Apr 152014
 

Many people don’t look forward to April 15, Tax Day, but there is one good thing about today: Many businesses help ease the pain of writing Uncle Sam a check by offering free stuff. Action News 5 has a list. There’s everything from curly fries to cookies to sandwiches to bloomin’ onions and more for free today. Since many of the restaurants on the list are chains and operate in the Bay Area, I can say this: Free food? Wonder if the Nuh-Uh Girl will show up.

Tickets for games 3 and 4 of the NBA first-round playoffs go on sale at FedExForum Saturday at 10 AM. Dates and times of the games, and the Grizzlies’ opponent, have yet to be determined. There is no way the team will have home court advantage, so we know we’re getting games 3 and 4 rather than 1 and 2. The Grizzlies clinched a playoff berth last night with a win over Phoenix. Although currently in 8th place, Memphis could move up to 7th with a win over Dallas tomorrow night. A 7 seed would be a big improvement because it would mean the team we would face in the first round would not be the San Antonio Spurs.

On Sundays, the Tennessee Brewery Untapped project will have a beer garden with benefits. Locally-brewed beer will be available for purchase, and beer drinkers will be refunded a $1 token, which they can donate to any of several participating nonprofits. The Untapped project will match donations. The beer garden will run from April 27 to June 1 on Sundays. Haven’t heard about the Untapped project? Check out this Daily News article.

Win a hockey stick: From tomorrow through Sunday, Kooky Canuck will celebrate the NHL playoffs with $5 High Voltage Canadian bottles. Enter to win a hockey stick by Fischer Hockey.

Vol basketball fans: Cuonzo is gone. He’s the new head coach at Cal.

I’ll be at Blind Bear for their Tuesday poker game tonight (free to play, 8 PM). Prior to that I’ll pre-game with a few beers at the Flying Saucer. Back at work today and ready for my next 3-day weekend, which I’m taking the weekend of wing fest and Rajun Cajun crawfish fest.

Apr 142014
 

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The Great Beale Street Wine Race happened yesterday afternoon. It was a beautiful day, the rain held off, and many people gathered to watch the four Wine Race events. I haven’t been happy with my photo albums for recent years’ wine races, because I tended to drink multiple Call-a-Cabs from Wet Willie’s and have had to go home to take a nap before the last event, the wine relay, was under way. So I decided to take a different approach to Wine Race this year – I didn’t drink. As a result, I got a much more complete photo album in years past.

The race kicked off with a parade. (Note: The photos on the blog are going to be somewhat Blind Bear-centric, but I tried to get good photos of every team and especially the Downtown ones. At the end of this post I’ll provide a link to the entire photo album.)

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The Blind Bear float pre-race

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One of the most original outfits in the parade. I believe this was Fleming’s steakhouse.

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Double J

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Parade winners Club 152

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Bella

The second event was the Queen of the Vine. Ladies from each participating restaurant dance on stage and try to impress the judges. Each contestant is asked a question to give her the chance to show that she possesses brains and talent as well as beauty.

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The judges. That’s musician Muck Sticky on the end in pajama pants.

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Hanin answering her interview question

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Ruffin leading the cheers for Hanin

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For the first time ever, the judges’ vote ended in a mathematical tie. The audience was asked to break the tie between these two. They were each given one final chance to show what they could do.

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And the winner was…

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She represented Mesquite Chop House Southaven, if I remember correctly.

I have to say I was impressed with the Queen of the Vine contestants this year. None of them were trashy, none of them were ghetto, none of them were pregnant (as far as I could tell). Big improvement over previous years.

The next event was the grape stomp. I didn’t get to take pictures of this one because I was catching up with an old friend who just moved back to Memphis. Each contestant gets a tub filled with grapes and is given a certain amount of time to stomp them. At the end, the juice is poured out, strained, and measured. The contestant who produced the most juice won. This one went to Huey’s.

The final event is the wine relay, where four runners from each team run wine bottles and glasses up and down Beale. It’s important to get a good spot to watch all the action. Some of my friends were upstairs on the balconies at Jerry Lee’s, but after going up there for a minute I decided it was a bad idea. I could get better photos from street level, especially the expressions on the runners’ faces. Also, if I stayed at Jerry Lee’s I’d be obligated to buy a drink, and as I said I was trying to avoid drinking until Wine Race was over. So a few friends and I went back to street level and staked out an excellent spot.

