MISSION: To visit every state and territory in the U.S. For my mission a visit is greater than a stop over; I wish to explore the natural and cultural environments of these areas. Each of these locations has a story to tell, and I want to find it.

As of February 2018 I have visited all 50 states (and Puerto Rico and 2 island in the US Virgin Islands) at least once.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Shopping in Memphis - South Main Arts District

Back from Memphis … the home of Elvis… River City … birthplace of Rock and Roll… and it was quite a trip.  Only a weekend really, for my mom’s birthday. Had plans to see many of the sites, not really thinking that I could not get most of it done in a few days.  Well – I was not counting on the twists and turns thrown my way.  Between travel issues (weather and non-weather), the freezing temps (for someone coming from Southern Florida), the tornado warnings, time spent at some attractions, the distance to others and the fact that Memphis closes up on Sunday early… we failed to see everything that we set out to explore.  So … I have a few things to admit about my trip to Memphis :  (1) it was not at all what I was expecting.  (2) You can’t see everything in one weekend.  (3) Graceland was not as strange as I thought it would be. 

I thought I would get a good helping of New Orleans (music, art and food) with a bit of a Savannah pacing; instead, I got more of a Cleveland feel.  There was stuff to see and do, but the city itself was struggling.  So many empty store fronts - closed shops, hotels, restaurants.  Down in the West End Shopping District, there were a few buildings that popped with color and effort... industrial space condos, new boutiques, and even a few new cafes and bars.  The problem was that in between the small clusters of retail store front were large stretches of abandoned buildings.  The street, Main Street,  looked dead; yes, the Trolley rolled up and down the street, but no one got out.  While we walked (quickly) down the street, we never saw a soul outside of the shop-keepers.  They were all very sweet, and even gave us a history of the area; you had to wonder if we were the only people that they saw those days.  Some recommended other shops, some recommended restaurants, some  local sites.  Most notably, the shop "mom" at EverLeah gave us great advise on other Memphis sites and shared the scoop on other shops and local eateries (including Earnestine & Hazel's hamburgers and Arcade's breakfast).   The shop itself, had the most adorable purses and some equally adorable shirts and jackets; this store gets special mention since it was the only shop open on Sunday early evening when, surprisingly, all shops had long since closed their doors (or not opened them at all).  I only wish my opinion of the shop stayed as positive as its initial impression... alas, not!  Monday, after a quick morning visiting the Peabody ducks and riding the trolley, we jumped off in the South End to revisit a few shops we were interested in (that were closed on Sunday) and that friendly shop mom stopped us in the street to tell us that our transaction the previous evening did not work due to a glitch in the system.  We re-entered the store and showed the unhooked credit card reader.  Problem - how were we to know that it was unhooked the day before.  They had a receipt that I signed, and I had a copy...  there was nothing noted that said transaction cancelled or failed.  I am usually a trusting person, but this was ridiculous.  I promised to check my accounts and send a check if nothing hit my account...

That little stretch of  South Main kept us busy; we picked out a few things to covet, a few things to purchase and ate breakfast at the famous Arcade Cafe.   We found a great spring coat at "Muse" (a boutique that I recognized from New Orleans); in fact, there were many great treasures there - including Knut jeans.   We searched the racks at "Shop Girl New York City" and found adorable sweaters, and a perfect pair of casual pants for Mom.    We ohhed and ahhed at the interchangeable jewelry store - Charolette Memphis.   We stopped in the Blues Foundation for a short education on the group, its events and strolled around the building looking at their folk art collection; my mom's love of blue glass was answered by their interesting blue glass bottle tree and drinking-bottle collection.  And we spent hours in the National Civil Rights Museum, housed at the very hotel where Martin Luther King was shot.

The weather was so cold and the shops on South Main ran lean... but that museum can keep you busy for hours.  It begins as a very comprehensive overview of civil rights - with time lines, keypoints in history.  The true story of the museum comes later as it breaks down that infamous acts... the soda shoppe protests, the marchs, the voter registration drives, the bus boycotts, the story of the Little Rock 9...full of pictures, quotes, artifacts, sets (like a bus, a counter) and, at times, audio/visual content.  It brings you right through MLK's last acts and that final moment of his life, leaving to go to dinner - shot right outside the front door of his hotel room at the Lorraine.  And I was an idiot, not realizing how emotional my mother was getting in the museum... when I called for her to read a section about the Birmingham bus boycott, my mom reminded me that she grew up during this time and lived this... of course, mathematically that made sense, but I never really thought about it in terms that my own mother had her own learning experiences and memories... sometimes it is easy to forget the history that our own families laid witness too - my grandparents did not like talking about the Depression or WWII, extended family did not like to discuss Vietnam, and now my mom surprised me with her connection to this movement.  It seems so long ago, and yet, we all know that it really wasn't.  

We needed happier and more light-hearted fare... so we headed back to our hotel and caught the shuttle to Sun Studios....

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