Lots o’ random stuff

As I was driving to work today, I noticed that Deliberate Literate on Union is closing! I always liked that bookstore; sad to see it go. I felt like my IQ went up by a few points when I went in there. If you want anything DL has left, better get by there for their closing sale.

Speaking of IQ, today is Memphis poet laureate IQ’s birthday. Buy him a beer if you see him at Pint Nite at the Saucer tonight. If you don’t read this until tomorrow, I’m sure he’ll accept birthday beers later in the week, too.

Saw a sign for a new place opening up at 509 S. Main where Memphis Heritage used to be. It’s called Modes du Jour and the sign says they will have shoes, accessories, and clothes. Looks like a women’s clothing store I guess. They have a website but right now it’s just a splash page.

Early voting starts Wednesday! Don’t forget to vote early and avoid the crowds on Election Day. Here’s a link to a CA article with more information.

That reminds me, here’s a joke I heard yesterday at Sleep Out’s:
Q: Why don’t Republican congressmen use bookmarks?
A: They just bend the page over.

B.B. King will be performing two shows at his club on Beale Street Sunday and Monday, October 29 and 30. Shows start at 9:30 PM. More info available on the club’s site.

By the way, I still have a few VIP passes to B.B. King’s club to give away to downtowners who will use them. Passes get you in for free (except for special or ticketed events like B.B.’s shows) and get you a 10% discount on drinks. They’re not one-time-only; you can use them over and over again as often as you want. They can also be used at the Nashville and Los Angeles locations. E-mail me if you want one.

Here’s the running list of the Halloween stuff I’ve heard of so far:

Friday 10/27: My apartment building’s party

Saturday 10/28: The Chicken Tractor party at Newby’s, which I’ve heard is good, and if you’re lucky you’ll get to make out with regular blog reader Mendi.

I’ve also heard Atlas will be throwing a good party Saturday night. According to the guys who were sitting next to me yesterday afternoon at the Saucer, the Atlas party got pretty wild last year. They mentioned something about females at the party with tape covering strategic areas and not much else. Hmmm.

Edited to add: Just learned that Dan McGuinness will be having a Halloween party Sat 10/28 as well. Very, very high probability I’ll show up for that one.

Sunday 10/29: Uptown is having a neighborhood chili cookoff, pumpkin carving contest, and house decoration contest from noon to 6. Unlike everything else mentioned here, this one is kid-friendly.

Tuesday 10/31: Parties at Sleep Out’s and Bluefin. “Spooky” team trivia night (and the hottest Beer Goddess ever to set foot in the place) at the Flying Saucer.

If you know of more events, e-mail me. I’m especially interested in events downtown. I’m wondering if the 450 Stonewall party is not happening this year, since they still have the ’05 party info on their site.

Air America Radio has filed for bankruptcy, according to The Smoking Gun. Wonder if they’ll stay on the air or shut down for good. I hope they stay on through the November elections, at least.

That’s all the news for now. I probably won’t make it to Pint Nite tonight – need to catch up on chores around the apartment. I’ll be out later in the week though…

Sunday update: Vagrants, my world famous blog, Dos Equis Special Lager

Just now I walked up the Main Street Mall to Jack’s to buy my morning Mountain Dew and my Sunday paper. As I passed Court Square, there was a group of five bums, obviously already drunk, sitting on the benches near the entrance to the park, hooting and hollering and screaming and carrying on. I looked across the mall and I saw a couple eating breakfast on the patio of Sleep Inn, clearly appalled at what they were seeing. Two more people who will leave with a negative impression of Downtown. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Memphis will never have a first-class downtown until the city gets serious about cleaning up the bum/vagrant/panhandling issue. Other cities do it; why can’t we? Smart City’s blog had an excellent post on the matter a couple of weeks ago.

As I walked up the mall, I noticed the the Main Street Convenience Store on the first floor of The Renaissance Apts./99 Tower has closed. Downtowners have given the place various nicknames over the years – “Ghandi Mart,” “Haji’s Fart Mart,” etc. Never thought that place would close, but there’s butcher paper and a “For Lease” sign in the window. Guess the store was kind of redundant with Jack’s right across the street.

Friday night I stopped in the Tap Room for a beer, and Niles the bartender told me, “Paul! You’re world famous!” I asked what he meant. “Today we had people from India come in here, and they told us that they had to stop in because they read about the Tap Room on your blog!” That’s pretty cool. Hope they not only had a beer, but something to eat off King’s Palace/Tap Room’s excellent menu, which I’ll say once again is the best on Beale.