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Jermaine getting a few dance moves in prior to the start of the race

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Uncle Ray

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Backey from the Silly Goose making his run

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… and running back because he forgot the team corkscrew. At Wine Race, teams are scored not only by their finishing time. They are also scored on the volume of wine they bring back, and whether all the bottles, glasses, corks, and corkscrew are on the tray.

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This guy had things well under control, until he decided to skip to the finish line. That turned out to be not such a good idea.

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Spectators were asked to stay out of the relay lanes, a request ignored by the Jack Binion’s Steakhouse team.

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Hoop making the run for Silky’s

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Suzy’s leg of the race for Double J didn’t go very well. I think Suzy should have run the race in a tube top.

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Note that the wine bottles are on their side. The wine relay was pretty much a disaster for Double J.

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Wilbur

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After dropping three of his bottles, this guy decided to pour the fourth bottle over his head.

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Colin

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Jamie

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Jeannette

… and you saw what happened to the Blind Bear in the fourth leg of the race. Whitney was doing very well until she lost control of her tray about 20 feet from the finish line. Congratulations to Huey’s, who won the race. They must spend considerable time practicing. I don’t know if I could run that fast without carrying a tray and bottles.

After the last heat wrapped up, it was time for post-Wine Race festivities, or “the shitshow” as many Downtowners call it. However, I had to figure out which shitshow to take part in. Some of my friends from the Squeal Street BBQ team were going to the Beale Street Tap Room to watch the end of the Masters, but I couldn’t care less about golf so I looked for another option. Flying Saucer? Nope, I decided that would be too tame since they didn’t have a team in Wine Race. Since I had a Blind Bear shirt on, I figured I might as well go to the Bear and see what would develop.

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Remember how I said I didn’t drink any Call-a-Cabs at Wine Race? Well, some other people didn’t have that plan. Here’s Daniel (on the left) having just woken up from a long nap on the Blind Bear’s couch in the back.

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Why am I posting a photo of a glass? Well, here’s the deal. My friend Mike and I were hanging out at the Blind Bear’s bar with three folks who were off-duty after day shift at the Saucer. A round of car bombs came out. Four of the five of us finished their car bombs. Who didn’t? You might be inclined to guess me, if you know that I hate car bombs. But no, it was Mike who didn’t get the job done. Be sure to ask Mike about that the next time you see him.

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After much heckling from the rest of the group, Mike finally finished off his car bomb, after it had gotten all curdled. Yuck!

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Here I am with my BBQ teammate Gary and Naomi and Cassie from the Saucer. I seem to remember several shots of Fireball around this time.

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I didn’t play the Bear’s Sunday poker game. I always skip poker when I have the day off the next day. It was much more well attended than I would have thought, to the point that they had three tables running and the blinds reached the rarely-seen 40,000/80,000 level.

An excellent Sunday with friends. Spring festival season for 2014 is now in full swing. Next weekend will be relatively slow due to Easter, but the weekend after that we’ll have the opening of Tennessee Brewery Untapped and South Main Dirty Dozen’s Carnaval de Panama on Friday, Memphis Brewfest and Hot Wing Fest on Saturday, and Rajun Cajun Crawfish Fest on Sunday. We’ll probably have Grizzlies playoff games to watch too. It’s that time of year when things are getting exciting!

Apr 132014
 

If you’ve read my blog for years, you can just skip this post. You already know. This post is for the newcomers.

Once a year, Memphis restaurant bartenders and servers come together for a celebration before they embark on the busy season that begins with Memphis in May. The event happens on Beale Street, kicking things off with a parade running from Fourth to Handy Park. Many restaurants build elaborate floats for the parade; some dispense with the float altogether and just walk.

The parade ends at Handy Park, at Third and Beale, where there is an amphitheater. There the “Queen of the Vine” beauty contest begins. One by one the girls representing area restaurants are introduced. They have a few minutes to shake their stuff, then there is a question for each girl to answer. Then the girls shake their stuff again and then a winner is chosen.

