So I went out tonight with no particular agenda in mind, and found an open barstool at Big Foot Lodge.

I couldn’t resist a 34 oz. Big Foot Beer. And after that, I couldn’t resist a second one.

So as I was almost done with the second one and about to leave, the owner comes up and tells the bartender, “Top that off for him.” At that point I had maybe 3 oz. left. But what was I going to do, say, no, I don’t want more beer?

So I sat there and continued to drink and watched their 6 TVs. And one of them was tuned to ESPN Classic and was showing footage of Nadia Comaneci scoring the first-ever perfect 10 in gymnastics.

Nadia Comaneci was from Romania.

And it reminded me of the evening of July 29, 2005. I was at the Saucer, throwing darts with my friend Ira. A new waitress, with an Eastern European accent, came up and asked if we needed drinks. And I asked her a question. I said, “Are you from Tennessee? Because you’re the only 10 I see”

She said, “No. I am not from Tennessee. I am from Romania”

Kinda funny, dontcha think, given Romania’s history of 10s?

~ drunk post

Off the beaten path: Stuff to do downtown that people forget about

Recently, another blogger (Kat, is it OK to link to you? thought I’d ask before doing it) commented that she needs to find stuff to do other than hang out on Beale Street when she comes downtown. She said she scans my blog for ideas and refers to me as a Memphis Social Master. Whoa… that’s quite a reputation to live up to, but I’ll give it a shot. In this entry I will talk about stuff that goes on downtown that often flies under people’s radar. Some of this stuff I’ve been to, some I haven’t, but it’s all going on.

Halfacre Gunroom at Earnestine & Hazel’s, Wednesday nights

This band has been described to me as a combination of rockabilly and punk rock. I stumbled in E&H one time on a Wednesday and ended up seeing them quite by accident. I thought they were all right (found out later that only half the members of the band were there that night) but I have several friends who just love them. My advice? Give ’em a try and decide for yourself. If nothing else, you can get a Soul Burger while you’re there. On the downside, Nate’s upstairs bar isn’t open during the week.

Nancy Apple’s Pickin’ Party at Kudzu’s, Thursday nights

Normally I’m not a big fan of country music but Nancy Apple is cool, and Kudzu’s is sort of her home base. As I understand it this is a night when people can bring their instruments and get up on stage and jam with her. I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve never been to Kudzu’s, even though it’s less than a mile from where I live. It’s a neighborhood bar, but its neighbors are a bread factory and whatever the current incarnation of Six-1-Six is. I understand it draws a loyal regular crowd though. I’ve been meaning to check this place out for too long.

Dr. William “Bill” Hurd at the Best Western Hotel on Union, Thursday nights

I mention this one out of sheer novelty. Never been. I can’t imagine the Best Western as an entertainment venue, and for that reason alone, I’m curious.

The Speakeasy at Jack Robinson Gallery, Thursday nights

One of the most diverse offerings in the entire city, any night of the week. Go there on Thursdays and you’ll find rock music, neo-soul, folk music, spoken-word poetry, comedy, performance art, you name it in a very chilled out atmosphere. They tend to have several performers in one night. I’m sorry to say I haven’t made it to this one yet either; I need to go soon.

Di Anne Price at Cielo, Fridays-Saturdays

Chill out to some jazz with a sense of humor in one of the most beautiful venues in the city. If you’ve never been to Cielo, you need to go just to see the place (it’s on Adams Avenue in a 19th-century Victorian mansion). Great place to take a date for dinner. Bring money; this place ain’t cheap, but it’s worth it. By far my favorite of Karen’s restaurants.

The Prime Cut Band at Marmalade Restaurant and Lounge, Fridays

I’ve always been curious about the Marmalade, a lounge on G.E. Patterson just far enough down the street to be off the beaten track. Few of my friends have ever been in, and I’m wondering if it’s a treasure waiting to be discovered, kind of like Raiford’s and Wild Bill’s were 10 years ago. One of these days I need to give it a try. On the downside: Cover is $10, according to a flyer I was handed at a recent Trolley Art Tour.

Pam & Terry at Sleep Out Louie’s, Saturdays

This one is well-known to most downtowners, but I mention it for the benefit of people from other parts of the city. As much time as I spend at Sunday brunch at Sleep Out’s, I’ve only been there on a Saturday night twice. There’s a very simple reason for this. When I go out on the weekend, I tend to walk out of my apartment and down Main Street to Union, where I turn left, because that’s the path to all the action (Big Foot, Peabody Place, the Saucer, Beale). It never occurs to me to turn right and check out Sleep Out’s. But having said that, Pam & Terry is a damn fine band, and the place is often packed with my neighbors from Number 10 Main and even some of the Sunday brunch drinking crew.