Earlier this year, a lot of people were upset when the Flying Saucer stopped selling Dos Equis Special Lager on draft. In my opinion (and a lot of people apparently agree), the Special Lager is a better beer than the more common Dos Equis Amber. Well, if you want it all you have to do is walk up the street… Rio Loco has it on draft, and keep in mind that they have Happy Hour from 2 to 10 where you can get a 25 oz. mug for $3.99.

All right… short post today because I’ve got a full plate of activities. From 11 to about 1:30 I’ll be at Sleep Out’s (don’t forget, this is bartender Kimberley’s last day, so come say goodbye), then I’ll be doing the Downtown Home Tour the rest of the afternoon. After that I’ll hit Huey’s for the last hour of Di Anne Price’s set, and all of The Dempseys’ performance. As always, plans subject to change but this looks like what I’ll be doing. Looks like it’s going to be a beautiful day.

Broad Avenue Gallery Walk

Last night I went to the art gallery walk on the 2500 block of Broad Avenue. For those not familiar with the area, Broad used to be the street that ran from East Parkway to the beginning of the freeway (Sam Cooper Blvd.) that turns into the I-40. But since they extended Sam Cooper Blvd. all the way to East Parkway, Broad is now a somewhat-forgotten street in between Summer and Sam Cooper. However, it is experiencing a comeback, with developers seeing potential in the area, people moving into residential units, and new art galleries opening. Last night they had their first-ever art gallery walk, with the galleries staying open until 8 and serving wine and cheese, so I decided to check it out.

My favorite of the art exhibits I saw was one featuring comic book art, at Adam Shaw studio. Here are links to some of the artists:

Great exhibit! Muley the Mule rules.

I wandered through a few other galleries as well. I spent a few minutes talking to the people at Archicast, who do architectural casting and repair statues. Lots of statues and pillars and columns in their shop. I also caught the artwork of Nashville artist Ben Vitualla, who seems to have an obsession with targets, at a gallery called Material.

Elsewhere on the street, Broadway Pizza is still open. They’ve been there since 1977 and it looks like they haven’t changed their decor since the day they opened – but I like that, reminds me of pizza parlors I went to when I was a kid. I’ve lived in Memphis 19 years and have not yet tried their pizza. Next time I go to one of the gallery walks (I’m assuming there will be more) I’m gonna have to order a pizza to take home.

I also walked through The Beer Joint, a dive bar on Broad that has been there forever. It’s currently being renovated, and according to a sign on the window, will reopen as “The Cove.” I immediately loved the place – dark, pictures of pirate ships, nautical decor. I spent some time talking to the owner, and he said he plans on retaining as much of the funkiness of the place as possible. He told me the renovation will take a while but the bar will reopen sometime in 2007. Keep an eye on this one – I have a feeling, if done right, this could become THE hip dive-bar hangout in the years to come. (Although, I should point out, I have absolutely zero qualifications to tell anyone where the “hipster” hangouts are in Memphis – look to Richens or RachelAndTheCity for that.) When I was in there, I kinda sorta got a little of the same feeling I get when I hang out at Earnestine & Hazel’s, or The Buccaneer, which is a good sign.

The Beer Joint was one of only three or four bars in Memphis that was open before they passed the law that beer sales stop at 3 AM – so they were “grandfathered in” and could serve 24/7. Since they’re changing the name and closing for renovations, I’m not sure they’ll be able to keep their grandfathered status (and they may not want to – the owner told me he’s going for a different clientele this time around).

And there were so many storefronts just waiting for something cool to happen. I walked past a pool room that appeared to be closed, and wished someone would reopen it.

As I walked, I thought to myself, Broad Avenue could turn into something similar to Adams Avenue in the Normal Heights neighborhood of San Diego. For those of you who haven’t been to SD, Adams is a four-lane road that runs east-west. It isn’t heavily traveled, because most people use two other roads, Washington Avenue and University Avenue, to get where they’re going. But for those who know it’s there, Adams is filled with unique and funky antique shops, art galleries, coffeehouses, dark little bars, bookstores, ethnic restaurants, and such. Broad is a long way away – again, it’s still in the very early stages of its comeback – but I can see it happening in ten years’ time.

Not sure if they’ll do these gallery walks on a monthly basis, but next time they have one, it’ll be worth your time to go.

