Cool Mpact stuff coming up

I’ve talked about Mpact Memphis a lot in my posts. If you’re thinking about checking it out, this is an especially good month. Below are three events that I think are especially noteworthy.

Non-Profit Expo, Tuesday, January 11 from 5:30 to 8:30 at the Botanic Gardens on Cherry Rd. This is your chance to talk with people from about 35 area nonprofits, find out what they do, and find out where they can use volunteers. I’ve been the past 2 years and it’s a good time. Free for Mpact members, $5 for non-members.

Memphis Engaged, Thursday, January 20 from 6:00 to 8:00 at Playhouse on the Square, Cooper at Union. This is a series to inform Memphians about their local government – why do we have a city and county government? how did our government’s current form come about? how do I run for public office? This first session in the monthly series will cover the history of Memphis government and will be taught by a highly regarded history instructor from Memphis University School. Should be interesting and I hope to attend.

Mpact Impacto, Friday, January 28 from 8 pm to 2 am, at the location formerly known as the Plaza Club/Club Ten, second floor of the Toyota Center, Third at Union. I’m lazy so I just copied and pasted the details from Mpact’s site.

The cold, crisp January night quickly melts into an exotic and thrilling ambiance when you step into ¡IMPACTO! at the Plaza Club.

As the elevator doors slide open, your senses are tantalized with fervent Latin flavor. Lights are turned low and splashes of color tease the eyes. A sexy Latin beat plays from just down the hall, tempting your feet to follow the tunes. Es una Fiesta! Vino, sangrias, margaritas and cervasas are served right away. The zesty aroma of authentic Latin cuisine draws you in further where you will find your taste buds enticed by a variety of flavor rich tapas.

Just around every corner, you’ll encounter Latin vibes such as the chic and urbane Cigar Bar. The beat gets louder with the music of Grammy nominated Los Amigos Invisibles and passion is on proud display as Salsa dancers move to the pulsating rhythm. After their performance, they draw the crowd in giving impromptu lessons of this attractive dance. When the dance floor gets too hot, hot, hot, you can cool off at a cocktail table and watch the energizing live band and dancers

MPACT ¡IMPACTO! Vienes!

Tickets are $40 for members; $65 for non-members In addition, you can renew your membership for 2005 and save $10 with the purchase of ¡IMPACTO! tickets (a $35 membership for $25). TICKETS ON SALE DECEMBER 10th!

There’s a link on Mpact’s website where you can buy tickets and/or renew memberships via PayPal. I’ll probably hit the first two hours of the South Main Trolley Art Tour on the 28th, then head to the Toyota Center for Impacto.

So it’s a great month to check out Mpact for the first time, or get back in the swing of things if you joined and never got involved. We have more cool ideas in the works (I have 5 meetings in 4 days next week – ugh) and things are really going to be picking up this year.

New Year’s Resolutions

Been thinking about what I want to accomplish in the new year. I refuse to do stupid resolutions like “exercise more” or “drink less” that no one keeps longer than a week. I want something real, something meaningful. Here’s what I came up with.

1) Connect with people better. One of my best friends is the biggest people person I have ever met. I’ll go to a bar or restaurant with him and he’ll know everyone in the place within half an hour. I finally figured out his secret: He has no agenda whatsoever, other than being genuinely curious about people around him. I want to integrate that kind of behavior into myself in 2005.

2) Step up my involvement in Mpact. Hate to say it, but I think I did a pretty lousy job as a board member in 2004. I helped coordinate a networking event for college students that was very successful, but that was in March and since then…um, well, not much. My plan is to get more involved in the Membership committee – I think we have a lot of people join who would be real assets if we could get them actively involved, but some of them aren’t sure where they fit in. I’ve been talking with the Membership chair about a program to call new members, welcome them, and make them aware of what’s going on. I also plan on being more active in the Social & Sporting Pillar, which plans fun events where members get to know each other on a personal basis.

3) Win “the bet.” I have a bet with one of my female friends that she and I will make out at least one time by December 31, 2005. Better not say too much more about this one or I risk getting myself in trouble.

4) Start a breathing/meditation practice. One of my goals this year is to get more in touch with intuition, inner senses, psychic abilities, whatever you want to call them. I’ve gotten much better the past two years by keeping a personal journal and writing down observations. But recently I’ve realized that a daily practice of getting in touch with one’s inner self – even if it’s only 10 minutes a day – is essential to really cultivate a relationship with the inner senses. So I’m determined to do it, six days a week.

