What the bums are drinking this week

(Based on the discarded boxes outside the liquor store around the corner from where I live, which caters to the under-$3 crowd)

No surprises here, folks. Mad Dog 20/20, Dark Eyes vodka, Lord Calvert, and Wild Irish Rose wine. I think the Wild Irish Rose may have been the “white label” variety, which is even more disgusting than their red wine. There was also an unlabeled box. I’m guessing Thunderbird must arrive in unlabeled cartons, because the bums drink the hell out of it and I’ve never seen any empty boxes with that name outside the liquor store. For the non-bums, there were empty cartons of Smirnoff vodka and Jim Beam.

Plans for this weekend

Friday night I will be attending a reception for my friend Danita Beck’s exhibit “Biopic – A Narrative in 25 Images” at Universal Art Gallery, 111 G.E. Patterson near the corner of Main. Not only is Danita an accomplished artist, but she’s also the chair of Mpact’s Community Involvement Pillar. Please come out and support her! The reception lasts from 6 to 9 pm.

Edited to add: I just found out that Automusik is playing at the Butler Street Bazaar. I am definitely there! Please come check them out. Not only Automusik, but the Bazaar itself if you’ve never been. There are over a dozen vendors offering photography, homemade foods, vintage clothing, works of art, records, books, one-of-a-kind items, you name it. Great place to buy birthday presents. In particular, check out the last booth on the left – my friend and budding artist, Wendy Melton.

Saturday I will start my third year as a Memphis Orientation Leader (MOL) for Mpact. What this means is, another MOL and I will take a group of corporate interns on a tour of downtown. These interns come from FedEx, AutoZone, First Tennessee, International Paper, the Redbirds, the Grizzlies, and other large and medium-sized companies. Many of the interns are from out of state, and this is a way for them to see more of Memphis than their office and their apartment. Throughout the summer we will be taking our interns on various activities – a Redbirds game, a business lunch, a movie, an after-hours at a local hangout – to allow them to get the true feel of the city. It’s very rewarding to show these people what we love about Memphis, and we hope some of them will eventually relocate here.

The intern event should wrap up by early afternoon. After that I may head over to Italian Fest at Marquette Park, at the corner of Park and Mt. Moriah. This is one of the few outdoor festivals I have never had the chance to attend, and I’m looking forward to it.

On Sunday afternoon, the Pinch district is having a party at Cafe Francisco. It’s sponsored by Uptown Memphis, and people will be on hand to provide information on this hot new neighborhood just north of downtown. The event runs from 1 to 5. I’ll probably stop by Sleep Out Louie’s at noon and have my usual Sunday bottle of champagne before heading up there.

That’s how the weekend is shaping up. Perhaps I’ll see you out!

Our president

In this post I will discuss my opinion of our president, George W. Bush. Been wanting to write this for a while, but I thought to myself, my e-mail address is on my business card. Now that I’m in sales, I wondered, what if a potential client hits my website and decides not to buy from me because my political views are different from his/hers? But, after thinking about it some more, ah, screw it. I’m not going to stop being me because of a job.

In the election of 2000, toward the end of the primaries there were four candidates still standing. Bush, John McCain, Al Gore and Bill Bradley. At the time, I would have been very happy to support McCain, Gore, or Bradley for president. Bush, I thought, just didn’t seem to have the intelligence to be president. I also worried about his lack of foreign policy experience.

But, Bush got elected. I thought to myself, maybe he won’t be so bad. He may not have a lot of foreign policy knowledge, I thought, but he has Dick Cheney as his vice-president and Colin Powell in his cabinet, two people with backgrounds in foreign policy – and he could always turn to his dad as a trusted advisor.

Then 9/11 happened. Maybe he could have done more to prevent it, maybe not. We’ll never know, because all we can do at this stage is apply hindsight. I don’t hold 9/11 against him.

And then he decided to invade Afghanistan, to drive out the Taliban who provided the 9/11 terrorists a place to train. No problem with that. We had to show the world that terrorism would not be tolerated.

A year later, he decided to invade Iraq. Now, I agree that Saddam needed to go; in fact, I wish Bush’s dad had finished the job 10 years ago. And now that we’re over there, I support our troops 100% and am very proud of them for defending our freedom. What I have a problem with is the way Bush handled the Iraq situation.

