House wines

After extensive research, I’ve decided upon my red and white “house wines” – wines I’ll always try to keep stocked in the apartment for when guests come over. I’ll still experiment and try different things, but these two represent the tastiest I’ve found so far.

Vina Borgia Grenache. This wine is from Borja, Spain and tends toward the sweet, fruity end of the red wine spectrum, slightly sweeter than merlot. I discovered this one by accident; one of the local bars was taking it off their wine list (why?) and the bartender gave me a half bottle to take home. Best bottle of red wine I’ve ever had, at any price. I can’t find it in any of the liquor stores downtown, but Joe’s in midtown has it – $7 a bottle or $13 for a magnum. An incredible value.

Lindeman’s Bin 65 Chardonnay. This is simultaneously light enough to be a great summer wine for the rooftop, yet fruity and full of flavor at the same time. It’s a blend from Australia, and is the most exported of all the Australian wines. Sells for $8-9 a bottle and $14-15 a magnum. Both Frank’s and Corkscrew downtown carry it.

Both of these wines are fully flavored, so they’re probably best standing alone rather than complementing a meal – although, next time I run into my caterer friend, I’ll ask him to recommend foods that each of these two wines will go well with (I’ll give him a sample of the grenache – he’s already tried the chardonnay).


Tonight I was up on No. 10’s roof, and I noticed a nicely-dressed couple on the roof of the Madison Hotel. At the exact time sunset occurred (which couldn’t be seen due to a lightning storm in Arkansas) the guy got down on one knee and proposed to the girl. Apparently she accepted, because they kissed and hugged for 10 minutes before heading downstairs.

Maybe one day they will Google the hotel and find this site and realize that someone recorded the event for posterity in a blog. Congratulations, you two, whoever you are, if you’re reading this.

Plans for this weekend, and some Mpact events next week

(Edited about 6:30 pm Friday night to add more details about Saturday night’s party and another Mpact event. Additions are in bold italic)

I’m going to run an experiment for the next 7 days (Friday-Thursday): I’m going to count how many bums approach me for money as I go about my business downtown. I’m not going to alter my behavior at all – meaning, if I see one coming, I’ll cross the street to get away from him as I normally would, rather than stay on the same side to run up the count. Any guesses as to how many I’ll encounter? Maybe I should give away a prize for the closest guess.

All right. Plans for the weekend.

Friday night: I’ll be getting together with my church’s young-adults group for Bible study and fellowship. It will be good to get together in a nurturing environment with others to share in God’s grace and the glory of Jesus Christ.

Just kidding! Bar-hopping, probably. Not sure where I’ll end up.

Saturday day: Gonna head back up to Otherlands and get some more work done on my friend’s website. Was debating whether or not to ride the bike to Midtown, but since the predicted high is 101 I have a feeling I’ll take the car.

Saturday night: There’s a birthday party on my rooftop for Henry, the owner of my building. They’re asking for a $20 donation to help out a friend of his who was injured in an accident, but it’s actually not a bad deal – it’s catered by McEwen’s and there’s a bar. There’s also going to be a band, I think. I’ve talked to other people in the building and some guests and it sounds like this is going to be a really good one.

Edit: I just ran into Henry the building owner in the elevator and he gave me more details about the party. McEwen’s and Stella, two of the best restaurants downtown, will be providing food. Sounds like one will bring a paella and the other, an antipasto. There will also be a 7-piece band. They were taking flowers up to the roof to decorate. This is going to be quite the party – well worth the $20 donation. It starts at 7 pm. Fellow building residents, get your ass up there! Downtown friends who don’t live in the building, call my cell or e-mail me if you want to come.

Sunday: Champagne. Orange juice. Mimosas. This week I’ll probably do Sleep Out’s rather than the Monkey, just to mix things up.

And a couple of Mpact events coming up the following week:

Wednesday 7/27: Mpact will be at Court Square for their weekly concert series. The artist this week is Candice Ivory, so it should be a really good one. In case of rain everything will be moved to the Cadre Building at Second and Monroe – the music, the food vendors, the beer, the FM100 both, the pigeons, the wino who sleeps on the park bench, everything.

Friday 7/29: Mpact will have a farewell party for the interns they hosted this summer at Earnestine & Hazel’s. This will coincide with the monthly South Main Trolley Art Tour, and the party will start at 7 pm. Feel free to come out even if you weren’t involved with the intern program. Mpact parties at E&H are always a lot of fun – everyone loosens up and gets away from stiff “young professional” behavior. And of course they have beer and soul burgers. If you’re a downtowner, walk down the street to Etched Art at 505 S. Main during Trolley Tour and buy a “38103” shirt.

