12/31 update: Culinary Productions opens

Congratulations to my friends at Culinary Productions, who have their new restaurant open at 22 S. Main, on the Main Street Mall between Madison and Monroe, in the location that used to be Memphis Grits.

Long-time readers of my blog will recall my writing last summer about a chef who moved into my building and started a catering company. He had worked in four-star restaurants across the US, and my neighbors and I enjoyed many fine meals that he cooked on our apartment building’s rooftop.

Well, now you can enjoy his cooking too! They’re open for lunch and dinner at their Main Street Mall location. Menu changes daily. It’s four-star food but it’s also very informal, and reasonably priced for what you get. So if you work downtown, I highly recommend you stop by for lunch and treat yourself to some great food.

Other notes:

– My blog generated a record 88 visits on Thursday, although 3 of those were mine, checking to see if my pages published. Wonder if I’ll have my first 100+ day in January.

– I didn’t make it to the Dempseys show at the Saucer as planned. I came down with a cold, and I knew that I needed to knock myself out with some NyQuil and get a good, solid 10 hours’ rest, not go out and drink beer until 1:30 in the morning. In my experience there’s nothing better to beat a cold than good, sound sleep. The Dempseys will be playing Huey’s downtown location Sunday, January 8, so I’ll see them then.

– I did make it out to the Trolley Art Tour for a couple of hours last night. You know how I’ve written a couple of times about “that gallery on G.E. Patterson, in the Arcade building” that I like so much, but never could remember the name? Well, last night I made it a point to get the name. It’s Universal Art Gallery, owned by artist Arnold Thompson. He features a different artist every month, but if you go in make sure you ask Arnold to see HIS work, which I think is really outstanding.

– Also found out that my friends at Etched Art are closing their Main Street storefront, but their custom laser etching business will live on.

– After Trolley Tour I ended up having a couple of drinks at the bar at Stella. Very inviting place and I felt right at home there, friendly people. I really appreciate that one of the finest places to eat in the city has such a down-to-earth atmosphere.

– I was annoyed to discover that I couldn’t get in the Tap Room last night. Tulsa fans, in town for the Liberty Bowl, had rented out the entire half-block consisting of King’s Palace, the Tap Room, Blues Hall, and Rum Boogie Cafe. I’d love to know what they paid for that. Somewhere in the five figures, I’m guessing. AND all of them were jam-packed with Tulsa folks buying food and drink, probably as busy as they are for Music Fest in May. Bet that made it a happy new year for Preston Lamm, who owns all those businesses.

– But since it was Tulsa’s fault I couldn’t visit my mug at the Tap Room, I’m rooting for Fresno State in the Liberty Bowl.

– Still no plans for tonight, which is exactly the way I want it. New Year’s Eve is amateur night for partying, and those people can have the town. Unless inspiration hits me tonight, this will be the last blog entry of 2005. So have fun, be safe, and I’ll see you next year!

– COMING SOON: Read my blog, get free stuff. Check back in a few days to find out how.

Breakfast: not the time to go ’70s retro

“Paul, it’s 7:05.” said my mother as though it was the end of the world.

It was a summer morning in 1984, and I was lying in bed in a hotel room in Dyersburg, Tennessee. We were there on a trip to visit my grandparents, who lived in a small town about 14 miles to the north. My mother was trying desperately to get me up.

“Paul, Grandpop and Nana are country people. They get up and have breakfast at six. We’re late.”

“So, why don’t we get up at a reasonable hour, go to the Shoney’s across the street and have the breakfast bar, and then meet up with them afterward?”

“Paul, we can’t do that. We came up here to see them.”

“We WILL see them! Say we eat at Shoney’s, and then get to their house at nine. And we’ll be there until nine P.M. That’s twelve hours! We’ll see plenty of them!”

“Paul, they don’t want us to have to go to the trouble of going to Shoney’s.”

“How is that trouble? Eating out is fun! They have all kind of different stuff on their breakfast bar… sausage, pancakes, French toast… we can eat as much as we want, and we don’t have to be there at six, or even 7:05.”

“Paul, we’re obligated to have breakfast with Grandpop and Nana. We owe it to them. When you’re an adult you’ll understand these things.”