Now, the thing is, usually about half the Queen of the Vine participants are lovely young women; for example, my friend Amanda “Panda” who was the 2011 winner, and my friend Trish who was the 2012 winner. How to describe the other half of the girls? A friend of mine found the perfect word in a conversation at the Silly Goose last week – ratchet.

After Queen of the Vine, there is a grape stomp in Handy Park near the bar area. This isn’t as much fun to watch as Queen of the Vine, and a lot of people use it as a break to go get a drink. Where to do that? Well, IF YOU’RE NOT DRIVING I recommend walking across the street to Wet Willie’s and getting a Call-a-Cab. This fruit punch-flavored daiquiri, in the large serving, contains about as much alcohol as four and a half beers. One of those will do you right. I don’t recommend drinking more than one unless you’re a pro.

After the grape stomp, the action moves back to Beale for the final event, the wine relay. Teams of four from each restaurant compete. The first runner has to open a bottle of wine, pour a glass, place bottle and glass on a tray, and run to the other end of the track. There, the second team member opens a second bottle of wine, pours a second glass, and runs back with both bottles and glasses. The third team member runs with three bottles and glasses, the fourth with four. If a team drops their tray, they are disqualified. For those not disqualified, fastest time wins. Huey’s is known for winning this thing most years. Recently I found out their secret: Team members are not allowed to drink until Wine Race is over. What fun is that? The whole point of Wine Race is for servers to have a day to blow off steam.

Once the wine relay ends, it’s time to party at the bars Downtown. Want me to recommend some places? Okay, I will.

If you want to remain on Beale Street, Jerry Lee Lewis’s place (formerly Pat O’s), Silky O’ Sullivan’s, and the Beale Street Tap Room are all good.

The Silly Goose. This is a lounge about a block northwest of Beale, on Peabody Place. This place will be a complete shitshow starting about 5 PM. If you like PBR, the Goose’s is among the cheapest Downtown.

The Blind Bear. This is a speakeasy on Main Street a block and a half north of Beale, right before Gayoso. The Bear will most likely win at least one of the four Wine Race events and it should be a big party in there. I will be wearing one of the Bear’s Wine Race T-shirts today. They will have their usual poker game at 6:30, although I don’t intend to play, as I never do when I have the next day off. (Disclosure: I’m a bit biased toward the Bear because they are my BBQ team’s sponsor.)

Many Downtowners take the Monday after Wine Race out, so they can stay out late and party with their favorite bartenders and servers. If you didn’t take the day off, you could always call in sick. Trust me, if you drink multiple Call-a-Cabs you won’t be lying about being sick.

I’ll have the camera with me – not my iPhone cam (well, I’ll have that too) but my real camera with 14x zoom. Come find me and say hello – I’ll have my red Blind Bear T-shirt on and khaki shorts probably.

My friend Air Traffic Mike won’t be here today but he has a post on Wine Race in his blog that is worth a read. Unfortunately the “stalky” blogger he refers to will almost certainly be there.

There is no greater day of debauchery in Downtown Memphis, with the possible exception of BBQ Fest. Parade starts at 1 PM. Come join the fun and be a part of it, if you dare!

 

Apr 122014
 

Tonight is the first fireworks night of the season at AutoZone Park. After the conclusion of the Redbirds game, there will be a fireworks display set to Memphis music. This is the first of 14 fireworks nights this season. Select Redbirds players will be in the plaza signing autographs from 5:00 to 5:30. PRO TIP: Get those autographs. From what I’ve been told, the Redbirds are loaded with talent this year, and many of the players would be called up to the majors except for the fact that the Cardinals are loaded with talent also. You could find yourself holding some major-league autographs within a year. Free 2014 Redbirds schedule magnet to the first 3000 fans. First pitch is at 6:05 PM.

If you feel like a trip to Midtown, the Overton Square crawfish festival is happening today from 12 to 6.

It’s also opening day at Mud Island River Park. Park opens at 10 and there will be a rock ‘n’ romp there this afternoon.

