Court Square

Court Square park a block from my apartment building finally does appear to be turning around. I went to the first of their new music series last Wednesday, and it was well-attended, maybe 200 people. I talked with people from the Center City Commission and they hope to have the park entirely full by the end of the summer.

The event runs from 5 to 7 each Wednesday evening, and then will move to a different downtown nightspot each week. Last week the after-party was at Swig, and they were handing out coupons good for a free appetizer at Swig. Not a bad deal. I keep meaning to sample more of their menu, but for some reason I always seem to come back to the fried olives.

They were also handing out other goodies, in particular pedometers with the Definitely Downtown logo on them. The downtown hot dog vendor and a snow-cone vendor were there, and they were selling beer, although I think $4 is a little pricey for a 16 os. cup – not even Beale Street charges that much.

A few days later, on Saturday, I walked past the park and saw something I had never seen before. People were in the park, sitting on blankets, picnicing. Even a couple of families. It’s so nice to see some activity in the park that isn’t the bum-and-pigeon show. Didn’t see anyone with a laptop trying out the new wireless, though. Of course, it was in the 90s outside and laptops shouldn’t be used in that kind of heat. It may be September before it’s laptop weather in the park.

Other downtown news: Wang’s Mandarin Bistro is now open at Main and Gayoso, and it’s a nice-looking place. Haven’t been in to eat yet, just peered through the window. And there’s now a Corky’s Express location at Third and Peabody Place, in the Hampton Inn where the beignet shop used to be. Catacorner to the Hampton, a Hooters is scheduled to open next month. And two new clubs are supposed to open on Beale by fall.

Meanwhile, I’m finding that I don’t even have to leave my building to get a good meal. Was walking through the lobby the other day, when I ran into a caterer/professional chef and his family who just moved in. “Paul, are you going to come eat with us? We’re grilling sea bass on the roof and we have plenty.” I already had dinner plans with a chef – Boy-ar-dee – but I decided plans could change. It was delicious.

All right, that’s enough for now. I’ll try to post a little bit more regularly to make up for the lack of material the past two weeks.

More random kibbles ‘n’ bits

– For those of you who hit the Peabody and/or Madison rooftop parties on Thursday nights, I’ve found a couple of good pre-party places to hit. One is LoLo’s table, on Monroe near Second in the space that used to be Aristi’s. They have happy hour from 4 to 7… I went there last week and got a gin & tonic for only $2.50 – not bad at all for downtown. But an even better value was the mussels – a bowl of about 15 mussels in a butter sauce, with bread for dipping the extra sauce. The price? Six bucks. You’d pay that much for a combo meal at Back Yard Burger! Well worth checking out.

– Another option… I haven’t personally checked this one out yet, but I have it on good authority from one of my neighbors that this is the deal… Martini Thursdays at Cafe Samovar – two martinis and an appetizer for $10. What a deal! It’s been too long since I’ve been to Samovar, and their food is among the best in town. I used to go all the time when I had former students that belly danced there on the weekends, but they’ve since moved away. According to my neighbor Martini Thursday goes from about 6 to 9. Will stop by in the coming weeks and verify for myself.

– So after LoLo’s I hit the Peabody rooftop, and lasted all of 30 minutes before I got sick of the crowd. Alpha-male/goomba looking guys with gel in their hair and those trendy shirts with the diagonal stripes, worn untucked over $150 jeans, up there looking to “get some pussy.” Overly made-up bimbos in tops that scream “look at my boobs” and slacks that scream “look at my ass”, on the rooftop looking for attention and free drinks from men, to validate that they are indeed attractive (and, in particular, more attractive than the girlfriends they came with).

– On to a different topic… Court Square is now a smart park. Meaning, the entire thing is set up for wireless Internet. So last week I took my laptop up there to try it out. After a couple of minutes of surfing the web, my MSN Instant Messenger popped up. Somebody wanted to talk. Transcript of the conversation:

eBum38103: Big time
eBum38103: Hey
eBum38103: Hey man
eBum38103: Hey, big time
eBum38103: Look here
eBum38103: Lemme holla at you for a second
eBum38103: I need to get about sixty-three cent
eBum38103: Come on, dog, help an Internet panhandler out
eBum38103: Sixty-three cent, man. Please.
eBum38103: You hear me?
eBum38103: You can wire it to my PayPal account, dog

– In a related note, the liquor store around the corner now accepts payment via PayPal.

– The Center City Commission has announced a series of concerts in Court Square on Wednesday nights from 5 to 7. So the bums and pigeons will have good music to listen to, in addition to wireless Internet.

– And they have catered meals… a couple of local churches bring sack lunches to Court Square every day.

