What Once Was Old is New Again


My friend Karen rattled off a list of “must-sees” for my visit here as we longed around my little studio on Monday. I didn’t get to all of them but there were two that ignited my curiosity. The Big River Crossing is a revitalized and repurposed pedestrian bridge that crosses the Mississippi River, and Crosstown Concourse is a “vertical urban village” created from the ruins of the old Sears distribution center. Both projects seemed interesting and unique, so they made my “to do”  list.

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I never knew that old building off Watkins was a Sears distribution center. I vaguely remember someone telling me it was a Sears building many years ago, but I’m not sure I believed they knew which building I was asking about because it looked nothing like a Sears store. I ran by it on long marathon training runs and wondered if it was a factory of some sort. The building was brick and massive with many broken windows. I really thought it looked like an old hospital with its parking garage and what I imagined to be many rooms. I assumed one day it would be torn down to make way for something shinier.

 

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Large photos of the decaying distribution center line the hallways of this multi-use building. It was a mess inside, and I loved imagining walking through the rubble. But I love walking through this renovation even better. It is brand-spanking new as it opened just recently. I’ll let you read the details in this article, but I love the sounds of voices ringing throughout the wide open spaces. Much of the interior was cleaned up but not repaired, providing a glimpse into what was amid what’s new.


I had the same thoughts at The Big River Crossing on my run this morning. A beautiful corridor sits inside an old railroad bridge that crosses the Mighty Mississippi. One of four bridges, the walkway fades into the noise of two railroad bridges and Interstate 55. Railroad cars painted with graffiti fly by while the city of Memphis looms on the horizon on the other side. Midway a sign designates the state line between Tennessee and Arkansas. Clean steel butts up against rusted supports for the old bridge. Like Crosstown Concourse, it is the juxtaposition of old vs. new that provides interest.


I love the imagination and the resourcefulness of this new generation. My generation preferred new and shiny as we fled the cities and built up suburbia. We totally missed the raw beauty of decay and the durability of materials used so long ago. This generation likes to recycle, repurpose and revitalize. This tradition seems to have taken hold in Memphis. And as I look around, there is so much more that can be renewed. I can’t wait to see that transformation, too.

 

How to Relax on Vacation

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I think I like this kind of vacation. I lived here, so I don’t feel pressured to go to all the tourist things. It’s a city, so I can sleep in a bed. It’s October, so it’s not horribly hot, although yesterday was pretty awful. This morning’s 50-ish temps were a welcome relief after yesterday’s hot, humid, messy, rainy weather. I’m in a little place with a kitchen, so I can eat out when I want, eat in when I’m tired and don’t have to spend money unless I feel like it. I can take naps in the afternoon, schedule coffee any time of the day with friends and overall just do whatever the hell I want.

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Memphis has tons of new coffee shops. Right now I’m at a trendy one on Broad Street called City & State. “Yay Coffee” is painted on the outside wall, and there is a dog water bowl and a dog treat bucket built in to the patio right beside a dog tie-out. Ashok wasn’t much interested in the water, but she was sure interested in the home-made-looking treats. This place has clean lines, is open and airy and has plenty of outdoor seating. Yesterday I would have passed, but sitting outside today is really nice.

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Yesterday I sampled Muddy’s bakery and had my morning coffee here. A friend suggested Tart this morning on Cooper, but it was closed. So, I went to an old favorite, Cafe Eclectic for their Sunny Hash and coffee. It was just as I remembered although a little more worn than it was five years ago. But the food and coffee were as fresh and lovely as ever.

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Shelby Farms has a restaurant overlooking the lake where we used to walk. They’ve improved and expanded the lake and built this trendy restaurant with a large porch called The Kitchen Bistro. The food was really good but $20 for a 2-egg omelet, a piece of toast, potatoes and coffee was a bit steep. My breakfast this morning was much better and was much cheaper even with the tip. Keri and I took a walk around the lake but almost died from heat exposure as the trees are still just sapling and don’t provide much shade.

