Monday, December 18, 2006

Court Square,
Downtown Memphis,
April 1988
from Lori's Pic Collection

I went home over the Thanksgiving Holiday (2006). The following were some of my more memorable moments.

THE WORST: For some reason, the folks at Memphis International decided to keep our luggage. Oh, they claimed it had been held over in Charlotte for inspection. Yeah, right. I could almost swear I saw our luggage in the jet-way as we got off the plane. I'd purposely marked our luggage to make it more easily distinguishable from all of the other black bags. Anyway, it just so happened that the one piece that turned up missing had our son's prescription cough medicine in it--not to mention all of his clothes. This isn't the first time we've had our luggage lost ("jacked") at Memphis International. After returning our lost ("jacked") luggage on that particular occasion, a radio the hubby had been given as a Christmas gift turned up missing. Well, this time around, after the hubby had thoroughly cussed out everybody, we got our bags back all right . . . well after 8:00 that evening . . . which might not have been so bad had we not arrived at around 10:00 that morning.

THE FUNNIEST: After leaving the airport, we went to pick up a rental car. We thought we were all set to go to grandma's house when a Good Samaritan pointed out that the car we were about to drive off in had a FLAT. Sure enough, the rear wheel on the passenger's side was flat as all get out. After watching his irate Dad march back up to the car rental office, the young'n turned and looked at me. After heaving a sigh and shaking his head, he said, "You know . . . this is starting to feel like an episode of "GOOD TIMES." This kid is not even a teen and already he's got jokes. I guess we taught him well. LOL.

MOST SAVORY: Okay, when you think Thanksgiving and food, you generally think turkey, dressing, sweet potato pie and all of that. But whenever I go home to Memphis, I'm always thinking barbecue. Yeah, the Thanksgiving grub was cool. But the barbecued chicken, cole slaw, beasn and the buttered roll I had from CORKY'S was THE BOMB! If I thought I could have gotten away with it, I would have wrapped some up and taken it back on the plane with me . . .

MOMENT THAT MADE ME GO "HUH! WHAT THE . . . " While driving down Poplar Avenue, coming back from downtown and right next to OVERTON PARK, I saw a white guy . . . driving a station wagon . . . with SPINNERS. Hey, could be it was Craig Brewer of "Hustle and Flow" fame. Certainly sounds like some ig'nant a$$ mess he'd pull (LOL).

FAMILY-WISE: My Dad, a retired military man, shared several tales from his days in the service with us. The first had to do with his brief stint in a military singing group called the PIPERS. I'll have to see if I can make copies of those pictures and share them one day soon. His other stories dealt with the 3 seperate occasions he had a GUN pulled on him--one in GERMANY, once in the PHILIPPINES and once in VIET NAM. For the record, my dad served in the AIR FORCE and AF folks aren't typically put in position where they have to handle guns, much less get shot at. Also, interesting was how on two of those ocassions (in the Philippines and 'Nam) my Dad claimed that a "guardian angel" in the form of a priest materialized, seemingly from out of nowhere and diffused the situations. Hmm. I may have to share those stories one day as well. What surprised me though was when my father brought up the psychological affects of war. He talking about being burrowed down in a foxhole and/or behind a bunker somewhere . . . and listening to the dropping of bombs . . . bombs that are falling closer and closer ("walking" is what I think he called it) and having to come to terms with the fact that one of those bombs just might have your name on it . . .

MUSIC-WISE: The hubby and I were listening to the car radio while driving back to my parent's home late one night. We were cruising through North Memphis and had just crossed over that stretch where JACKSON AVENUE turns into AUSTIN PEAY when we lucked up on, of all things, a PRINCE-MINI-CONCERT! Oh dag! We turned that mess up and for several long minutes on end we were YOUNG, SLIM, UNJADED and FULL OF DREAMS again . . .

MOST ENTERTAINING: Me, two of my sister-in-laws and a couple of friends went to a play at THEATRE WORKS. For a mere $15.00 I got my money's worth and then some. The play, entitled, THE 24/7 CAFE was written by RUBY O'GRAY and sponsored by the BLUFF CITY TRI-ART THEATRE COMPANY. Talk about "Tyler Perry" funny! We had a ball laughing at the cafe's wacky customers and crew, especially THOMAS (played by JS TATE), RITA (played by DANIELLE CARRINGTON) and MRS. BEA (played by THEREN WOMACK). Collectively, they did an excellent job of serving up a slice of Black Memphis life from the 1960's.

