Saturday update: Important note for those planning to watch tonight’s game at a full-service restaurant

I made a first visit to Downtown Liquors and Wines on Madison near Main yesterday afternoon. The prices are very reasonable! They have a good selection and really took advantage of every inch of space in that little shop. If you live in the area and have not checked it out yet, please do! The shop is just to the east of Winfield’s clothing store, and Mr. Winfield is the new owner.

One tip: Not only do you step up to get into the shop, but there’s an additional step up once you get inside. That second step can be easy to miss when you have a face mask on, so be careful!

I stopped by the Blind Bear last night. Jeannette told me that now the Bear is a full-service restaurant, they’re going to roll out a new menu toward the end of next week. “We’re going to have a ribeye and shrimp sub,” she said, and I noted that in my phone. Now that I’m home typing this post, I wonder if that means they’re going to have a ribeye sub and a shrimp sub, or both on one? Either way sounds good.

Speaking of menus, new Downtown gumbo shop Ben-Yay’s rolled out its full menu yesterday. Here’s a look (click or tap for larger, zoomable size):

Ben-Yay’s is at 51 S. Main, next to Family Dollar, in the building that used to be DejaVu. I see they’ve retained one of the DejaVu dishes under the name DejaVu Special” – fried catfish topped with crawfish etouffee, the dish Chef Gary Williams called The Arkansas Outlaw when he owned the place. Nice to see gator on the menu in the form of bites, a po’boy, and gator sausage.

Those of you new to Memphis who want to jump into the food scene here should check out this A to Z list by the Daily Memphian’s Dan Conaway. I’d add a few more:

  • Amazing Island Club at Bardog
  • Duck Fried Rice at South of Beale
  • Lobster Pronto Pup at Rizzo’s by Michael Patrick
  • Also, Silly Goose should be on the Pizza list (for now, you’ll have to get it to go)

All right, people. We’ve got a situation tonight I want to warn you to expect in advance. The Memphis Tigers host the Arkansas State Red Wolves in a nationally televised game on ESPN tonight at 7. Many of you are going to want to watch the second half while dining at your favorite restaurants.

That’s where we have a problem.

You see, the current health directive says that restaurants must close to in-person dining at 10 PM. College football games don’t typically get over in three hours. There is no “but you can stay open until the end of the game” exception in the health directive. I have little doubt that Code Enforcement is fully aware of the game time and will be out for surprise inspections tonight, looking to cite restaurants that serve past 10.

So, if a restaurant kicks you out in the middle of the fourth quarter, please be understanding. They’re trying to keep their doors open in the middle of a pandemic. If you have the ESPN app on your phone, get logged on in advance so that you can watch the final minutes in your car in the parking lot, or on the walk home if you’re a Downtowner dining at a neighborhood restaurant.

Local Memphis reports that a defensive back for the Tigers was shot in the leg earlier this week on Spottswood near campus.

Chris Burns, a writer/vlogger for sneaker site ARCH, visited Downtown boutique Stock & Belle to look for clothing to pair up with his new kicks from Downtown L.A. sneaker manufacturer COMMUNITYmade.

I’m taking a break from Bardog brunch this morning. I’ve had inspiration for an article to write for Medium, this one about beliefs, for over a week now, but I didn’t really put the entire thing together until this morning as I lay in bed. So I plan to spend much of the day writing. I’ll be out at Blind Bear about 8 this evening to watch the Tigers. GTG and I’ll be back tomorrow with more news.

Friday update

It’s official: The NBA named the Memphis Grizzlies’ Ja Morant 2019-2020 Rookie of the Year. Ja received 99 of 100 first-place votes, the sole dissenter voting for the 2019 draft’s top pick Zion Williamson. Ja’s teammate Brandon Clarke finished 4th in the vote, an accolade not only for Clarke, but for the front office who took the 4th best player with the 21st pick.

WREG reports that a Memphis man was arrested after calling 911 and asking dispatchers if they would like to buy some egg rolls.

There will be a vegan cookout on the patio of Lew’s Blue Note Bar & Grill at 341 Beale Saturday from 1 to 7 PM. Menu items include smoked vegan burgers, vegan ribs, vegan Italian sausages, vegan hot dogs, and vegan brisket. Grab & go is preferred, but a few patio tables will be available and the inside of the restaurant will also be open for socially distanced seating.