5) Drink less. Wait, didn’t I say I wasn’t going to make that as a resolution? Well, it ties in with the other resolutions. Beyond about four beers/drinks it’s hard to really listen to people and connect with them (resolution 1), and obviously it’s harder to go inside (resolution 4) with alcohol in your blood and on your brain.

Snowed in, but still, what a great holiday weekend!

Despite not being able to get home for Christmas, this is turning into one of the best holiday seasons I’ve ever had.

Wednesday night I walked out of the elevator, on the way to the coffee shop, when I heard voices in the residents’ lounge. I went to see who was there, and it was about five of my neighbors watching the bowl game the U of M went to. They invited me to join them for the bowl game and for wine and appetizers. At halftime we all went to the Flying Saucer and watched the rest of the game there. It was really good to get to know some of my neighbors better. I knew I wouldn’t be going to work Thursday (the streets were totally iced over) so I relaxed and didn’t worry about staying up late.

Thursday night I received a phone call from my friend John who runs the coffee shop. He was getting a group together to check out Bluefin, the new sushi lounge on the Main Street Mall, and invited me to go. Bluefin turned out to be a really, really nice place. Beautifully decorated in different shades of blue, with couches the size of beds to lounge around on, and a DJ playing some chill music to add to the enjoyment of a good time with friends. There were four of us and we split about seven different types of sushi. The standouts, to me, were Heather’s Roll (crunchy crab with seared scallops on top) and Lori’s roll (crunchy crawfish rolls topped with smoked salmon and onion garlic sauce). Service was prompt and all the people who worked there were super-nice. I have a feeling I’m going to be a regular at this place. Great, another bar to vacuum up my money.

Today (Friday) the plan was to have a nice lunch and then have some “me” time for the rest of the day – spend time catching up on reading, writing in my personal journal, figuring out a new design for my website. But then I walked through the Peabody and ran into Terry, one of my best friends and a fellow Sunday drunk. So we sat at the lobby bar and talked for three hours. I had a Brandy Alexander for the first time – tasty, like a milkshake. Later our friend Katrina who owns a shop on South Main joined us, and we moved to the corner bar at Capriccio. So I didn’t get home until 7:30, cutting into my “me” time a good bit. I’m not going out tonight.

Tomorrow (Saturday) I’ve been invited to have Christmas dinner with my friends Kit and Kelly, and our friend Bobby who found my mountain bike in a pawn shop. I mentioned to Kelly that I was snowed in, and she said they have plenty of food, so come on. Spending Christmas with three of the most generous people I know sounds like a great way to observe the season.

I wonder if Raiford’s will be open Christmas night? I’ll be tempted to walk down there, but I will be really mad if I make the 8-block walk with temps in the teens to find out it’s closed.

And of course, then there’s Sunday when things get back to normal. What better way to celebrate the day after Christmas than with a bottle of champagne at the Blue Monkey. And possibly a second bottle of champagne. My regular bartender is out of town visiting family, so someone else will have to put up the Sunday drunks. Last Sunday all 12 or so seats at the bar were taken and all 12 of us were TRASHED and singing Christmas carols. I think the bar’s management made the decision right then and there to never, ever, ever do a karaoke night. I was there from 11:30 am to 5:10 pm last Sunday, which is a relatively short stay for me up there.

So there you have it. What a fantastic weekend, and a reminder that I’ve really found something special downtown. Merry Christmas everybody.

Stranded in Memphis for Christmas/snow and ice

I was at work yesterday, out near Whitten Road, when it started sleeting – hard – about 2 pm. By 2:30 the streets were slush/ice and my car was covered. The company’s official policy was to stay open but they understood if people had to leave early. I held out until 4:30, then went and scraped the car (without gloves) and started the drive home. The last time I drove on ice, I was 17.

It took an hour and a half for what is normally a 30-minute drive. Traveling down the I-40, traffic was moving about 10 miles an hour. Once I got on Sam Cooper, I was able to get up to 25. I nearly got sideswiped by a couple of cars because no one could figure out where the lanes were. But I made it home safe and sound. I warmed up with some hot chocolate at the coffee shop, then went to the Flying Saucer with some of my neighbors (it was virtually the only place open downtown – even Huey’s closed, which is highly unusual).

I called in to work today. The streets have turned to solid ice and it’s not worth risking my life and my car to sit in a cubicle for 8 hours.

