This weekend: Broad Avenue Gallery Walk, Lennon, Oktoberfest, Downtown Home Tour and more

Just picked up the latest issue of the Memphis Flyer, and it looks like a lot will be going on this weekend. Here are a few events that have earned my stamp of approval:

– Friday night there will be a gallery walk on the 2500 block of Broad. Broad Avenue is the latest neighborhood to make a comeback, and Friday night’s gallery walk should be similar to the trolley art tours that happen the last Friday of every month on South Main, except without the trolley. Easiest way to get there is to take Sam Cooper Blvd. to Hollywood, then turn north on Hollywood and almost immediately turn east onto Broad.

– Friday will also be the opening night of The U.S. vs. John Lennon, a film chronicling John Lennon’s attempts to remain in the U.S. in the early 1970s. The Nixon government felt threatened by his support of radical causes and took steps to get him permanently deported, using a 1968 marijuana bust as the reason. Lennon, however, managed to play the legal system to get extensions time and time again, and was finally granted his green card in 1976. The Flyer didn’t give the film a very good review, but I want to see it anyway. It’s playing at Studio on the Square in Midtown.

– St. Mary’s Catholic Church (Third at Market downtown) is having their annual Oktoberfest downtown this weekend. Arts, crafts, food, games for the kids, and live entertainment featuring “everything from Karaoke to Karate,” according to their website. There will be a live auction Saturday at 9.

The part of Oktoberfest I’m most excited about is Beerfest, from 2 to 5 Saturday afternoon. For $20 you get to sample unlimited tastings of over 100 specialty beers, and a ticket to vote in their annual Home Brewers contest. After Art on Tap last month I’m ready for another beer tasting. Should be fun.

– Sunday, of course, I’ll start with brunch at Sleep Out Louie’s. It’s longtime bartender Kimberley’s last day before she begins an exciting new life in a new city, so come by and wish her well. Her shift is 10:30 to 4:00.

– Sunday afternoon from noon to 6 is the annual Downtown Home Tour, which this year has been expanded to include 13 homes. This year they’re focusing on New Urbanism and really have an amazing array of living spaces to explore. Click here to preview the homes on the tour. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at Bluff City Coffee.

– After doing the tour, stop by Downtown Huey’s for their 10th anniversary celebration. William Lee Ellis will kick it off at 2, and the fabulous Di Anne Price takes the stage at 5. You know, it’s been way too long since I went out and heard Di Anne. Then, at 9, is the main event – my favorite band, The Dempseys, at my favorite venue in which to see them. They’ll be playing past midnight and I know Monday is a work day, but some things are worth staying up late for.

As for tonight, I’ll be at the Saucer for John Lennon “buy the beer, keep the glass” night, featuring live entertainment by Hell If I Know Who’s Playing, I’m Busy Staring At The Waitresses. I was there last night as well, for trivia. My team The Rapscallions ballooned to a massive 12 people at one point and it was impossible to get everyone to agree on consensus answers – and we lost. Hmmm, here’s a thought – next time we know we’re going to have a lot of people, why don’t we send half the team out to Germantown Parkway to play the East Bumblefuck Saucer’s trivia bowl? We could become the first team to win first place at both locations on the same night. Wonder if the gift certificates are redeemable at either location, or only the location at which they’re won. I’ll ask one of the managers.

Outta here for now. Happy afternoon everyone.

Why we need a big chain bookstore downtown

This morning I got an e-mail from Memphis Tobacco Bowl/Downtown Books. They were responding to my recent suggestion that the soon-to-be-vacant Tower Records space in Peabody Place Mall would be a good spot for a Borders or other large chain bookstore:

“You could walk over to 152 Madison, in the heart of Downtown, where there’s a bookstore and a coffee shop.”