The absolute worst way to convince me to do anything is to tell me I’m obligated to do it. But, I could tell my mother wasn’t going to back down, so I got up, showered and got dressed, and got in the car.

My mother would soon be wishing I had won the argument. I would too.

We pulled up to my grandparents’ house and walked into the kitchen. “There he is, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed!” said my grandfather. “We hope we didn’t get you up too early.”

“No, not at all,” said my mother cheerfully.

So we sat down to a breakfast of bacon, sausage, biscuits, and eggs. There were several Mason jars of homemade preserves on the table. “We have an entire freezer full out back,” my grandmother told us. “This stuff keeps forever. Like that jar of blackberry preserves there – we canned that in 1982.”

“Well!” said my mother. “It tastes just like it was canned yesterday.” Personally, it seemed to me like a lot of work to pick or buy the fruit, cook it, and store it when you could just drive to the grocery store and buy a jar of Smuckers for three bucks. But it made them happy, so I was happy for them.

“Paul, try some of this pear jelly on your biscuit,” my grandfather said, pushing a jar my way.

I hesitated. The contents of the jar looked… funny. The jelly was brown, approximately the color of Coca-Cola. From what I remembered, pears were yellowish-white, or whitish-yellow… you know, pear colored. But, I reasoned, maybe they added cinnamon or other spices that turned the jelly that color. And I loved my grandfather and didn’t want to hurt his feelings. So I spread some on my biscuit and took a bite.

It wasn’t bad. It tasted like pears. I smiled and took another bite.

“Guess when that pear jelly was canned,” my grandfather said proudly.

“1983?” I guessed, which would have been last year at the time.

“No, way before that,” he said.

“1982? 1981?”


1970????? Fourteen years ago? I was barely able to stop myself from spitting the biscuit across the room. I managed to get out, “wow, that was a long time ago,” as I tried not to choke.

And because I didn’t want to hurt my grandparents’ feelings, I had to finish the rest of that biscuit, with pear jelly on top that was old enough to get a learner’s permit to drive.

And to top it all off, my grandfather picked up the plate of biscuits and “accidentally” lost his balance and dropped another one on my plate. “Whoop!” he said. “That’s all right, there’s plenty more jelly!”

I can’t remember for sure – it’s been 21 years – but I’m pretty sure that the next morning, we found a reason to explain why we were running late, and since we didn’t want to put them out, we’d just run by Shoney’s breakfast buffet.

Plans for this weekend

Thursday 12/29: The Dempseys at the Flying Saucer. Show starts at 9:30. I plan to be there for all three sets.

I was in the Saucer Monday afternoon, and they were having a cattle-call type interview for positions at their new Cordova location, scheduled to open mid-January. I didn’t see any Romanians applying for jobs, so I doubt I’ll feel the need to visit the new Saucer.

Attn Saucer management if you’re reading this: Since you’ll probably be ordering dart boards for the Cordova location, how about ordering a couple of new ones for the downtown Saucer as well? Might be able to save on shipping if you buy ’em all at once.

Friday 12/30: South Main Trolley Art Tour. Yes, it still goes on in the winter. Come spend your Christmas cash on some art, and drink some free wine.

That reminds me – last Saturday I was in Little Rock and was wandering through the Forest Heights district, the nearest shopping district to my house there. If you like the feeling of South Main, it’s worth a trip over. Lots of art galleries and antique shops and cool clothing stores similar to Muse on South Main. There was one, on Kavanaugh Blvd. called Attitudes and Latitudes, where as soon as I walked in they said, “Would you like a beer, or a margarita?” They sell men’s and women’s clothing and have mannequins with a parrot’s and a toucan’s head. They told me they’re having a Parrothead party the second Thursday in January, and that in general they have happy hour “Thursdays, and whenever else we feel like it.” The attitude of downtown Memphis, 140 miles away.

Saturday 12/31 (New Year’s Eve): As of the moment, absolutely NO plans. And that’s just fine with me. I’m not a big fan of New Year’s Eve: high cover charges, crowds everywhere, traffic jams, drunks who have to be loud and belligerent to convince themselves that they’re “partying.” I’m not saying I WON’T go out if someone contacts me with a fun idea for the evening; but I am saying I don’t feel like I NEED to go out. Because the REAL party starts on

Sunday 1/1 with a bottle of champagne at Sleep Out’s. Maybe 2 bottles. There will likely also be stops at the Saucer and the Tap Room at some point during the day.