Little Rock is in even worse shape than Memphis, so it looks like I won’t be going home for Christmas. If anyone reading this is in Memphis (particularly downtown) for the holidays) and wants to hang out, let me know.

What the bums are drinking this week

NOTHING!!!!!!

hahahahahahahaha

What happened was, the liquor store around the corner unexpectedly closed early, but they forgot to turn off the “OPEN” sign. So the bums stood in front of Walgreens for half an hour begging tourists for change, and when they finally got enough they walked over to the liquor store and…DENIED! Ha! Boy were they mad. They cussed and threw things and kicked over the Apartment Guide box on the corner. Then they started on the long trek to the next closest liquor store, 8 blocks away.

My goal for the rest of December

My web site sucks. This journal is relatively new, but much of the site’s look hasn’t been updated in eight years. And the look isn’t consistent from one part of the site to the next. If this were some crap AOL home page I wouldn’t care, but this site has my name on it. PaulRyburn.com. I still get compliments on it, but in my mind it’s an embarrassment compared to what I’m capable of producing.

So I’m going to try to come up with a new site design. Since I’ve now had a web development job for 3 months, I’ve had the chance to sharpen my skills with style sheets, positioning, graphics, tables and the like. For the next few days I’ll look at every web site and print ad I can find and see if I get any ideas. Then I’ll do the work. PaulRyburn.com uses PHP, whereas I use ASP.NET at work, so I’ll have to learn PHP a little bit better.

So we’ll see what happens. If you know of any well-designed sites that might inspire me, let me know (NO Flash though – I’m not using Flash in the design).

What the bums are drinking this week

Several journal readers have told me that this is their favorite feature, so I figured I’d bring it back. And I’m sitting in the coffee shop, so all I have to do is run around the corner and see what boxes the liquor store threw out…

Damn! No trash today! Well, I saw a truck outside unloading the other day, and (surprise, surprise) there were about 8 cases each of Mad Dog 20/20, Wild Irish Rose, and Calvert Extra. Everything to satisfy the $2-and-under customer.

That’s it for now, the laptop battery is about to die. Back soon with more posts, I have plenty more stories to tell…

Thanksgiving in Little Rock

The great thing about this blog is that you, my faithful readers, get to read the same stories I’ve been telling all over downtown the past two weeks. This time the stories concern my recent trip to Little Rock for Thanksgiving with my mother.

As I drove in, I passed through downtown and the hip, trendy Hillcrest district. I was shocked at all the art galleries and coffee shops and fun new restaurants. It was like the South Main arts district in Memphis x 100. What’s happened to my original hometown, I thought. It had started to look like a place I could actually live in!

Then I turned on the TV.

“It’s the Shotgun Special from (a local Ford dealership)! Buy an F-150 or higher pickup this week and we’ll give you a free rifle just in time for duck hunting season! That’s right, folks, we’ll throw in a free shotgun with the purchase of any full-sized pickup!”

WTF???? Who gives away a GUN as a PROMOTIONAL GIFT? And it had to be a popular promotion, because the commercial ran 3 times during the 6:00 news. It made me want to found a new town called White Trash, Arkansas, force all the people who took advantage of the promotion to move there, and encourage them to bring their new guns, so hopefully they’ll shoot each other.

But the commercial turned out to be the best thing I saw on TV that night. My mother informed me that we had to watch the 3-hour season finale of The Bachelor. It was down to the final two contestants, and I had to sit there and watch the bachelor meet each girl’s parents, then each girl went on a “date” with him and met his friends, then everyone sat around and talked about their feelings, then he proposed to one of the bimbos, then everyone sat around and talked about the experience in front of a live audience for an hour.

YUCK. It should be illegal to make someone watch that crap without having any liquor in the house to make it go by faster. However, my mother was treated to my running commentary during the show.

“Is it over yet?” (at 7:03)

“This is horrible. Even a 3-episode marathon of Days of Our Lives would better than this.”

“Hell, three hours of Passions would even be an improvement.”

“Three hours of Beavis & Butt-head would be better than this.”

“Bimbo #1 has fake boobs.”

“Are her parents reading off a teleprompter? Sure looks like it to me. I thought this was supposed to be a REALITY show.”

“Three hours of George W. Bush speeches would be better than this.”

“They should come to Memphis and make a reality show about the hooker who works the lobby bar of the Peabody, it couldn’t be any worse than this show.”

The only saving grace was that the Bachelor had good hair. I need to get a screen cap of that show so I can get my hair stylist to cut my hair like his. Why do the crummiest shows have people with the best hair? There’s a kid on Days of Our Lives with great hair as well.