All right… I also have a few that perform on Beale… these are well-known to downtowners, and have been mentioned in my blog before, but again, for the benefit of readers from other parts of the city I’m going to mention them anyway.

Barbara Blue at Silky’s, Wednesdays-Saturdays and on Sundays except in winter

Best blues singer in the city, hands down. A voice like you would not believe. You gotta hear her for yourself. If you make requests, remember that it’s “please” or money. She’s usually on in the early evenings, something like 5 to 8 or 6 to 9. They have good Hurricanes here and are not as expensive as Pat O’s. Order a Diver ($18) and you better plan on taking a cab home.

Richard Johnston, on the sidewalk usually somewhere near the New Daisy, weekend nights when it’s warm

Just look for a guy in overalls playing a double-necked combination guitar/bass made out of a cigar box (it’s called a diddley bow). He also sings, and plays drums with his feet, so he’s a one-man band. If you live in Memphis you gotta see this guy perform at least once. He has this song called “Shelby County Courthouse” about his experience getting arrested that is just hilarious. “Shelby County Courthouse… the whole goddamn building can kiss my ass!” As you can tell, he’s not shy about using colorful language. He also hates record companies. If you’re really lucky, some of the local bums will be dancing to the beat, which can be every bit as entertaining as Richard himself. I normally am not a big fan of the bums, but sometimes I’ll break down and buy them a beer to applaud their dance moves.

FreeWorld at Blues City Cafe, Sundays

FreeWorld performs at a lot of venues around town, but seeing them at Blues City is something special. It’s their home base, has been for many years (even before the place was Blues City) and they’re comfortable there. It’s also a very comfortable vibe, a lot of service-industry workers showing up to unwind at the end of a hard week. You’re not a true downtowner until you’ve been to this at least once. The band doesn’t come on until 10:30 PM. Stop yer bitching about Monday being a workday; just take a nap early in the evening and show up. It’s worth it.

… and that’s my list for now. If you know anything about these places that I don’t, let me know and I’ll edit this post and add to it. Or if you can think of anything I missed, let me know that too. And now, it’s the weekend, which means it’s time to go pickle my brain and my liver. See you later…

Groundhog Day

I can’t resist making a comment about today being Groundhog Day, the second-stupidest holiday of the year (the stupidest occurs 12 days from now). Longtime blog readers have heard me rant on this before, but since I’ve picked up significant new readership, I’ll do it again. Every year on this day in Punxsutawney, PA, a stupid man in a stupid top hat pulls a stupid groundhog out of a stupid air-conditioned burrow and puts the stupid groundhog on the ground, where the stupid groundhog either sees its stupid shadow or it doesn’t. Then the stupid man in the stupid top hat lifts the stupid groundhog high over his head so the stupid media can take pictures and run stupid feel-good stories in the stupid newspapers about the stupid groundhog.

Oh, how I wish the stupid man in the stupid top hat would find a pair of goalposts and kick a 20-yard field goal with the stupid groundhog. I wish for it every year and it never happens.

If a stupid groundhog is the best that stupid town can do to attract some attention, then Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania must have about as much going for it as Earle, Arkansas. Which, I can assure you, is not much.

Happy Groundhog Day. Over and out.

The latest trend in gang symbols

About 10 years ago, one of my hobbies was driving through the ‘hood (with windows up and doors locked) to look at gang graffiti. I’d see a lot of six-pointed stars, winged hearts, and pitchforks, signifying the Gangster Disciples; and five-pointed stars and canes, indicating the Vice Lords.

Somtimes the symbols would be more elaborate. A picture of a joint next to a dollar sign indicated “drugs for sale at this location.” The number 187 next to someone’s name was a death threat (187 is the California criminal code for homicide). A six-pointed star next to an exploding cane or exploding five-pointed star would indicate that the Gangster Disciples were declaring war on the Vice Lords (“6 poppin, 5 droppin”).

Well, Sunday I was talking with a friend at Sleep Out’s, and he told me that these days, gangs have a new way of identifying themselves: specialty license plates.

One gang apparently uses the Tennessee Walking Horse plate to indicate membership. My friend commented on seeing a tricked-out Caprice Classic with risers and spinner rims rolling down the street. “You know he ain’t got no damn horse,” he said.