Edit: Monday, August 1 there will be a “Big Idea” meeting at Bosco’s in Overton Square from 5:30 until 7:00 pm. Mpact has decided to take on one big idea and make a big difference in the community over the next 6-12 months. The Big Idea, the issue they’re taking on, is financial literacy – educating the community about predatory lending, credit card debt, credit scores, etc. Anyone who wants to help plan programming around this idea is invited to attend. They’re asking those who plan on coming to RSVP to I probably will NOT be there, because I have that day off and I’ll probably find more interesting things to do on my vacation day than attend a meeting. (Then again, they do have beer at Bosco’s…hmmm…) But I fully support the Big Idea and think it’s much needed in this city.

And that’ll do it for now. I’ll know I’m in trouble when the “plans for the weekend” and “what the bums are drinking this week” journal entries look alike, but fortunately I’m not there yet.

Black Hawk Down

I’ve mentioned how I’ve recently become addicted to this video game at the Tap Room. Fish jump out of a hole in a frozen lake, and there’s a polar bear who hits them down the lake with a bat. Score is measured in number of feet the fish travel. It’s generally better if they bounce off the ice a couple of times. The top five swings (distance in feet) is taken for any round as the score. If you score over 1,000 points, you get a bonus round.

Up until tonight, the high score had been held by Darrell, or “Night Hawk” as he is known, a bartender there. “NIGHT HK” he abbreviates it. 2090 was his score.

Until tonight. Now, when you look at number-one, you see “PROF PAUL.” “NIGHT HK” is number two. The new high score is 2093.

I promised everyone for weeks, once I mastered that game it would be Black Hawk Down. And now it is.

2006: a transition year?

The time around 1999-2000 was a transition period for me. A couple of elements that were so much of my life that they had become part of my identity were suddenly gone. For one, I quit teaching at the University of Memphis in May 1999. For five years, I had been “Professor Paul,” the computer literacy and math instructor. That truly was the best job I ever had. Nothing against my current job, but there’s just nothing like teaching.

The other thing was, the club where I had hung out 3-6 days a week for a period of about 9 years closed in early 1999. I had made a few close friends there, and a lot of acquaintances who it was good to see once in a while, shoot a game of pool with. When the club closed, we lost our common meeting spot. I found I had nothing to do but sit in my apartment in Midtown. Well, there was actually lots to do, but at the time I really didn’t know where else to go or how to meet people.

So around Summer 1999, I was really a fish out of water. Eventually I met a new group of friends to hang out with, and when the town’s first Starbucks opened a block from where I lived I started hanging out in coffee shops. In 2000 I bought my first laptop so I had a computer to play with while I drank my Frappucinos. (This was years before wireless Internet though – I had to bring my own fun.) The job situation didn’t resolve itself for a while, not until after I got fed up with Memphis and moved to San Diego and subsequently moved back.

Now it’s the summer of 2005 and I wonder if I’m on the verge of entering another transition phase in my life, where a couple of core elements of my identity are shaken up. Over the past few years, I’ve really found my place downtown. I can go anywhere down here and feel comfortable, and I have more friends than I’ve ever had before. A few of my friends have even referred to me as “Mr. Downtown” and I got interviewed for that Downtown Dweller piece in the Commercial Appeal. Trouble is, all the buildings down here are going condo. My apartment building is one of the last holdouts, and I wonder how much longer we have left. There’s no way in hell I could afford to buy my own unit if it were sold.

Yesterday I stopped by Otherlands in Midtown to get some work done on my laptop, and I was surprised that I knew so many people there. I spent more time talking than I did computing. And this morning I woke up and thought, “Yeah… Midtown… I could totally live there.” Now that I have a bike I could ride it to the bars and coffee shops. Rents in Midtown are definitely cheaper, which would not only benefit me financially, but it would also put me among a different set of neighbors, a younger crowd who wouldn’t be able to afford to live downtown. I tend to run with people younger than I am, so that appeals to me.

This Midtown thing is just an idea that has popped into my head. Believe me, when my lease is up in February 2006, if the building hasn’t gone condo I’m going to re-sign for as long a period as they’ll let me so I can stay downtown a while longer. But yesterday was the first time in a couple of years I’ve contemplated living somewhere other than downtown.

Then there’s another key element of my life that’s changing… Mpact. My term on the board ends in November. Although I still enjoy the organization, it’s not the same as it was in 2002-2003. Back then, if you had an idea for an event or program it was easy to run with it and make things happen. That worked well when there were 250-350 members. Now there are over a thousand, and with that many people having great ideas, the organization had begun to seem scattered, and it was hard to tell what Mpact stood for. So, they’re re-focusing their priorities, where the entire organization will be working on a long-term goal.