Monday 1/2: Sleep, wonderful sleep! Then Pint Night at the Saucer and at Dan McGuinness.

And those are the plans. Sorry this blog entry isn’t more entertaining, but I’m exhausted. If you know of anything fun going on this weekend that I don’t know about, drop me an e-mail.

Bloggers’ Bash report

Finally, almost a week after the Bloggers’ Bash at Quetzal, I’m getting around to posting my report.

First of all, Quetzal. VERY nice place. Big room, free wi-fi, good selection of coffee, beer and non-coffee drinks. They have a pool table and lounge area in the back, and a meeting room which we used. Suggestion to Quetzal – update your website saying that you have free wireless at your Memphis location. Right not it only talks about your San Fran location, where it looks like you’re charging $7.95 a day for wireless. That’s one of the reasons I haven’t been in Quetzal before now.

So I went in and I met Mike, who writes Half-Bakered and who was the host. (I’m not going to try to link to the blog of every person I met.) But if you go to Mike’s site and find his Bloggers’ Bash review (should be 12/21/05 or 12/22/05 I think) you’ll find all the links.

The next person I met was Mark, who writes The Conservative Zone. The name of his blog would indicate that I’d spend a lot of time disagreeing with him, but no – I immediately liked him. I tend to judge people by the energy they give off more than their politcal views, and he struck me as a listener – someone who was more interested in hearing what other people have to say than pushing his own agenda. I enjoy hearing the opinions of people who think differently than I do, so I look forward to reading his blog.

And, I can’t go anywhere without running into a former student – in this case, Markus, who took my computer literacy class 1997ish and is now an indie film actor. He writes A View From The Middle.

I spent a good amount of time talking to Derek (autoegocrat) who writes for The Pesky Fly. I had never checked out his blog before (he co-blogs with several others, including Chris Davis from the Flyer who was also there) but I had read some of his posts on the old Mid-South Raves board and was impressed.

Derek told me that after Christmas is THE time to shop at thrift stores. People get stuff they don’t want for Christmas and don’t even bother returning it – they take it straight to Goodwill.

He also told me how to find cheap stuff on eBay. Type in a product you want and search. Note the misspellings in the listings. Now search on those typos. You’ll find more typos, and then search on those. Eventually you’ll come across items that no one else can find because they’re so badly listed. He also said, try rearranging the words you’re searching on – that can make a difference. “Massage your search,” as he put it.

He then posed a question: Is Bush really stupid or really evil? I would’ve voted for stupid (Cheney and Rumsfeld are evil) but Derek raised a good point. He thinks Bush is actually smart, in the area of social intelligence, because of the way he deals with power, and because of the way people who work for him react to him. Never heard it explained that way before, but it makes sense.

I then met Rachel who writes Pulp Faction. I immediately liked her because she brought in a cold flask filled with vodka. I hereby name Rachel an honorary downtowner for that move.

Rachel told me that the Hi-Tone has thrown psychedelic parties, with vintage psychedelic music and movies. Wayyyyy cool! I’ve read biographies of bands like The Pink Floyd (back when they still used “The” in the name) and in the late ’60s, they’d have these psychedlic, freak-out parties with wild lighting and trippy music. Always wish I could have attended one, but I was born about 20 years too late.

(“Interstellar Overdrive” remains my all-time favorite Floyd song, surpassing the later, more commercial stuff that happened when Roger and then Dave were leading the band)

The other Rachel (Rachel and the City) couldn’t make it. I found out that she mentioned me in her blog as the downtown version of her. Does that mean I’m a “hipster”? Hmmm… I can drink the hell out of some PBR, so maybe I do qualify.

Those of you who write blogs about going out to bars in Midtown: Do any of these bars employ Romanian women?