Around this time, I began to notice something else about Bush, something that disturbed me even more than his lack of intelligence. He seems to have a mindset of I’M RIGHT, and if you disagree with me, I don’t even have to bother to listen to you, to try to understand your point of view, because I’M RIGHT and YOU’RE WRONG. That is a very dangerous mindset to have. It can close a person off so that he ignores valuable information, and leave him vulnerable to being manipulated. I’ve always believed it’s extremely important to listen to the other side’s argument with an open mind before forming an opinion. Bush doesn’t seem to do that.

Worse, a couple of his key cabinet members share this I’M RIGHT, YOU’RE WRONG mindset – Cheney and Don Rumsfeld. Bush seems to be ignoring people like Colin Powell who are more inclined to consider all sides of an issue. Not sure how much he goes to his father for advice.

So, my problem with Bush is not that he invaded Iraq, but that he didn’t listen to the many nations that opposed the invasion. I’m not saying that he had to agree, but he should have made more of an effort to meet with them and listen to what they had to say. Ever talked to someone and just knew you were wasting your breath, that they weren’t listening at all, or that they were merely pretending to listen to be polite and they really didn’t care what you had to say? It’s not a pleasant feeling, is it? That’s the way Bush made those citizens of all those countries feel. In two years, he managed to turn world opinion of the U.S. from a country everyone sympathized with (following 9/11) into the Evil Empire.

More recently, I’ve noticed another mindset of Bush (and Cheney and Rumsfeld) that is equally scary – that the end seems to justify the means at any cost. Did you see my journal entry a couple of days ago, where Bush is pushing a bill through Congress to reinstate the draft? He’s waiting until after the November election, of course. It makes me wonder which countries he plans on invading next. Iran? Syria? North Korea? If he’s not planning on invading anyone else, is the draft a sign that he’s made a bigger mess in Iraq than he’s willing to admit? The draft will affect ages 18-26, and women as well as men. It’s frightening to think that I might be dating someone 25 or 26 this time next year, and suddenly she could be shipped off to Iraq against her will to fight a war she may not even believe in.

I’m really, really afraid of what will happen if we give this man four more years in office. Nuclear war seems like a definite possibility. I worry that historians will look back and see Bush’s second term as the beginning of the fall of the United States.

So, I’m supporting Kerry for president.

It’s not a Democrat/Republican thing. I try to make my voting decisions based on the issues, rather than political affiliations. In my adult life there has not been a Republican presidential candidate I have supported, but I would consider it if the right person ran – McCain perhaps, or Powell. If I still lived in Arkansas I would vote to re-elect Mike Huckabee, a Republican, as governor because I think he has done an excellent job.

It’s not even a liberal/conservative thing in the traditional sense. On most social issues I tend to take the liberal point of view, whereas I tend to be centrist to conservative on fiscal issues. But let’s take a look at the record. When Clinton was president, we had a balanced budget. Bush, on the other hand, adds hundreds of billions of dollars to the national debt every year, with seemingly no concept that the next generation is going to have to pay for the mess he has made. Or possibly he thinks to himself, “Well, if the debt gets out of hand, we’ll just default. We’re the United States of America, we can do that.” I really don’t think the consequences have occurred to him, or perhaps he doesn’t care because his term will be over by then. So, who’s the real fiscal conservative here? Sure doesn’t seem like it’s Bush.

So, in summary, I’m really frightened by the thought of four more years of a Bush presidency, and therefore I’m voting for Kerry.

I know that some people will read this and disagree with what I have written. And, if you wish, I will be happy to discuss it, to listen to you and do my best to see things from your point of view.

Which, I think, is more than our current president would do.

Looking for something to do tomorrow evening? (Wed June 2)

First Wednesday at The Brooks. If you’ve never been, it’s a monthly party with music, food, and drinks. I like First Wed. because it attracts a diverse crowd age-wise. The majority of people who go are probably “young professionals,” but you get everyone from teenagers to longtime museum supporters in their 80s, and everyone mingles and has a good time. I haven’t made it to First Wednesday in about 6 months, but I guarantee you I’ll be there tomorrow – they’re celebrating the 50th anniversary of rock’n’roll, and my favorite band The Dempseys will be performing.

$5 cover, free if you’re a member of the Brooks. Hope to see you there.

Now this is scary

Picked this up from The Homeless Guy’s blog: There are bills in Congress to reinstate the draft. Of course, Bush and Rumsfeld are waiting until after the election to do it. Could happen as soon as June 2005. So if you’re between the ages of 18 and 26, or if you have friends or children who are, this is cause for alarm. It will be much harder to get deferments than it was the last time we had the draft, and this time women will be eligible as well as men.

