Monday, December 12, 2011

Random Seasonal Thoughts.......

- Memphis December 2011 Snowfall 1.4"
      Buffalo December 2011 Snowfall 0.4"
Is this the Bizzaro World Global Warmists had envisioned???

- My mind tends to wonder (even more than usual) this wondrous time of year to Ghosts of Christmas past.  I remember as a young boy in New Jersey, my father loved to put up Christmas lights and displays.  He was fabulous at it...we were always the most decorated 'house in the hood' even before they started giving out prizes for it.  One year he went all out....thousands upon thousands of lights and all kinds of displays.  He even went up on the roof and put up Santa's sleigh and 8, not so tiny, electric reindeer. Very cool!  I'm not sure what we did to the power grid in that area of jersey but I do remember the electric meter spinning at something like Warp 9 ("Scottie, we need more power!") and how our lights twinkled inside the house (even tho they weren't twinkle lights).  Great stuff......even today I smile!
Um...we need a bigger dylithium crystal
The problem was Dad was not as good, nor as anxious, about breaking  down the Holiday Spectacular after the holidays.  So there we were in mid-March, as the thaw began, bringing it down.  As we were in the process, a car slowed and the driver put down his window, "Hey buddy why don't you put freakin bunny ears on the reindeer and leave them up for Easter"?  Ha Ha!! was actually pretty funny and I wondered, maybe worried is the better term, if only for a second, that my 'old man' wouldn't pull off the transformation.

This year's Hallmark!
-So this holiday season I am watching my friend's two puppy terriers, Rudy & Leon.  Yes, my life has come to this. I'm a part-time Dog Walker now......that's something like a distant understudy to an Associate Dog Whisperer (who also always carries a small supply of waste disposal bags).  I'm not sure I see this as a career path, and intend to keep the day job as a 'paper boy', but the puppies are so cute and they call me 'Uncle Lou' now. (I'm a quick study on that dog whisperer thing) Anyhow, last weekend there was a Christmas parade on the island and I jokingly asked Rudy & Leon's parents where their little holiday outfits were....... "In the downstairs hall closet", without pause, the reply came.  YIKES....I'm committed or should be! Before I made time to carefully think this through, I had them dressed in their 'holiday best'...... sweaters, mufflers and head gear.  They looked dapper, tho Rudy was none too fond of the antlers and Leon preferred wearing his Santa cap like a beard.  What I had not anticipated was that this little island parade was big stuff & a contest no less.  Had I completely lost my mind???
Ice Ice Baby in her Float
Most of it is kind of a blur now, but I vaguely remember Rudy & Leon dragging me down the road while they hob-nobed with their canine brethren (sniffing is more accurate)......all the while I was 'waiving to adoring throngs' along the route like I was on a float in Atlantic City and, oh yes, simultaneously trying to dodge 'the presents' left by the horse drawn carriages leading this whole charge.  Thank Santa Claus there were liquid refreshments at the end of the cavalcade and no one got a picture of me for the cover of the widely distributed 'Harbor Town Sun Times'.  That honor, deservedly, went to Ice Ice Baby!

-Holiday Dirigibles - At what point did inflatables, originally intended for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, become suitable lawn ornaments??? Yesterday I saw Snoopy riding a tractor being pulled by Donner & Blitzen......  In light of current economic conditions and since this has become a billion dollar industry, I am in favor of a luxury tax on anyone who sells or displays these in their front yards. Let's get a handle on the deficit folks!

-Rockin Around The Christmas Tree----It's going to be a simple Tennessee Country Christmas for everyone.  All y'all are getting a personally handcrafted Elvis pet rock this year. No feeding or medication required.  If, by chance, you have received a pet rock from me in the past, expect a festively decorated pine cone instead!

Santa's Village as shown by NORAD
- For years now, at least the last 2 anyway, I have debated the myth/the man.....Santa Claus.  After all, how can a fat man in a red suit, whose only work-out includes a steady diet of milk & cookies, make it around the world dispensing gifts in just one night??? Recently I have been given indisputable proof, including a photo, of his existence. Among the two million or so apps available now, there is one for tracking the annual journey of the jolly old elf supplied by NORAD, the folks responsible for the aerospace defense of North America.  I don't know about you but I will rest easier tonight knowing there IS a Santa Claus, NORAD has got our backs & my 3 year old grandson will show me how to use the app on my iPhome come Christmas Eve.....