I also met EJ who writes Cherry Blossom Special. I like him, he puts a lot of himself into his blog. Which brings me to a topic that was brought up… once your blog develops a theme, it’s hard to write anything that departs from that theme because it’s not what your readers expect to see. “You’re stuck portraying a character,” as one of the bloggers put it. That’s one reason I’ve kept my blog as “Paul Ryburn’s Journal” rather than call it the blog about going out downtown or something similar. Maybe one day I’ll write about a new restaurant on Union, and the next I’ll write about some deeply held belief of mine, and the next I’ll write about how you can see the face of Jesus in the pigeon crap on the side of the Exchange Building.

We also discussed places like MySpace that host blogs. I think MySpace is way cool – kind of a combination of Blogger, Friendster, and a photo album. But I want to continue to host my own blog rather than use MySpace or another service, if for no other reason than it gives me the freedom to use the word “fuck” in my blog if I feel like it.

Hmmm… let me flip through my notepad… the only other thing I have is a recommendation for Quetzal’s Caramel Apple shake from one of the other bloggers.

That’s it for now… congrats to the Tigers on a big win over Gonzaga tonight, and congrats to the Rapscallion trivia team who won in my absence tonight. We have FOUR $25 gift certificates now!

Hope the links to the other blogs work – I’m too lazy to actually check them or anything. If they don’t work let me know. And welcome to readers from other blogs who have clicked over to this one. And it’s late, so I’m off to bed. Back tomorrow with more to talk about, unless I decide I don’t feel like typing a post tomorrow.

Must suck to be Bill Clinton sometimes

While in Little Rock for the Christmas holidays, I read an article that said Bill Clinton had visited several galleries in the River Market district to buy Christmas presents. Made me think… it must suck to be Bill Clinton sometimes.

Here’s why… I wander through art galleries all the time. And 99% of the time I don’t buy anything. In some cases, it’s because I don’t have the money. In other cases, it’s because there’s nothing in the gallery that appeals to me. For whatever reason, I thank the owner and walk out empty-handed.

But, imagine if you’re Bill Clinton. You walk in a gallery, and the owner is just thrilled that a former president is in her gallery. But then, say you do what I do, and turn around and thank her for her time and leave. Now the gallery owner is hurt and disappointed that nothing she had was good enough. So if you’re Bill Clinton, you’re pretty much obligated to buy something every time you walk in an art gallery. Which means you’re likely to run up a big tab and possibly some crappy art.

So you can’t just go incognito like I do. And that’s why it must suck to be Bill Clinton sometimes.

iPods, MP3 players, and human programming

As I mentioned in a recent post, I’m in the market for an MP3 player. Now, part of the reason I want an iPod or similar player is the reason most people do – to be able to rip all my CDs to digital format and take my music with me when I’m at work, on the road, etc.

But for me, there’s also another reason. Most MP3 players come with a microphone/recording feature. That means I can record my own voice and play it back. That opens up possibilites for what I like to think of as “human programming.” Programming myself through passive listening.

I’ll give you an example of what I’m talking about. Guys… have you ever been talking with a cute girl, and you get this sense of oh my god what do i say what do i say? And then 10 minutes after she’s gone, you think of the perfect, witty thing to tell her. Of course, at that point it’s too late.

That’s a near-universal experience for guys. (maybe women too) I’ve been keeping a personal journal (private notebooks I write in, not this blog that I write online) for over 4 years now, and I have tons of examples of this. Trouble is, I don’t have a process to systematically review what I learned, so that more and more I learn to think on my feet. I mean, what am I going to do, carry stacks of notebooks around everyplace? But with an MP3 player, I can record all this information, give it all the same album name, and then put the album on “Shuffle” and let this info sink in as I work, drive, walk, etc. That’s what I mean by passive listening.

Seems like this could be enormously valuable for people in sales as well. You’re talking with a customer, and for whatever reason, you can’t figure out how to close him and he slips away. Later on, you think of what you should have said. Now there’s an opportunity to learn. Seems like recording various ways to handle real-life objections, and then playing them back over and over, would cause the information to sink in to your subconscious. Not only would you know how to handle those objections in the future, but your subconscious would start to see patterns, and you’d find yourself handling other objections, ones you’d never heard before, on the fly as well. You could also record key learnings from the best sales-training books you’ve read over the years and play those back over and over, to cause the knowledge to really sink in. Seems like it could be a shortcut to mastery.