The Kentucky Derby finally happens tomorrow. Lifehacker has your streaming options for the race. No stands filled with seersucker suits and fancy hats this year.

Local 24 has a look at the Rendezvous’ new outdoor seating.

Slider Inn Downtown has released its live music schedule for this weekend.

  • Today: The Dantones 6-9 PM
  • Saturday: Brimstone Jones 1-4 PM; Compact Main Street 5-9 PM
  • Labor Day: DJ Alpha Whiskey 4-8 PM

As your number-one source of news and information about the Edge District, it is my pleasure to notify you that there will be an unveiling at Edge Motor Museum, 645 Marshall, at noon on Saturday. Can’t make it to the museum in person? No problem, they’ll stream the ceremony on @edgemotor Instagram.

Treat Yo Self… Walgreens has buy one, get one free pints of Haagen-Dazs ice cream with your card this week. Got a pint of Dulce de Leche waiting for me to get home from work this afternoon.

Tin Roof will have a College Football Saturday brunch tomorrow and every Saturday during the season from noon to 5. They’ll have the games on all the TVs, a new brunch menu, and bottomless mimosas. How ridiculous is it that this event is legal under the health directive, but having a socially distanced PBR on Max’s Sports Bar’s spacious outdoor patio is not permitted?

Reminds me… I changed my mind and did a Shelby County COVID-19 task force press conference recap yesterday afternoon. Keep scrolling after you get done with this post to read it. Quick summary of the points readers of this blog care about:

  • It will likely be September 21 or later before any decision is made about allowing limited-service restaurants to open or loosening restrictions on full-service restaurants
  • However, I did pick up (from the tone and body language of health officer Dr. Bruce Randolph) a sincere desire that the numbers continue to move in the right direction, so re-opening can proceed
  • The task force would consider reopening limited-service restaurants in certain cases where the majority, but not all, of the five criteria in Health Directive No. 11 are met

End of an era: Taco Bell is phasing out the Mexican pizza later this year. Shredded chicken items will be gone too. Items that are most effective at giving customers “the shits” including the bean burrito will remain.

I have had an awesome latter half of the week. Wednesday I published a third article on, this one for people who keep a journal of their dreams as I do. I showed how to create an electronic index of dreams to enhance their handwritten journal, leading to a deeper understanding of the symbols used in their dreams. I then illustrated how I used this system to dig deeper into one of my own dream symbols, alligators.

Overnight Wednesday night, an editor for one of Medium’s content publications, The Innovation, saw my post and sent me a message inviting me to apply to have my article included in The Innovation. I applied yesterday morning, and four hours later it was accepted. Progress! From what I’ve read, it’s somewhat unusual for a writer with such a small portfolio to receive that kind of invitation.

I also learned of some freelancing work I should easily qualify to do once I have a couple months’ professional writing experience under my belt. It could turn into a side hustle income spigot I can turn on as much or as little as I want and need.

My reptilian brain must be working overtime this week, because one of the Medium posts I have on deck involves crocodiles.

Off to work. I am going to curb my going-out to some extent this weekend because I want to work on my writing and because of the stupid restaurant regulations. Back tomorrow with more news.

9/3 COVID-19 task force recap

Well, I was wrong, there was enough newsworthy information in today’s COVID-19 news conference to warrant an afternoon post.

Dr. Bruce Randolph, Shelby County Health Officer, wanted to stress that any changes to the current health directive are unlikely to occur until approximately two weeks after Labor Day. This is because this week, we have the triple whammy of schools being back in session, people attending football games, and the long weekend. The health department wants to see what the results look like on the other side of those events before making any decisions. The virus has a 14-day incubation period, so it sounds like limited-service restaurants will remain closed until at least September 21.

Sam Hardiman of the CA asked, if all other factors continue to head in the right direction after Labor Day, but the positivity rate remains above 10%, will the health department consider allowing limited-service restaurants to reopen? (THANK YOU SAM!!!) Dr. Randolph said the parameters are listed in the health directive, and that all 5 parameters do not have to be met for the health department to consider making changes.

