Magazines

About a year ago, I got a notice in the mail that I had been selected to receive a complimentary subscription to Stuff magazine. Stuff is one of those men’s magazines filled with pictures of half-naked women who I’m supposed to think are hot, articles about extreme sports that I’m supposed to think are cool, and features about gadgets that I’m supposed to want to buy.

So about a month later, the first issue arrived. I found that on average, it look me less than 5 minutes to flip through each issue and toss it in the trash can.

Recently, my “complimentary” subscription ran out. And they sent me a bill – now that I’ve had a year of their great magazine, wouldn’t I like to renew at full price? The bill ended up sitting next to the last three issues in the trash (geez, maybe I should take the trash out more often, huh).

You know what magazine I’d much rather subscribe to than Stuff? Cosmopolitan. No kidding. When I was a regular at the Blue Monkey, the bartender usually had the latest issue behind the bar and I’d read it as I drank my Sunday champagne. Once I got over the whole “I hope no one I know sees me reading a women’s magazine” thing, I began to realize that Cosmo really did offer some valuable insights into how women think. Seems like it would make more sense to read a magazine that gives me an idea how women’s minds work, so I can relate to them better in the real world, rather than look at pictures of scantily-clothed women I’ll never meet.

Any suggestions? Other than Cosmo, are there any magazines out there that will help me better understand women? I refuse to buy anything published by Oprah or Martha Stewart, but I’m open to other suggestions.

Retirement, and the problem with following the herd

One of my biggest pet peeves – perhaps my biggest of all – is people who blindly accept what society dictates they “should” do without ever stopping to ask if it’s truly in their best interest. And one area where people seem especially inclined to behave like sheep is retirement planning.

Recently I became eligible for my company’s 401(k) plan and had to attend a meeting to learn about the options. Some of the other people in the room were saying, “I wonder if I’ll have enough money at age 65 when I retire.”

Hear the societally-programmed belief there? “Age 65 is when I’m SUPPOSED to retire.”

Says who?

Maybe accepting 65 as a retirement age made sense when you could actually depend on Social Security to cover your bills, but those days are gone. Or if you had a company pension that begins paying off at 65. But these days, few companies offer pensions; they offer 401(k)s, 403(b)s, or other defined-contribution plans.

So, when are you supposed to retire? The way I see it, when two conditions are met:

1) When the desire not to work anymore is greater than the desire to keep working. And this rarely happens at 65. Some people love what they do and would like to keep doing it until the day they die, or until the day they find something even better. Some people have no need to keep working once their kids are through college.

And there are people like me who enjoy their work, but believe we were born to play, not to work, and would retire tomorrow except for condition number 2:

2) When you have enough money to maintain whatever lifestyle you want to have in retirement. The 401(k) video we had to watch at work said people typically need 60-70% of their current income to retire comfortably. I don’t believe that at all. I don’t want to cut back when I retire! I think most people want to maintain the same lifestyle in retirement as they did when they were working. Maybe even a better lifestyle, because now you have more time to travel, enjoy life, spoil the grandchildren, whatever!

There are plenty of people who retire, get incredibly bored, and die after only a few years. Why? Condition 1 was not met. Their life would have been much more fulfilling had they continued to work. But they bought into the myth that they were “supposed” to be happy in retirement at 65, and found out it was just a myth.

Then there are people who retire at 65 and wonder why they can’t make ends meet. It’s because condition 2 was not met. They weren’t in good enough financial shape to retire, but because they did what they were “supposed” to they assumed everything would be okay. And now they’re finding out that things don’t work that way.

I’ve also met people who are 45-50 who have jobs they go to every day, and they’re generally pretty miserable, and they complain about how much they hate working, despite the fact that they have enough money to live on for the rest of their lives. So why don’t they retire? Because it isn’t in their reality that they can do that. They too have bought into the myth. There’s an artificial barrier in their minds saying they can’t stop working, even though their investment statements indicate they can.

“But…” you may ask. “401(k)s, IRAs, and other tax-advantaged accounts can’t be drawn on until age 59 1/2. So you CAN’T retire before then.” Yes you can. The only thing is, if you draw on them before 59 1/2, you have to pay taxes and penalties. So the reality is not “I CAN’T retire before 59 1/2,” it’s “Do I have enough money to cover not only my retirement but also taxes and penalties until then?”