Read the article and draw your own conclusions. And don’t forget to VOTE in November!

Sawaddii: The good guys

Last night a storm blew through Memphis, damaging several downtown buildings. I have a story, a story of a restaurant with good people, a story of how downtowners (people who live there and work there) take care of each other.

I had been out most of the day. Just after 8:00 pm, I stopped at Sawaddii, a Thai place on Union between Main and Second, and ordered the pad prik, a spicy dish, to go. They told me there would be a 30-minute wait, because a lot of people had come in right before me and the kitchen was backed up. However, 9 minutes later, my order came up, bagged up in a paper sack and ready to go. “We know you live downtown,” they explained. “There’s a huge storm headed this way, so we told the chef to hurry your order up, so you’d have time to make it home.” I made it home. Not long after, the bottom fell out.

So, eat at Sawaddii. They’re the good guys. And they have good food too.

My review of downtown apartment buildings

People are always e-mailing me and asking me where they can find a good place to live in downtown Memphis. So, in this post I will review all of the major downtown apartment complexes. I have friends all over downtown and have been in almost all of them. I will try to note how familiar I am with each place. Note that these are just my opinions and just facts; your mileage may vary. I will review from north to south. I’m not reviewing apartments on Mud Island or anything east of Danny Thomas; if you can’t walk or take the trolley to everything downtown, I don’t consider it true downtown living. Here we go…

Greenlaw Place

one block north of Auction between Second and Third

Brand-new apartment complex that caters to Memphis residents who earn 60% or less of the median income for the city. Brand new apartments with a pool and a W/D in each unit. I’ve been there for a pool party and have toured a sample unit.

My only gripe with this place is not something the apartments themselves can fix. They’re looking at servers and bartenders downtown as a target market – “take the trolley to and from work!” Well, on weekends the trolley stops running at 1 (WAY too early in my opinion), and the bars don’t close until 2 or later.

Overall though, very nice for the money. The neighborhood around it is in transition but the worst seems to be over. Recommended.

Uptown Square

north of Exchange, near Lauderdale

This is the old Lauderdale Courts, where Elvis once lived. They were once housing projects, and look like it on the outside. However, they’ve been completely renovated on the inside and are VERY nice. Clubhouse, pool, balconies/patios, and I think every unit has washer/dryer. Reasonable rent for downtown. They’re looking into getting wireless Internet for the entire community. A good chance to experience downtown luxury living without the luxury rent. I know one of the people putting this community together, and they’re very serious about recruiting tenants at a variety of income levels, stressing diversity and encouraging neighbors to become friends and learn from each other. Very very cool. I’ve been in the clubhouse and toured a sample apartment. Recommended.

Claridge House

corner of Main and Adams

Very nice hi-rise at the northern end of Main Street Mall. On the trolley line, with restaurants downstairs and a grocery across the street. I know many of the tenants and like all of them. One of them showed me her apartment last year and I was impressed. I believe they have laundry rooms rather than W/Ds; ask about this. They have a pool and party room. Rents are cheaper than in most other downtown buildings. Recommended.

99 Tower Place

Main between Adams and Jefferson

I know several people who live here or used to. There are some positives: among the best views downtown, balconies, near restaurants and grocery stores, on the trolley line. But, from what I’ve seen, the building is in a constant state of disrepair – at least one elevator is usually out, and the hallways I’ve seen look like they’re in process of being remodeled, except that they’ve looked that way for a long long time. This is not a terrible place to live, but not among the best either. Not recommended.

Number 10 Main

Main just south of Madison

This is where I currently live, and I love it. On the trolley line. A Walgreens and an excellent coffee shop (Empire Coffee) are nearby. Full size W/Ds in each unit, big apartments, two restaurant-quality grills and a hot tub on the rooftop, very nice gym in the basement, very nice neighbors. On the downside, rents are higher than most buildings, and you have to pay $80/mo to park in the garage across the alley (sometimes they have specials though). If you look here tell them Paul in #1307 referred you. Recommended.

Exchange Building

Second at Madison

I’ve never been in this building, and have heard mixed reviews. Some people I’ve talked to love it, others complain about the state of repair and the quality of tenants. Rents are probably the cheapest downtown. Laundry rooms rather than W/D in units. I’m neutral on this one; if the combination of central downtown location + cheap rent is what you’re looking for, this is perhaps the place for you. Otherwise, you may want to look at some of the nearby alternatives.