Whole Foods is larger and much improved, Lululemon has moved to Germantown, Penzey’s Spices seems to have disappeared or moved somewhere else, and the Soul Fish Cafe has expanded. They finally did something with the Hotel Chisca on South Main. I longed to go in and look at that old abandoned hotel. I used to daydream that the rooms were left just as they were when they locked the doors, and my hope was that ghosts might roam the halls and would stop by to say hi. Now there’s a fancy restaurant called Lyfe Kitchen that has a stellar reputation. There just aren’t enough meals in the week for me to hit them all. This one will have to wait.

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This morning I got a chance to run and go to my friend Leah’s yoga class. I have two more days here. Tonight some friends are gathering at Central BBQ downtown, and a girlfriend is meeting me here in about 20 minutes. I hope the weather holds out, and I look forward to more laughs and good coffee and yummy Memphis cuisine. Ashok just always look forward to the next meal – whatever it is. She’s so easy to please.

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The First Kiss of Memphis

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This morning I woke up in my beloved Memphis. This cute little AirBnB is equipped with all of the comforts of home except maybe a bathtub. But I have a shower, and I suppose that’s all I really need. Last night I ran over to the new Fresh Market which would have been right down the street from my house and stocked up with some healthy treats and a few not-so-healthy ones. I tried to think back to five years ago and choose one of my favorite restaurants.

Let’s see …. there was the convenience store on the corner where I used to get this amazing sautéed veggies over rice with a fried egg on top. Of course, there was BBQ everywhere, but I’d want to save that for Wednesday night. The Mexican Deli in Cordova was too long of a drive after driving all day. I even noodled the Vietnamese place on Poplar. Hmmmm … Bhan Thai popped in my head, and I knew right where I was going.

They’ve made some upgrades. The parking lot is bigger. I no longer had to walk down the street to park. They’ve extended the porch so it’s larger. I opted to sit on the porch since it was nice out, and I tried something new – the potstickers – and one of my favorites – cashew nut tofu. I even opted for the sticky mango coconut rice for dessert even though I knew I could only have a taste or two. I’m on vacation, right? A singer sang old favorites from my childhood, and I let myself relax for the first time on the trip. “I am here,” my body said. “Kick your feet up and relax.”

My little vacation spot…

I made an early night of it since I had gotten up early to drive. So I awoke rested and ready for my run. I thought of several running routes but settled on walking out my front door and heading to my old neighborhood. Memories started rushing back as I made my way down the same streets that I’d run a million times when training for marathons. Looks like they finally sold that place over on McLean. Wow, they made some nice upgrades on that house off Lemaster. Dogs, as usual, were being walked all over, the humidity hung like a damp cloth in the air, and the trees of Memphis stood as stately and beautiful as ever.

My old house… with my porch swing.

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I ran down my old street and checked out my apartment where I lived after my divorce. It looked the same. I wondered if they ever fixed that back yard so it looked a little nicer but didn’t have the hooha to walk over and peek over the fence. It was occupied as a fall wreath hung on the door. I thought of the Memphis drummer that lived beneath me and harbored a secret crush on the older woman on the second floor. I passed my house down the street. They chopped down all of those bushes to the side of the house to make a two-car driveway. And they added the porch swing that I wanted but never hung. I longed to look inside to see what else was new.

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Overall, the old ‘hood is the same. Central Gardens is where I am, and Central Gardens is where I lived. It’s where I trained for my first marathon. That house on Carr was Ashok’s first home with me. I remembered with a gasp how hot it was that one summer when temps hung over 100 for weeks on end. My sister came up to go to an outdoor gospel concert during Elvis week. It was 104, but they still held it outside. Thank heavens it’s not that hot today! I remember those countless long runs through that neighborhood where I’d suffer through eeking out another 5 miles … another mile … another 100 yards. And I remember how I felt today when I was done… soaked through with sweat, fully worked out and glad to be here.