– Speaking of churches… the Jesus freaks showed up on Beale Street for Music Fest. Close to a hundred of them, carrying those huge obnoxious signs. They make for fun people-watching though… I bought a Call-a-Cab and leaned against a barricade and listened to them for a while. Some dork in a tie tried to hand me some literature and asked me if I was saved.

– I passed the Jesus literature on to my bartender at the Tap Room. She read it: “Jesus died for you, filthy rotten you.” To which she responded, “Nobody calls me ‘filthy, rotten you!'” If I ever call her “filthy, rotten you” she’ll enjoy it and there’ll be a spanking involved. Love ya mean it!

– All right, this is long enough, and there have been 21 hits already today, so I guess I’ll cut it off here and post. Never ceases to amaze me that this crap-fest of a blog out-draws actual useful sites like Memphis Wallpaper and my mother’s site. But, whatever. As long as people continue to read, I’ll continue to write. Until next time…

Quiz: Are you a neoconservative?

Here’s a quiz to keep you busy: Are you a neoconservative?

This quiz will tell you whether you are a neoconservative, that is, whether you follow the global politics of people like Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld. Answer 10 questions about your views on world situations, and it will tell you whether you are a neocon, isolationist, realist, or liberal.

Not surprisingly, I turned out to be a liberal.

Music Fest: not this year

Well, a couple of days ago I found out that I have once again been invited to the Memphis Flyer tent for Music Fest this weekend, which means free beer, free Corky’s BBQ, and clean restrooms all weekend, and I can bring a guest. However, this year I’m going to decline the invitation. I’d still have to buy tickets for each day to get in, and I’m not paying $60 to tromp through the mud, get rained on, and bump through a crowd full of drunk rednecks. Instead, I’ll be hanging out on Beale most of the weekend, having a much better and cheaper time.

If anyone really, really wants a weekend of free beer and food at Music Fest, I’ll make you a deal: buy me a one-day ticket. I’ll go in with you, take you to the tent, and sign you in as my guest (I have to show photo ID, which is why I can’t just give it away). You’ll get a wristband that gets you weekend access to the tent. $20 for free beer and food all weekend – not a bad deal. Any takers? E-mail me: paul@paulryburn.com, or call my cell if you know the number.

Now, although I’m declining the Flyer tent invitation for Music Fest, I’m DEFINITELY accepting invitations to tents for BBQ Fest, which is two weeks away. Anyone reading this part of a BBQ team?

Downtown dweller

Wow! 37 hits so far today! Is this journal really that interesting?

Today I got e-mail from a reporter from the Commercial Appeal. She wanted to interview me for Downtown Dweller, a regular feature in the Downtown/Midtown Appeal section that profiles a downtown resident. So she sent me 10 questions and I answered them, and she’s going to photograph me sometime this week. I’ll let you know when it appears.

What the bums are drinking (and eating) this week

Yesterday I was sitting in the Tap Room on Beale, having a beer with some friends. A bum was walking around outside, and I decided to watch him for a while.

He’d lean against a trash can, and look around until he thought no one was watching. Then, when the coast was clear, he’d open the lid and dig through the can for buried treasure.

So he did this at the can outside the Tap Room, and – score! – an uneaten hot dog, inside a styrofoam box, and it even had a mustard packet inside. So he took the hot dog out of the box, put the mustard on, and ate it.

Then he moved on to the next trash can, again waiting until no one appeared to be looking his way. He opened it up, and – score again! – someone had thrown out half of a Big Ass Beer. So he took it out, sat on the ledge, and drank it.

Then he moved on to other trash cans. The next two didn’t offer anything interesting. Finally, he checked out one outside Silky’s. Another hot dog! This one wasn’t in a box and no mustard, but hey, you can’t always have everything. So he ate that hot dog as well. The trumpet player outside King’s Palace announced to passersby, “It’s dinnertime on Beale Street, folks.” Yes, it certainly was.

The bum then disappeared, but within 5 minutes he showed back up, playing guide to some tourists. “That place over there has the best ribs on Beale…and there are bands playing for free in that park…and they have an Elvis impersonator in that club at 6:00.” And then, of course, came the pitch: “Look here, can you help me out with a few dollars? I ain’t had nothing to eat in two days.”

So, if the bum eats for free out of the trash, what happens to the money? Look for the answer next week in my blog’s newest feature, “What the bums are smoking this week.”

The return of Professor Paul – almost

I had a chance to return to teaching this week…but I’m not going to take it.

A few weeks ago, I was sitting at the bar and got to talking to the guy sitting next to me. He was an instructor at ITT, a for-profit university offering associate’s degrees. He told me he’s leaving at the end of the current term, and suggested that I come in and interview for his position. He assured me that the pay was good enough to at least make it worth considering.

