywhere else – even Target – and who cares if they’re not designer-brand, they’re SOCKS, who’s ever going to know? Also a place to find some unique Christmas gifts.

$5 Memphis Grizzlies tickets – These go on sale the day of the game, at noon I believe. Many people have said that these $5 terrace seats are better than the $23 lower-level seats. WARNING: these tickets may be a value, but the food they sell at the FedExForum isn’t. Eat before or after you go.

$5 Memphis Redbirds tickets – You have to sit on the grass overlooking left field, but that’s part of the fun. Avoid the high-priced beer. The BBQ Nachos aren’t really a value, but I don’t see how anyone could attend a Redbirds game and not have them.

Buy a flask – A lot of downtowners carry a flask with them when they go to the higher-priced bars, so they can order a coke and then sneak off to the bathroom to add ingredients. Me personally, I wouldn’t do this, at least not at the higher-priced bars I respect (like Swig, for example).

Free parking – there’s lots of free parking on Wagner Street between Union and Beale. They are metered spaces but are free after 6 pm and on weekends and holidays. Also, if you’re going to FexExForum or Beale Street, note that you can find ample parking on the side streets off Main (Pontotoc, Vance) pretty easily, and it’s free.

Sunset Symphony – This is the class act of the Memphis in May events. Unlike the over-priced, over-crowded, drunk-and-rowdy Music Fest, Sunset Symphony is laid-back and affordable. You can bring in your own picnic baskets, including alcohol. Usually happens the Saturday before Memorial Day, and ends with fireworks around 9.

Places to avoid if you’re on a budget
Note: I’m not knocking the quality of food, drinks, service, or atmosphere at these places (except noted) – in most cases they’re quite good. It’s just that these places are not conducive to doing downtown on a budget.

  • McEwen’s, Stella, Felicia Suzanne’s, Grill 83 – It sucks that four of the finest restaurants in the city are within a block’s walk of my place, and I can’t eat at any of them. They’re high-priced and deservedly so, because they’re great experiences.
  • The Peabody – I love the lobby bar and Capriccio is very nice, but they’re in the upper-end tourist business and therefore pricey. The rooftop parties in the summer can be a value if you just pay the $5 cover and then don’t drink. If you need a buzz to deal with those people (quite understandable) go to Wet Willie’s and drink a Call-a-Cab first.
  • Automatic Slim’s – you add to your hipster credentials by drinking at bars owned by Karen Blockman Carrier, but you pay about a 30% premium on drink prices for being so hip.
  • Cafe 61 – One of my favorite former Blue Monkey bartenders works there during the week, so I recently went in to see her and had a drink, not even paying attention to the prices when I ordered. Then the bill came – $8.50! For one drink! Yikes! Great food, great service, but not a value.
  • BB King’s – the music is often very good but the drink prices are extremely high.
  • Alfred’s – at 2 AM on weekend nights, this is the place to go if you want a drunken piece of sorority ass and are willing to endure crowds, horrible music and high drink prices to get it. I can tolerate this environment once or twice a year at most.
  • Condos – as I wrote in an earlier post, the downtown real estate market is becoming badly overpriced. If you want to buy down here because you love the area, that’s fine, but don’t kid yourself into thinking it’s a good investment at current prices. It’s not.

That’s the list. Let me know if I missed anything, and like I say, I’ll update it and bump it from time to time.

Nov 262005
 

I finally took a look at Rachel and the City, the blog that won first place in the Memphis Flyer’s annual awards. Several of my friends had told me, “We’ve seen it! There’s no way that blog is better than yours,” and I appreciate their support, but after checking out the competition, I think Rachel has a damn fine blog.

It’s not a question of whether one or the other is better, they’re just different. My blog focuses on downtown, bars, drinking, tube tops, Romanians, bums, and pigeons; her blog is more Midtown-based, more of an emphasis on music. Actually, I think reading her blog is a great opportunity to expand my horizons, get myself out of the rut of going to the same two or three bars downtown every time I go out.

Like tonight, for example. Reading her blog, I learned that there’s a Soul Party going on at the Hi-Tone. I did some snooping around the web, and found more info at the Memphis Scene blog on the Commercial Appeal’s website. Six DJs playing their favorite vintage soul tunes, and films of vintage soul performers on the big screen. Cover is only $3. Sounds like a fantastic time. This event may accomplish the rare feat of getting me to leave downtown and drive somewhere on a weekend night. Of course, if I drive I won’t be able to drink, but there’s an advantage in that too – I’ll save some money.

UFO update: I’m now up to 198 beers. Two more to go. My tentative plan is to drink #199 later this afternoon, and #200 Monday at Pint Night (although, #200 will have to be a bottle, not a Pint Night draft; I’ve had all the drafts). Had a good one last night – it’s a new, bottled pumpkin ale. Can’t remember the name (starts with a B I think) but it’s listed on the chalkboard above the bar under “Newly Landed.”

That’s the news for now. Back later with more updates.

Nov 252005
 

… and when in Romania, do as the Romanians do.

Here’s a link to the Brasov Travel Guide, full of information about Brasov, Transylvania, the second-largest city in Romania. I believe that Brasov is the home of the Romanian girls who lived and worked downtown this summer.

Nov 242005
 

So, I arrived in Little Rock this evening. I was hungry for Mexican, so I went and got take-out for my mother and me from one of our favorite restaurants. After we ate, she clicked on the TV.

“Oh, good, there’s a Kenny Chesney special on!”

So I had to sit there and endure an hour of Kenny Chesney. Should’ve stopped at Walgreens on the way out of town and bought some earplugs.