I asked myself if I should have left Memphis. I have great friends here, and I really do love the gritty soulfulness of this city. I thought about the year before I moved to Louisiana and what I was feeling. I had a restlessness about me, and I was ready to go. “You are not the staying kind,” I heard a voice in my right ear. I giggled a little and answered back, “Yeah, I suppose commitment is not my strong suit.” Thank goodness that doesn’t mean I can’t journey back for comfort. I may not stay for long, but I’ll be grounded in love and gratitude while I’m here.

Detours to Memphis

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When I lived in Memphis, one of my favorite weekend getaways was St. Louis. The old Italian area is called The Hill, and I spent many a weekend grocery shopping at the old-time Italian supermarkets and delis, eating cannoli and drinking dark, smoky coffee at coffee shops and eating plate loads of pasta at some amazing Italian restaurants.

One Halloween I came up to run a Halloween 10K that had to be one of the most beautiful and fun races I’ve ever run. The only one that surpasses it for me is the Mount Baldhead Challenge 15K in Saugatuck MI. Saint Louis neighborhoods feature beautiful brick architecture and tree-lined avenues which provide outstanding fall color. When I ran the 10K, the weather was a perfect 45 degrees at the start which is truly perfect running weather.

Only a four hour drive from Memphis, those road trips were perfect for a weekend. I’d drive up Saturday morning in time to grab lunch on The Hill and then grocery shop at DiGregorio’s Italian Market. They had their own homemade mozzarella and pasta along with bulk beans and grains and all kinds of Italian meats. I would easily spend $200 to load up my ice chest and my car before heading back on Sunday afternoon.

So, I’m driving down I-57 today trying to work out my Sunday plans. I can’t check in to my AirBNB until 4 PM, and it’s too hot to leave Ashok in the car to do anything. I saw the sign for St. Louis, and I thought… hmmmm…. “Why not?” I found an AirBNB in the Tower Grove Park neighborhood and took a right when the time came. After taking Ashok for a stroll on The Hill I had dinner at Mama’s and then found my lodging for the night. Fall colors are just beginning to come out here, and the neighborhood and parks are beautiful.

Memphis Memories…..

I’m settling in for the night here. I have a full slate of activities planned with old friends this week, and I’m really looking forward to it. I rented an AirBNB in my old neighborhood, and I’m just going to move “home” for a week. Ashok will be so happy to be back in her birthplace even if it is a lot hotter than Michigan. I packed summer clothes for the week, and I’m hoping that Nate stays far enough to the east to steer clear of my vacation. But even if it rains, it’ll be nice to be back in Memphis. I’m already dreaming of BBQ, Shelby Farms, Whole Foods and downtown shopping.

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Everybody’s Dancing! It’s Springtime…

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The Tulip Poplar in my garden.

It’s spitting spring in Memphis! It does this every year. It doesn’t come in full force. It spits a nice day here and there, teases you with sunshine and then demoralizes you with rain and cold. The last two days have been rainy and cold. I even had on my parka and a hat while I walked my dog this morning. Ugh…Monday, however, was fabulous. This weekend….70s and sunny all the way through. You can bet my butt will be on a trail somewhere this weekend. If I don’t get a dose of the woods, it’ll be a huge loss.

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The Bradford Pear trees on my street.

My hometown in Louisiana had a very short spring. I don’t remember the seasons being very distinct except for summer. Summer was pretty distinct. It was all year except for a short break Jan – Feb. I exaggerate a little…but just a little. At Christmas when I was in Baton Rouge, I wore shorts, and that is not uncommon at all. On the opposite end of the spectrum, when I lived in Michigan, winter was all year except for a short break June – Aug. We always joked that summer was really nice…both days. And, I can tell you this, they don’t know summer. I had forgotten what hot was all about until I moved back down South. In Seattle, there was a weird spectrum of seasons. There was the rainy season which was from Nov.1 – exactly – through June. It would be 42 during the day and 40 at night and rainy…..everyday. Spring and a really light summer started in July. It was beautiful until October 30 – exactly. I didn’t even have air conditioning. I didn’t need it. My parents came for a visit, and there is a picture of us watching the Fourth of July fireworks in coats under blankets. My Louisiana friends will never experience that…I can guarantee it.