People would be so much better off if they asked, “What are the options?” when it comes to making life decisions, rather than asking, “What is everyone else doing?” or saying, “I can’t.” But so few people do. Financial and retirement decisions are just one area where this is the case.

Hiatus (not from blogging)

I’ve decided to take a one-week hiatus, starting tomorrow, from much of my usual routine: brunch at Sleep Out’s on Sunday, trivia at the Flying Saucer on Tuesday, etc. Part of it is that I have some personal business I want to take care of. Part of it is that by not going out, I’ll save up some Christmas money.

And part of it is that I want to experience what it’s like to not have a routine. I want to experience waking up at 10:00 on Sunday morning and not thinking, “I HAVE to get up and get to brunch,” and rolling over and going back to sleep and at some point later getting up and exploring what else there is to do on Sunday.

I want to experience coming home from work on Tuesday and not thinking, “I HAVE to get ready to go out to trivia night,” and enjoying having an extra weekday night to do whatever I want to do.

Many people are comforted by routines. I hate them. And I feel like my life is becoming more routine than I want it to. So I’m going to shake things up a bit.

I’ll likely be back at brunch and trivia night the week after, or at most the week after that.

And there is one place you can definitely count on finding me on Sunday. Tonight I took a walk after work, and as I walked past downtown Huey’s I saw this coming Sunday’s musical lineup on the board. From 8 to 12: The Dempseys. I’ll definitely be there for that!

My hiatus will not extend to blogging, so you can still count on new material from me in the coming week.

Tube Top 101

It’s time to write a post about one of my favorite topics… tube tops.

Last week one of my blog’s regular readers decided that she’d be adventurous and wear a tube top in public for the first time. Now, it so happened that last week she had a date, and a girls’ night out.

Quiz: If you had both of those activities planned for the same week, would you wear the tube top on the

A) date
B) girls’ night out

If you said B), congratulations, you think like a woman. But it’s the wrong answer, so you failed the quiz.

If any of my readers work at women’s clothing stores, here’s an idea: Orientation classes for tube top purchasers. This would also be a way to generate additional sales. Once you’ve explained that tube tops are an example of dressing for men, not women, you can then sell them an additional $150 top (of the non-tube variety) to wear on girls’ night. And maybe you can tack on another $150 for one of those godawful sequin purses that women think are in style this year. Not a bad idea, huh?

(Wednesday morning update) Have just been informed that the girls got a free round of drinks sent to their table at their girls’ night out. The tube top wearer credits her outfit, and she’s absolutely correct.

Wedding gift: problem solved

Today I was opening my mail. There was a wedding invitation from friends of mine who are getting married in Israel in May, and then having a reception here in June. I thought to myself, what am I going to get them for a wedding gift? I’m not particularly wedding-minded myself so I’m always terrible at picking out wedding-related gifts.

And as I was thinking about it, I picked up the rest of my mail. An ad fell out. “Give the gift of great food!” it said. It was an ad for Sonic gift cards. Problem solved! That sounds like a great wedding gift. Sometimes the universe has a way of giving you what you’re looking for.

Only trouble is, they read this blog so it won’t be a surprise. Oh well, life isn’t perfect.

Drunk post in reverse: A winter’s evening downtown

– Just got home. I had meant to take a quick walk down Beale Street and come home a couple of hours ago but I walked past Blues City Cafe and the Dempseys were playing and they saw me walking outside and said, “Come on in, Paul!”

– Before that I went to the Flying Saucer. Native Son was playing but all but one member were on a break and he was fooling around. He played “Ice Ice Baby” by Vanilla Ice and “Bust a Move” by Young MC. Then, just joking around, he said, “We’re Cheese and the Sausage Plates!” These three dumbasses on the couch to my right went, “Cheese and the Sausage Plates, write that down, that’s the name of the band.”

– Speaking of which, I know a guy who looks just like a blond Vanilla Ice and… oh, never mind. At least a couple of readers know who I’m referring to though.

– Before that, I had wandered through Peabody Place mall on the way home. A band was playing in the middle of the mall and they were selling wine outside Dan McGuinness. Apparently this is an every-Wednesday thing. Ran into a friend of mine who is a country singer who has sang in Nashville. Made tentative plans to go to Raiford’s Friday night.