Shrine Building

Front at Monroe

Very nice building, great rooftop with hot tub, very nice neighbors. I’ve been in a couple of the units and on the roof. Can’t remember if they have W/D in the units or a laundry room. Overall, a very good place to live downtown. Recommended.

Echelon at the Ballpark

I lived here from February ’02 to February ’03 and vacated as soon as my lease was up. My advice is to check out aptratings.com and read tenants’ reviews. The walls were thin, and there wasn’t a security guard in the building at night. Based on my experience there, not recommended, but I give them credit for trying to improve recently. Several friends of mine have moved in recently and like it. Use your own judgment.

Gayoso House and Pembroke Square

Front/Main at Peabody Place

On the trolley line, grocery store downstairs, a short walk to most downtown attractions. Very nice apartments, good rooftop deck. I’ve had friends in both Gayoso and Pembroke and have been impressed with both buildings. The downside is that this is right in the heart of downtown which can mean traffic jams getting in and out on weekend nights. One of my top picks downtown. Recommended.

Mulberry Square

Mulberry between Talbot and Huling

I have friends that live here, and am impressed – brand new apartments, beautiful garden area. W/Ds in units. Friendly neighbors. Walking distance to the South Main arts district and to Raiford’s. Recommended.

Hotline Lofts

Main at Huling

Have never been in these, and don’t know anyone who lives there. No rating.

Central Station

Main at G.E. Patterson

I’ve heard mixed reviews about this place too. Several people I have known have loved it there, but more recently I have heard complaints about getting repairs done in a timely fashion. Right in the heart of South Main, on the trolley line. Rents are about average for downtown. I’m neutral on this one.

The Lofts

Tennessee at G.E. Patterson

The people I know who live there love it. I have toured the model unit and it is quite nice. Exposed brick, hardwood floors, big open loft space that you can set up any way you want. Pool and community area on roof. Parking garage across street with covered entrance. Among the priciest apartments downtown, but you may feel the price is worth it after seeing them. Recommended.

South Bluffs

Entrance at G.E. Patterson west of Tennessee

Gated community with a feel similar to Charleston, Savannah or Mud Island. Above average prices and amenities for downtown. I find it a little off the beaten path, but females who have safety issues with some of the more centrally-located places might want to look here. Pools, balconies and all the usual amenities. I’ve been in a couple of units and they’re quite nice. Half a block from the riverfront trolley loop. Recommended.

The Rivermark

On Riverside Drive south of downtown

Hi-rise with balconies overlooking the river. Used to be a hotel and has changed ownership several times. Have not been in this building since it became apartments, but most of the people I know who have lived here have liked it. Still, it’s just too darn far away from everything for me to recommend it – it’s a quarter mile even to South Main and the trolley loop. Average prices for downtown. Neutral, but if a great view of the river is your #1 criterion for downtown living, you should look here.

In summary…

Best location, if you like being where the action is

Gayoso/Pembroke

Shrine Building

Number 10 Main

Best location, if you want to live away from it all

South Bluffs

Mud Island

Must luxurious

Number 10 Main

The Lofts

Pembroke Square

Best value

Claridge House

Uptown Square

Exchange Building

Places I’ve heard the most complaints about

99 Tower Place

Echelon at the Ballpark

Exchange Building

Sunset Symphony

I’m a little disappointed that Sunset Symphony is on Saturday this year. The past several years the Great Southern Food Fest has run Saturday and Sunday, and they’ve had the Symphony and fireworks Sunday night.

This year they discontinued the Food Fest, which was a good move because most people would rather bring picnic baskets anyway. So now they only have one day of activities, and they moved it back to Saturday. I wish they hadn’t. Sunset Symphony is the most laid-back event of Memphis in May – it’s the contrast to the rowdiness of Music Fest and BBQ Fest. So it makes sense to keep it on Sunday, which tends to be a more laid-back day than Saturday. I worry that putting it on Saturday will draw the loud frat-boy and redneck types who ruin Music Fest every year.

It also seems to me that downtown businesses would rather keep the event on Sunday. Any Saturday night in May is going to be a big night for them, regardless. But Sundays tend to be a lot slower. Seems like they would want several thousand people downtown Sunday evening, who might be encouraged to stay out late and spend money since Monday is a holiday.

So, I probably will not attend Sunset Symphony this year. I can see the fireworks from my rooftop anyway.

However, I will be at the South Main Trolley Art Tour tonight from 6 to 9. It’s always a good time, especially when the weather is nice.