If you’re going to the Memphis Farmers Market, check out South Main Book Juggler afterward. At 1 PM they will have an after-the-market reading by Mississippi poets.

I want to send a shout-out to Tamp & Tap. A friend of mine is a member of a social organization that throws parties around Memphis, and he needed to set up its monthly happy hour. After not having calls returned by another Downtown business, he called Tamp & Tap. They told him repeatedly, “we’ll take good care of you” and indeed they did, reserving a private area with plenty of room for the 25+ attendees of the happy hour.

Shawn from Kooky Canuck tweeted that the restaurant is getting ready to launch some new menu items in the next two weeks: Maple Bacon Burger, Poutine Grilled Cheese, & Bacon Waffle Monte Cristo.

A bill has passed the Tennessee Senate allowing high-gravity beer to be sold in grocery stores. The House now has to pass a similar bill. The bill would allow beer with up to 8% ABV to be sold in groceries.

Time to start off my 3-day weekend right, at Panda’s bar at Bardog at 11. High of around 80 is predicted for today. Tube top weather!

Apr 112014
 

Memphis Beer Week makes its return April 21-26. Events will be held at restaurants, bars, and other places in Memphis that sell beer that week. Here’s the complete list of events. I’ll say more about the events as time gets closer.

Yesterday I blogged that famous St. Louis restaurant Sweetie Pie’s will be coming to Beale Street. Since then I have learned the exact location: It will be in the old Have a Nice Day Cafe location at Fourth and Beale. The restaurant, by the way, has its own TV show on the Oprah network.

Yesterday I stopped by the Blind Bear to pick up a new T-shirt:

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I’ll be supporting the Bear in my new T-shirt Sunday for Beale Street Wine Race. Events start at 1 with a parade into Handy Park. That will be followed by Queen of the Vine, a grape stomp, and a 4-person wine relay. This is an event that is a must-see. (Might not want to bring your kids unless they’ve grown up around the service industry.) The formal events end around 5 and then it’s a big party at all the Downtown bars will last into the night. Past experience has taught me that it’s a very good idea to take a vacation day the Monday after Wine Race, so this is a 3-day weekend for me.

Now this is very cool: Turn ice cream into muffins with only one extra ingredient

In France, it is now illegal to answer work emails after 6 PM.

Grizzlies play the Philadelphia 76ers at the FedExForum. As important as it was that the Grizzlies beat a good team, Miami, it’s equally important that we not lose to a dreadful team like Philly in order to make the playoffs. I hope Adonis Thomas gets put in and gets a nice ovation from the crowd.

A few more hours, then my three-day weekend begins. I will probably lead off at Bardog tonight and figure out the rest from there.

Apr 102014
 

This morning Paul Morris, who runs DMC, made an announcement on Twitter: Sweetie Pie’s Kitchen has signed a lease on Beale Street. The restaurant serves Mississippi style cooking and is quite well-known in the St. Louis area.

Opening night for the Redbirds is tomorrow night, with the first pitch at 7:05. The plaza area will be open for a block party from 5 to 7, as it will be every Friday this season, with $2 beer specials and live music by the King Beez. First 3000 fans will receive a T-shirt commemorating AutoZone Park’s 15th anniversary.

The Bluff City Backsliders will play Cafe Keough tomorrow night at 8. There is no cover for this show, and they have a full liquor bar now.

The 19th annual Overton Square crawfish festival is Saturday, from noon to 6 PM, on Madison between Morrison and Cooper.

Congratulations to the Blind Bear, which won “Hippest Bar Setting” in Memphis Magazine’s recent restaurant poll. I like to think that my tenure as Foursquare mayor of the Bear had something to do with the “hippest” recognition. Just kidding.

This doesn’t surprise me one bit: Memphis ranked 6th among large cities for urban sprawl

Excellent win by the Grizzlies last night. By beating the Heat, a team we were expected to lose to, we’re back in the playoff conversation. We’re still in 9th place, a game behind Phoenix. However, Phoenix has a tougher schedule for their last four games than we do, and we own the tiebreaker if we finish with identical records.

Don’t forget that the first South Main bocce tournament happens at Main and Talbot tonight starting at 5:30.