– Before that I was walking home from a housewarming party. As I walked past a stained-glass business on South Main the owner knocked on the window. He motioned “come in” and handed me a beer. Then he handed me another beer. We knew each other but he again reminded me, “you’re ‘that guy’ who everyone knows downtown.” He told me how he had enjoyed having a huge space for his shop but had recently subdivided into condos; I told him how I discovered Raiford’s seven years ago.

– Before that I walked down South Main past GE Patterson where friends of mine had bought a condo and had a housewarming party. One of the other guests told me my name in Arabic is “Boulous.” My neighbor Carmel was there. For those of you who read this blog to keep up with Carmel’s social life, her date last night (which she missed trivia for) went very well, better than expected. She hopes for another date soon.

– Before that I drove home from work as I listened to the Leon Gray Show

– Before that I developed database queries to pull voids and stop-pay fees for one of our vendors at work. When that got boring I pulled up a web browser and searched on “teach English in Romania”. Found out that such a position pays 100-200 euros a month. 100 euros = $117.88 US dollars. Guess I won’t be going to Romania anytime soon.

– Before that I made emergency changes to the programming logic of one of our spiff vendors’ websites.

– Before that I made a Walgreens trip at lunch. There’s this girl at the neighborhood Walgreens who is pretty hot.

– Before that I got some work done, read the Commercial Appeal online, and checked W’s popularity ratings. Still in the crapper, in case you’re wondering.

– Before that I took my morning break.

– Before that I figured out why a database wasn’t copying, voided some rebate claims, and changed a few website registrations where users had put their last name in the “middle initial” field. I suggested changing the “middle initial” field to a max length of 1 character but that’s apparently a violation of IRS code.

– Before that I drove to work.

– Before that I got up.

– Before that it was yesterday.

– It was funny typing this post drunk, let’s see how it stacks up tomorrow when everyone’s sober and checking this blog from work. Carry on!

200

I’ll be at the Saucer to drink my 200th beer this evening around 7:00. Anyone who wishes to join me is welcome to do so. (NOTE: This is not the same thing as my plate-unveiling party, that will happen several weeks from now.)

Other news:

– I’ll be updating my “Downtown on the Cheap” article with some additional finds, and recommendations from a vegetarian when I have a little time.

– Went to the Soul Party at the Hi-Tone Saturday night – great music, great videos, but I hardly knew a soul there, and it was packed. After about an hour I got tired of elbowing my way through the crowd, and left. Next time they have soul night I’m going to have to round up a posse of downtowners and take them with me.

– Last night I learned from neighbor/trivia team member Carmel that there’s such a thing as a “winter tube top.” It’s thicker than traditional tube tops, and as she explains it, you wear it under a jacket to an event, but once you’re in a heated building, the jacket can come off. She has apparently owned a winter tube top for two years, but has not worked up the nerve to wear it – something about being afraid that it won’t stay up. You may recall that this is the same person who borrowed a tube top from her sister last summer and then never actually wore it, and then wore a halter top and claimed “it’s almost a tube top, except it has straps.”

– She needs to learn to conquer her fear… for example, she could wear this winter tube top the next time she misses trivia night because she has a date.

– Yesterday afternoon, while sitting at the bar at Sleep Out’s getting drunk, something crossed my path which may turn out to be a very intriguing opportunity. Can’t write about it in the blog yet though. Ask me about it in person when you see me around town. Once I have more info I’ll decide whether to mention it here.

Not a very exciting blog entry but it’s Monday morning. Maybe I’ll take pics of the 200th beer tonight and post them.

Downtown Memphis on the cheap

You have to be careful with your money when you live downtown. The bars are in walking distance, and very accessible. You can easily blow $200 or more a week going out if you don’t know how to do downtown on a budget. Below are some suggestions to live it up downtown without spending a lot. A couple of notes before we start;

  • I’m not a vegetarian. I am, as my 5-year-old neighbor Dara would say, a “meatatarian.” There are probably some cheap veggie eats downtown but I have no idea what they are. I know I have some regular readers who are vegetarian, and if they want to e-mail suggestions I’ll add them.
  • I have no idea what there is to do downtown that’s cheap and family-friendly. Unless your family likes to go to bars.

