Apr 302011
 

This week I’ve been getting emails and Facebook messages asking what I’ve heard about BBQ Fest. If the river gets too high, i.e. if it’s likely to hit 46 feet and flood Tom Lee Park, Memphis in May will have to come up with a contingency plan. I’ve heard rumors of what they might do, but I’m not going to publish them until I see an official statement from Memphis in May. Enough people read this blog that I could cause significant trouble for MiM if I put incorrect information out there. So for now, mum’s the word. Sorry.

How about those GRIZZLIES!!!!!! I guarantee you one thing, Zach Randolph will never be overlooked for All-Star status again. Most experts picked the Spurs to win in 6, and instead it was the Grizzlies sending the Spurs home in that amount. Way to defend the home court guys! According to the CA, Round 2 Game 1 will be at Oklahoma City at noon Sunday. Dammit, that’s going to cut into my Music Fest people-watching. I’ll watch it either at the FedExForum watch party (I assume they’ll have one) or at the Saucer (they got the problem with the game sound fixed and had it on last night).

Yesterday was both a happy and a sad day for me, as I cashed out my PokerStars account. Happy, because I never thought I’d see that money again after the FBI busted Stars. Sad, because I’ve had a lot of fun playing on that site the past two years, and now it’s come to an end. Searching for another online poker network… looking at Cake Poker, Titan Poker, and Doyle’s Room as options. Anyone got experience with any of these, or any of the other poker rooms that still accept US players?

Had a good night walking around and watching the freak show last night. Call-a-Cabs are magically delicious. I’ll be out again today, mostly wandering Main and Beale with occasional stops at the Saucer. I haven’t totally dismissed the idea of buying a ticket and going to Music Fest, with the weather expected to be nice today.

Time to get in the shower then head outside for more people-watching… if anything particularly interesting happens I’ll try to stop by home and do a post.

Apr 292011
 

High school kids: If you're into Jersey Shore clothing and hairstyles, Hollywood Disco is the place to be on May 7.

A few more hours and Music Fest will begin. If you downloaded the Memphis in May app for iPhone/Android when it first came out, there’s an update. Be sure to get it if you plan to use the app to plan your Music Fest weekend.

A rare Downtown event for those not of age: Hollywood Disco is hosting a Jersey Shore party for high school students. The party will be Saturday, May 7, from 7 to 11 PM. Hollywood Disco is on Vance, just east of Main. Club will go 18+ at 11 that night.

Bring your dog to the ballpark tomorrow to see the Redbirds. “Bark in the Ballpark” will have numerous pet-related promotions, and there will be special right-field seating for you and your pet. Free admission for dogs with paid owners. First pitch at 3:05 PM.

On Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 8, the Silly Goose will have a special party honoring MILFs. All MILFs who stop by will receive a free brunch from the Goose.

Gates open for Music Fest at 5. A few last-minute parking tips:

  • Remember that metered spaces on the street are FREE on the weekends (and after 6 PM on Fridays). If someone tries to charge you to park at a metered space, don’t pay them; they’re scamming you.
  • Look for street parking on less-traveled streets like Court, Adams and Washington, especially east of Third.
  • Another good option is to park in the Pinch – anywhere north of the I-40 and south of Mill – and take the trolley to Beale.
  • South of the FedExForum, avoid parking on the streets east of Third that run parallel to Third – Abel, Allen, Hernando, Fourth. This is the one part of Downtown that is still kind of scary.

I’ll be in “festival mode” most of the weekend, which means I’ll spend most of my time wandering around Downtown watching the freak show, rather than sitting around bars all day. Of course, I will make an exception for the Grizzlies game tonight. Definitely plan on being in front of a TV for that. Go Grizzlies! Let’s make a big party weekend even bigger with a win in game 6.

Apr 282011
 

Music Fest is approaching, and there are going to be people swarming into Tom Lee Park, Beale Street, and the surrounding areas. Attendees are going to be thinking about music, the drink in their hand, friends… everything but safety. Please take a minute to read these tips to keep yourself and your belongings safe.

Ladies, keep your purses in sight at all times. Last week, I observed a woman sitting on a couch at a Downtown bar place her purse to her left, on the couch’s arm. Then she proceeded to turn to her back on the purse, to her right, and chat with her friends. “I could walk by and grab that purse and she’d never know it,” I thought. Place your purse on your lap, the table in front of you… anywhere where you can keep your eye on it.