I also see the human programming aspect as a method to adopt new belief systems. Hope I can explain this in a way that makes at least a little sense. Bear with me. The way we act, the way we move through day-to-day life, tends to be a function of the underlying beliefs we hold. Therefore, a key part of human programming is identifying those beliefs and replacing them with better ones, so that we function better in the real world.

This is kind of a hard thing to explain. For example, I used to see people I wanted to go up and talk to, for whatever reason, but I wouldn’t because I had a belief that said, “They’re busy, I shouldn’t bother them.” By writing in my journal over a number of years, I identified that belief (that I’m “bothering” people when I go talk to them), realized it was untrue, stupid and didn’t serve me, and I got rid of it. Anyone who has known me for several years will agree that I’m MUCH more outgoing around new people than I used to be.

There are other beliefs (no need to get into what they are) that I’d like to adopt, that I logically (i.e. consciously) understand would be good to hold. But my behavior (as written in my private journals) indicates that subconsciously I haven’t fully accepted these beliefs yet. So I’d like to use the recording, playback, and shuffle MP3 player functions to see if I can program those beliefs in, if I can hard-wire them into my mind. There are various ways to do this. Affirmations are one way. There’s self-hypnosis, and there’s a branch of psychology called NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) which is sort of like conversational hypnosis. I’ve studied all these things. Or, I could simply talk to myself as though I had already adopted the new belief, and then play it back.

Who knows… maybe it will work, maybe it won’t, but it seems like a fun thing to play with. And for me personally, that is a much more compelling reason to buy an MP3 player than to be able to listen to Dave Matthews in the car.

If anyone has experimented with this kind of stuff using an iPod or similar device, I’d enjoy hearing from you. paul at paulryburn dot com is the address.

The mind is a wonderful thing to play with.

Big Foot party/trivia question

So tonight I was walking down Second Street and discovered that Big Foot Lodge was having a private Christmas party, red carpet and all. I was about to continue on to my intended destination, to the Saucer to see my waitresses, but something about Big Foot just drew me in. Perhaps it was Sean, the owner, who called out to me, “What are you doing? Get your ass in here and drink!”

So I ended up drinking $2 34 oz. Coors Light and hanging out with my friend Angie and her FedEx pilot friends. Not Angie the waitress who I posted a pic of last week, but….

… hang on, let’s post a pic of Angie.

… There ya go, that’s Angie on the left.

Anyway, I had a great time at the party, and in honor of the Big Foot Lodge, I have decided to post a downtown trivia question. I will buy the first person to e-mail me (paul at paulryburn.com; put “trivia question” in the subject) the correct answer to this question a Big Foot Beer at Big Foot Lodge. If you can’t stand Coors Light, I’ll even upgrade you to a 34 oz. Newcastle.

The question: In downtown Memphis, what is the significance of the PEA VINE RAILROAD?

(Just in case this has some other significance I don’t know about: this refers to something current, not something historical about downtown Memphis)

Recap of the Bloggers’ Bash coming soon. I also have a couple of interesting topics in the works, and I’ll be home in Little Rock for 3 days with nothing to do, so look for more posts this weekend.

Bloggers’ Bash

There’s a Bloggers’ Bash tomorrow night, Wednesday, December 21 at Quetzal at 668 Union. Anyone who writes a blog, LiveJournal, MySpace or similar is invited.

In preparation for the event, I went out and read some of the other Memphis blogs. You know, it’s funny, they talk about actual useful stuff. Like, some of them tell you what’s going on around town, and some of them offer commentary on the news and politics. And then there’s mine, where the typical entry is something like, “Tonight I went to the Saucer, and on the way there, this bum begged me for money, and once I got there I drank some beer, and there were these Romanian waitresses, and they were hot. And then I walked to the Tap Room, and drank some more beer, and watched cartoons with the bartender, and there was a girl in a tube top, and she was hot. And now I’m home and I’m drunk and I’m posting to my blog.” And yet for some reason this crap consistently draws 30-60 visits a day. I can’t figure it out.