I’ll try to update this list from time to time, and change the timestamp so that it bumps up to the top of my blog. Okay, let’s get started with the list:

$1 PBR, Sundays at Sleep Out Louie’s – A friend of mine hung out at Sleep Out’s for 5 hours recently on a Sunday, and his bill was $6.24. Not bad. You’ll have to endure the stupid antics of the drunks at the bar, though. One of the drunks will be me.

$1 PBR, Mondays at the Tap Room – Not positive this is still going on, but I think so. They’re getting annoyed because the bums will beg for change on the street, then come in and pay for a beer with pennies. Anyway, cheap way to drink and watch Monday Night Football.

Pint Night, Mondays at the Flying Saucer and Dan McGuinness Pub – Your chance to drink some beers that are normally in the $4-5 range for $2.50. The Saucer has a wider selection of beers, and they have waitresses in miniskirts, so I tend to hang out there more. But both are good choices.

Pint Night, Tuesdays at the Tap Room – Again, $2.50 for all their drafts, which would cost $3-6 any other night. I usually stop by for a Stella Artois or a Bridgeport IPA. In addition, the bartender, Maurice, has excellent taste in TV and usually has the Cartoon Network on, so I get to watch Family Guy and Futurama while I drink.

Pint Night, Tuesday’s at TJ Mulligans – Never been to this, but their ad says $2 for draft pints.

Lunch at Cafe Samovar – Samovar, in my opinion, is among the best restaurants in town. Their lunch menu has many of the same selections as dinner, but you pay $8-9 instead of $15-25.

Food at the Black Diamond – The Black Diamond on Beale (open 6 pm – 5 am) has surprisingly good food, and except for the large pizzas nothing is over 6 bucks. Great way to fill up on a budget. They’re also the only bar downtown to serve PBR properly – ice cold, in a can.

Dyer’s on Beale – Instead of paying $19 for ribs at one of the surrounding restaurants, come here and get a really good burger for 5 bucks. In my opinion Dyer’s burgers are far better than Huey’s, which always wins the Best Burger polls. My recommendations: the double-double with fries, or the split dog sandwich.

Beef Salad at Sawaddii – Thai beef and vegetables for 6 bucks. Enough food to call a meal, and I doubt there’s a single carb in this thing if you’re watching your weight.

Sasquatch Burger at Big Foot – I’m listing a $20 burger as a value? Yes, if you’re there with a big group. A group of 6-10 could dine on one 4 lb. Sasquatch burger, be quite full, and have a check that amounts to only a few bucks a person.

Court House Deli – Really good Cajun dishes (try the crawfish etoufee, or the cajun chili) for under 5 bucks. They also serve sandwiches. Lunch-only. I always ask for extra crackers with my chili, then after I’m done eating I walk outside to Court Square and feed the pigeons.

Omelets and egg platters at Blue Plate Cafe – for under 7 bucks, you can get your choice of several omelets, or egg dishes (benedict, florentine, huevos rancheros, etc.), and they come with biscuits and sawmill gravy, and your choice of hash browns, grits, or 3 buttermilk pancakes. This is enough food to fill you up for the rest of the day.

$5 Fish and Chips at Dan McGuinness – every Thursday, all day long, unless they’ve changed it.

BBQ Buffet at Leonard’s, Main at Adams – the buffet here is not an incredible value (with soft drink, $10) but you get all the food (ribs, smoked sausage, pulled pork sandwiches, baked beans, etc.) that you’d find on a $19.99 platter at Rendezvous or Blues City or King’s Palace, and you can eat as much as you want.

Happy Hour at LoLo’s table – well drinks, half off, 4-7 weekdays. Excellent value. A lot of people from my building (No. 10 Main) hang out there. If the bartender is a redhead named Alyssa, tell her I sent you.

Happy Hour at Swig – again, 4-7 weekdays. This is a chance to try some of their normally expensive martinis and mixed drinks at deep discounts. I forget exactly how much off you get, but it’s substantial.

Gin & Tonic at Swig – if you go there late night, and want to soak up the atmosphere without busting your budget on $10 martinis, order a well gin and tonic. Last time I had one it was $4.75, which is about as good a value as you’re going to find at Swig.