I do miss teaching. I think it is what I was meant to do. Six years after leaving the University of Memphis, I’m still in touch with many of my former students. Seeing them succeed has made me very happy over the years. I enjoy my current web development job, but I don’t think that sitting in a cubicle working on a computer from 9 to 5 every day is exactly my highest calling.

So Wednesday I took a personal day from work and went in to talk with the dean. I had a great conversation with him. He’s all about reaching out to the students where they are – and sometimes they won’t get it and will be very frustrated, and you have to pull them out and give them confidence. And that’s basically what I did for five years at the U of M. I took students who had “math phobia” or “computer phobia” and showed them that they COULD do it. So I found the dean’s outlook very encouraging.

I was also encouraged by the fact that I’d be teaching some multimedia classes: Macromedia Director, Flash, Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and the like. I’ve always been a creative person but as a programmer there’s not a lot of opportunity for creative expression. I’m not a multimedia expert, but to teach you don’t need to be an expert in a subject – you just have to be a couple of steps ahead of the students, and willing to learn from them as well as them from you.

So they gave me a tour of the building and I met everyone. Then I drove out to the U of M to get a transcript of my graduate coursework, and then I went home to think. I decided to take a night to sleep on it.

The next morning my intuition rang out loud and clear: Don’t take the job.

Part of it was little things that I knew would add up to bug me. One of my greatest joys at the U of M was wandering the campus between classes, being outside. But ITT doesn’t have a campus, it has a corporate office building off Appling Road. The place just FEELS like a corporation, not a place of higher learning as I’m used to it.

Then there was the tour of the building that they gave me. They showed me the instructors’ office area, and it had cubicles almost exactly like the ones at my current job. Even less privacy, actually. I HATE cubicles. To be effective, to think well, I need to be able to walk around, even if it means pacing back and forth in a small office. Can’t say I loved everything about the U of M but I did have my own office there – and I hung a disco ball from the ceiling to make it my own. I shone a spolight on it, turned off the lights, and left it on all day. My students would come by to see the disco ball. And while there, they’d ask questions about their homework.

And all of the instructors were wearing ties. I am absolutely, positively NOT effective in a tie. It’s just not my personality. I can understand where they’re coming from, that dressing professionally and wearing a tie sets you up as the authority figure in the classroom. But when I taught at the U of M, I never had any trouble establishing myself as an authority figure, and my dress there was about as far from a tie as you can get. To be at my best as a teacher, I have to be comfortable – I have to be ME. And I can’t do that in a tie.

But the biggest deciding factor was that I’d be required to teach evening classes. That would put an end to the extracurricular activities that I enjoy so much downtown. Pint Night at the Saucer, rooftop parties on the Peabody. Just hanging out drinking wine with my neighbors in No. 10 Main after work. And it would curb my involvement in Mpact. I’ve really enjoyed my work with the Membership Committee this year: being a presenter at the Mpact 101 information sessions for new members, getting to know people at the Mvite new-member outings. And I’m also on the Social pillar, and I’m in my second year on the Board. I enjoy the life I lead, and this job would require me to give too much of it up.

So, I’m trusting my intuition. Later today I will e-mail the dean and thank him for the opportunity, but let him know I’m not interested.

Perhaps one day I’ll again get to teach in an environment where I can be myself and yet make a decent amount of money at the same time. Until then, guess I continue on as a programmer.

How people find this page

Been looking at my tracker, to find out how people find my blog. I had 23 hits today, which as far as I know is a record. Surprisingly, most of the hits weren’t from people in my apartment building, as I had thought. They’re from people searching on “Gloria Oliviae,” trying to figure out who the next pope will be.

Other searches that hit this page:

Various combinations of “memphis,” “downtown,” and “crawfish” – The downtown crawfish fest was yesterday, and for the record it keeps getting better as the midtown one keeps getting worse. Huge buckets of crawfish for $10, and they didn’t run out.

“Lots of bums” – probably came up ranked second on Google search, with downtownmemphis.com ranked #1.

“How to make mimosas” – oh that’s funny. I guess I would know though. For the record: one part champagne, one part orange juice. This blog exists to inform.

“Motley Fool Hidden Gems” – these are people who are too cheap to subscribe to the $250-a-year newsletter, but still want to know what the picks are.

“Pimp and ho party” – someone’s probably searching for the pic of my dates to last year’s pimp and ho party, two hot girls wearing skimpy outfits. It’s on the first page of the archives. I talked to the organizer of the pimp and ho parties recently and he said the next one will happen in the fall and several downtown bars will be participating. Looking forward to it…

All right. Off to bed, because I have an exciting day of sitting in a cubicle for 8 hours ahead of me tomorrow. Yay!