I’ll probably spend much of the rest of the weekend working on revisions to Moneytecture. We’re about to release version 1.2 which will contain some defined-benefit pension and Social Security stuff that needed to be included. We’re looking at some new options for distribution as soon as this new piece is finished, so I’m under the gun to get it done.

That’s it for now – have a good holiday weekend.

Sales and dating are a lot alike

(Names and dates are fictitious, but this is all based on too much of my reality.)

Thursday the 1st, 7:30 AM

(At my downtown networking group. We’re going around the table, giving each other referrals that we’ve picked up in the past week. Larry, a professional resume writer, stands up.)

Larry: I have a referral for Paul. Paul, my friend Wes Schneider is a podiatrist, and most of his patients pay through insurance, but a few pay out of pocket, and he’d like to be able to accept credit cards to accomodate them. So I gave him your card and told him you’d call.

Me: That’s great, Larry, thank you! I’ll call him today.

Larry: Please do, he’s anxious to get moving with this, and he said he plans to use you, based on my recommendation.

Thursday the 1st, 10:30 AM

(phone rings)

“You have reached the offices of Dr. Wes Schneider. No one is available to take your call right now. Please leave a message after the beep.”

Me: Hello, Dr. Schneider, my name is Paul Ryburn. Larry Smith asked me to give you a call. He said that you are interested in getting set up to accept credit cards at your office, and I can get that done for you. You can reach me at 555-8888. Thanks and have a great day.

Thursday the 1st, 4:00 PM

Receptionist: Dr. Schneider’s office, may I help you?

Me: Yes, this is Paul Ryburn, I left a message for Dr. Schneider this morning. Larry Smith told me that he would be interested in accepting…

Receptionist: Dr. Schneider has left for the day, may I take a message?

Me: Yes, if you can tell him that I’m the guy Larry Smith referred to him, who will get him set up to accept credit cards, that would be great. My number is 555-8888.

Receptionist: Oh, you’re the credit card person! Yes, he wants to talk to you. I’ll let him know you called.

Me: Thank you.

Friday the 2nd, 2:00 PM

Receptionist: Dr. Schneider’s office, may I help you?

Me: Yes, this is Paul Ryburn, I called yesterday for Dr. Schneider…

Receptionist: He’s out of the office all afternoon playing golf, can you call back Monday?

Me: I sure can. Have a great weekend.

Saturday the 3rd, 11:40 PM

(At Club Whatsitsname, a downtown nightclub. I’m standing at the bar, having just bought a Maker’s Mark and Coke. A cute brunette approaches.)

Cute brunette: Hey, where do I know you from?

Me: Hmm, don’t know, do you live downtown?

Cute brunette: Midtown actually. I know, you’re in Mpact right? I went with my sister to one of their events and I think I saw you there.

Me: That must be it. Was it the one at Earnestine & Hazel’s?

Cute brunette: Yes! (hugs me) It’s so good to see you again! (another hug) Actually, I’ve seen you around several times. You used to teach, didn’t you? My name’s Beth.

Me: I’m Paul, nice to meet you.

(15 minutes of small talk follows. Beth moves progressively closer and stares into my eyes for longer and longer periods. Then a redhead taps Beth on the shoulder and gestures)

Beth: I think my friends are about to leave, so I have to go. But it’s been great talking to you! (big hug) Do you want my number?

Me: Yeah, let’s get together next weekend for a drink. (I write down number)

Beth: I would LOVE that! (kiss on cheek) Call me! (walks away with friends)

Monday the 5th, 9:45 AM

(phone rings)

“You have reached the offices of Dr. Wes Schneider. No one is available to take your call right now. Please leave a message after the beep.”

Me: Hello, Dr. Schneider, my name is Paul Ryburn, the credit card guy Larry Smith referred. I hear you’re interested in getting set up to take MasterCard and Visa. You can reach me at 555-8888, and we’ll get you set up. Thanks.

Tuesday the 6th, 3:00 PM

(phone rings)

“You have reached the offices of Dr. Wes Schneider. No one is available to take your call right now. Please leave a message after the beep.”

Me: Hello, Dr. Schneider, this is Paul Ryburn the credit card guy again. Just wanted to get back to you on getting set up to take MasterCard and Visa. Larry said you’re anxious to get started, so just give me a call back at 555-8888. Thanks.

Tuesday the 6th, 7:00 PM

(phone rings)

“Hi! This is Beth! I can’t come to the phone right now, so leave me a message and I’ll call you right back!”