Fire Sale at the Flying Saucer – every day the Saucer puts one of their beers on sale for $2.50 (except Monday, when almost all of the drafts are $2.50). This is your chance to hang out there and enjoy a good beer without spending a lot. Typical Fire Sale beers: J.W. Honey Brown, Harpoon IPA, Pyramid DPA, Abita Turbo Dog, Abita Amber, Abita Purple Haze, Flying Dog Doggie Style, Sam Adams.

The Call-a-Cab at Wet Willie’s – Wet Willie’s Call-a-Cab is a daiquiri made of three ingredients – strawberry drink mix, cherry drink mix, and 190 Everclear. The large Cab ($7.25) has almost as much alcohol as a six-pack of beer. A good way to enjoy Beale on a budget is to start at Wet Willie’s, drink a Call-a-Cab, and then hit the pricey tourist traps and drink water. NOTE: absolutely NOT recommended if you have to drive a car home.
Also – I’ve heard that the food portions at Wet Willie’s are HUGE. Friends of mine have told me that an order of nachos (around $8) is more food than two people can finish.

Big Foot Beer at Big Foot Lodge – If you can tolerate Coors Light, you can get 34 oz. of it for $3.99. You can also get a 34 oz. Newcastle for $6.50, which is an excellent value.

Celebrity’s on Beale (in the building that used to be The Field and before that Dick’s Last Resort, Fourth and Beale) – This place is at the far end of Beale Street and has to try harder to get people down there. They often have the cheapest beer and drink prices on the street.

Never pay a cover at the Flying Saucer – Join the UFO Club for about 14 bucks. You get a free T-shirt, and you get a UFO Club card. Show the card at the door and you’ll never have to pay the cover (usually $3) again. Five visits and it’s paid for itself. I like this a lot, because I like to walk through bars and see if there’s anyone I know – if so, I drink with them, if not, I leave and go somewhere else. With the UFO card, I don’t have to pay just to go inside and see who’s there.

Mug Club at the Tap Room – If you spend any amount of time at the Tap Room on Beale, join the Mug Club. It costs $20 for the mug, but you get your first beer free, and after that you get $1 off any draft and you get a 22 oz. pint instead of the usual 16 oz. In the long run it pays for itself.

South Main Trolley Art Tour – The last Friday of every month, the galleries of South Main stay open until 9, and many of them put out free wine and food. Good atmosphere, good times. If you’re there for the art: Be sure to check out Jay Etkin (Main at Huling), Etched Art (505 S. Main), D. Edge (Main just south of GE Patterson), and the gallery on GE Patterson next to the Cheesecake Factory (can’t think of the name at the moment). If you’re there for drinks: Most places have wine out, but Gestures in particular usually has something unique and tasty.

$10 wristband Friday nights on Beale – if you want to go out clubbing on Beale, this is your chance to do it without blowing all your money on cover charges up and down the street.

Free wireless Internet for customers at the following places downtown: Cafe Francisco, Empire Coffee, Quetzal, Sleep Out Louie’s, Dan McGuinness, Flying Saucer, Swig. There’s also free wireless in Court Square park, but you’ll have to deal with some of downtown’s more… um, “interesting” residents while you use it.

Free Internet terminal – If you don’t have a Wi-Fi enabled laptop but need to surf the net, head to Dan McGuinness – they have a free Internet terminal for customers’ use.

A. Schwab’s – they sell porcelain pigs, funny hats, and size-64 overalls. But sometimes you can find something you actually need there at a value price. For example, I recently needed black socks, and picked them up at Schwab’s for $1 a pair. Try finding socks at that price anywhere else – even Target – and who cares if they’re not designer-brand, they’re SOCKS, who’s ever going to know? Also a place to find some unique Christmas gifts.

$5 Memphis Grizzlies tickets – These go on sale the day of the game, at noon I believe. Many people have said that these $5 terrace seats are better than the $23 lower-level seats. WARNING: these tickets may be a value, but the food they sell at the FedExForum isn’t. Eat before or after you go.

$5 Memphis Redbirds tickets – You have to sit on the grass overlooking left field, but that’s part of the fun. Avoid the high-priced beer. The BBQ Nachos aren’t really a value, but I don’t see how anyone could attend a Redbirds game and not have them.