Be careful about walking around with your phone placed in an open purse. Phone-snatchings have picked up lately. I know someone who had her iPhone taken out of her purse, which was on her arm, as she was in line waiting to get into a Beale Street nightclub. She was none the wiser until the thief was long gone. I know it’s inconvenient to zip the phone up, but it’s worth it to keep safe.

If you leave valuable belongings with friends, make sure they will watch them until you get back. Another friend of mine left her camera with people she’d met at a nightclub for a minute while she went next door. Those people didn’t know they were supposed to watch it, or didn’t care, because when they came back the camera was gone. If it’s valuable enough to steal, it’s valuable enough to keep on your person at all times.

Don’t place phones and cameras on window ledges or on patio tables within grabbing distance from the street. People place iPhones on window ledges and patio tables next to their drink, then turn around and talk to friends. If you watch the bums walk by, you’ll see them scanning the ledges to see what they can pick up. Keep your phone in your pocket or purse, or on a table more than arm’s length away.

Stow it, don’t show it. You may know your suitcase or backpack is empty, but the bad guys don’t. Do not leave anything of value (or anything that could potentially contain something of value) in your unattended car. I don’t mean just expensive items, but any items at all. That CD or couple dollars in change may seem inconsquential to you, but to the bad guys it’s funding toward the purchase of their next crack rock, worth smashing a window.

Do not go anywhere that is not well-lit and crowded with people you don’t know. Be very suspicious of anyone who comes up to you and offers to be a tour guide, unless they are the official Blue Suede Brigade employed by the CCC (look for the safari hats and white shirts). “Tour guide” is a common panhandler scam down here.

Do not take shortcuts through alleys. I know it’s late, I know you’re tired, but don’t do it. Stay on well-lit thoroughfares like Main, Union, Peabody Place, Beale, and Second.

Please don’t let this advice scare you. I’ve been down here nine years, I walk around alone all hours of the day and night, and I have never had a problem. Downtown is statistically the safest area of the city. However, any festival where a large crowd of people gathers presents an opportunity for criminals. Follow the precautions above and you should be just fine. Have fun at Music Fest, and if you have any questions or concerns e-mail me at paul@paulryburn.com.

Apr 282011
 

Thanks to several of my readers who e-mailed this afternoon in response to the “Where can I take REAL kickboxing classes Downtown?” They all supplied the same answer: You can take them at Envision Memphis, the gym on the top floor of the Cadre Building. Mark, who also bartends at the Majestic, is the instructor. I’ve known Mark for years and would highly recommend taking a class from him.

Apr 282011
 

Now and then I run across a website and think, “Well, that was an idea that just NEEDED to happen.” Last night I found such a site in my Facebook feed: Bad Driver Videos, featuring the stupidest drivers in the world, who of course are located right here in Memphis.

Well, I was going to post a link to buy tickets for Game 6 with the Grizzlies tomorrow night, but they SOLD OUT! Game will be on ESPN at 8 PM Central.

For those who missed out on tickets, Mesquite Chop House has announced that they will have a pre-Grizzlies party tomorrow night from 5 to 7, and they will be giving away 30 – that’s right, THIRTY – tickets. Free Grizzlies tickets? Wonder if Stephanie will show up.

I’m the featured Memphian on Kerry’s I Love Memphis Blog today. Thanks Kerry for interviewing me, and welcome to new readers and Twitter followers who found me through Kerry’s blog!

If you’re looking for a place to watch the NFL Draft tonight, Ferraro’s Pizzeria and Pub is having a watch party with all-you-can-eat pizza and beer for $15 from 7 to 11.

Question from a reader: She absolutely loved the kickboxing class she used to take in Germantown, but now she lives Downtown and doesn’t want to drive out there 3x a week. She’s looking for a real kickboxing class – not kickboxing aerobics, but the real thing with the bag. Is there such a class in Downtown or Midtown? If so, please shoot me an email at paul@paulryburn.com and I’ll pass along the information (and blog it too, so that others can benefit).

Tonight’s Peabody rooftop party features The 17th Floor (that’s an R&B/hip-hop band, not a floor of the hotel). The hotel will showcase Memphis in May featured country Belgium with a Belgian buffet: European style tartine sandwiches, “stoemp” potatoes mashed with veggies and sausage, “Salade Ligeoise” with green beans, bacon, onions and vinegar. In VIP there will be steamed mussels with white wine and shallots, Belgian frites, Tomate-Ceyette Shrimp, and Belgian-style chocolate pralines. $10 to get in includes first drink; ladies free before 7.