-Dear Santa:
I'd like you to know I've been pretty good this year (but then you knew that already, ha-ha, didn't you....)  I know in years past I had some doubts and also made a few comments about your weight, but I do believe, truly I do, and I'll be tracking your journey this year.  (By the way, any chance you and the reindeer can do a couple of loop de loops around the Memphis-Arkansas bridge?).  As far as the weight goes, hell we've all put on a few lbs this year.  Tell you what tho, I intend to run the St Jude Half. So after this year's trek, you're welcome to come hang & train with me for awhile. (You need to lose the beard & the red suit tho....& don't even think about BBQ)  I'm sure Mrs. Claus wouldn't mind and you gotta need a break from those elves!  Of course if I were you, I'd probably pick a secluded spot in the South Pacific. Just sayin...
I want you to know there are no hard feelings that last year's 72" plasma flat screen I wanted ended up at my neighbor's house.  The jumbo pack of tube socks you left for me was really nice.  No need for another pack because they have lasted me all dam year.  I'd still be chuckling over that talking fish head you gave me too but I re-gifted it for someone else's enjoyment. Hell I don't even fish....but I think you got the last laugh with Bass Pro setting up shop right next to my house!
Anyhow Big Guy, no offense intended, I wish you much luck on the annual journey & I'll be grateful for most anything I get (but if a NEW Harley shows up at my other neighbor's house with a bow on it this year, you and I will have to have a serious conversation!)
Most sincerely,

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Swimmin in Skittles

Didn't I see that violin on Antiques Roadshow?
On a cold January morning in 2007, this man with a violin, played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes at Washington DC's Metro Station,. During that time, approximately 2,000 people went through the station, most of them on their way to work. After about 3 minutes, a middle-aged man noticed that there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds, and then he hurried on to meet his schedule.

About 4 minutes later:
The violinist received his first dollar. A woman threw money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk.

At 6 minutes:
A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.

At 10 minutes:
A 3-year old boy stopped, but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. The kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head the whole time. This action was repeated by several other children, but every parent - without exception - forced their children to move on quickly.

At 45 minutes:
The musician played continuously. Only 6 people stopped and listened for a short while. About 20 gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace. The man collected a total of $32.

After 1 hour:
He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed and no one applauded. There was no recognition at all.

No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars. Two days before, Joshua Bell sold-out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100 each to sit and listen to him play the same music.

This is a true story. Joshua Bell, playing incognito in the D.C. Metro Station, was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people's priorities.

This experiment raised several questions:
*In a common-place environment, at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty?

*If so, do we stop to appreciate it?

*Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?

One possible conclusion reached from this experiment could be this:

If we do not have a moment to stop and listen to one of the best musicians in the world, playing some of the finest music ever written, with one of the most beautiful instruments ever made . . ..

How many other things do we miss as we rush through life?  Lord, I know I have.......

"Damn, I knew the answer to that question!"
That trend will only continue as smart phones & tablets continue their advancement with folks fixated on some version of Angry Birds (& even scarier......some will be behind a steering wheel doing 60) and not the more simple joys of life......which are open, tactile and often free!  On Saturday afternoon....... I watched from the bluff, for several minutes, the wonder of a slow moving coal barge chugging down the Mississippi on it's journey to New Orleans.  Can't you just see it???  It was quite delightful!
Frampton Comes Alive now & 35 years ago

Even better was the sound of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra later that evening.  While I'm a rock & roller at heart, almost nothing beats that sound & those Rock Stars! Think about it.......almost every Hollywood movie has an orchestral background but to see & hear an orchestra up close & personal..... Oh Lord!