Skank-o-ween

Last night, I was talking to one of the regular readers of this blog at the Flying Saucer, and she asked me for suggestions for her Halloween costume.

“Stripper?” I replied. “Belly dancer? Slut from an ’80s rock video?” Someone else suggested she dress as Mr.Hankey the talking turd from South Park. “Yeah!” I told her. “You could wear a skintight brown bodysuit with absolutely nothing on underneath.”

She rejected those costume ideas but she agreed with the overall theme. “Whatever I’m going to be, it has to be skanky,” she said. “It’s Skank-o-ween!”

If you have any ideas for costumes she can wear for Skank-o-ween, e-mail me and I’ll forward them to her.

Also… what Halloween parties are going on this year? I know of several already… the one in my apartment building, the Chicken Tractor one, the one at Sleep Out’s. What else will be going on? If you hear of anything, send it to me, and if it sounds good I’ll post it. (Warning: I reserve the right to make fun of parties that sound lame… parties taking place in East Bumblefuck or at the “U-Club” being the most likely to draw sarcastic comments)

Just got up with the usual Saturday morning hangover… but, I went to the Broad Avenue Gallery Walk last night and really enjoyed it. Soon as I take a shower and drink a Mountain Dew I’ll be posting about that.

Cantenna – do these things work?

There’s this device called the Cantenna that you can buy, that connects to your laptop and is supposed to greatly extend its wireless range, allowing you to find more wireless networks to jump on to.

Here’s what I’m thinking: There’s free wireless Internet at Court Square. I live at 10 South Main, about a block away. I wonder, if I bought a Cantenna and pointed it at Court Square, would I get a steady, fast, reliable connection? Because if I could, and I knew I could depend on it whenever I’m at home, then I could get rid of Road Runner and save myself 45 bucks a month.

Has anyone tried one of these Cantennas? Do they work? By how much do they extend your range? If you have experience with these, could you please shoot me an e-mail and let me know what you think. Thanks.

Thursday update: Sixties book, my photos in National Trust Preservation magazine, progressive dinner downtown, and more

There was no lunchtime post today because I went to Bookstar and Old Navy in my lunch hour. At Bookstar I bought The Sixties Chronicle, a 480-page oversized book filled with pictures, people and events of the 1960s, organized by year. Here’s a link to the book’s listing on Amazon, but if you’re in Memphis you’d be better off buying it at the Poplar/Highland Bookstar, which has it on sale for $14.98. Looking forward to reading it… I’ve always been fascinated with the Sixties. No other decade in the past 100 years has seen American society and values change so much.

Books like this one are among the reasons why I’ve gotten so good at trivia. The book will have a picture and a paragraph about a notable person from the 1960s… I’ll want to know more and search for that person on Wikipedia. And then from that person’s article, I’ll probably jump off to several other Wikipedia articles and learn even more. Man… if Wikipedia had been around 10 years ago, by now I’d be ready to become a contestant on Jeopardy and make a fortune.

Earlier today, The National Trust e-mailed me. They asked if they could use some of my photos of last Friday’s Downtown Memphis fire in Preservation, their online magazine. I checked ’em out and they sound like a really good organization – “The National Trust provides leadership, education, advocacy and resources to save America’s diverse historic places and revitalize our communities,” it says on their site – so I gave them my permission. A few hours later, the magazine article was already up – check it out.

Crap. I gotta run to Walgreens before they close. Hang on…

…Okay, back. Walgreens had the Beatles’ “Eight Days a Week” and Stevie Wonder’s “I Was Made to Love Her” playing over the PA. If they keep playing such good music, I’m gonna have to start going in there just to hang out, even if I don’t need to buy anything.

As I was walking back, I noticed a flyer for an upcoming progressive dinner, to be held on November 1st at four of the finest restaurants Downtown – McEwen’s, Stella, Grill 83, and Felicia Suzanne’s. Diners will have appetizers at one restaurant, entrees at another, dessert at another… you get the idea. Kind of expensive ($85 per person + tax + tip) but there’s no doubt you’d be eating some outstanding food. See the pic below for details.


… and that’s about all for now. Oh, the architect in charge of redeveloping the big white tower in Court Square e-mailed to say that it is indeed Lincoln-American with an “n,” not Lincoln-America.

It’s cold outside and that’s going to give me a perfect excuse not to go out and drink umpteen beers and feel like ass the next morning like I usually do. Besides, I want to read my new book. Back tomorrow (probably) with more to say!

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 Amazon.com 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.