My favorite place in the country is in Tennessee. I think it has the best weather. My Tennessee friends will laugh because natives think it’s horrible. We have every season. And we don’t have any one for too long. It does get too hot for me in July and August, but all I have to do is remember my Louisiana childhood with no air conditioning, and I become very grateful again. A friend of mine and I were joking today about going to hell. I wondered if it would be hotter than Louisiana. He said no, it wouldn’t be that hot. So, I feel pretty happy about being in the middle of the country again. It’s hot for a bit but not like Louisiana nor for nearly as long.

Last week, the flowers started blooming on the trees. I have a tulip poplar in my backyard that is fabulous. The couple that lived here before used to have pink daiquiri parties when the tree was in full bloom. It looks like it’s snowing pink petals. The Bradford Pear trees out front are blooming like crazy, and the azaleas are sure to come in soon. My yard is full of them. I got them trimmed back this year because they were in trouble, so I won’t have as many blooms, but I can still enjoy the neighbors’.

My boss told me at work the other day that a bird woke him up chirping at his window. He joked that he wanted to shoot it. It wouldn’t stop. That’s always a sure sign of spring…randy animals. Everybody’s mating. I can even tell that the Match guys get more active and plentiful during the spring. The winter’s over…there’s stuff to do….energy’s up…let’s go find somebody to love – man or beast.

One of the most interesting mating rituals I’ve ever seen (other than humans at a nightclub) is the Woodcock mating ritual. I belonged to the Tennessee Ornithological Society when I lived in Knoxville, and they took us on a field trip one night to watch the mating dance of this crazy bird. We went out to this field and waited until dusk. All of a sudden, you could hear them all over. Peent…..peent….peent. After awhile, the woodcock dance started. It was quite a sight to see. The male woodcock would fly up into the air — about 250 – 300 ft – in an ever-widening spiral. When it reached the top, it would hover for a second and then zigzag down. Its wings were open, so you could hear the whistling sound as the air went through its wings. It would land in front of the female and do a little dance. The below video shows the sky part of the dance.

And this video shows the final part of the dance. I think it’s kind of sexy! I’d go for it. But, then again, maybe it’s just the effect spring has on me. 🙂

Living: Doing the Next Right Thing

I texted my friend Jessica Tuesday morning at 7:18 AM…

Me: I’m really struggling this morning. Tired of the cooking, the working out, the running, the matcha – I want my f**king espresso!

Jessica: It makes you so cranky! No working out today! Just rest. Do something for yourself.

Me: Sick of these needy animals, FedEx and men.

Jessica: And I think it is the full moon…I’m having similar moods. 🙂

Me: Oh, ok. So, I’m not crazy?

Jessica: Ha, nah. I think it’ll pass. The thing about the lifestyle you’ve chosen (working out/eating well) is that it’s not easy. Planning, effort and energy are all required. The long term benefits are great, but it’s hard!

Me: It is hard. I just want to roll up in bed and cry.

Jessica: Maybe you should…

I’d like to say that having that conversation cleared things up and I felt supported and got over myself. But, it didn’t. It got worse from there. I did feel supported, but I didn’t start feeling any better. I wanted to quit my job, become a nun, dump these animals, sell my house and get rid of that damn new car. I was decidedly…emphatically…..in a funk. The funk lasted approximately 3 days. I haven’t even had it in me to blog.

I decided not to panic. I didn’t have to do any of the things I wanted to do on Tuesday. They could wait until Wednesday. If I still felt like selling my house, signing up for a convent, bringing my animals to the shelter and selling my car on Wednesday, I could. So, I cleared everything off my schedule except going to work. That’s all I really needed to do. When I got home that evening, I ordered some of my favorite comfort food from Petra Cafe – hummus and pita, a pasta salad and some baklava, and I rested. I went to bed about 7 PM. I read for awhile, turned off my phone and then went to sleep. I felt a little better on Thursday.