Each one of us is on a roller coaster ride through life.  Granted some are a little further along than others & some soon pulling into 'The Station' (maybe with a sudden stop & before they wanted to).  As adults, we're all past the Big Hill.  It's just how many loop de loops & twisty curvies you have left because tomorrow is promised to no one.   So promise yourself this:  Even as the world whips by at its frenzied pace, enjoy the simpliest things that life has to offer:  the beauty of a sunset, the wonder of a bird in flight, a walk in the park or by the river, the joy & innocence of a small child  (even better if their yours 8-) & that lone virtuoso in the subway station.  If you take the time to listen to the sound and enjoy the moment, you'll be swimmin in skittles!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Thud Factor

Um.....Good place for one.....
There was an article on Bloomberg (a business and financial website) this past week that hard copy newspapers will be gone by the year 2040.  I suppose, that as sad as that sounds, the death knell of newspapers is eventually inevitable....... by that time the baby boomers, of which I thought I was one, will either be gone or on respirators.

Growing up in an era when the local newspaper was King has made me a bit nostalgic.  I was a paper boy (still am for that matter).  My son was too.  It taught a good sense of responsibility at an early age.  Now 'paperboys on bikes' whose routes covered nearly every house on the block have been replaced by 'contractors in trucks' who often drive 70+ miles to deliver 300 papers.

Philly telling it like it is
I have a Smart Phone, which I confess, makes me feel none too smart a good deal of the time and an iPad2  but it's just not the same loading up the digital edition as having that big old fat Sunday paper waded & thrown up there on the sidewalk.  There is that anticipatory excitement and 'the ritual' with the Sunday paper...... 
I wake up, after resisting for a bit, throw on my Ole Miss hat, turn on the TV and start the coffee.  Then it's out the front door to pick up the 2lb. blue sack which I already know is there from hearing it hit the ground the night before.  This varied activity is played out in neighborhoods across America.  Today, I take a quick survey of my 'hood' and of the 16 houses on the block, 5 take the Sunday paper (roughly a third).  I suppose I should take this survey a little deeper and go bang on some doors, iPad in hand, & find out what generation each belongs to: Boomer, Generation Jones, Gen X or Gen Y and what makes then tick.  However, I can't.  I am currently in a state of daze.  All these years I thought I was a Boomer and, come today, I find out there is some made up new category (I'm a Joneser....WTH) and they shelved me in there!  Ugh....need coffee & the comfort of my paper!

My hometown Squeeze
After fixing my coffee, it's back to the coffee table to unwrap my prize and spread the sections out all over.  I seldom read the front page first unless there is something sensational or of compelling personal interest.  Today is no different.  Instead I opt to freelance the sections out of order, because I'm a rebel (in my own mind anyway),.....often going, strangely enough, to Op-Ed, to see what my colleague OS has on his mind today........and whether I will agree with him.  More times than not I do.  After that it's book reviews & the New York Times Bestsellers list. Then I usually like to see what's happening in Business, especially the local scene & hoping for good news.  In years past, being from Philly, I would have gone straight to Sports first but that section usually falls to third or fourth on my list now unless the Memphis Tigers or the Grizzlies are playing.  Neither is.....nor is there hope the Griz will be playing anytime soon.   I can't avoid them tho!  That impact lands them in Business
A Rite of Passage
About this time I am wondering if I should even get up today......  I grab the M Section (A&E) & turn to my horoscope.  Good fortune!  I'm a Moon Baby & it's 5 STARS!   Joy.....I can leave the house & I am thinking my Eagles will trounce the Cowboys tonight too!  About this time I catch a peak at the Classified Section and there is an article in Careers on of my favorite pastimes.  I am there.  After that, it's off to Local News, My Life & a quick glance at the Obits just to make sure I haven't 'deadlined' & made that column.

Statistics still say newspapers are the Number One destination for advertising.  I agree.  Everything else is about ad avoidance except for 'search' and Super Bowl Sunday.  Today I'm thinking the extreme couponers are happier than an F5 whittling through an Arkansas trailer park because there are over $200.00 worth!  Me, I look for my Walgreens circular to see what's on sale.  Like churches, there's one on every corner in Memphis and it's my favorite store! I usually peek at most of the circulars especially my favorite French store Target' & Best Buy for stuff I don't need but must have....   