The health department’s David Sweat noted that an analysis of the surge in the month of July found that the 21-30 age group was far and away above any other as a driving force of the virus. They more actively acquired it and transmitted it. Sweat appealed to those in that age group to avoid gatherings where 6 feet of distance is not possible, to follow the mask ordinance, and to practice good hand washing protocol.

Sweat pointed out there are currently less than 2500 active COVID-19 cases in the county, whereas many days in July that number was over 6000. Both he and Dr. Randolph agreed that this weekend is an inflection point. Behavior this weekend and the results produced from it will affect whether we are allowed more freedom going forward.

Dr. Randolph wanted to point out that it will be quite a while before we can return to that way things were: people crowding bars, seated shoulder to shoulder at movie theaters, attending large gatherings.

Dr. Randolph pointed out that some American Conference schools are not allowing fans at football games at all, while Memphis fans have the privilege of attending the Tigers game Saturday night. He requested that fans who attend that game observe all safety measures so that they continue to have that privilege. Dr. Randolph reminded everyone that tailgating will not be permitted at the game.

Asked if higher attendance could be allowed at Tigers game if the data continues in the right direction following Labor Day, Dr. Randolph said that is unlikely to be under consideration. The 12-foot distancing rule feels proper at an event of this type.

Randolph also reminded the public that placing people in quarantine is the sole purview of the health department, not of schools or employers. There are entities that seem to think they can implement their own quarantine and contact tracing policies. That is incorrect.

Sweat noted that we do not have a candidate vaccine, one that has displayed efficacy in tests. However, we can go ahead and set the groundwork for distributing the vaccine once one is ready. Setting up the groundwork takes a while in terms of getting permits and identifying distribution locations. The influenza vaccine will be used as a proxy to help get set up.

Sweat said that when a vaccine is ready, essential workers in safety, law enforcement, and health care will be the likely targets of the first doses.

The vaccines under testing are multi-dose – you get the vaccine, wait a few weeks, then get a second vaccine. This differs from the flu vaccine where one dose is good to get you through the season.

Sweat also gave some statistics. Co-morbidities were present in a large number of COVID-19 deaths, with cardiac conditions (including high blood pressure) a factor in nearly 78% of cases, diabetes in 40%, and respiratory conditions in about a quarter. However, the deaths are still COVID-19 deaths.

Minority populations continue to be over-represented in deaths. 88.6% of deaths occurred in patients 55 and over.

Those were the important takeaways. Back tomorrow with more news.

Thursday update

Let’s do another trivia question, one that is extremely relevant this time of year here in Memphis. What color attracts mosquitoes twice as much as any other color? Answer at the end of this post.

COVID ruins everything: The Peabody laid off 57 employees. Revenue is way down because many people are canceling or postponing travel plans because of the pandemic. The ducks, considered essential employees, were not among the layoffs.

Looks like the building that formerly housed Peabody Place Mall may get a new logo soon. ServiceMaster is selling off almost all of its brands, keeping only Terminix, and will rebrand as Terminix.

Hospitality HUB will soon open a daytime plaza for the homeless at 590 Washington. There will be a water station, bathrooms, and ports where they can charge handheld devices. In summer there will be a misting area, and in the winter heating stations will keep guests warm. There will be an office nearby where the HUB will offer its services. The old vehicle inspection station on an adjoining lot will be torn down to make way for an emergency shelter for women.

A permit has been filed to turn 64 S. Main into a lifestyle hub. That’s the building just north of City Market near Main and Union. The owner says possible uses could include co-working, pop-up retail, and group dining events. A rooftop patio is under consideration as well.

Memphis 901 FC took a 4-0 loss to Charlotte last night at home. They remain fourth in their group.

It’s a grand week for the University of Memphis, which received a world ranking for the first time ever by the Wall Street Journal.

Trivia answer: blue. I don’t expect much from the COVID-19 task force press conference at noon today, so I will probably wait until morning and include any relevant news in tomorrow’s post. Back then with more news.