That’s it for now. I’ll be out tonight as usual, leading off at the Silly Goose around 5ish.

 

Apr 092014
 

In anticipation of Memphis in May and its honored country Panama, the South Main Dirty Dozen are coming together to throw a Carnaval de Panama on Saturday, April 25. The fun kicks off at 9 PM in The Warehouse, which is the green building on the northeast corner of Front and G.E. Patterson. You may have heard of the Dirty Dozen parties, which have been some of the best parties Downtown. In the past they have been invite-only, but now that they have expanded into a larger space, Carnaval de Panama will be open to the public. You don’t want to miss this!

I don’t normally mention East Memphis restaurants, but this one has a Downtown connection so I will make an exception. Lettuce Eat is a new restaurant serving healthy food that opens today at 6641 Poplar. If you work out East, check them out for lunch sometime.

The Front Street Deli will be closed for lunch this Friday.

The London Sunday Times reports that British royals will be in Memphis next month for a wedding, including Princes William and Harry and Kate Middleton.

This is cool: Grizzlies fan “Bongo Lady” has been named NBA Fan of the Year.

The MBJ reports that Memphis Area Legal Services will move into the top floor of the Falls Building at Front and Court.

I was shocked to come home last night and read that the Ultimate Warrior had passed away at the age of 54. Just this past weekend, he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, and he totally reshaped his image in his induction speech. To be frank, for most of his career and retirement, the Warrior had a reputation of being only out for himself, a complete prick, and batshit crazy. However, in his retirement speech he showed a lot of respect for the business, and was gracious to each and every person he worked with, from the guy who set up the ring all the way up to the main eventers. For years he had not been admitted to the Hall of Fame because of differences with WWE chairman Vince McMahon. However, they patched things up and signed a deal, and he went in as part of the class of ’14.

His final appearance was on Monday Night Raw, where he gave a speech that started, “No WWE talent becomes a legend on their own. Every man’s heart one day beats its final beat. His lungs breathe a final breath.” The next day, after taking photos with at least one fan in the New Orleans airport, he suffered a heart attack at the Phoenix airport and died a short time later. It’s like he called his own death with his speech on Raw.

RIP Warrior. I don’t think you could have possibly gone out on a higher note. And on that note, I will bring this Wednesday post to a close.

Apr 082014
 

Looking around the Web this afternoon, it looks like enough info is out there to warrant a second post of the day. Let’s see what we’ve got:

Tamp & Tamp will host an Abita Cask-Conditioned Spring IPA Firkin Party this Friday, April 11 starting at 5 PM. If you don’t know what is so special about drinking beer that came out of a firkin as opposed to a keg, this article explains.

This isn’t a Downtown restaurant, but near enough that I’ll blog it anyway: There’s a Groupon for The Port restaurant on President’s Island that has about three days left to buy. You can get three $6 vouchers for $10, or six $6 vouchers for $18.

Memphis Trolley Unplugged will return Friday and Saturday, April 18 and 19. From 6 to 8 PM each night, local musicians will ride the trolley and perform on the Riverfront Loop trolleys. PRO TIP: Bring a fire extinguisher and sit as near the exit as possible.

The Madison Hotel has announced the return of its Beatles Breakfast atop its rooftop garden, Twilight Sky Terrace. Beginning April 26, you’ll be able to enjoy coffee and pastries with the sounds of the Beatles in the background. The breakfast will be held Saturdays and Sundays from 8 AM to 11:30 PM.

Speaking of the Madison, the hotel will begin its Thursday night rooftop party series on April 24, while the Peabody’s will begin on April 17. I will have more details on both parties in future blog posts.

Well, this is interesting: Rev. Al Sharpton was an FBI informant in the 1980s, and his spying work helped bring down Vincent “Chin” Gigante, don of the Genovese crime family in New York. Gigante was known to wander around in his pajamas and feign insanity, and Sharpton may have helped prove that he was sane and that he was the boss. Gigante, fearful of being wiretapped, forbade mafiosi to speak his name, with death the punishment. Mobsters were instead to point at their chin or make the letter “C” and say “that guy” when they needed to refer to him in conversation. However, I guess the good Reverend was exempt from Mafia rules.