At $2.00, the Sunday paper is both a bargain and an institution.  If you get home delivery, it also comes with the full suite of digital products....and 'breaking news'!  I like to tease a good friend in MS.  We had to sell him the digital edition a few years ago when we cut back delivery to his area.  Every once in awhile, I send him a hard copy.  He pitches a tent by the mailbox, loads up on sun screen & bug repellent and waits on the mailman.  Then he likes to tell me he rolls around the newspaper naked when he's done reading, a vision I'd like to avoid.  Or when I get an e-mail from my favorite radio DJ pleading with me to 'water board' or, at the very least, perform an acid drip on a carrier because he didn't get his paper that morning.......
That's the kind of passion that loyal readership exudes!

No, I don't believe that newspapers will be extinct by the year 2040.....not even close!  Newspapers will morph into something else..... much like the 2002 Tom Cruise film Minority Report
depicting the year 2054.  It featured eye-sensor behavioral targeting and a USA Today digital e-paper with BREAKING NEWS.  Both technologies already exist! 

The future, as is often said these days, is here, but for now enjoy 'the thud factor' & the wonder of the daily, toil & newsprint and keep your smart phone handy for the updates.
In 2007, there were 6580 daily newspapers in the world selling 395 million copies a day. The worldwide recession of 2008, combined with the rapid growth of web-based alternatives, caused a serious decline in advertising and circulation as many papers closed or sharply retrenched operations.  While there are many less daily broadsheets & tabloids today, many newspapers have seen resurgence in both areas as they further define the business model.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Social Network

Space Book, My Face, Twitzer, LinkedUp, UrSquare, Gadzooski...... How is it humanly possible to keep track of all the noise?  Hell, just trying to remember all the passwords & what I had for lunch yesterday is challenge enuf for me! (BTW, it was Gus's finger lickin good World Famous Fried Chicken & a break in the BBQ tour)  Now i'm not saying all this social media isn't really good stuff......  I mean how could we possibly live without Google Search?  I do remember those days of course....ahhhhhh..... the Encyclopedia Britannica, 8 track tapes & vinyl 2.....  I like to call that time BG (Before Google).  Sometime today ask someone relatively young (& use your IPhone & Twitter them by all means) about the calendar terms BC & AD and see if they can come up with Before Christ & After Death.    Now when you go into Bar Dog on trivia night everyone is checking out the competition for IPhones.  "Hey, I'm just texting my sister"!

Yep!  That's about me.......You?
Let me give two cents worth of free advice I have learned through personal I mean extensive scientific research.....never & I mean NEVER click on an ad on FaceBook. Eventually, maybe even instantaneously, you will regret it like the Wedding Chapel in Vegas!  FaceBook is damn good!  They have your complete profile which you have so generously given them & everyone tracks your 'cookies'.  What do they do?  They serve you ads that are behaviorally targeted & incredibly hard to resist sometimes..... particularly if they catch you at a weak moment.  I'm a marketing executive and they still catch me from time to time.  How then does a mere civilian resist??? One such moment came a few months ago.  I still own that house near the beach in New Jersey and I pay too damn much for the pleasure.  There it was, the temptress, on the right rail:  See what you'll pay in only seconds at the lowest rate in years, just 3.75%, click here.  So after only a slight pause of hesitation I clicked through & supplied the information on the property.  Within 2 seconds of the time I hit the send button, my phone began to ring incessantly.  My e-mail box was bombarded.  I wasn't just seeing what I might pay at all.  I was farmed out like a greased pig across the Internet landscape via & literally contacted by over 30 different 'institutions'.  I don't know about you but I don't handle that kind of stalking very well and it took quite a bit of doing to undo that unfortunate click.  I felt like a sad little sea lion swimming amongst the killer whales.  If you indeed need a loan, the Internet is probably not the best place to search one out.  Seek out a local lender & go from there.  (SteeeeeeeeeRike 1)

Remember the old adage.....there is no such thing as a free lunch.  It's actually true!  There still isn't!  If you are lucky enough to be 'randomly' selected with a pop-up as the 600th person of the day and You have Won a FREE IPad 2......(You'll just have to trust me on this).....You have not! (SteeeeeeeeeRike 2)
It's just lucky for me that I recently received an e-mail from a Ugandan foreign minister who is willing to deposit millions of dollars into my bank account & all for just a small handling I'll be able to buy
IPad 3's for all my FB friends anyway.....just as soon as the check clears!