Wednesday update

I didn’t take detailed notes on the Shelby County COVID-19 task force press conference yesterday, but near the end, Health Department Director Dr. Haushalter was asked, Labor Day weekend is coming up and there are going to be football games and other events. What are some things we can do to stay safe and prevent spread? Her answer:

  • Make prudent decisions about the events you attend over the long weekend. If you have cardiac or respiratory disorders, diabetes, or if you are over 55, ask yourself, do you really need to go to these events, given your enhanced risk?
  • Wear a mask, and bring an extra as a backup in case your mask gets wet or soiled
  • Practice social distancing
  • Remember to refrain from activities like shaking hands and hugging
  • Constant hand washing; at events where that is not possible, bring hand sanitizer
  • Keep the volume of your voice at a reasonable level when out at sporting events; yelling and singing spread the virus further
  • Only remove your mask to eat or drink, and then put it right back on

Also at the press conference, Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris announced a program called Senior Tech Connect that will facilitate virtual visitation at nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Grants will fund digital devices such as iPads and headphones to make it easier for residents to connect with their loved ones. All facilities in the area have received an email inviting them to apply for a $5000 grant.

Dr. H noted that we are at the beginning of a critical time, as we were back in June when the daily new case numbers started to rise. Our actions the next couple of weeks will determine whether Shelby County sees another surge in new COVID-19 cases, or whether the number continues to plateau or drop. The elusive “R,” the reproductive rate of the virus, was driven all the way down to 0.82 a couple of weeks ago, but has now surged above 1 again. Getting that number below 1 is essential to controlling the spread of the virus.

I want to ask a favor of media members who read this blog. Could someone please attend one of these COVID-19 task force press conferences and ask

  • Can the current value for R be posted to the Shelby County COVID-19 data dashboard?
  • What’s the formula for R? How could a citizen of Shelby County independently compute R from data made publicly available from the health department?

I mentioned that one of my suggested organizations to connect with at the virtual Exposure Memphis event was A Tour of Possibilities. I had not heard of that one and made sure to check it out. This is an organization that gives African-American history tours of Memphis. “We embrace the often uncomfortable and tragic parts of our history but we also celebrate the resilient and inspiring future of Memphis,” says the website. Stops on their tours include

  • LeMoyne-Owen College
  • Ernest Withers Collection Museum & Gallery
  • Elmwood Cemetery
  • Beale Street
  • National Civil Rights Museum
  • The Pyramid
  • The riverfront
  • Robert Church Park
  • Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum
  • Soulsville USA
  • STAX Museum of American Soul Music
  • Clayborn Temple

All tours except the Memphis Caravan Tour are currently suspended because COVID RUINS EVERYTHING.

The New Wing Order food truck has announced its Flavor of the Month for September.

Memphis 901 FC hosts Charlotte Independence tonight at 7 at AutoZone Park. Buy your socially distanced tickets

In other 901 FC news, sporting director Tim Howard has joined NBC as an analyst for the Premier League.

New Downtown business, or at least one I didn’t know about until yesterday: Allen’s Kayaking Adventures. They offer kayaking and canoe trips on the Mississippi River and in the Wolf River Harbor 7 days a week. Beginners are welcome. Guides are trained in CPR and certified by the American Canoe Association. Tours range in length from an hour to multiple days.

Shelby County Schools Superintendent Dr. Joris Ray announced yesterday when he would be comfortable letting students return to in-school learning: When the number of new coronavirus cases in Shelby County is in the single digits for 14 consecutive days. Number of new cases, not positivity rate. Well, that obliterates the goal of getting the kids back in person after fall break, and I’d put it at better than 50/50 that the entire 2020-2021 school year is virtual. New COVID-19 case numbers are unlikely to fall to single digits and stay there until about 10 weeks after a vaccine is widely available in the county.

Didn’t Mayor Harris say, in a press conference around July 9, that the county was closing the bars “to provide comfort to parents and educators” as we anticipate the start of in-school learning? Well, if that’s not going to happen now…. just sayin’.

The design board will hold a hearing about the proposed water fountain at One Beale this afternoon at 4.

There’s a hiring event for computer repair technicians going on today at 345 Madison.

Time to eat! I brought home a veggie plate from the Blind Bear last night to have food in the house for today. With veggies like tater tots, pepper jack mac & cheese, and fried okra, I have the complete range of nutrients covered. While waiting on my order, another patron asked where my troll was and told me my troll brings a lot of joy to the world.