It’s going to be a long two days. I’m thinking I’ll sleep late in the morning so I won’t have to watch Regis Philbin’s morning show, and hopefully Days of Our Lives will be pre-empted by something Thanksgiving-related. If I’m really lucky, maybe a college football game will pre-empt Oprah.

Oh, and for the second year in a row, one of the first commercials I saw on TV here in Little Rock was for North Point Ford, for their “shotgun special” – buy a pickup, and get a new rifle, just in time for duck-hunting season. I know I’m repeating last year’s post, but it still blows my mind that someone would give a GUN away as a promotional gift.

More blog posts to come. I have a few pics I’ve been meaning to post from last weekend, so maybe I’ll get those up, along with whatever else comes to mind.

Nov 232005
 

Since I mention the Flying Saucer in practically every post, let’s mention them one more time. Tonight is their annual “Turkey of the Year” glass for “Buy the Beer, Keep the Glass” night. This year they have selected FEMA as the Turkey of the Year, for screwing up the Katrina relief effort. Now I’m not denying that FEMA deserves the award, but I’d like to offer an alternate suggestion.

Paul’s pick:
Turkeys of the Year: The Flying Saucer’s dart boards

When I play a game on the Saucer’s dart boards, using house darts, it usually takes 30-35 minutes to finish. Not because I’m that bad a shot, but because the dart boards are completely worn out. Look at the bullseyes next time you go in; you won’t find craters that big on the moon. In a round of 3 darts, you can just about count on at least 1 dart falling out. I don’t know if the boards have been replaced since the Saucer opened in 1997, but from the looks of them, I’m guessing not.

We actually have mentioned this to one of the managers, and he said he’d call his beer distributor and see about getting new ones. Okay, I’m about to make a suggestion, and this is really thinking outside the box, so you may have to re-read this several times. Here ’tis: How about getting in the car, driving to West Memphis Wal-Mart, and BUYING some new boards? What would 2 boards cost, $35? I tend to think that wouldn’t cut into profit margins much, given the amount of beer people buy up there.

And buy some CHALK while you’re at Wal-Mart! I’m tired of keeping score with a sliver of chalk half the size of my fingernail.

Hmmm… maybe there’s a business reason why they don’t replace those boards. If the boards suck, it takes longer to play, which means people drink more… and spend more.

All right. That’s the end of the rant.

Trivia update: the Rapscallions failed to extend their winning streak to 3 in a row last night.

UFO update: People are still buying me birthday beer, which allowed me to put away beers 193, 194, and 195 last night. Five to go. I still have some cheap ones left on my to-do list, and I have extra money left over from this week’s food budget, so I’ll probably go ahead and knock them out this coming weekend when I get back in town.

Heading to Little Rock after work today. I’ll probably post from there a time or two. Back Friday.

Nov 212005
 

Yesterday I was at Sleep Out’s enjoying my usual bottle of champagne-flavored orange juice, and a lively conversation was going on. The bartender was telling us how he used to hide porn inside one of his stereo speakers when he was a kid.

“Well, where I lived,” said a guy sitting to the right of me, “there was a ditch near my house. I’d go there all the time and find porn that people had hidden.” And a Kansas native at the other end of the bar excitedly piped up, “THE ABANDONED PORN DITCH! We had one of those too!”

If you’re not at Sleep Out Louie’s for brunch on Sunday morning, this is the level of intellectual exchange you’re missing out on. Come to think of it, the intellectual level of this blog is about the same, most of the time.

Other random stuff:

- To everyone who told me I should eat lunch at Zoe’s Kitchen because there are Romanians working there: those girls aren’t Romanian, they’re POLISH!!! And I already knew them!

- Which reminds me: On Halloween night I took a QuickTime video of the Polish girls drunkenly dancing at the Tap Room. But, it’s so dark that you can’t see anything but shadows. Is there any software that can be used to adjust hue/saturation/lightness for a QuickTime movie, as Paint Shop Pro and Photoshop can do for a single image?

- Thanks to everyone who made my birthday weekend so much fun. Hope I don’t leave anybody out, but thanks to the following people who supplied me with alcohol, good conversation, and good times: Angie, Mark, Sook, Andy, Imran, Chad, Lacey, Shane & Leigh (yeah THANKS for the Jagermeister and the resulting hangover the next day), Niles, Frenchie, Terry, Micheal & Teresa (thanks for the great tips on reading body language, and the excellent recommendation of Dogfish Head Raison d’Etre), Mikey, Jay, Anna (fantastic cookies), John, and Kevin (who also had a birthday this weekend). And thanks to the Dempseys who put on a hell of a show Sunday night despite Brad’s voice going out (you’re a trooper, Brad).

- And due to people buying me beer at the Saucer this weekend, my UFO beer count is up to 191. Nine more to go. That plate party may happen sooner than I had planned.

- I took today off, but tomorrow I’ll be back at work for a 2-day week. Then I’ll head home to Little Rock for Thanksgiving, and will be back Friday for Trolley Tour, since I’m one of the “penny-pinchers who have no class” that the Memphis Flyer refers to, people who show up at the art galleries for free wine. (attn Mikey – you were asking who wrote that article – I just looked it up, it was Bianca Phillips)

- Even when I’m in Little Rock, I’ll still have Internet access, so you can expect a steady stream of blog updates throughout the week. See you later!

Congratulations

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Nov 192005
 

Congrats to my friends at I. Siegel Culinary Productions for recently putting together an excellent event for Vogue magazine. You can view the menu for the Vogue party here.