As you may or may not be aware, I am currently single.  I enjoy work, golf, reading tennis & women....& not in that order.  It's been sometime since I've dated and because I've heard &........been encouraged to do so....why not check out Internet Dating?  I had resisted to this point.  I'm kind of old fashioned after all but then there it was....a weak moment......& on the right rail!
Before I knew it I had clicked thru (for research purposes naturally) & supplied all the pertinent information.  The dye was cast!  Immediately I was fed to hungry wolves like a slow red fox!  My God....There are Plenty of Fish in the Sea.  I must have gotten at least 10 hits in the first 30 seconds!  What......Do these women live on the internet and my God....wouldn't it be helpful to at least have all your teeth in the profile pic???   Once I had realized the sheer madness of it all, I tried to reverse the process.  Let me tell you this.  It's easy in...... not so easy out....especially when PANIC sets in!  It must have taken me nearly 40 minutes to figure the 'out'.  The subsequent nightmares were not worth the 'research' & there was a short time that I even considered becoming a Tibetan Monk. (Foouullll Tip)  Facebook is so damn good.  It can even target several of my likes at the same time.  Meet Young Women Who Like to Play Golf......  Yikes!

OK....Maybe FB wasn't the best place to start with Internet dating.....apparently more research was needed! I decided to give Zoosk a try.  Zoosk, self described, makes 2 assumptions - First; everyone wants to play.  Second; everyone wants to be a Zoosker, after all, life is a game and finding love is one of it's biggest challenges.  Don't bother accepting the logic.  Get on with the game & the madness! Hey, I didn't make that up.  It came straight from Google!  Zoosk seemed like a good second start for me, after all I liked the girl in the commercial.  Unfortunately the girl in the commercial is no where to be found or available on the Zoosk site!  Also, Zoosk and I got off to a shaky start.  Once I activated my 'membership, I found that I was ranked 13,767,542.  Hell, that's no real confidence builder and come on.... at least throw me a bone know, put me in the middle of the pack somewhere in the 6 mil level anyway.   Activity is the barometer though and sure enough, all it takes is a few 'winks' from the other side and you are there.  Sure enough, in less than a week, I was able to shave that 13 mil right in half without really trying.....Oh Yea!!!  Alas, whatever scientific mumbo jumbo gumbo matching formula Zoosk uses wasn't working for me because that gal in the commercial.....she never did materialize!  Also, neither of Zoosk's two major premises worked for me because I didn't want to play nor, as wonderful as it may have sounded, was I cut out to be a 'Zoosker'!
1 in 5 relationships start online (& end there too!)
(SteeeeeeeeRike 3)

While I am not totally ruling out continued & escalated research in this area with a move toward paid and affluent sites like  I think, for now, I'll stick to a more traditional approach like networking,  mixers and basket weaving!  There's no telling who's out there across the 'net'.......                                                                            a yankee in Memphis

How's your day?  Apparently, a recent study on Twitter usage by Cornell scientists found that people start their day off in a good mood,  it decreases from there & improves once work ends.  People were also happier on the weekends.  They found all this out in 140 characters or less (& for several million dollars of course).  My independent research, over a 4Square 'check in' at Cozy's BBQ, confirmed the same thing....& for a lot less!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Monday Monday....& THE BIG DAY!

Sunday night hadn't ended too well....... My beloved Philadelphia Eagles took it on the chin in the late game....or better yet got 'Romo'd' (a term my daughter-in-law coined to accurately describe the quarterback play of her team--The Dallas Cowboys).  So, after some restless sleep, I was expecting none too great a Monday and also some teasing by the Cowboy faithful!
SURPRISE SURPRISE SURPRISE as Gomer Pyle use to beam.  First things First.  It's always a great day when, not only can you get up and smell the roses, but you can get up and smell anything for that matter.  Being able to come to work is the icing on the cake! 
But it is Monday after all and Friday is now so far away....
Coming to a Pyramid near you.....