I wasn’t meaning to knock Downtown Books in any way when I made that suggestion. The Tobacco Bowl is a great place, and I’ve had many days off work that I’ve walked over to Tobacco Bowl and sat at Tracy’s coffee bar and had a great time. The Tobacco Bowl is a real asset to downtown – I don’t smoke but I know they carry a large assortment of quality cigars, sold by someone who is knowledgeable enough to direct you toward something you’ll like. They have really gone far to make their customers feel at home, adding the coffee bar, free wireless Internet and comfortable seating. And now they have added Downtown Books, yet one more reason to go into 152 Madison (between Second and Third, if you’re not familiar with the area). If you like cigars, or coffee, or books, or friendly people, I highly recommend you stop by.

However, I still contend that downtown needs a big chain bookstore. Here’s why:

1) We need a bookstore that stays open until at least 10 at night. And 11 or midnight would be even better. I get home from work about 5 in the afternoon. Downtown Books closes at 5, according to their website. That means the only day I can hang out there is Saturday. I would love to have a bookstore where I can go and read and hang out after work. Heck, it’d be a nice alternative to going out to bars every night. But at this point in Downtown’s development, it would be a huge financial risk for a small business to extend its hours until 10 or 11. The big chains can afford that risk.

2) There’s a certain legitimacy that comes with a big chain’s name value. People are more likely to say, “Oh, if I lived Downtown I’d be able to walk to Borders; maybe it’s time to move down there.” They’re already familiar with the shopping experience at Borders, having been to the one out east. And I’m not claiming that that experience is better than the one you would have at a mom-and-pop store, but it’s perception. People tend to gravitate toward what’s familiar, and a lot more people are familiar with the big chains.

3) Larger selection. Big chain stores have more space, which means they can keep more in stock. True, a small store could order any book a customer requests, but when I want a book, I want it now, not a week from now. If I were willing to wait a week, I’d just get on and order it myself.

For these reasons, I believe a big chain bookstore would increase foot traffic on Downtown streets, which in turn would benefit other Downtown businesses. I even think Downtown Books/Tobacco Bowl would benefit in the long run; once down here, some people would discover that there’s another place a few blocks away that doesn’t charge for wireless Internet and has better coffee, more comfortable seating, fine cigars, and good conversation. So, I really think having a Borders or Bookstar or B&N Downtown would be a win for everybody.

Now we just gotta convince one of the big chains that it would be a win for them…

Lincoln-America not Lincoln-American, Google Analytics, First United Methodist Church, and more

– Thanks to regular blog reader KILLPR (I’m using his NTN Trivia handle; PROFPR is my handle when I play) for handing me an article on the Lincoln-America Tower that was on fire Friday morning, and it really is Lincoln-America and not Lincoln-American with an “n” as 99% of Memphians think (including me – I got it wrong in Friday’s post). The article states that the tower was built in 1924, and the 21st floor held the office of Lloyd Binford, president of the company. Binford was also the head of the city’s film censor board, and personally approved all movies before they were allowed to be shown in Memphis. He was a firm believer in family values, and therefore banned all Charlie Chaplin movies because Binford considered Chaplin to have loose morals. He also banned all Ingrid Bergman movies after she had an affair in real life. The censorship continued until the mid-1950s when he died. His three children and the son of the company secretary were the models for the bas-relief on the facade.

– I’ve received a couple of e-mails asking if I know anything about Google Analytics, a way to get data on who is visiting your website and their browsing patterns. Up until recently, Google Analytics was an invite-only service, meaning you had to already know someone using GA and have them invite you. This doesn’t appear to be the case anymore, so if you want a GA account, looks like you can have one.

– Google also recently added the ability to create, store and share spreadsheets using nothing but a web browser. I’m sure Semi-Charmed Kat is doing her Microsoft Excel dance as she reads this.

– If you want to make a donation toward the rebuilding of First United Methodist Church at Second and Poplar, which burned in Friday morning’s fire, you can bring them to First Alliance Bank at 464 N. Front. Make sure you specify that the donation is for the church when you bring it in.