My assignment from Jessica on Thursday was to run for an hour. I was told not to push it. I had to find my joy in running again. She said to go somewhere pretty and run like I like to run. For me, I love running when I can take my time and enjoy the sights. So, I got home from work, packed up Ashok and drove downtown to run by the Mississippi River. There’s just something about the river in Downtown Memphis in the spring. It’s beautiful, people are out, and the sunset is phenomenal. I ended up running about 4.5 miles, and I ran a loop from South Main to the Farmer’s Market, through Tom Lee Park, over the riverwalk on the bluff, down Main Street, past Beale Street and back to South Main. It was a beautiful evening. I took some absolutely fabulous pics of the sunset on the river, but my camera conveniently ate them. So, I’ve attached some pictures of my run along with a couple of pictures of the sunset on the river that I took Monday night. I hope you enjoy them.

As for me, I feel back on track today. I woke up this morning happy as a clam. Nothing has changed but me. No matter what’s happening or not happening in my life, I just have to keep it simple and do the next right thing. If the next right thing is to get my mojo back, be gentle with myself  and take a run, then that’s what I have to do. And, that’s exactly what I did. It works……every time.

She's always happy after a run!

She’s always happy after a run!

Memphis: The Tastiest Town in the South…in My Opinion

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Having fun with friends a few years back at the Beauty Shop

Today I voted for Memphis as the South’s tastiest city in Southern Living Magazine’s contest for The South’s Tastiest Town. I have to say that one of the things I really love about Memphis is the variety of restaurants that we have. Coming from Louisiana, I expect good food to be plentiful. I struggled living up north and in Seattle because I just didn’t go for the food there. So, I thought I’d give you a rationalization on why I think Memphis should be voted the tastiest town in the South.

My favorite restaurants, not in any special order, are:

  1. The Elegant Farmer
  2. The Beauty Shop
  3. Soul Fish Cafe
  4. Trolley Stop Market
  5. Bryant’s (for Breakfast)
  6. Restaurant Iris
  7. Las Tortugas (Cordova)
  8. Central BBQ
  9. Bhan Thai
  10. Flights

I prefer local flavor over fancy. And, I like good food over gourmet style. And, I know there are many restaurants I haven’t been to yet, so it may be that I just haven’t visited some other really good ones. I actually don’t eat out a lot because of the expense and because I try to eat pretty healthfully. It’s just hard to do that when you eat out a lot. Besides, I’m a really good cook. I’m not going to go out to eat when I can have better food at home. But, all of the restaurants on this list have better food than I can make at home.

For a long time, the Beauty Shop was my top place. I love the ambiance, and I love the fact that you can sit under a hair dryer for dinner. They say Priscilla Presley used to have her hair done at that shop before it became a restaurant. It is a fusion style of cooking, and the food is beautifully prepared and usually REALLY healthy. Most of it is sourced locally which is another big draw for me. But, the thing that always keeps me going to the Beauty Shop for celebrations is the Strawberry Cake. I think it’s from the Cake Lady Bakery. It’s my birthday cake every year unless my friend Michael bakes me one.

Interior of the Beauty Shop

Interior of the Beauty Shop

I love the Trolley Stop Market for a “meat and three” but the last time I went they ran out of all the vegetables before I got there. It was about 1:00 PM, and I had brought a friend there from out of town just because it was so good. It was a big disappointment. But, they have awesome pizza, too. If I’m having pizza, that’s where I’m going. They have really good desserts, too. I have a sweet tooth, so I do like to try desserts. The Trolley Stop has this apple cobbler that’s not overly sweet that I love. Their offerings change up all the time, so you never know what treats they’ll have. They have several good desserts. They have a Facebook page where they put their specials every day.

Bryant’s has the best biscuits in town, and they give you 3 with every order. They are awesome, and their “meat and 3” is really good, too. The cool thing about Bryant’s is that it has been open forever, and you stand in line to place your order at the counter. Bhan Thai is nice for a change. They are also only a mile away from my house, so I get takeout from there all the time. I like their Cashew Nut with Tofu. It’s spicy and hearty but not too heavy on the sauce. And, of course, cashews make everything taste good.