That’ll do it for today. I plan on publishing my third Medium article today and will have a link for you in tomorrow’s post, along with all the Downtown Memphis news.


Tuesday update

Trivia question: The easternmost point of the United States can be found in which state? Answer at the end of this post.

Exposure Memphis, presented by New Memphis and Independent Bank, happens virtually on the HopIn platform from 4 to 7 this afternoon. This is a day of opportunity for people who want to be more plugged into the heart and soul of our city. Over 75 organizations will be represented and you’ll be able to chat about ways to get involved.

From 4:00 to 4:45 Exposure will host a panel discussion called “Be the Change Our Nonprofits Need,” where you can learn how to effect the change you want to see in this community through volunteering. From 5:30 to 6:30 PM there will be an “Ask Me Anything” panel of people who love Memphis who will answer your questions about our city. There will be live performances throughout the evening.

You can be part of the event and have a chance to win. Share what you love about Memphis on social media, mentioning @TheNewMemphis and tagging #ICelebrate and your favorite Memphis organization. At 9:01 PM a winner will be revealed, earning $500 for themselves and $500 for their favorite organization.

You can preview the organizations that will be involved in Exposure. Advance registrants were able to answer a questionnaire and receive a tailor-made list of organizations they should seek out at the event. My list included Innovate Memphis, Memphis Public Libraries, The Memphis Flyer, Friends of the Library, A Tour of Possibilities, and Experience Downtown. I know about the first four already and I’ve been experiencing Downtown for 18 years. A Tour of Possibilities is new to me, though, and I will check them out today at the virtual event; if I don’t make it to the event I’ll do a little web searching and give you a report tomorrow.

Happy 9/01 Day! Got one more 9/01 Day special to report: Huey’s is selling 22-ounce jumbo margaritas for $9.01 today. You can get one delivered when you call in your order in advance, or you can have one with your meal at one of Huey’s locations.

A glance at ESPN’s football schedule for this week reveals that COVID-19 is doing wonders for the exposure of non-Power 5 schools. Memphis is arguably the biggest name playing this weekend – well, second to Army, I suppose, given that Army is a service academy and has past national championships. Memphis has done more in the past decade than just about any other school playing, though. They kick off Saturday at 7 vs. the Arkansas State Red Wolves on ESPN.

The CA has a first look at Ben-Yay’s, the new Cajun restaurant and gumbo shop on the Main Street Mall. Ben-Yay’s is in the middle of its soft opening right now, with grand opening and reveal of the full menu on Friday.

One of my favorite authors, Joe Navarro, has an analysis of the body language at both major-party political conventions. Navarro is a former FBI interrogator. After his retirement from the Bureau he advised poker players on “tells” their opponents were giving away.

I published my second article on Medium yesterday, this one a fun way to trick yourself into drinking more water. I have a third article in the works, a longer article (10 minutes plus) on how to enhance your handwritten dream journal with a supplemental electronic index. That one should be up toward the end of the week.

In case you’re wondering where I’m going with this writing gig: Yes, I make a little money directly from Medium, but my main goal is to get 10 articles written as soon as possible – by the end of September, or at least October 15, is what I have in mind. That will get me in the habit of writing. It will also give me a portfolio to show to businesses that will allow me to apply for freelance gigs.

The past few days I’ve read that the big money these days is writing chatbot scripts. Let’s say you visit an online toy store, and a question mark icon at the bottom right of the screen asks if it can help you. It engages you in a conversation that helps you pick out exactly the right toy for your child. However, you’re not talking to a human. You’re talking to a bot that parses what you type and appears to respond intelligently. If you’ve ever read a “choose your own adventure” book, you understand chatbot scripts. Anyone need one written? I’d be willing to cut you a good deal in order to get the professional experience writing one.

Trivia answer: Alaska. One of the islands in the Aleutian chain lies on the other side of the International Date Line. No humans live on the island but millions of seabirds do, and it is monitored for volcanic activity. The island lies only about 70 miles from the westernmost point of the United States, another island known for wildlife.

Possibly back this afternoon with a COVID-19 press conference recap. Back tomorrow with more news.