Walking in Memphis

Put on my blue suede shoes and
I boarded the plane
Touched down in the land of the Delta Blues
In the middle of the pouring rain.

. . . Then I’m walking in Memphis ∼Marc Cohn

Okay, we’re road-tripping, not flying, and when we drove into town, the rain had pretty much stopped, but we are now in Memphis and of course walking a lot, so I can’t get this song out of my head. Before we arrived, we weren’t sure if we’d like it here–urban, inland, colder–but we’re definitely enjoying Memphis so far. It helps that this time we’ve got a really nice condo, artistically decorated . . .

Memphis Condo
Memphis Condo: Including Cigar Box Guitar, also called a Delta Blues Box, and Cigar Band Art.

. . . smack in the middle of downtown Memphis, half a block from Main Street and about three blocks from Beale Street . . . ↓

And as of Monday morning . . .

Memphis Sunrise from our balcony
Memphis Sunrise from our balcony

. . . the sun was back out and we’ve been out and about, exploring, including breakfast at the historic Arcade Restaurant, featured in a number of movies and the oldest restaurant in Memphis . . . ↓

Arcade Restaurant, Memphis, Tennessee
Arcade Restaurant, Memphis, Tennessee.

It’s right across from the old train station . . . ↓

Central Station, Memphis
Central Station, Memphis

. . . so as you can see, we’re back in the land of red brick walls . . .

There’s a lot of the unexpected about this leg of the journey, but my powers of predicting the future have been proven completely inadequate before now. I had expected the river trip in France to be a special treat, a relaxing mini-break from the routine, but it was possibly the most stressful week of the entire adventure. I also thought we’d love Panama City Beach, but although the water was beautiful, being in a place that is mainly a vacation destination, not a regular town, made it sort of like living at the mall, just with more souvenir t-shirts for sale.

And my ignorance of geography is embarrassing. Who knew Memphis is barely even in Tennessee? Not me. I thought it was somewhere in the slightly-western middle, but we’re in the far southwest corner, only a few miles north of Mississippi, and we can see Arkansas right across the Mississippi River, roughly four blocks from our downtown condo. I’d basically forgotten there even WAS such a place as Arkansas, and I’ve spent the last year looking at maps. A LOT. Wow. Oh, and by the way, you can’t get Tupelo honey in Tupelo, Mississippi. You have to get that in Florida, my Alabama cousins explained to me. Sheesh. Okay, I could hardly have been expected to know that! Just saying. Still, wish I’d known to stop instead of driving right by a roadside stand in Florida offering it, preferring to wait for the “real” Tupelo honey in Tupelo.

I guess I’m learning that when you’re on a voyage of discovery it’s impossible to avoid having expectations, but I’m humbled by how frequently I’m wrong, and not just about details of place. It seems I can’t even predict what I’ll enjoy, let alone which experiences will be most meaningful or have a lasting resonance.

Ironically, one bit of ignorance may have actually increased the power of another discovery here in Memphis, since it was for us completely out of the blue. As it happens, this condo is exactly three blocks from the Lorraine Motel and the balcony where the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. Somehow, both David and I had forgotten he was shot in Memphis, so it was stunning to go for a walk and stumble upon this . . . ↓

Site of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Lorraine Motel, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated–now part of the National Civil Rights Museum

There were a few people around, but everyone was very quiet, respectful of the significance of the place. The wreath is a replica of the original hung on the second floor railing outside room 306, where Dr. King was standing, and the two cars just below in the parking lot are the same year, make and model as were there on the 4th of April 1968, so it had a surreal time-warp quality I can’t really describe. I wish I could convey how unexpectedly moving it was to stand in this place.

There’s certainly much more to tell you about Memphis, but for now I’ll leave you with some timeless wisdom from Dr. King:

I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.

Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’

Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend.

Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.

Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.

∼Martin Luther King, Jr.

Wishing you moving moments of discovery and an abundance of faith and peace and love, no matter where you’re walking.



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