Meanwhile, over at the Madison, the Memphis All-Stars will rock their weekly rooftop party. $7 to get in, cash bar and tapas menu available on the roof.

My sincere sympathy to casino employees who will be out of work for a while due to river levels. In case you haven’t heard, safety concerns due to rising river levels will force all the Tunica casinos to close on a rolling basis between today and May 2. This river situation is getting more and more serious.

That’s all for now. Gonna grab a quick lunch. Think I’ll try pho for the first time…

Apr 272011
 

Even if you’re not going to Beale Street Music Fest, there’s still a reason to come Downtown this weekend: The people-watching is fantastic. It’s truly a show that no circus could hope to match. Here’s a guide to what you’ll see and where.

 

Best places to people-watch:

Beale Street. Most of the action is in the entertainment district between Second and Fourth, but for Music Fest they block off Beale all the way to Riverside. No better place to watch the freak show. Grab a 32 oz. beer – it’s legal to walk around with it on Beale between Second and Fourth, and really, as long as you don’t act a fool you’re probably not going to get stopped if you carry it past Second. If you get hungry, Domino’s usually sets up shop in Handy Park mid-afternoon Saturday and Sunday and sells pizzas. If you want something stronger than beer, I recommend going to Wet Willie’s and ordering a drink called the Call-a-Cab. One of those will knock your socks off. If you have a second Cab, you will end up being part of the freak show yourself, so be careful.

Views from above are always good. If you can get a seat on the second-floor patio at Alfred’s, there’s probably no better people-watching spot. I bet the window seats at Itta Bena, the restaurant on the third floor of BB King’s, are top-notch spots too.

Main Street Mall. Main between Peabody and Exchange is a pedestrian mall, where bikes and trolleys are allowed but cars are not. Particularly between Peabody Place and Union, there are several good patios that are excellent for people-watching – Majestic Grille, Blue Fin, Bar None, Local Gastropub. Window seats at the new frozen yogurt shop, set to open this week, will be good too. Officially, you can’t walk around with drinks as you can in the Beale entertainment district, but again, as long as you’re discrete about it, you probably won’t be stopped.

 

Who you’ll see:

“Woooooooo!” kids. Kids who have to let the world know how hard they’re partying by screaming “woooooooo!” all day long, as well as running around, screaming, causing fights occasionally. I hate these MFers in general, but from a distance they can be fun to watch, just like animals in a zoo. Best place to watch “wooooooo” kids: Unfortunately they’re everywhere.

Jesus freaks. Every year a group shows up with huge signs and bullhorns. They tell all the revelers that they are sinning when they drink and dance, and they are surely going to hell unless they turn to Jesus, their only hope for salvation. The leader of the group is from Tulsa, and I’ve been there so many years that he actually recognizes me and says hello. I return the hello by toasting him with my Call-a-Cab cup. They hand out little booklets which are comics telling you what an awful sinner you are. Best place to watch the Jesus freaks: Beale Street between Fourth and Riverside, Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Look for the big signs.

Hippies. You can’t have a music festival without hippies. You know the deal. Patchouli, dreads, multi-colored knit caps. Probably good connections to make if you want to score some weed for Music Fest. Best place to find hippies: They like to hang out on the grass on the block of Beale between Second and Main, by MLGW.

Scratchy. Scratchy walks around Downtown all day, scratching his beard, checking to make sure it’s still there since he last checked 1 second ago. A Scratchy sighting is considered among Downtowners to be a foreboding of good luck. Scratchy never asks for anything, but if you have leftover food, you can approach him and hand it to him, and he’ll be grateful. Best place to watch Scratchy: The alley next to Bardog, although anywhere in the area bounded by Front, Monroe, Second and Beale is good.

Ghetto rides. The lime green Buick Roadmasters and purple Crown Vics, with 26 inch rims and insignia to inform you that they have 26 inch rims. They’re starting to branch out to other models of cars too: Last year I saw a pimped-out Altima. Really? An Altima? They ride around all day with their stereos thumping. Not sure how they can afford the gas, but they do. Best place to see ghetto rides: Any window seat on Second between Union and Peabody Place.

Elmo. There’s a guy who dresses up like Elmo from Sesame Street and walks around Downtown. No one is quite sure why he does this. He’ll take a picture with you for a dollar. Best place to see Elmo: Main Street Mall. Occasionally he ventures onto Beale Street.