– In an article this morning in the Commercial Appeal, there was speculation about who would make a good tenant to fill the soon-to-be-empty Tower Records space in Peabody Place Mall. One of the suggested tenants was Borders Books. I would LOVE to see that happen! Downtown really needs a bookstore that is one of the big chains. It would be especially nice to see them put a coffee bar in the bookstore. Again, this is all speculation, no word of official talks with Borders or anything. Tower is expected to close in 8-10 weeks.

– Speaking of books… the Southern Festival of Books will be held in and around the convention center this weekend, and the guy who won 75 episodes of Jeopardy in a row will be a featured guest. He’ll be there Saturday at 10. Attn Rapscallions: You think we can convince this guy to hang around until Tuesday and play on our trivia team? The accountants wouldn’t stand a chance against us if we had him.

– The last of the Romanians who lived and worked downtown this summer will be going home today. They’ll be flying to Paris, then connecting to Budapest, Hungary, then taking a bus to their homes in Transylvania. It has been a pleasure knowing the 4 Romanians who spent their first summer in Memphis this year – Diana, Daniela, Cristina, and the guy, Ion – all very kind and friendly people, and I’m sure Memphis would welcome them back.

– That’s all for now… gotta get back to work. Tonight, of course, is trivia night at the Saucer, and an opportunity for us to prove that we don’t need Mr. 75-win Jeopardy Guy to take first place.

Court Square Concert Series forced to move

Eyewitness News 24/30 reports that the last three concerts of the Court Square Concert Series will be forced to move due to the extensive fire damage in the area. The new location will be Jefferson Davis Park on Riverside Drive, across from the Tennessee Welcome Center.

The last three concerts will be The Memphis Allstars (October 11), Jim Dickinson and the North Mississippi Allstars (October 18), and the Reba Russell Band (October 25). You know, the morning of the fire, I ran into Stephanie Ziemba of the Center City Commission who coordinates the concert series, and she said people had been coming up to her all morning asking, “Is this going to affect the North Mississippi Allstars show?”

A grassroots effort is underway to inform all the downtown bums and pigeons of the venue change, so that it will seem as much as possible like an authentic Court Square concert.

Political/election links to check out

If you missed this weekend’s debates – the Senate debate between Harold Ford Jr. and Bob Corker, and the 9th District Congressional debate between Steve Cohen, Jake Ford, and Mark White – WREG has them available on their website. Click on the link and scroll down until you see “Featured Videos.” They also have a lot of good footage of Friday morning’s fires in Downtown Memphis.

One page I visit almost every day is the New York Times’ map of the Senate and House election races. Having hit this page over a period of several weeks, I can definitely see a trend – more and more seats are moving from “leaning Republican” to “toss up”, and more and more seats are moving from “toss up” to “leaning Democrat.” This is especially true in their analysis of the House races – when I first found the page the Republicans had a significant advantage, but that has completely eroded and now it’s a dead heat for control of the House. The Times also has a map analyzing the governors’ races, although I don’t see the point in that one since governors as a group don’t pass any laws.

Another good site is RealClearPolitics, a clearinghouse of commentary for both the left and the right on the upcoming elections. They also have the latest poll data for the Senate and House races, and approval ratings for President Bush and for Congress.

There will be a free screening of Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers Thursday night, October 12 at 7 PM at Neil’s in Midtown. The movie introduces you to people whose lives have been changed forever as a result of the war in Iraq – soldiers, truck drivers, widows and children. It also exposes the connections between the corporations making huge profits in Iraq and the politicians who allow it to happen.

Early voting starts soon, so if you haven’t made your mind up about the Congressional races, it’s a good time to get informed.

Happy birthday John

Today would have been John Lennon’s 66th birthday.

You know, something I wonder is, if Paul McCartney had been the Beatle to die at a young age, would there be “Paul’s birthday” observances all over the world on June 18? I tend to think not, at least not nearly to the extent that there are “John’s birthday” observances on October 9.