Buy a flask – A lot of downtowners carry a flask with them when they go to the higher-priced bars, so they can order a coke and then sneak off to the bathroom to add ingredients. Me personally, I wouldn’t do this, at least not at the higher-priced bars I respect (like Swig, for example).

Free parking – there’s lots of free parking on Wagner Street between Union and Beale. They are metered spaces but are free after 6 pm and on weekends and holidays. Also, if you’re going to FexExForum or Beale Street, note that you can find ample parking on the side streets off Main (Pontotoc, Vance) pretty easily, and it’s free.

Sunset Symphony – This is the class act of the Memphis in May events. Unlike the over-priced, over-crowded, drunk-and-rowdy Music Fest, Sunset Symphony is laid-back and affordable. You can bring in your own picnic baskets, including alcohol. Usually happens the Saturday before Memorial Day, and ends with fireworks around 9.

Places to avoid if you’re on a budget
Note: I’m not knocking the quality of food, drinks, service, or atmosphere at these places (except noted) – in most cases they’re quite good. It’s just that these places are not conducive to doing downtown on a budget.

  • McEwen’s, Stella, Felicia Suzanne’s, Grill 83 – It sucks that four of the finest restaurants in the city are within a block’s walk of my place, and I can’t eat at any of them. They’re high-priced and deservedly so, because they’re great experiences.
  • The Peabody – I love the lobby bar and Capriccio is very nice, but they’re in the upper-end tourist business and therefore pricey. The rooftop parties in the summer can be a value if you just pay the $5 cover and then don’t drink. If you need a buzz to deal with those people (quite understandable) go to Wet Willie’s and drink a Call-a-Cab first.
  • Automatic Slim’s – you add to your hipster credentials by drinking at bars owned by Karen Blockman Carrier, but you pay about a 30% premium on drink prices for being so hip.
  • Cafe 61 – One of my favorite former Blue Monkey bartenders works there during the week, so I recently went in to see her and had a drink, not even paying attention to the prices when I ordered. Then the bill came – $8.50! For one drink! Yikes! Great food, great service, but not a value.
  • BB King’s – the music is often very good but the drink prices are extremely high.
  • Alfred’s – at 2 AM on weekend nights, this is the place to go if you want a drunken piece of sorority ass and are willing to endure crowds, horrible music and high drink prices to get it. I can tolerate this environment once or twice a year at most.
  • Condos – as I wrote in an earlier post, the downtown real estate market is becoming badly overpriced. If you want to buy down here because you love the area, that’s fine, but don’t kid yourself into thinking it’s a good investment at current prices. It’s not.

That’s the list. Let me know if I missed anything, and like I say, I’ll update it and bump it from time to time.

Checking out the competition

I finally took a look at Rachel and the City, the blog that won first place in the Memphis Flyer’s annual awards. Several of my friends had told me, “We’ve seen it! There’s no way that blog is better than yours,” and I appreciate their support, but after checking out the competition, I think Rachel has a damn fine blog.

It’s not a question of whether one or the other is better, they’re just different. My blog focuses on downtown, bars, drinking, tube tops, Romanians, bums, and pigeons; her blog is more Midtown-based, more of an emphasis on music. Actually, I think reading her blog is a great opportunity to expand my horizons, get myself out of the rut of going to the same two or three bars downtown every time I go out.

Like tonight, for example. Reading her blog, I learned that there’s a Soul Party going on at the Hi-Tone. I did some snooping around the web, and found more info at the Memphis Scene blog on the Commercial Appeal’s website. Six DJs playing their favorite vintage soul tunes, and films of vintage soul performers on the big screen. Cover is only $3. Sounds like a fantastic time. This event may accomplish the rare feat of getting me to leave downtown and drive somewhere on a weekend night. Of course, if I drive I won’t be able to drink, but there’s an advantage in that too – I’ll save some money.

UFO update: I’m now up to 198 beers. Two more to go. My tentative plan is to drink #199 later this afternoon, and #200 Monday at Pint Night (although, #200 will have to be a bottle, not a Pint Night draft; I’ve had all the drafts). Had a good one last night – it’s a new, bottled pumpkin ale. Can’t remember the name (starts with a B I think) but it’s listed on the chalkboard above the bar under “Newly Landed.”

That’s the news for now. Back later with more updates.