Illegal vendors. Some of them set up shop on corners, selling water without a vendor permit. Others are rolling vendors, carting a cooler up and down the street selling cans of beer for two bucks. Fun to watch because sooner or later, you just know the cops are going to roll up on them. Best place to see illegal vendors: Beale between Second and Riverside for the stationary ones; Main Street Mall for the rolling vendors.

The Zendiks. The Zendiks live on an artists’ farm in West Virginia. They believe society is too much of a distraction, with full-time jobs, social obligations, etc. They prefer to live in a space of their own where they can focus on their art. They travel across the country, selling T-shirts, magazines and books to support themselves. They’ve been known to come to Memphis to hang out during Music Fest weekend, although last year I didn’t see them. Some people consider them a cult, but I’ve talked with a few of them at length and am convinced they’re not. Founder Wulf Zendik’s book A Quest Among the Bewildered is an interesting read if you’re into Beat literature. Best place to see the Zendiks: Beale Street between Second and Third.

Bums. Hey mayne, hey big dog, sir, sir, can I aks you a question? Look here, man, I ain’t no bum or nothin’, but I’m just trying to get about fitty two cent. They’ll often do the tour guide gimmick and offer to show you around, then ask for a tip. (Do not let them lead you anywhere that is not well-lit and crowded.) When rain threatens, they’ll break out the bum-brella gimmick and offer to provide cover with the most raggedy umbrellas on earth. They’ll pick flowers from public beds and try to sell them to you. Best place to see bums: In the immediate vicinity of stores that sell liquor or beer; parking lots, where they pose as attendants.

Stupid drivers. Drivers turning left from the center lane, or sometimes even the right lane. Drivers going the wrong way up one-way Second Street. Best place to see stupid drivers: Window seats at the Flying Saucer.

Iguana. There’s a man who walks around Downtown with an iguana on his shoulder. No idea why. Best place to see the iguana: You never know, could pop up anywhere, but busy streets like Main, Union and Second are your best bets.

Scalpers. The “got tickets, need tickets” guys. Do not buy a Music Fest ticket from a scalper. It is extremely easy for them to print multiple copies of the same ticket, and sell them. When you get to the gate, they’ll scan your ticket, and you may well discover that it’s already been used by someone else. By that time the scalper will be long gone. Best place to see scalpers: Near the entrance to Tom Lee Park.

Strip club employees. People from the Pony and the Gold Club are usually walking around, offering free passes. Sometimes they’ll even have a van and will offer you free transportation to the club. Best place to see strip club employees: Beale between Main and Riverside.

Pigeons. What big-city downtown is not filled with these most annoying birds? If you do any patio dining, it’s a good idea to look up and make sure you’re not under anything that could be used as a roost. Best place to see pigeons: Beale Street, Court Square

That’s a handy guide to the fauna of Downtown Memphis during Music Fest. Did I miss anything? Shoot me an e-mail at paul@paulryburn.com and let me know.

Apr 272011
 

With all the BBQ Fest posts I’ve made, and two upcoming Music Fest posts that I’ve got in Drafts, I’ve been forgetting to do regular news posts the past few days. Here are a few news items.

While answering a series of interview questions recently, I needed to check a fact I gave about Downtown Memphis. As I did, Google led me to this site – Memphis History. Good place to read about the events and characters that have shaped this city over the past 200 years. Everyone from E.H. Crump to Jackie Fargo can be found on the site.

A friend who works on Beale Street told me that the Handy Bar has been turned into Ugly Juanita’s, with “cheap tacos and even cheaper blues.” Taco bar on Beale Street? Most definitely a win. I will check this out soon.

Good Downtown Groupon deal today: $10 for $20 worth of food at the Flying Fish. Good place to eat, kid-friendly. Probably my favorite dish there is the grilled tilapia, “make it snappy” (i.e. cover it in Cajun spice), with red beans and rice and grilled squash and zucchini.

Mud Island residents: Kooky Canuck owner and Mud Island resident Shawn just tweeted that the north end of Island Place has been closed to traffic due to river levels. Island Place is an interior street, different from Island Drive, the main north-south thoroughfare on the island.

Hope everyone made it home safely last night, and to work this morning. A friend of mine came in Bardog last night soaking wet. She’d been driving home, and as she got off I-40 at Riverside there were barricades and cop on a loudspeaker saying, “ABANDON YOUR VEHICLES AND TAKE COVER.” Wow. It was bad last night. Thanks to all the police officers who help keep us safe when the weather takes a turn for the worse.