John was never afraid to speak up, to use his celebrity status to try and make the world a better place. He staged bed-ins to protest the war in Vietnam. He wrote songs that got people thinking what the world would be like if we all lived in peace. He used the mainstream media (some would say, manipulated the mainstream media) to get his message across. He managed to get a gig hosting the Mike Douglas Show for a week in 1972 (using the promise to perform 3 songs a day to deliver big ratings) to introduce America to “alternative”/”radical” viewpoints from people like political activist Jerry Rubin, comedian George Carlin, and consumer activist Ralph Nader. He embedded a political message (“War is over if you want it”) in a Christmas song that was so simple that children could sing it.

Not everyone agreed with what he had to say. In fact, the Nixon government tried for years to get him deported. But that never stopped him from expressing himself.

Paul, on the other hand, always tried to please everyone, always tried to say what he thought other people wanted to hear. And that’s why, even though I have tremendous respect for both John and Paul as musicians, I have a lot more respect for John as a human being.

Since it’s nearly impossible for me to get through a post without mentioning the bars downtown, I’ll point out that Wednesday is John Lennon Glass Night at the Saucer (and this is one of the few times you won’t hear me refer to as “buy the beer, waste money on the glass” night). The glasses go on sale at 7:00 and this is definitely one night when you don’t want to show up late, or they’ll be all gone. For this one I recommend getting there by 6:30 and letting the waitress know you want to pre-order a glass.

Reminds me… since I’m a member of the UFO Club at the Saucer, every week I get e-mailed an “Important Beer Goddess Video Message” about the Wednesday night glass. Usually those messages go straight to the trash, but I watched this one, and it was hilarious. They had a Saucer girl dressed up as Yoko, announcing the glass in an irritating, high-pitched voice, and then closing the message by shrieking as Yoko herself does in her “performance art.”

I’ll be back later today with some good links about the upcoming elections.

Tower Records in Peabody Place closing

Blogger keeps cutting the photo off but you get the idea. Tower Records in the Peabody Place Mall is closing. If there’s anything you want from there, stop by – you may be able to get it for 30% off.

Wonder what will go in that location. Can’t help but think it would be a perfect place to put a nightclub.

Weekend update

The high point of my weekend was catching Crash Kole, Bobby Durango, and Josh Lemons at Sleep Out Louie’s Friday night. I snapped a couple of pics; let’s post ’em.

In this second pic, they’re joined by an additional guitarist and Sleep Out’s regular, Brian. Thanks to Mikey the Camera Nazi for snapping this shot:

Aside from that, my weekend has been pretty boring. I took off after their first set to head to the Architects’ Party in Midtown, having been set up with a free ticket thanks to my friends at It seemed like it was a great party, but you know what? I didn’t know a soul there. I guess from living downtown I’ve gotten used to the concept that I can show up anywhere, anytime by myself and know people. Well, that apparently doesn’t work outside of downtown. I think I got there too early, and I should’ve called friends and coordinated with them. Anyway, I stood around for about half an hour, feeling out of place. A couple of times I pulled out my cell phone and pretended to be talking on it, to try and look like a little bit less of a dork. After about 30 minutes I gave up and left.

The next day, I talked to several people who said, “Yeah, that’s why I didn’t go, because I was afraid I wouldn’t know anyone there.” If all those people had gone, we all would have known someone. Oh well. At the next one (in April) maybe we can make plans.

Saturday I went to the Pink Palace Crafts Fair. Didn’t buy anything, but they had some really cool stuff. I decided that I’d get business cards from the 5 artists I liked best, and post links to their websites on my blog, to give them some free publicity. Well, you know what? Of the 5 artists, one didn’t have business cards, and four didn’t have websites. I don’t get that. I mean, I know it’s a creative undertaking, but it’s also a business. In the world of 2006, they’re potentially costing themselves a LOT of money by not having a website. People will walk through the crafts fair and say, “Oh, this person’s work is really cool, I want to show it to my friends who aren’t here with me” and a website would allow them to do that. If not a full-blown website, at least set up a MySpace page with pics of your work.

Anyway, here’s a link to the one of the five artists who did have a site: Bernie Thomas’ Segmented Wooden Bowls and Lamps. He sells really beautful nut, candy, fruit and salad bowls, and also lamps, made out of segmented wood.