Another gang uses the Tennessee Arts Commission Fish plate to mark their vehicles. Not sure which gang goes with which plate.

So the next time you see one of those plates, it may not indicate that the driver has a love for horses or the arts, but rather a love for crack cocaine, bling bling, ho’s, and 9 mm semiautomatic pistols.

Wednesday evening update

– This blog broke the threshold of 100 visits per day for the first time this week, with 139 hits on Monday and another 110 on Tuesday. Recently I was looking at the entry where I posted pics of the Romanians, which would have been mid-September, and speculated that the pics of pretty girls might bump the visits per day to 30-35. This thing has really caught on for some reason…

– An organization called Diversity Memphis was featured Monday in the Commercial Appeal. Looks like a good group, providing a viewpoint that is much needed in a city that badly needs to embrace racial and cultural differences. Here’s a link to their site.

– A few weeks ago I posted a blog entry about downtown attorney Stephanie Calvert, and offered a memory trick – Lord Calvert is what the bums drink, and Stephanie Calvert is the person to go to for legal advice. Well, as it turns out there’s more of a connection there than I realized. The real-life Lord Calvert founded the colony of Maryland, and the Calvert family seal is Maryland’s state flag. Perhaps Stephanie should hand out miniature bottles of Lord Calvert with her business cards. Every bum in town would want her as their lawyer.

– Had a really good time at Drinking Liberally at Sleep Out’s last night. It made a few of us wonder if downtown is ready for its own chapter of Drinking Liberally, independent of the one that meets in Midtown. I mean, when I first heard about the organization, I meant to attend at least a couple of times a month. But how often have I actually been to the Midtown meetings? Once. It’s just a matter of logistics – if I drove my car there I’d have to limit myself to one beer so I’m not driving home drunk (and that’s no fun). I could ride my bike out there, but that’s an awful lot of work. If there were a chapter downtown I’d go all the time. A few of us are talking about it, we’ll see what happens…

– The latest news on planned upgrades for Sleep Out’s: New sound system, new big screen plasma TV (yes!), Guinness on tap (they better not get rid of the PBR to make that happen), new barstools (BADLY needed), and NTN Trivia. NTN Trivia is not like trivia night at the Saucer and Mulligan’s where there’s a human announcing the questions… instead, it’s computer-controlled, you get a keypad to play on, and a new game starts every half hour. When I was a corporate trainer traveling out of town, I played it a few times. It’s highly addictive. Sleep Out’s made a good move getting it – people will stay longer and run up bigger bar tabs.

– Speaking of Sleep Out’s… if you’re looking for a place to watch the Super Bowl on Sunday, it would be a good choice. They’ll have beer specials and I think I saw a sign saying free hot dogs and popcorn. They will also be drawing for some AWESOME prizes. However, I won’t make it to Sleep Out’s for very long that day, because I’ve been invited to a Super Bowl party at Barton Flats. At some point I may take a break for half an hour to walk over there and enjoy one of Lisa’s bloody marys.

– Ow! I think I knocked out a filling eating fajitas Monday night. My tooth hurt a little Tuesday, and I shouldn’t have eaten anything (which I knew would make it worse) but I had leftover food and it was too good to throw out. Well, I paid for it today – the tooth hurt like hell and by 2:00 I had to tell the boss I needed to take the rest of the day off. When I’m in pain, there’s nothing worse than sitting in a cubicle counting the minutes until quitting time. So I came home and tried various attempts to make the pain go away. Advil (I now have Advil that’s not past the expiration date)… didn’t work. Anbesol… didn’t work. Ice… didn’t work. By late afternoon I was practically screaming in pain, and starving. But I realized ice cream was about the only thing I could eat (I really wanted Gus’s chicken but knew better), so I walked to Walgreens. Half an hour later I had finished a pint of chocolate mint, and the tooth pain was gone. Hopefully a good night’s sleep will put an end to the pain for good, and I’ll avoid an unwanted trip to the dentist.

Pink flamingos

I just got home from Drinking Liberally at Sleep Out’s and I can honestly I don’t remember one damn word of Bush’s speech. We played the State of the Union Drinking Game. I had 4 PBRs, then I got smart and just ordered a pitcher.

The artist I mentioned in the post from a couple of days ago is Lawrence Edwards. The particular piece I referred to, with the flamingos and pigs on the roller coaster, is Night Carnival (1999). If anyone wants to buy me a piece of his work, in appreciation for all this blogging, I’ll accept it.

Thanks to dwayne Butcher for the info.