Due to the storms, I didn’t make it to Ferraro’s last night for Tuesday trivia. Standing at a trolley stop is not my idea of fun when there’s lightning outside! Team members Katie Mac, Shawn, Josh and Nikki made it, and I hear reports that the format is very good. Congrats to the team on second place, and I can’t wait to try it next week!

Music Fest people-watching post is essentially done and I hope to get it online after work today. I have a second post (safety) that I’ll try to get up tomorrow.

Grizzlies game 5 vs. the Spurs tonight at 7:30. Lots of places Downtown to watch the game on TV, but you know what I’m thinking? I haven’t attended a Watch Party at FedExForum yet. Maybe it’s time to change that tonight. I’ll probably pre-game with a beer or two at the Saucer at 6, then wander down there. I’ll have my new Grizzlies-blue camera with me, and maybe I’ll take a few photos for the blog.

GO GRIZZLIES!!! Let’s end this in 5.

Apr 262011
 

I had a reader email me and ask a good question about Memphis in May BBQ Fest.

“You said it’s best to try and get invitations to BBQ team booths, because the booths are for team members and guests only. If I don’t get any invitations, will I still have fun? Is there any point in going?”

Yes, there’s still plenty you can do. Here’s a list:

– If you want to taste the teams’ cooking without knowing anyone on a team, sign up for the People’s Choice Award judging. For $4 you’ll be given 5 samples of BBQ, and you can vote on which you like best. You can judge as many times as you like.

– If you want to learn more about what it’s like to be on a team, sign up for the Cooker Caravan. This is a guided tour of selected team booths. Members will explain what being on a team is all about, answer any questions you have, and if you’re lucky, feed you. More info on People’s Choice and Cooker Caravan can be found here.

– You can walk around and look at the team booths. There’s an award for Best Booth, so some teams choose to do very elaborate decorations, usually based around the honored country (which this year is Belgium). We even had a professional booth designer the past couple of years.

– You can buy BBQ and other foods from licensed vendors who sell to the public. Sometimes there will be a BBQ vendor or two who is a former winner of the contest.

– There will be companies who market BBQ-related products (sauce, dry rub, grills, etc.) around the park, and some of them offer free samples to the public.

– Thursday night at 6 is the Ms. Piggie contest. Some of the teams get up on stage and sing pig-related songs for the chance to win prizes. We entered a couple of years ago and morphed “Ol’ Man River” into “Ol’ Miss Piggie.” Ol’ Miss Piggie… that Ol’ Miss Piggie… She just keeps smokin’… She don’t say nothin’… She just keeps smokin’ along. I think the video is still on YouTube (search for Ques Brothers).

– There are bands every night on the main stage. Full schedule is here. Bands are much more laid-back than the Music Fest bands. In particular, I recommend my friends Pam & Terry, who take the stage at 8:30 Thursday.

– Entrance to the park is free during lunch hours Thursday and Friday (11 to 1 I think). This is a good time to go because the park isn’t busy. Oftentimes if you see team members hanging out near the front of their booth in the lunchtime hours, you can strike up a conversation and end up getting invited in and fed. It’s a lot easier for teams to invite people into booths when there are 7 people inside, than in the evening hours when there are 150 people inside.

I’m not going to lie and say it’s as much fun as being on a team, but there’s still plenty of ways to have a good time at BBQ Fest. If you’ve never been, come on down. I promise you’ll never see anything like it.

Apr 262011
 

How plans change. Tonight I meant to start at Bardog for happy hour, then do a venue change to Ferraro’s about 7:30 for their first weekly trivia night. However, radar indicated that Ferraro’s, 10 blocks away in the rain and lightning, was not in the plans. So I settled in for Pint Night, where all draft beers were $3. “I’ll have the good stuff,” I told bartender Amanda Panda, “the PBR.” About 9 I had told people I was about to leave, then announced to the night shift who had just come on, “Well, you know… I think I’m going to have ONE MORE.” Hope no one was waiting on me to leave. I also ordered food. I asked how much a bowl of their award-winning chili was, and I think they said $6.29. I ordered that and the “daily dog,” which today was an Italian hot dog with onions, peppers, hash and mustard. Obviously I was thinking dipping with the chili.

The amount of food I got was astonishing. They brought me two to-go bowls – not cups, bowls – of their chili, along with the dog pictured above. Either would have been a complete meal by itself.

The math teacher in me is discovering that there’s a direct correlation between how many PBRs you have and how much food ends up on the floor.