When I want to go really casual for lunch or dinner, I love Central BBQ and Soul Fish. Everybody has their favorite BBQ in Memphis, and mine is Central. I also love the fact that you can sit outside. Soul Fish has great sweet potato fries, and I love their vegetables. Their fish tacos are pretty good, too. My friend Michael swears by their whole catfish, and I do like their catfish, but I don’t eat too much fried food anymore. They have a great coconut cake, and I cannot pass up an order of their hush puppies.

The Elegant Farmer is my latest favorite. They are sort of a mix of home cooked, fusion and gourmet foods in a great little cozy setting. I’ve eaten there for lunch and dinner in the same day. I’ve never eaten anything there where I wasn’t tempted to lick the plate. It’s just phenomenal. They also have an outdoor garden where you can eat, but the inside is lovely too. They have different specials all the time, and a friend of mine works there and another friend runs the place, so I see their daily offerings posted on Facebook.

My friend Jessica wrote about the Southern Living contest in her blog today, too. She was encouraging people to vote. She lives in Austin now, but lived in Memphis for quite awhile. I wonder which city got her vote. I know Austin is a pretty tasty town, and I’m looking forward to being there next weekend to eat some food after running 13.1 miles. I think she promised a cupcake from a food truck there. Right now, I’m going to eat a bowl of chili from Sharon’s kitchen that smells like it’s going to be pretty tasty. C’est bon, y’all….

It’s Snowing in Memphis

I woke up to snow this morning in Memphis. They predicted it was coming, but 7 times out of ten, it doesn’t happen. For it to snow in the Southern United States, all the conditions have to be right. It just doesn’t happen very often. When it does happen, it’s an event. For it to happen on Christmas night, it is unbelievable. School was out anyway for the holiday, so there weren’t massive school closings with parents running around trying to figure out what to do with their kids while they go to work. That’s usually the biggest issue especially when the weather is not as bad as predicted. Parents don’t want to burn a vacation day for a non-event. There were only about 12 cars in my office parking lot this morning. Most of that was due to the holiday I’m sure, but we Southerners don’t rush to work on a snowy day. It’s just not cool.

If we’re lucky, we’ll get 1-2 snowfalls per year. The good thing about Southern snowfalls is they doesn’t stick around very long. The worst thing about Southern snowfalls is they don’t stick around very long. We really enjoy the snow. It’s beautiful on tropical southern plants because it looks so out of place. A Magnolia tree with it’s big beautiful evergreen leaves just looks fabulous with snow sticking to it.

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When I lived up North, I didn’t enjoy the snow as much. For one thing, extreme cold accompanied it. For another thing, it just kept piling up…..for months….and you had to deal with it in order to function. Down here, we just wait until it melts. It’s the simpler thing to do. The biggest snowstorm that I ever experienced in the South was a blizzard when I lived in Knoxville. I think we got 18 inches of snow, and it stuck around for several days. My neighbors were from Michigan. That first morning I woke up eagerly anticipating a multi-day vacation to play in the snow. I looked next door. They had shoveled the driveway and gone to work. Why did they do that? They weren’t getting the significance of this event…..obviously. For the rest of us Southerners, we sat at home listening to the radio.

This is the way it works in the South when it snows really bad. Our men tell their wives and kids they can’t drive in the snow. It’s just too dangerous. Then, they can’t wait to get their buddies and get in their four wheel drive trucks and go out and help hapless women and children who don’t have husbands and Dads that tell them not to go out in the snow. The radio stations start to take calls from people who need someone in a four wheel drive vehicle to take them somewhere. Meanwhile, the kids get out their cardboard boxes and sleds and go in search of the biggest hill they can find. When Dad or Honey gets home, they tell the stories of the people they saved and helped during the day. A good time is had by all.

The snow wasn’t sticking to the road this morning, so I knew I had to go to work. Besides, I don’t have a husband or Dad around to tell me I can’t drive anywhere. So, I got ready in snow speed, which is REALLY slow. In other words, I was at least an hour later than normal. I cleaned the snow off my car and headed for Starbucks. Oh, come on….there is no way I could fight a snowstorm of this magnitude without a Grande Mocha without whip. Geez…even a Yankee would know that.

