Wanna’come to a house party?

When I got to Memphis, I met my hosts, Brendan and Yvonne. Yvonne was a full-time sculpture specialising in metal installations. She’d been successfully working as an artist for 14 years.

Both Brendan and Yvonne were amazingly passionate people when it came to me getting the most out of Memphis. Within half an hour of arriving, I’d been dropped off at one of their favourite BBQ restaurants: The Bar B Q Shop.

Their enthusiasm was well founded. I ordered the ribs (one of my favorite foods) which the waitress recommended that I have “half and half”; half dry rubbed, half glazed. That way I could try the house made sauces on the dry rubbed side “to get the full experience”.

The house made spicy BBQ sauce was easily my favourite. Their was no such kick the likes of which you would expect from a sauce that was habanero based. Instead it was more of a slow build that gradually warmed the mouth rather than assaulted it. I’m not sure what chillies were in the sauce but if it did contain habanero, then they were very polite.

The next day I went to the National Civil Rights Museum which is based in the Lorraine Hotel – the site of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination. This would be the 3rd civil rights museum I’d been to on my trip and it was no less powerful for it. I’d implore anyone travelling through Memphis to visit the museum as a site of historical significance and to learn about the civil rights struggle.

After almost 3 hours in the museum, I decided to get something to eat and drink, and to get out of the midday sun.

I ended up drinking far too much with a couple visiting Memphis from Missouri. We got talking about boxing – a trigger for me as it’s the only sport I care about. I eventually left the bar around midnight after discussing who I thought would win what upcoming fights, where my money would be bet, and what fights I thought would be scheduled on the backs of my prophesized victories. 

The lounge light turned off as walked through the door only to turn back on again. At the end of the hallway was Yvonne dressed in stockings and a short black dress, her face made up in white with black tears.

“We’re going to a Goth house party, wanna’ come?”

I was tired, I was drunk, and I’d spent way too much money.

“OK,” I said.

When we got to the venue there were private security guards on the door. They asked us all for I.D which Yvonne and I were able to supply. Brendan’s had expired. Brendan is 15 years older than me so it could be assumed he was OK to go in but the security guards stood their ground and refused him entry.

Brendan got back in the truck and drove away, appearing to accept defeat. Yvonne sneaked off to find a way for Brendan to get in. Not even 5 minutes later, Brendan casually walked through the back yard of the house and into the party where awful techno music played as people dressed in fishnet everything danced as they drank overpriced beers. As I sat at the bar in jeans and a t-shirt, I felt overdressed but it was still fun to see people older than me – parents – reclaiming their youth and breaking the rules.

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Solar Queen

I read the weather forecast in the morning. My host, Tycob, a Hawaiian displaced from his native islands by exorbitant property prices, was expecting rain. Rain meant the lower part of the street might flood and prohibit him going to work at either of his two driving jobs. He was both an Uber driver and a delivery driver for Domino’s pizza.

The rain never came but the kind of humidity that precluded a thunderstorm lingered all day. 

Expecting a wet afternoon, I spent a few hours wandering around The Gibbes Museum of Art. The museum specialises in artwork by southern artists with some works dating back to the 17th century.

Alongside the amazing paintings, photographs, illustrations, and sculptures (my favourite painting was the one above; even up close the child looks like a photograph – the whole picture was created using watercolours!) I found an interesting item in the museum gift shop.

At first I thought this quite random but then I realised why it was there amongst the history books and artist biographies. HRH Lizzie – our Liz – has donated numerous pieces of artwork to the museum for display including watercolour illustrations by artist and naturalist (not “naturist” as I first read it – that’s something completely different) Mark Catesby. These studies are from the Windsor Castle collection and show Catesby’s skill in painting studies of birds, fish, amphibians, and reptiles – including a rattlesnake he found in his bed!

After almost 3 hours in the museum, I decided to head to a converted church on Market Street. It was now a restaurant but not much had changed about the buildings previous occupation – it still possessed the high ceilings of the main hall and stained glass windows. However, I didn’t quite make it there because I got pulled in by the allure of another menu, this time boasting southern fried chicken in a sweet tea glaze! The restaurant was called Toast!.

“I recommend the chicken,” my waitress, Vicki, said, “you get a choice of two sides, right here – Carolina red rice and coleslaw are good, I recommend that.”

Sat in a worn leather booth beside a cabinet filled with cakes of monstrous proportions, and to a soundtrack of horse-drawn carriages outside, I think I found my higher power.