Saturday update

Happy Saturday everyone! It’s been a long few days down in Tom Lee Park as the Moody Ques have been competing and feeding our members and guests. My camera went on the fritz so I don’t have as many pictures as usual, but here are a few.

To honor this year’s Memphis in May place, which is not a country but rather Memphis itself, we went with a Peabody theme. We had a photo wrap of the lobby as our facade, complete with ducks, a red carpet, floral arrangement, and a cardboard cutout of the Peabody duckmaster.

Above is a photo of the booth at night, complete with a lit up Peabody sign atop the structure. We didn’t take top three in Best Booth but nevertheless we are pretty proud of our home for this week.

This was the first year ever for the turkey ancillary, and our cook team nailed it with some of the most flavorful turkey I have ever had. The rules said, everything in the entry box had to be edible, which posed a challenge because we wanted the judges to try our Alabama white BBQ sauce. A resourceful cook hollowed out half a lemon and used it as the sauce container.

Here I am posing with our cutout of the Peabody duckmaster. You won’t find a better cardboard cutout in the Shoulder division! By the way, I was told that the Peabody duckmaster and staff were very nice and assisted us with getting a hi-res photo of the lobby and the image of the duckmaster.

Today is the big day. Kris and our cook team put the competition meat on yesterday afternoon, and it has been smoking low and slow all night. This morning it’ll be time to take the meat off, wrap it, let it rest, and clean the booth for presentation to the judges. For those of you who don’t know, presentation is a big part of the score, and if you slip up and say something the judges don’t want to hear, that can drop you from 1st to 40th. Luckily, Kris and the team give an expert presentation. They even explain that the pigs we cooked were walking around on a farm in North Mississippi earlier this week, and why we chose that farm and the individual pigs that we did.

(Sigh… probably gonna get hate mail from vegans/PETA)

After years of being the lovable losers in the Shoulder competition, never breaking out of the bottom third, we surged to 7th place out of 57 teams last year, getting us a trophy and a check for $500. The judges came back and gave our cooks valuable feedback, and Kris is the kind of guy who makes copious notes in his head. You never know, but I think we’ve got a shot at moving up from 7th this year. I prefer not to be around during judging (I’ve come to accept the fact that I don’t make a good impression) and so I’m going to lead off at either Bardog or Blind Bear at 11.

A few first-year members or guests came to me and told me they were blown away by the quality of food in our booth. I can’t take credit for cooking any of it, but thank you! We will be back in 2020 and we always seem to manage to have spots open up due to members’ busy schedules. If you are interested in joining for 202o let me know and I will keep you in the loop.

The good and the not-so-good

I don’t want the subheading to confuse anyone… the not-so-good part has been slightly irritating, while the good part of this week has been really, really good.

First and foremost, I received confirmation that my Two Feet from the End post at the end of April helped someone make a different decision than they might have otherwise. That just blows me away and I am beyond Cloud Nine… I am on Cloud Eighteen level happy. Up until now, my biggest bragging right about this blog has been that it has affected the population number of Memphis, three people having decided to move here from out of state having read what I wrote. But now, I may have helped save a life. Even if the rest of this week went to hell in a handbasket (so far it hasn’t), I would still count this as one of the best weeks I have ever had.

Funny thing is, I found that fact out late at night, when I’d been up for 18 hours and in the park for 13, so it really didn’t register at first because I was exhausted. The next morning at Bardog, it sank in, and my eyes welled up with tears… in front of a bunch of dudes on other BBQ teams. Well that was awkward.

I’ve had several really good heart-to-heart conversations with friends this week, both face to face and online. A lot of people have told me they’re happy I’m still here. I’m happy I’m still here too.

I’ve received leads on two jobs – not just jobs I’d be doing for the paycheck, but work that I would find really interesting. The people I was in contact with understood that I’m on a BBQ team and I will be in touch next week.

Then, of course, this has been a great basketball week for our city. Penny Hardaway started it off by bringing in graduate transfer Rayjon Tucker who was a star at Little Rock last year. Then he signed four-star Boogie Ellis. Then he signed five-star Precious Achiuwa, moving Memphis up to the number-one recruiting class in the country for 2019. Radio host Gary Parrish had the Tigers ranked sixth in his most recent pre-season poll, and that may have come out before Achiuwa was signed.

Of course, now the expectations are sky-high, and Penny is going to have to silence his “Penny can recruit but he can’t coach” haters. He’ll have to move fast – Wiseman is definitely a one-and-done and some of the others might be too. I’d say that with the talent as stacked as it is, Penny needs at least an AAC regular-season title, an AAC tournament title, and an Elite Eight appearance to answer his critics. AAC regular-season title, AAC tournament runner-up, and Sweet Sixteen is the absolute floor.