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They had the signs out “Watch for Ice on Bridges”. My Yankee ex-husband used to laugh at those signs in Louisiana until he saw an overpass iced over one day. He would laugh about us worrying about ice on bridges down there when it was so hot. How much ice could we get anyway? Well, one Christmas, it was really cold – about 25 degrees. We drove up to this overpass. There was no ice to be seen on the roads but the overpass was a solid sheet of ice due to the humidity in the air and the cold passing under the bridge. It can also cause the infamous and scary “black ice.” They have black ice up north, but hell, they’ve got all kinds of ice. It’s all bad, so they don’t emphasize one more than the other. Besides, they have sand and salt to clear it up before you ever get out of bed. Down here, we don’t have all that stuff. You just drive on it if you dare.

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Around 4 PM, I’ll hear people saying, “I’m getting out of here before this stuff re-freezes” or “My husband won’t let me drive after dark when the weather is like this.” At any rate, they will all be trying to get home before dark. As all Southerners know, a Southern snowfall will turn into black ice after dark even if it’s 45 degrees out. We don’t take any chances. That is some scary stuff. Oh yeah, and we better get some milk and bread at the store if there’s any left after the pre-storm panic. We never eat it, but it sure does feel better to have it sitting in the kitchen in case we’re snowed in for the rest of the winter.

Om…Ducky, Ducky…Om

Closer to the time of starting…Love the sky in this one.

The Peabody Hotel in downtown Memphis is a Memphis icon. It is the home of the famous Peabody Ducks who spend their days floating in the indoor fountain in the hotel lobby beneath a magnificent floral arrangement. At 5 PM daily, the Duckmaster addresses a crowd of onlookers and escorts the ducks out of the fountain, up the elevator and to their palatial home on the roof of the hotel. Each morning, the Duckmaster reverses the trip and brings the ducks down to their daytime home.

When the sun was still high in the sky…

The story goes that, in the 1930s, the General Manager, Frank Schutt, came home from a hunting trip in Arkansas a little inebriated. He and his buds thought it would be funny to leave some ducks playing in the fountain. The guests found it amusing, so the tradition stuck. Tourists to Memphis consider the Peabody Duck March to be one of the highlights of the city. The first time I went I was astounded at the size of the crowd that gathered for this quite anti-climactic event. You have to experience it to believe it.

Last Friday, the Peabody Ducks had some unusual visitors to the Duck Palace. About 200 yogis practiced yoga on the rooftop of the Peabody at sunset. The practice was a celebration of the new Lululemon store opening in Memphis. Lululemon is big on building community, which is a smart marketing move for any business that sells primarily to females. We are so relationship-driven.

Hannah, the own of Memphis’ Give Yoga studio taught the class and kicked it off a little after 7 PM. I found a spot where I had a good view of the river. It was a beautiful night, and I knew it would be a fantastic sunset. I had a couple of girlfriends that were there, but I’m pretty internally focused when I’m practicing yoga, so I didn’t hang near them.

Yoga is typically practiced by more women than men, but I was surprised by a slightly larger contingent of male practitioners than I usually see. One man I

Me and Shelly

talked to said this was his first time doing yoga. What a great way to begin! As for the women, they all looked fabulous in their Lululemon, Athleta, Prana and stylish yoga wear. It was definitely a yoga fashion parade. I mean…. it IS all about the outfit. That was the first thing my friend Stephanie asked me…”What are you wearing?”….”Lycra of some sort,” I replied.

Hannah is greatly influenced Shiva Rea, a national yoga teacher who created a style of yoga that is more fluid and dancy than the traditional yoga practice. We started with some breathing practices and did some free-form dancing to some great blues being played by a DJ. The sounds of the city including the music from Beale Street competed for our attention. I’ve been to yoga conferences in the Chicago area, and this class reminded me of the classes in those conferences. The class was designed to provide an “experience” as well as a yoga practice. One of my favorite movements was a side to side lunge that was a flowing movement reminiscent of surfing. Since I plan to learn to surf in November, I was really enjoying the experience and imagining the Costa Rican Ocean. Now, I just can’t wait to go and try it on a real surfboard rather than my surfboard yoga mat!