Me: Hi Beth, this is Paul. We met at Club Whatsitsname Saturday night. Hope you had a great weekend. I’ll try to call you again later in the week, or you can reach me at 555-8888.

Wednesday the 7th, 8:15 AM

(my cell phone rings)

Me: Hello?

Male Voice: Paul? Wes Schneider here.

Me: (scrambling to remember who the hell he is) Oh! Dr. Schneider! Thanks for calling me back. How are you?

Male voice: Call me Wes. Listen, I want to apologize for not getting back with you last week, but I was out on the golf course. You know how that is. I shot a 75!

Me: (No idea whether that’s a good score – I hate golf) Wow…that’s…really something. Well, it’s good to finally talk with you, and I’d like to set up a time to talk with you about credit and debit cards. Does tomorrow work, or would Friday be better?

Wes: The rest of this week is looking real busy, the HMOs have been sending a lot of business my way. Why don’t you give my receptionist a call first thing next week, and we’ll set up a time to talk.

Me: Sounds good, Wes, I look forward to talking with you, and good luck with your golf game this weekend.

Wednesday the 7th, 7:30 PM

Female voice: Hello?

Me: Hello, is this Beth?

Female voice: No, this is her sister, Lauren. Beth is outside, I can go get her. May I say who’s calling?

Me: This is Paul, I met her at Club Whatsitsname Saturday night.

Lauren: Okay, Paul, hang on and I’ll get her.

(…)

Lauren: Paul, Beth is outside painting and she’s all messy right now. Can she give you a call back in a little while?

Me: Sure, my number’s 555-8888.

Saturday the 10th, 1:30 PM

(phone rings)

“Hi! This is Beth! I can’t come to the phone right now, so leave me a message and I’ll call you right back!”

(*click* No message. I give up.)

Monday the 12th, 9:00 AM

Receptionist: Dr. Schneider’s office, may I help you?

Me: Yes, this is Paul Ryburn. Dr. Schneider asked me to call today to set up an appointment.

Receptionist: Okay, what kind of foot problems are you having?

Me: No, I’m not a patient, he had asked me to call him about accepting credit cards.

Receptionist: Oh, yes, I remember now. He’s with a patient, I’ll have him give you a call in a little while.

Monday the 12th, 3:30 PM

(phone rings)

“You have reached the offices of Dr. Wes Schneider. No one is available to take your call right now. Please leave a message after the beep.”

Me: Dr. Schneider – Wes – this is Paul Ryburn, you asked me to give you a call about credit cards. My number is 555-8888. Hope to talk to you soon.

Tuesday the 13th, 1:00 PM

(Out on the road. I stop in Starbucks and try their new Strawberries & Cream Frappucino. I work on my laptop for about an hour and then get up to leave. A blonde stops me.)

Blonde: You’re…Paul right?

Me: Yeah…

Blonde: I’m Kim! Beth’s friend? Who you met at Club Whatsitsname?

Me: Oh! Kim, now I remember.

Kim: So, why haven’t you called my best friend?

Me: I did call her. I got her voice mail one time, and I…

Kim: OH..MAH..GOD. You SO have not called her.

Me: Yes I did. Did she not get the messages?

Kim: Of course she didn’t, because you didn’t call her, silly! Listen, you’d better give her a call soon, or I am going to be SOOOO mad at you. She REALLY liked you. She was so excited when you told her you’d call and ask her out for a drink.

Me: That’s cool, I’ll call her tonight. Hey, can you give me her number again? (I had thrown it away after the third unsuccessful attempt to reach her)

Kim: 555-6767. You better call her!

Me: I will, tonight.

Kim: PROMISE???

Me: I promise.

Tuesday the 13th, 8:00 PM

(phone rings)

“Hi! This is Beth! I can’t come to the phone right now, so leave me a message and I’ll call you right back!”

Me: Hi Beth, this is Paul from Club Whatsitsname. Your friend Kim told me you might not have received my messages last week. Give me a call back at 555-8888, I’d still like to grab a drink with you.

Wednesday the 14th, 11:30 AM

(phone rings)

“You have reached the offices of Dr. Wes Schneider. No one is available to take your call right now. Please leave a message after the beep.”

Me: Wes, this is Paul Ryburn. If you’re still interested in accepting credit cards from your patients, give me a call at 555-8888 and we’ll set you up. Thanks.

Thursday the 15th, 8:30 AM

Receptionist: Dr. Schneider’s office, may I help you?

Me: This is Paul Ryburn, I had talked to Dr. Schneider about credit cards, is he in?