BEST ALL-AROUND: The Saturday after Thanksgiving, the hubby and I took a drive downtown to the MEMPHIS RIVERFRONT and stopped for a stroll through TOM LEE PARK. The weather was perfect and it didn't cost us anything. A lot of other folks apparently had the same idea because families, couples (young & old), kids on bikes, tourists and the like were everywhere. A handful of dare-devils were out on the water, racing each other and zooming around on those little jet-ski boats. The hubby and i had a great time marveling at the big houses on the bluffs, the dark choppy waters of the Mississippi River and just how far our beloved city has come. Afterward, we drove through downtown, past MUD ISLAND, the PYRAMID, the PEABODY HOTEL and the crowds on BEALE STREET. We chuckled at the sight of the condos going up in the spot on SECOND STREET where we use to change buses on our daily treks to and from LEMOYNE-OWEN COLLEGE. And for the umpteenth time, we swore we'd stop one day and actually take one of the horse and carriage tour rides thorugh the Bluff City's downtown district.

Downtown Memphis, TN


from Lori's Pic Collection

As the picture above indicates, this is something we've been promising ourselves since the late 80's. But hey . . . really. . . one day . . . we will.

Monday, December 11, 2006


If you stop by my house this time of the year, you're bound to hear some Christmas music. I break out my collection of holiday tunes right after Thanksgiving and don't stop playing them until--well-- sometime in the first month of the new year . . . generally.

The following is a short list of some of my (non-instrumental) favorites:

1) I Know That My Redeemer Liveth (sung by Tevin Campbell on Handel's Messiah: A Soulful Celebration) This is a beautiful song! It's also one of the few that even the hubby doesn't mind listening to over and over again.

2) What Child Is This (sung by Vanessa Williams) VW is beautiful and multi-talented. Don't you hate her? (smile)

3) What Do The Lonely Do At Christmas? (The Emotions)

4) Merry Christmas, Baby (Charles Brown) It's hard to resist a song that has lines like, "Merry Christmas, Baby, you've sho'll been good to me. Well, I haven't had a drink this morning , but I'm all lit up like a Christmas tree." Talk about some down home Blues! I can't help but think about Memphis whenever I hear this song.

5) This Christmas (sung by Donny Hathaway) Even though I don't like snow, for some reason, I always think about it when I hear this song.

6) Santa Claus, Goes Straight To the Ghetto (James Brown) Tell 'em 'bout it JB.

7) Santa Baby (Eartha Kitt)

8) Someday at Christmas (sung by the Jackson Five) The J5 Christmas album holds the honor of being the first holiday album I ever owned.

9) Another Lonely Christmas (Prince) The hubby can't stand this song. So, you know I have to play it LOUD and on REPEAT. LOL

10) Bobby O'Jay's Christmas Song (This is a Memphis radio classic, a song cut and released by WDIA's very own disc jockey Bobby O'Jay! It doesn't feel like Christmas until I hear this song.

So, what are your favorites? Or if you prefer, tell me about those Christmas songs that grate on your nerves.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


For those of you who don't know, that's the Mississippi River and the Hernando-Desoto Bridge you see off in the distance. Looks like a postcard, huh? It's not. It's a picture I snapped a couple of years ago from the roof-top deck of the Gayoso House (located in downtown Memphis, TN) where my old friend Stanford Lewis was living at the time.

Thus far, I've lived in eight different cities in the United States and one overseas (Wiesbadan Germany), but I doubt if I'll ever really consider any place outside of Memphis, Tennessee--home. I love the Bluff City . . . The Big M-Town . . . always have and always will . . . warts, flaws and all.

In 1991 I was invited to submit an essay to Memphis Magazine's 15th Anniversary Issue. Seven other Memphis-connected writers and I wrote about "the power of place." I was both tickled and honored to be included in the company of folks like Norm Brewer, Joan Turner Beifuss, Jerome Wright, Edwin Howard, Miriam DeCosta Willis (who went on to co-edit the ground-breaking EROTIQUE NOIRE), Levi Frazier and Margaret Skinner.

My essay was entitled "From Springdale to Walker." In the piece, I delved into how my experience riding the city bus to and from LeMoyne-Owen College forever shaped my view of both Memphis and my world. It comes as no surprise to me that much of what I wrote then still holds true today, fifteeen years later, including the following . . .

"I see Memphis as a kind of montage, a multitude of elements which coexist and which fall in and out of balance as we strive for more of some and less of others. It is the coexistence of poverty and prosperity, of splendor and squalor, of the lies of yesterday and the promises of tomorrow, of dreams fulfilled, dreams denied, and dreams yet to be realized, of Black and White and Blues all rolled into one. Yes, Memphis is a montage, painted in vivid, sweeping colors and strokes--a montage that I have come to recognize as home."

Quote Source ("From Springdale To Walker" by Lori D. Johnson; April 1991 Memphis Magazine).