I also want to mention an artist who wasn’t there, but who makes digitally enhanced photos that are as good as or better than anything I saw at the Crafts Fair: Shane Paris. Check out his MySpace page; he and I are collaborating on getting him a complete website. His work has a Memphis/N’Awlins/Alabama/Southern feel to it. Good stuff. If you see anything you like, you can contact him through MySpace.

Anyway, back to yesterday. I went to the Saucer to see my waitresses, then headed to Earnestine & Hazel’s. At the time I got there, the crowd was just starting to transition from the frat/sorority crowd that had been there early to the crowd coming in from Blues Ball. I was leaning against the wall, by myself, drinking a Budweiser. A sorority girl came over and wanted to know who I was – she seemed to be giving off “interested” vibes. I had on a black button-up shirt and dark jeans and my hair is extra long because I’m growing it out for Halloween and I guess I looked mysterious leaning there. Unfortunately she asked the one question that blew it – “How old are you?” – and since I don’t believe in lying I told her “36.” Without another word she turned her back on me and went back to her friends.

Around this time I got a text message from Fluffy, letting me know that the Fluffy/Shorty party had been cancelled. (See the “Not gonna go there” post from Friday night for details.) Which was fine because I had already decided I wasn’t going to go. But I wonder if Shorty heard I’d be attending and flipped her lid and called the whole thing off. Heh. That would be kind of funny if she did.

So anyway, after a while I got bored with the downstairs of E&H, and decided to head upstairs to see what was going on at Nate’s bar. As I maneuvered through the crowd, I nearly bumped into a well-dressed woman and we both said “Excuse me.” And then, as I slid past her, I tripped.

I tripped over a LEASH. The woman had a white toy poodle, about the size of a large squirrel, with her, and she was walking it through E&H on a leash. If I had moved half a foot in the wrong direction, I would’ve stepped right on the damn thing.

The woman gave me a look like, “How DARE you not get out of my dog’s way.” I guess if you’ve spent $250 on a Blues Ball ticket, that gives you the right to abandon common sense and health department regulations and walk your teeny-tiny dog through a crowded bar at midnight. People never cease to amaze me.

And that brings us up to today. I’m going to go buy a Sunday paper (which reminds me: attn Commercial Appeal: it really wouldn’t kill you to throw in a free Sunday subscription as part of my deal) and get Deal of the Week done early so I don’t have to take the laptop with me to Sleep Out’s for Sunday brunch. Guess I can’t get too trashed at brunch today; the Romanians are going home on Tuesday, and at some point today I have to go get the furniture and extra laptop I loaned them.

There’s an article in the Commercial Appeal about the great job the Memphis Fire Department did Friday morning, patrolling downtown and putting out embers that threatened to set blocks and blocks of the city on fire. I agree – great job everyone and I cannot thank you enough. I’m sitting here in my apartment typing this post on Sunday morning because of you.

Congratulations to the Arkansas Razorbacks on their 27-10 victory over #2 Auburn! And on the road, too! Suddenly the Hogs are looking like they have a real chance to take the SEC West this year.

All right… this has turned into a long post. Time to get outta here.

"Tendentious": Why I can’t stand Koeppel’s restaurant reviews

Yesterday I was browsing the Commercial Appeal’s website, and noticed that Fredric Koeppel had written about Stella in his weekly dining review. So I clicked the link to see what he had to say.

The first sentence started off: “At the risk of sounding tendentious…”

Okay. In high school I scored 1430 on the SAT. I went on to a liberal arts college where I had to spend a lot of my time reading books with big words. Since then I’ve spent a fair amount of time reading for personal pleasure. And yet I have no idea what “tendentious” means. I don’t think I’ve even seen the word before. I wonder if even 1% of Koeppel’s readers actually knew the meaning of that word.

tendentious also tendencious adj (1900): marked by a tendency in favor to a particular point of view: BIASED – tendentiously advtendentiousness n

Now, that definition may possibly be outdated, as I pulled it from the dictionary I got in 1987 while still in high school. But I think we’ll be okay, because Koeppel is probably the first person to actually use that word in a sentence since 1987.