Receptionist: Yes, he’s here. Let me transfer you.

(Finally!)

Wes: Paul! How ya doing, buddy!

Me: Hello Wes! It’s good to finally get you on the phone.

Wes: Yep, I’m a hard man to reach hahaha. But I appreciate you staying on me about this credit card thing, I need to get it done. How’s tomorrow morning look for you?

Me: Looks wide open, let’s meet. 10:00? 11:00?

Wes: 10:00 at my office?

Me: Sounds like a plan. I’ll see you tomorrow, Wes.

Thursday the 15th, 4:50 PM

(Home for the afternoon, preparing to go hang out in the coffee shop. My cell phone rings.)

Me: Hello?

Wes: Paul? Wes Schneider here, buddy! Listen, I’ve had something come up. I’m leaving town Saturday morning to play the Robert Trent Jones golf course down in Alabama, and I’ll be gone for two weeks. My wife is more or less DEMANDING that I spend the day with her tomorrow. So I need to cancel our meeting. But I’m still interested, if you want to give me a call after I get back in town, we’ll get together. How’s that sound?

Me: (my blood is absolutely boiling; gritting teeth) Sounds fine. Enjoy your golf trip, Wes.

Thursday the 15th, 9:00 PM

(phone rings)

“Hi! This is Beth! I can’t come to the phone right now, so leave me a message and I’ll call you right back!”

Me: Beth, this is Paul. Just calling to see what you’re up to this weekend. My number’s 555-8888.

Monday the 19th, 7:10 PM

(phone rings)

“Hi! This is Beth! I can’t come to the phone right now, so leave me a message and I’ll call you right back!”

(*click*)

Thursday the 22nd, 5:00 PM

(Done for the day, I walk to Jack’s Food Store for a Mountain Dew. As I cross Jefferson at Main, I pass Toothless Crackhead, Homeless Person with Bad B.O., and Pigeon. My cell phone rings.)

Me: Hello?

Female voice: Hello, Paul? This is Beth? How ARE yoooouuuuuu???

Me: Beth! I’m doing well, how are you? I’m surprised to hear from you, I’ve been trying to get in touch with you. Did you get my messages?

Beth: I did. You know how us girls are. You just have to keep trying. But you’ve got me now. It’s so GOOD to hear your voice!

Toothless Crackhead: Hey man, lemme get a cigarette from you.

Me: I don’t smoke, man.

Beth: Paul, I am so sorry about my friend Kim jumping all over you. I hope she didn’t make you too mad.

Me: No, I was actually glad to hear you still wanted to talk, I…

Toothless Crackhead: Hey man, how about some change, a dollar or something?

Me: Can’t you see I’m on the phone? GO AWAY! (Toothless Crackhead wanders off, muttering something about me being a racist.) (Then, to Beth:) I’m glad to finally get to talk to you. But you know what would be even better – to talk to you in person. I was about to head to this bar called Swig downtown, why don’t you m…

(Click)(Click)

Beth: Paul, can you hang on a minute? I have a call on the other line.

(Silence for a couple of minutes)

(Click) Beth: Paul? I’m sorry but I have to get off. My mom just called, she thinks the cleaning woman stole some of her jewelry and she’s FREAKING OUT. I have to get over there. But I want to see you this weekend. I’ll give you a call later this evening. Okay?

Me: That’s fine, I’d appreciate it if you’d give me a call back though, it’s so hard to get in touch with you.

Beth: I will, I swear I will. Can’t wait to see you this weekend. Bye…

Thursday the 22nd, evening

(No call from Beth)

Friday the 23rd

(No call from Beth)

Saturday the 24th, 1:10 PM

(phone rings)

“Hi! This is Beth! I can’t come to the phone right now, so leave me a message and I’ll call you right back!”

(*click*)

Monday the 26th, 6:00 PM

(Walking across the street to Walgreens to buy toothpaste. Gas Can Bum, Liquor Store Bum, and Homeless Woman with Shower Cap are outside. Cell phone rings)

Me: Hello?

Beth: Hello Paul? This…is…Beth! How are YOU? Oh my god Paul…I have GOT to tell you about my weekend, this party I went to with my sister. What are you doing right now?

Me: Just doing a little shopping. Um, Flying Saucer in 30 minutes?

Beth: It’s a date! Oh my god, we’re finally going to get to hang out, I’m so EXCITED!!! See you in a few!

(I go in and buy the toothpaste. As I walk out the phone rings again.)

Me: Hello?