Then there’s the Grizzlies. I was watching the lottery at the Blind Bear while I did team bag handout, and I nearly jumped out of my seat when the number-8 pick card was opened and it did not have the Grizzlies’ logo, meaning Memphis had moved into the top four. When the 4 card opened and it wasn’t the Grizzlies either, I started yelling, “KEEP GOING! KEEP GOING!” The 3 card also wasn’t the Grizz, and we had a 50% shot at the #1 pick. However, we’ll have to settle for the second pick. I’ll take it!

There’s a near-consensus that point guard Ja Morant from Murray State will be the best available player at the 2 pick, someone who will be NBA ready from the get-go. If the team selects Morant, it’s probably a little more likely Mike Conley gets traded this summer. The 2 pick’s salary will be almost $9 million, shooting Memphis way over the luxury tax line. The front office will need to make moves to get back under and Conley could be involved. I will be sad at the thought of Grizzlies basketball without Mike, but perhaps it’s time to let The Conductor go chase a ring while he’s still got some years left.

However, keep in mind that one of the reasons why the Grizzlies front office wanted Jaren Jackson Jr. last year is because he had a basketball pedigree, his dad a former NBA star and his mom also involved in basketball. That mindset may give the nod to R.J. Barrett rather than Morant. Barrett is the godson of NBA legend Steve Nash and his father played  pro basketball overseas.

Edit: Well, I just knew I was leaving out one of the things that made me happy this week, just couldn’t remember what it was. Two of the most wonderful people I know got engaged this week. Congratulations Alex and Mary!

Now to the bad (but it’s small stuff and shouldn’t be sweated). First of all, allergies! The pollen and dust in Tom Lee Park has been near max level all week, and I have dealt with watery eyes, a runny nose, a sore throat, and itchy ears all three days so far. I guess I could run over to Walgreens and get some medicine but I’ll probably just gut through the one remaining day.

Secondly… Wednesday. I planned on leading off at Bardog, then heading down to the park to help my team with last-minute setup. In previous years, I had been told that team members  with only gate hours wristbands, rather than 24-hour access wristbands, could get in the park on Wednesday up to a certain time (I’ve heard both noon and 3) and otherwise they’d have to wait until 5 when the park opens to the public. Knowing this, I made it a point to get down there at 11:35 so I’d beat the earlier time. The guard told me I couldn’t come in until 5.

So I walked back to the Blind Bear where I tried some of Tre’s mushroom stroganoff, a vegan dish with carnivore options that may be added to the lunch menu. While eating, I texted my team vice-president and told him what had happened. He replied that the guard at the south gate had let his wife, also without a 24, in with barely so much as a look. That’s the kind of thing I hate. They’re inconsistent.

They’re even inconsistent year to year. Last year, I did the same thing, went down to the gate about 11:30 AM. The volunteer working the gate gave me a kindergarten teacher-style lecture about how I’m supposed to have a 24 on, but “just this once I’m going to make an exception. Tomorrow, though…” Memphis in May, you really need to get your staff better organized on BBQ Fest Wednesday. The people at the gates are making a bad first impression on members whose teams have paid thousands of dollars to be part of your event.

Then there was the mandatory evacuation of the park Thursday night because of a few lightning bolts nearby. About 7:15 a deputy entered our booth and said, “If you have a green wristband (one of the 24s) you can stay. Everyone else has to go!” Of course, nobody left. We know how the game is played. The deputy did his part. Now, if the lightning struck someone without a 24, the lawyers would be able to say it was the person’s fault for not heeding the deputy’s instructions. Except the lighting stayed well to the north of us, and no one was in any danger of getting struck. I hate how they’ve been so quick to order mandatory evacuations in recent years. People would generally be safer sheltering in place in their booths besides, given that you have to walk for blocks and blocks to get to cover if you head for the hills.

The cellular service in the south part of the park was horrible, to the point that I didn’t get any PMs or Facebook notifications from 4 PM until the time I left the park. Once I got out of there I found I had missed PMs, missed texts, and 15 new notifications. If you contacted me about coming to the booth last night and I didn’t answer, sorry, I wasn’t trying to ignore you.

Of course, there were always issues at the door. I won’t go into detail here but we’re going to have to pull a couple of team members aside and have a talk with them about their guests. I do want to give our treasurer Misty big props on handling the door as flawlessly as could be given all that was going on. I also want to give props to our doorman Stone on a job done very well.

The booth really slowed down after the 11:00 hour, so we let Stone go early. By 11:30 I was ready to get out of there myself, and walked back into the booth for one last trip to the porta-potty and to get a road beer to last me while I walked to the north end of Tom Lee. I walked out the entrance to find Fratty McFratterson, who had no connection to anyone on the team whatsoever, sitting on Stone’s stool waving people into our booth. I turned around and stood next to him, and he went running off, meeting up with his bros further down the sidewalk. I guess he thought I was about to get my remaining teammates in the booth together and beat his ass.

Good luck to all the teams competing today. I’m going to do a little pre-gaming then head down to the park. Apologies if you find typos in this post. Too pressed for time to proofread today. Back tomorrow or Monday with more news.