That reminds me, Sunday I was at the Tap Room, getting drunk… (see, here we go)… and one of the managers there is a good friend of mine. He is also friends with the publisher of the Memphis Flyer, and apparently the publisher has been asking him, “Who in the world is this Paul Ryburn guy? I’ve been getting all these e-mails, from people who are upset that we didn’t mention his blog in the Best Of Memphis edition. Is this guy somewhat of a downtown legend?”

Downtown legend? I don’t know. I’m just a guy who goes out a lot and writes about what he sees. (“I live in Memphis. I go out.” Wait, some other blogger has already laid claim to that slogan.)

Anyway, I have a feeling this party is going to be REAL interesting. I’ll take my laptop and my digital camera, and file a report.

New Italian restaurant downtown

Tonight I was driving home from work down Second Street, and as I passed the light at Madison I noticed an “OPEN” sign in the Italian restaurant, Conte’s, in the space that used to be The Cupboard Too (on Madison between Second and Third, a couple of doors down from King of Wings). So I parked the car and walked over for take-out.

I ordered lasagna and a house salad. It was excellent! I could tell the lasagna itself, and the sauce on top of it, were homemade. You may assume that would be the case with all restaurants, but I’ve been told that several restaurants in town heat up a serving of Stouffer’s, or the Sysco equivalent, when someone orders lasagna. Not Conte’s – they did it right. Really fresh and really good.

Their menu is reasonably priced. You can get one of several pastas with your choice of marinara, gravy, or olio (garlic and oil) for $7, and you can add meatballs and/or sausage for $2.50 more. They also have several varieties of ravioli for $8, same sauce and add-meat options. And, they have Italian favorites like lasagna, fettucini alfredo, and chicken parmesan. Vegetarians will have lots of options here – they have some eggplant dishes, cheese manicotti, spinach ravioli, and sun-dried tomato ravioli among the choices.

They also have hero sandwiches – will give those a try and report back. In particular, I want to try the chicken cutlet parmesan ($7) and the hot Italian beef ($6) sandwiches.

For dessert they have cheesecake, chocolate cake, tiramisu, and something called “xanga” (not sure what that is). I had the chocolate cake – huge piece, too big to finish, complemented by a couple of miniature cream puffs. The menu price is $3.50, not bad at all for what you get.

They’re open Monday-Thursday until 6, so it’s a good place to stop by after work and pick up dinner. Friday and Saturday they’re open until 9. Seems like it would be a good spot to take a date, where you could both have a fine dinner and escape for under 30 bucks. On the downside, it doesn’t appear they serve alcohol, but there are plenty of places nearby you can walk to for an after-dinner drink.

Highly recommended. We need to support downtown eateries that stay open into the dinner hour, and this is quality Italian cuisine.

Out of stock

During the past couple of months, I’ve gone from “why do people need portable MP3 players?” to “I want an MP3 player” to “I need an MP3 player” to “I have to have an MP3 player.” It’s not so much for listening to music, although that would be a bonus. It’s more that I’d like to use it as a learning tool. For example, I could buy a foreign language study course on CD, rip it to MP3, and load it into the player. Then I could listen over and over while at work, and eventually, after hearing the entire tape set 10, 15, 20 times I’d pick it up subliminally. Seems like a good way to learn a foreign language – maybe brush up on the Spanish I’ve forgotten since high school… or I could learn German… or Chinese… or maybe even… Romanian.

So yesterday, I was at brunch at Sleep Out’s and I began going through the ads in the Sunday paper. The Circuit City ad caught my eye. They had a Creative Labs 6 GB MP3 player for $159. That’s an incredible value… for comparison, 2 GB iPod Nanos are selling for $199 and up. Over the course of the day, I talked myself into getting the MP3 player.

So this morning at work, I hit Circuit City’s site, prepared to place an order. “Out of stock for online delivery,” the site said about the MP3 player. But, it told me, I could order it online and pick it up at a local store. That’s no problem, I thought, there’s a store a couple of miles from where I work. It had a link where I could check the availability in each store. First I looked at the Germantown Parkway store that is close to my work… out of stock. Then I checked the Winchester store… out of stock. Then I checked the Southaven store… out of stock. Even the Tupelo store is out of stock.

If an item isn’t available for immediate delivery, and most of your stores are sold out of it, why feature it in a big color ad? That annoys me.

I guess for now, my laptop will have to function as my very large portable MP3 player.