I think their strategy is absolutely the correct one. The group as a whole needs to stand for something, and it’s particularly important to be focused when asking for corporate funding. But I find I lack a little bit of the passion that I had for Mpact in 2002-2003. For me, it’s always been about the people. This week I ran into three of my favorite people from the group, people I hung out with all the time at Mpact events in the late 2003 time period, but none of them are active in the organization anymore. I miss them – it seems less fun without them. This year I’ve tried to move toward areas of the organization that are more people-based – the Membership Committee and the Social & Sporting Pillar (whose remnants will be reorganized into the Connection Committee, as I understand it). But still, it’s changing and I’m not sure if I’ll play as big a role in 2006 as I have in the past. Maybe I will, I just have to see how the changes will play out. At any rate, I’ll be relieved to be off the Board in three and a half months. At least then if I stay active with the organization, I’ll know I’m doing it because I want to and not out of obligation.

Anyway… it just occurred to me today that some big changes could be coming up in my life. Whatever happens, though, I know I can handle it. I came out of 1999-2000 okay, and I have tons more confidence and people skills now than I did then. My 2005 life would have seemed like a dream come true to the 1999 me. Makes me wonder where I’ll be in 2010.

So, for once, I’ve made a thoughtful, serious post. Hope I didn’t disappoint those of you who came here looking for “What the Bums Are Drinking this Week,” “Drunk Post #37469” and lots of stupid blabbering about tube tops. Don’t worry – this journal will morph back into the crap-fest that it usually is before you know it.

Pint Night at the Saucer – 10pm

I’ve made plans with some friends from my building and from Mpact to hit the Flying Saucer about 10:00 for Pint Night. Anyone who wants to meet up is welcome to join us.

Summary of this past weekend: Rode in Raiford’s limo and stayed out until 4 in the morning, lost a bunch of games of pool, got hit up for money by at least 30 bums, drank enough alcohol to fill a swimming pool, talked to a pretty blonde in a tube top at Earnestine & Hazel’s, drank beer at the Tap Room and received an hour’s worth of unsolicited relationship advice from two of the least qualified people on earth to be giving it, got addicted to this stupid video game where a polar bear hits fish across an icy pond with a baseball bat.

So, you can see why I was too busy to post any journal entries.

Fun with crackheads

Last night I was at the Flying Saucer, playing darts with one of my neighbors. Out the window I could see one of the neighborhood crackheads begging passersby for money. I’m so sick of seeing those guys downtown. They give people from other parts of the city the impression that downtown is unsafe, and they bother tourists who are here to have a good time.

So I waved and got his attention through the window. He came over and looked in, and held up a sorry-looking daffodil that he had picked from one of the city’s flower beds. I pointed at the daffodil like I wanted it, then took two dollars out of my wallet and held them up. He nodded with excitement. Then I shook my head and put one of the dollars back in my wallet, and held up the other dollar and pointed at it. Now he knew I was interested – I had negotiated him down a dollar! He was practically jumping up and down by this point.

I made a gesture that communicated “one minute” and pointed at the dartboard. Then I went ahead and continued playing. He stood outside the window and watched. And watched and watched. He watched through the window as we made futile attempts to shoot a bullseye. He watched as I went to the bar to get another beer. He watched as I talked to a friend of mine at the bar, a cute redhead who was looking extremely hot last night. He watched as I came back to continue playing darts. By now about 30 minutes had passed and he was starting to wonder if I was ever coming outside. He held up the flower again. I nodded and pointed at it and waved the dollar around some more. I was still interested! The crackhead was happy. He stood by the window and continued to watch the game.

Another 20 minutes passed. His interest was starting to wane. He disappeared for a couple of minutes as he attempted to bum money from other people walking out of the Saucer. But he kept coming back to the window. There are two windows near the dartboards, and every few minutes he’d go from one to the other and look in.

About 1:00 we decided it was time to head home. The place was clearing out, and the cute redhead had left. Probably not enough time for another game of darts before closing. So we handed in the darts and paid our tabs. I looked out the window and saw the crackhead walking up Second, wondering where we went. “Take a hard right as soon as you get out the door,” I told my neighbor, figuring we could cut down Peabody Place and Main Street and avoid him.

But we weren’t fast enough. He came running after us, or more like staggering as fast as someone who lives on a diet of crack rocks and Lord Calvert can possibly stagger. “Sir!… sir… sir… hey… look here… you was… uh… uh… the window… uh… dolla!” (Brookstone sells hand-held devices that translate Spanish to English, French to English, and German to English. Wonder if they have one that translates Bum to English.)