The rest of the weekend was less eventful, most of it spent listening to my mother telling me that I need to cut my hair, dress better, stop spending so much time in bars, go to church at least once in a while, find a nice girl and get married, etc., etc., etc.

Oh, there was one other funny comment. I was telling her about the nightclubs I go to – Raiford’s, 152, etc. And she asked, “When you go to these clubs, do you take your laptop computer with you?” That one left me speechless.

Two more weeks until it’s time to go to Little Rock for Christmas. I’m sure I’ll come back with even more good stories.

Wine tasting, and the difference between downtowners and everyone else

If you ever need to find me on Sunday, it’s real easy – go to the downtown Blue Monkey on Front Street. I get there about noon and order a bottle of champagne and orange juice, make mimosas, and catch up with the other downtowners who come in.

Last Sunday I was there and noticed a card sitting on the bar. “WINE TASTING – 5:30 PM.” Sounds interesting, I thought, so I decided to hang out until then.

So at 5:30 I tabbed out at the bar and went into the back room for the tasting. I paid my $15 and took a seat. The Monkey’s day shift manager, who got off at 5:30, also stuck around and sat at the table with me. There were about 12-15 people at the other tables, and I found out that they came from Collierville and Cordova.

There were six wines, two white and four red. The sommelier, in my opinion, did an excellent job – rather than the tiny sips they usually pour at wine tastings, this guy was pouring full glasses. Only problem was, the tasting was moving along at a brisk pace, about 5-7 minutes between wines. I had to have an empty glass ready by the time the next bottle came around, and I know better than to slam glasses of wine, especially red wine. So I had to do something that goes against everything I believe in – I had to pour the remainder into the discard bucket in the middle of the table.

As the wine began to flow, everyone loosened up and started joking around. “Look at all those different wines in the discard bucket,” commented the day shift manager. “It’s like a Diver from Silky O’Sullivan’s.”

So the tasting went on….three, four, five, six wines. Each time I had to pour out about half my glass to be ready to move on. I enjoyed the tasting thoroughly but was a bit disappointed to see so much of my $15 investment in that discard bucket.

So I did what, to me, seemed like the logical thing…I picked up the bucket and poured myself a glass.

The people at the other tables were appalled. “What are you doing?” they asked. “That’s the throwaway bucket!” I’m sorry, but I didn’t see anything wrong with it. I was only sharing the bucket with one other person, who happened to be a friend of mine. How is that any different from taking a sip from a glass that she just drank from, which I do all the time with my friends. I wouldn’t have done it if people I didn’t know were also using the bucket.

Over the past week, I’ve told this story to numerous people and have noticed two distinct reactions. About half the people have responded, “You drank out of the wine bucket, what’s wrong with that? You paid for it, after all.” Nearly all of those people live downtown.

The other half have said, “Paul! What’s wrong with with you? Drinking out of the discard bucket is just gross! Wine tastings are classy events, you need to act appropriately when you attend one.” Almost none of the people who responded this way live downtown – they live out east, in the suburbs, or (surprisingly) in Midtown.

So there you have it. The difference between downtown and the rest of the city. I’m glad I’ve picked a neighborhood that shares my attitude and values.

Pigeons and people

Part of living downtown is sitting in my favorite coffee shop and watching what I call the bum-and-pigeon show out the window.

Today, the pigeons took center stage. There were two of them on the Main Street Mall, hunting and pecking for food. It was interesting to watch them. Whenever one would turn, the other would turn as well, even if it could not see the other pigeon. It was instinctive. It was like a dual-pigeonal unit of consciousness.

They stayed out on the street for about 30 minutes. Later on, one of the pigeons turned around and discovered, to its horror, that it was more than an acceptable distance from the other pigeon. So it rushed to catch up, bobbing its little head all the way.

Later this evening, I went out to Club 152 on Beale Street. There were a lot of people on the dance floor and I grabbed a beer and watched. There was this cute Asian girl who was dancing with an American girl, a brunette. It was interesting to watch them on the dance floor. The American girl would turn, and the Asian girl would instinctively turn too, even if she couldn’t see the Asian girl. Or vice-versa.

Later in the evening, the American girl turned around and discovered, to her horror, that the Asian girl was more than an acceptable distance away on the dance floor. So the American girl rushed to catch up, bobbing her little head all the way.

I bet I could have gotten the girls’ phone numbers, if I had thrown them a cracker or a piece of stale bread.