Beth: Paul, it’s Beth. You remember my friend Kim? Her boyfriend just dumped her and she is CRYING, Paul, I mean she is absolutely DEVASTATED. I have got to get over to her, so I’m going to have to cancel our plans for the Saucer. Is that all right? You don’t totally hate me now, do you? Hey, we’ll get together this week though, give me a call later tonight, okay?

Me: I’ll be in touch, Beth. Bye. (and I hang up)

Bum: Hey, big dog, hey mane, let me holla at you for a minute. Look here, brother, I need to get about ninety-two cent.

(If I ever hear a bum correctly pluralize “cents” I will be so shocked that I’ll probably give him the money. By the way, did you know that Thunderbird sells for $1.92 at the liquor store?)

Me: I don’t have any money for you, but do you want a free phone? (I hand him my cell phone)

Bum: You serious?

Me: I don’t want it anymore, it’s yours.

Bum: You ain’t no cop or nothin’, is ya?

Me: No, I just really don’t want to ever touch a phone again. Take it. Now, a couple of people may call. A girl named Beth. She’s cute, if she calls, you should get together with her.

Bum: Aw yeah? You think she’ll give up tha booty for me?

Me: I think a man like you is exactly what she deserves. Now listen, you may get a call from a guy named Wes, too. Do you have any foot problems?

Bum: Feet? Yeah, man, last year I got drunk and tripped over an empty bottle of Colt 45 and it shattered and got all up in my feet! I couldn’t walk for about 3 days, man. There’s still a big ol’ bump there, you wanna see?

Me: (stepping way back) No, no, that’s all right. Anyway, a guy named Wes may call you on that phone, he can fix your feet. I bet you could persuade him to do it for free, too.

Bum: Free? I like the sound of that. I likes me some free. Hey man, are you sure you don’t got no ninety-two cent?

Me: No, just the phone. Enjoy it.

(and I walk away. The End.)

Post-weekend update

Artrageous lived up to expectations and then some. Definitely the most FUN fund-raiser I’ve ever attended. And, I discovered a great local band – Automusik. How to describe this act…I can’t even begin. The old “Sprockets” skits from Saturday Night Live come to mind, but that doesn’t do them justice. Just go look at their website, particularly the links to reviews that have been written about them. And go to their next live show in Memphis. You will likely see me there. Am looking forward to seeing this act in a venue that is not a 90-degree warehouse with poor circulation.

The rest of the acts were good too – Big Nazo, the rock band that wore animal costumes, was really entertaining. But again, the hot warehouse got the best of me and I could only stay for about 10 minutes of their show. Barbara Blue was playing in a better-ventilated section, and I listened to her and drank something called “blue frozen drink” for a while.

Best charity fundraiser I have EVER been to, bar none. There was not one iota of that “stuffy young professional” vibe that permeates most fundraising events. I have newfound respect for the Arts Council and will look to get more involved with them in the future.

Saturday night I went to a party at Stop 345. For me it was like stepping back in a time warp. I saw people I used to see at Red Square and Six-1-Six in 1995. I leaned against a post and listened to the music and people-watched for much of the night, as I did in clubs in 1995. But what I found myself realizing as the night went on was…it’s not 1995 anymore. It just isn’t my scene anymore. Nothing against the organizers of the party, which was very well done (as their parties always are). Nothing against the DJs, who were great. It’s me. I’m a different person than I was ten years ago, when I hung out in clubs 5 or 6 nights a week. After about two hours of it I started to miss my downtown friends. So I left and headed down to Beale Street, to look for them in the bars where the locals usually hang out – the Tap Room and the Black Diamond. When I couldn’t find them, I just decided to call it a night.

After I got home, I couldn’t stop thinking how happy I am with my life downtown. I’ve made a really great group of friends down here the past two years, people I can count on, people I can pal around with, people who really understand me, people whom I admire and respect. I have a coffee shop steps away from my front door where I know all the regulars, and the owner and all the staff. I’m part of a nonprofit organization where I work to make Memphis a better place and meet a lot of fascinating people. I have many shops and restaurants within walking distance where people know me by name. It’s a good feeling.

When I was leaning against that post in 1995, there was an emptiness, an emptiness I didn’t even realize was there. Now, I can look back and sense that emptiness, and also sense that it’s no longer a part of me. I’m now actively engaged in life, instead of simply leaning against a post and watching life go by.

Wow. Deep stuff. If you were expecting the usual crap I write about – the bums, the pigeons, pro wrestling, etc. – sorry.