Getting ready to play some poker tonight at Blind Bear. Free to play, game starts at 8. Plenty of time left to accumulate points in the Bear’s 16-week league that just started, plus nightly winner gets a $50 gift card.

Apr 082014
 

The 5th annual Bark in the Ballpark happens this Sunday at 1:35 at AutoZone Park. This is the annual Redbirds game where you can purchase tickets to sit in a special section with your dog and watch the game. Dollar hot dogs for humans, free admission for dogs, Jake the Diamond Dog will perform and kids can run the bases after the game. Call 901-722-0270 and ask for Nathan to get tickets at a special discounted price of $12.

Yesterday I posted about a trolley fire on Madison, the second in five months. Yesterday MATA announced that it is suspending the Madison trolley line because of the fires. Buses will run in place of the trolleys. I wonder why MATA thinks the street the trolley is running on has anything to do with their safety.  I remember seeing one smoking at the Peabody Place trolley stop on Main Street within the past year, although thankfully it didn’t catch fire.

Congratulations to former Memphis Tiger men’s basketball player Adonis Thomas, who has signed with the Philadelphia 76ers for the remainder of the NBA season. We’ll get to see Adonis Friday night when the 76ers come to town.

The James Lee House, the Victorian mansion at 690 Adams that has been renovated into a bed & breakfast, is having an open house on Thursday, April 17. There will be a ribbon-cutting as well. The B&B already has bookings as far out as September.

Downtown is losing its only French crêperie. Monsieur Demarcus French Crêperie is moving to Midtown, in a location on Madison near Cleveland. The restaurant had been in the old Neely’s building on Jefferson, but the decision was made to move because of concerns about the building.

That’s it for this Tuesday. Congrats to our conference foe UConn for winning the NCAA championship last night.

Apr 072014
 

A trolley on the Madison Avenue line caught fire this morning. It happened near Stop 345 at Madison near Danny Thomas. The fire was said to have started near the driver’s legs, and it rapidly spread. No one was injured, thank goodness. This is the second trolley fire in less than six months.

We’re getting closer to the end of the playoff race in the NBA’s Western Conference, and things are not looking good for the Grizzlies. Last night the Grizzlies got clobbered by San Antonio, and meanwhile Phoenix beat Oklahoma City. That leaves the Grizzlies in ninth place, a game behind Phoenix in eighth. If the season ended today, Memphis would be in the draft lottery with a 0.5 chance of drawing the first pick. A win at home Wednesday against the Miami Heat would be a good way to get back in the playoff hunt, but that is not going to be easy.

The RDC is thinking about opening a restaurant of its own at Beale Street Landing, since no Beale Street restaurant management company is willing to take the project on. The restaurant will be discussed at the RDC’s board meeting tomorrow.

There’s a Fundly campaign going on to raise money for outdoor furniture for the new South Main bocce court.

Stuff going on Downtown tonight: Crawfish night at Local, trivia night at Cafe Keough (7:30), $3 pint nite at Flying Saucer.

Beer lovers: Bernoulli Brew Werks, a homebrew shop at 2881 Poplar that supplies local home brewers with yeasts, grains, hops and the equipment to brew, is having an event this Saturday, April 12. It’s almost BBQ season, so they are having a trial run for their team “The BBQ Experiment.” The public is invited to come enjoy some BBQ and help them brew some beer. This will be a kid-friendly event.

Last night I used my WWE Network subscription to watch WrestleMania on my phone while playing poker. It got distracting, so I turned it off at the start of the Undertaker-Brock Lesnar match, figuring there was no doubt what would be the outcome of that one. About 25 minutes later, I got a shock. One of the other players told me, “They broke the streak.” I turned the WWE back on, and there was Undertaker walking up the ramp, dejected, with a “21-1″ graphic on the Jumbotron. For the first time ever, Taker had lost at WrestleMania. As Ron Simmons would say, DAMN.

That’ll wrap it up for now. Can’t wait to see what happens on Monday Night Raw. Undertaker-Sting at WrestleMania 31? Hope so.