I’ll be hung over tomorrow, so if I post anything intelligent it will be a surprise.

Looking for an IT job?

The following ad appeared in Sunday’s Commercial Appeal:

WEB PROGRAMMER/ DATA ANALYST National Advertising Services Company currently has the following opening in our IT Department for a Web Programmer/Data Analyst. Qualified candidate will work with IT Manager and Client Services Manager to maintain and enhance high profile, high traffic Website with ASP classic and ASP.NET front end , and MS SQL Server backend. Qualified candidate will have substantial practical experience with these technologies, and should include specific description of such in response to this posting. Email or mail resumes to: The Advertising Checking Bureau, Inc. 1610 Century Center Pkwy., Ste. 104. Memphis, TN. 38134 No Phone calls/EOE

This is the company I work for, an open position that is equivalent to mine. The company has a very laid-back atmosphere – we wear jeans to work most days, business casual when clients are in the office. It’s a 7.5 hour work day – I usually get in at 9:00 and leave at 5:00 with a ~30 minute lunch. In the year and a half I’ve been here, there have been very few instances in which I have had to work overtime (although it can happen when we take on new clients or roll out new programs). The boss is a very good about giving you projects that will help you grow as a programmer. Most likely you’d be developing rebate and spiff web applications for major companies. Some of our clients include GM, Panasonic, Whirlpool, Xerox, and Shell. Our office is in a corporate office park near I-240 and Whitten Road. Pay tends to be about average, but this is a great place to learn and is about as free of stress as you can hope to find in a corporate setting.

So if you’re looking for an IT job, I encourage you to apply. If you have questions you can shoot them to paul at paulryburn dot com.

Tastings: A Wine Experience

Recently a couple of friends of mine returned from a trip to St.Petersburg, and they told me about a very interesting place they visited down there. It’s called Tastings, and it’s a wine bar – but it’s different from any wine bar we have here in Memphis.

The atmosphere, they tell me, is much like Le Chardonnay here – comfortable, with couches and chairs, very easygoing, conducive to conversation as you sip your wine. But the difference is how you go about getting your wine.

When you go in, you put money on a debit card, much like you would to use the copier at Kinko’s. Then you get a glass and go to one of the kiosks found throughout the restaurant. The kiosks offer various wines – merlots, cabernets, chardonnays, etc. When you decide on the one you want, you insert your debit card and the kiosk pours an ounce of that wine.

The prices of the wine samples vary. A cheap wine might be only a buck or two for a sample. A more expensive wine could run you $8.

There are stations where you can wash your glass out with water between tastings, and you can get a new glass if you don’t want to keep using the same one. There’s also a full bar where you can buy full glasses or bottles of the wines, and there’s a food menu. The kiosks offer a very diverse selection – over 120 wines to choose from, according to their website.

My friends were initially disappointed when their first samples dribbled out of the kiosk. These are experienced drinkers we’re talking about, and an ounce isn’t very much. But by the time they had spent 15, 18 dollars, they began to notice the effects. “Hey, we better slow down,” they said.

What a great idea. We need something like this in Memphis. As much as I love downtown, though, my intuition tells me this would work best in Midtown. Not sure if she still reads my blog, but if you do: ATTN TONYA: quit your job, move back to Memphis, let’s find a financial backer and open a franchise location of this place. We’d make a FORTUNE.

That is, if this place would even be allowed under Tennessee’s liquor laws, and I’m not sure it would. A bartender can cut you off when you’ve had enough; a debit card can’t. For that reason I’m not even sure it could get a license to operate here.

Hmmm… maybe I should drive down to St.Pete and do some research. No, that would take too much time, and I’m too busy at work to take off right now. Maybe I’ll do the next best thing and just buy a bunch of bottles of wine and drink them.

Link to website for Tastings: A Wine Experience

Drinking Liberally comes downtown

For one night only tomorrow night, Drinking Liberally will meet downtown at Sleep Out Louie’s. It will be a special event, as we watch Captain Dumbass – er, I mean, President Bush – fumble his way through the State of the Union address.

Drinking Liberally is a group of people who come together once a week to drink, socialize and discuss politics. They generally hold a liberal/progressive point of view but have been known to welcome open-minded Republicans (I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but there actually are some, I’ve met them) as well.

Event is at 7:30 pm Tuesday, January 31 at Sleep Out Louie’s, on Union between Front and Main downtown. There’s parking across the street at Parking Can Be Fun.

TRIVIA TEAM: Guess what, this means I’m going to miss another week.

Wine post still to come.