After I got home, I felt a little bit bad about it. The poor guy had spent an hour at “work” trying to cultivate a key customer relationship, and in the end had nothing to show for it. It’s as if I had gone to a restaurant and run the waitress around for an hour getting my food, and then stiffed her on the tip.

But then, waitresses perform a useful function that makes the world a better place. Crackheads, not so much.

Okay, I don’t feel bad anymore.

Tonight I’ll probably head back up to the Saucer to catch The Dempseys. Beyond that, plans for the weekend are undetermined, other than the Sunday Monkey brunch/drinking extravaganza. Duran Duran is playing the Orpheum Saturday night, but I don’t know whether tickets are still available, or whether I’ll go even if they are.

All right. Several more topics are swimming around in my head. There might be another post before the day is done.

Dreams, high school, and writing

Ever notice a recurring pattern in your dreams? Every few months, I dream that I’m back in high school. The latest dream in the series occurred a couple of nights ago. I dreamed that I was coming back to school after being out six days – an entire week, and a Monday. So in the dream it was Tuesday morning, and I really didn’t want to go back.

In this dream – and in quite a few others I’ve had – I had a term paper due for English class. The term paper to me symbolizes the ultimate in useless, waste-of-time busy work. When I was in 12th grade we had to write a 20-page term paper on a subject in British literature, and it couldn’t be about Shakespeare. We had to form a thesis, make three supporting points, and draw a conclusion.

If I had my way, the thesis I probably would have used was, “Making high school students write a 20-page paper about British literature is a sure way to make them hate British literature for the rest of their lives.” Of course, being a senior I was worried about keeping my GPA up, getting into Rhodes and all that crap. So I did what was expected of me and wrote a paper on the development of the King Arthur legend.

I can honestly say I do not remember thing one about that paper, other than the topic. And I can honestly say that I learned absolutely nothing about writing by doing that assignment. I was already a pretty good writer by that time. Know how I learned to write so well? It damn sure wasn’t from anything I did in English class. I became a good writer because, in junior high and high school, I was addicted to professional wrestling. I subscribed to all the magazines – The Wrestler, Inside Wrestling, Pro Wrestling Illustrated, and Sports Review Wrestling – and read them over and over again. Whether I realized I was doing it or not, I incorporated the columnists’ writing style into my own.

Of course, pro wrestling wasn’t what I was “supposed” to be interested in. I was supposed to be into Dickens and Beowulf and Jane Austen. That was what the school system deemed important. Trouble was, I HATED that stuff. Oh, I knew how to work the system – I read 22 pages of Pride and Prejudice and some of the Cliffs Notes, inserted a few quotes from the book because I knew the teacher liked that, and got an A+ on the paper we had to do on it. One of my classmates wrote the paper I dreamed of writing – he gave it an honest review, said he hated it and that writing a report on it was a waste of his time. The teacher called it a “temper tantrum on paper” and gave him a D. Schools reward students for conforming, not for original, critical thought.

What’s my point in writing about this? …Hell if I know. Just wanted to write something in my journal, I guess. How’s that for a conclusion paragraph?

What the bums are drinking this week

(Based on the empty 50 mL one-shot liquor bottles I saw cluttering the downtown streets last weekend)

– Seagram’s Gin and Juice
– Smirnoff Vodka
– Smirnoff Vanilla Vodka
– Strawberry vodka, some off-brand whose name escapes me
– Seagram’s 7

Seems like the quality of the drink goes up as the bottles get smaller. A few of those are ones I’d actually drink. Gin and juice though – that’s about as ghetto as it gets.

I have a story about those little one-shot bottles. A friend of mine used to work at a downtown liquor store (not the one around the corner from where I live). One day he closed the store for half an hour, went out on the street and picked up every empty bottle within a two-block radius. He filled up an entire garbage bag. Don’t any of the bums know how to use a trash can? blog hits down – why?

Just checked the hit counter. Up through the end of June, this blog was averaging about 30 hits a day. Since the beginning of July, the average has fallen to the upper teens.

I believe that this is due to the end of Tube Top Month. Let’s face it. Tube tops are a topic that everyone wants to hear about. Hmmm… maybe I’ll have to bring Tube Top Month back for August.

Was doing the drunk walk home with one of my neighbors last night, and he commented, “You mention the Tap Room almost as much as you mention halter tops.” Halter tops??? Get it right! It’s TUBE TOPS!!!!! Halter tops only got mentioned because one of our neighbors committed a major fashion faux pas.

All right. NOW I’m headed up to the roof to drink wine.