When I read the first line of his Stella review, this is the thought that came to my mind:

“Well, I don’t know if he sounds tendentious, but he certainly sounds pretentious.”

I didn’t bother to read the rest of the review. Instead, I pulled up Stacey Greenberg’s excellent Dining with Monkeys blog to read some restaurant reviews that are a lot more fun, accessible, and interesting.

Looking at the reader comments section of Koeppel’s Stella review, it’s clear that I’m not the only one who feels this way about his writing style. I remember reading last year that the Commercial Appeal is interested in doing more to appeal to the common Memphian. Sorry guys, but this is one area in which you ain’t getting it done.

Not gonna go there: Choosing who I want to be

(If you’re looking for the downtown fire pics, they’re the next post down. If you’re looking for info about the house in Cooper-Young, it’s two down.)

This post is going to be a little different from most I’ve done recently. It’s going to reflect that this is indeed a personal blog, even if most of the time it serves as “the downtown blog” for a lot of people.

One of the main lessons I’ve learned in recent years is that we are constantly choosing who we want to be. We make that choice with every action. We can choose to give off (and receive back) positive energy, or we can choose to give off (and receive back) negative energy. Put another way, at any moment we can choose to act out of either love or fear.

Tomorrow there is going to be a party for two girls… I don’t want to use real names so let’s call them Fluffy and Shorty. Now, I’m on good terms with Fluffy. She’s always been friendly to me, and she’s one of those people who just seems to be liked by everyone – I don’t think I’ve heard anyone speak a bad word about her in the entire time she’s been in Memphis.

So, a mutual friend told me about the party today. Fluffy was nearby and said, “Yes, the party is tomorrow, you can come as my guest.” Cool, a party to go to, always a good thing, right?

Well, maybe not… because, you see, I’m on pretty bad terms with Shorty. I’m angry with her for a number of reasons, and she’s angry with me for a number of reasons as well. I’m not going to go into specifics because, again, I don’t like to air personal dirty laundry in my blog. I’ll just say that in our own minds, we each feel that our grievances with each other are justified.

So here’s the thing… when I was first invited to the party, I was excited about it. But tonight, as I was driving around Midtown, I realized something. The reason I was so excited was that I knew my presence would upset Shorty and make her feel uncomfortable at her own party. So I’d be giving off negative energy. I’d also be receiving it back from her, as well as from her friends who are aware that we haven’t been getting along. And as I thought about that, I asked myself, is that who I choose to be?

I’ve come to the conclusion that it is not. I want to be positive. I want to give off positive energy and receive it back from the people around me. So, I have decided not to go to the party. And it has nothing to do with Shorty. I’m selfish and in this case, it really is all about me. My Saturday is too valuable to waste on negativity; I want to do things that make myself and other people happy. Specifically, I plan to

  • stop by Sleep Out’s early in the day and say hello to Josh, one of the best bartender/managers ever and a good friend as well
  • head out east to the Pink Palace Crafts Fair for a little while, walk around, see people I haven’t seen in a while, possibly buy some new toys
  • come back downtown, stop by the Saucer, and see my waitresses
  • head over to Earnestine & Hazel’s and watch people roll in after Blues Ball
  • probably end up at my happy place, Raiford’s, late Saturday night.

Now that sounds like a good day. I truly hope both Fluffy and Shorty have fun at their party. I think Fluffy will understand why I’m not going. As for Shorty, this should not be taken as an apology or a sign that my reasons for being upset with her are not valid. I just choose not to dwell on it, for the sake of my own personal mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being.

Sorry for getting a bit New Agey in this post, but typing it was therapeutic for me, and I’m hoping maybe it will inspire others.

I’m home from my Friday evening out. I have a couple of pics that I’ll post tomorrow or Sunday.

I’m hoping I don’t have nightmares about the Court Square fire tonight. I’ve been seeing images of it in my head all day.