As the sun was setting, we ended the class with a Sea of Oms. Om is the chant that usually ends a yoga practice, and the sound is supposed to symbolize the sharing of the energy that a person produces within his or her practice with the rest of the world. A Sea of Oms is when a group chants the Om sound in a round fashion so it becomes a never ending chant. Its really beautiful, and it really opens your heart. The ending of the practice was really profound with the sun setting over the Mississippi River, the sounds of the city and Beale Street pulsating in the background, and the Sea of Oms pouring off the rooftop. Its one of those moments that I’d like to “take a picture” in my mind and never forget.

Stephanie and Megan

Of course, there were plenty of hugs to go around afterwards and some friendly chatter. I caught up with my friends Shelly and Stephanie and Stephanie’s beautiful daughter, Megan. I hadn’t seen any of them in quite awhile, so it was a nice relaxing chance to catch up and share a few laughs in a great environment. As all the yogis took turns taking the elevator down to the first floor of the Peabody, I couldn’t help but think that Memphis really has some great things to offer. When I first came here, I wasn’t so sure about this city. But, the more I experience of it, the more I love its unique spirit and style. I surely hope this event will be repeated. If not, maybe I’ll pack my yoga mat up there one day on my own and share a few asanas with the famous ducks by myself. Maybe the Duckmaster will join me.

Music: My Drug of Choice

The “stage” at Memphis House Concerts

Memphis is a musical town. I didn’t take advantage of that until the last few years. I didn’t even know how much I loved music until I started exploring some of the music venues in Memphis. I mean, I’m well aware of the role music plays in my life. All I have to do is hear a song from my high school years, and I’m transported back to that time. It’s pretty magical.

The first time I realized that live music really transported me to a different dimension was my first visit to a venue called Memphis House Concerts. This is actually my neighbor’s house. I literally walk 5 doors down on my street, and I’m on their front porch. Jimbo and Susan bring in some amazing talent to sing in their imperfect Midtown living room. Somewhere between 20-50 people show up once a month or so to hear artists from around the country. Light appetizers and Ghost River Beer are on tap for a beer donation. We all hang out in the kitchen and mingle with the artist(s). They have a suggested $20 donation that goes directly to the artist. It’s the best deal in town.

My friend Davina and I on the front porch at Memphis House Concerts

I love the connection between the audience, the musicians and the hosts. I’ve realized that music, for me, is about experiencing another person’s expression of themselves and the experience of the moment that can never happen again. It’s very intimate for me. I don’t use anything chemically to alter my mood anymore, but music totally changes the way I feel. I find myself transfixed watching and listening to an artist that really speaks to my soul. It blows me away.

I saw one of my favorite local musicians in a bar. I was stunned that most of the crowd was drinking and talking and basically not even listening to this fabulous music that was being played before them. Another favorite venue of mine is a coffeehouse in Midtown called Otherlands.  I can also walk to Otherlands. Both of these places are smoke-free and the music ends at a decent hour. I know there are others like this in Memphis. If you know where they are, please invite me to join you.

My favorite threesome…Dan Montgomery, Robert and Candace Mache at Otherlands

The musicians that play at both of these places are mainly singer-songwriters. That’s what really gets me hooked. As a writer, I know that your words are the vehicle that your soul uses to speak. And, I imagine musicians have a double vehicle with the music they play as well. To experience someone telling their own story is such a powerful experience. I crave it. I am hooked by it. It’s definitely my drug of choice.

I believe we are wired for connection. Not everyone can or is willing to share themselves in an intimate way,  but listening to live music up close and personal is a non-threatening way to accomplish it. When God created us, I believe He wanted us to connect at a soul level, and we were built to crave that connection. Music speaks to me. What speaks to you in this way?

Listen to one of my favorite singer-songwriters, Dan Montgomery, recorded at Otherlands:
My Favorite Color