I'm heading over the AJ Willis Bridge, from Mud Island, facing the Pyramid and I am pleasantly shocked to see 3 trailers in the Pyramid parking lot.  On these trailers are the very first signs of life that Bass Pro is committing to actually constructing their 'BP Wonderland'.  I was never a big proponent of BP in the first place but let's bring it on for God sake.  So WHOOPEE!  Now, of course, Bass Pro may be just fooling us again,  After all this conversation started 8 years ago & these trailers may just be sitting there for just as long BUT today I am encouaged!
We sell Kayaks & all kinds of Guns!
Hell, I even had to stop and take pictures...... OK I admit that was kind of dorkish but I work for a 'major media  news organization' so there's precedent & there's also my facebook post I'm thinking and I didn't even consider this silly blog then.  Somehow I just felt compelled..... rather obligated to do it..  If this thing ever takes off, and I'm finally starting to believe it will, optimist that I am, I may even patronize the place once or twice.....possibly buy a kayak, a shotgun or maybe a whoopie cushion!  I'm sure to be bringing visitors by. Right???  It's funny how even the unexpected can put a smile on your face to start the day!

The real shining moment, on an otherwise cloudy Monday, had to be the monthly luncheon on campus at the St. Jude's Memphis honor and privilege for anyone.  St. Jude Children's Research Hospital is the Crown Jewel of Memphis!  It opened on February 4, 1962 and was founded by the late entertainer Danny Thomas. Its mission:  To find cures for children with cancer and other catastrophic diseases through research and treatment and never turn any child away.  St. Jude's has treated children from every state and all parts of the world and remarkably....all at no charge.  It has a rather hefty operating budget.....over 1.7 million a day and is covered largely with public donations!  So that's why ALSAC & the St.Jude club affiliations are so important.   In 1962 survival rates for most cancers were very low,  one -ALL ( acute lymphoblastic leukemia ) was only 4%.  Today, with St. Jude's help, the survival rate has risen to 94%!   Learned a lot there today.....always do! 
Chili's Care Center

Next Monday (09/26/11) THE BIG DAY, as Chili's calls it, all net profits from their sales go directly to St. Jude's to continue their fight against these deadly deseases.  Please support this great cause and make plans to eat at Chili's on that day.  To date Chili's has helped raise over $30,000,000.   Let's help rid these deadly diseases from our planet and eat at the same time 8-)
 Someone you know, possibly very closely, has been touched by one of them.  It happened to me and St. Jude saved little Robert's life and for that I am eternally grateful!  Please help them save even more children 8-)

This Blog doesn't seem so silly to me now and what a Fantastic Monday itz been....... I'll take them a day at a time & am greatful for every one that I get.
(& please don't forget about Chili's Monday, 9/26, too)!

Friday, September 9, 2011

State of Q

Memphis is arguably the BBQ Capital of the United States.  Note, I said arguably because I know there are folks in other areas, particularly Lexington, Kansas City & the Carolina's that also lay claim to that same title.  So I don't mean to 'ruffle anyone's feathers'.
BBQ is Serious Business!

Memphis is also home to the Memphis in May World Championship BBQ Contest......a four day kick-off rather, that will just wear you out.  There is no need to go if you don't know a Team because that's where all the food, frolic & fun is.....under the tents!  I learned that nearly 5 years ago when I got here. Um...I also learned that 'jello shots' can kill ya!
The Jumbo

So recently I was thinking, which I have been known to do from time to time, and I asked myself what I thought was a pretty simple question...
I wonder who really has the Best BBQ in Memphis?  It's actually a 'loaded' question because there are several types of Memphis BBQ: Pulled Pork, Dry Seasoned Ribs & Wet Ribs and it seems everyone has an op-ed.  For me it originally came down to Interstate BBQ for pulled pork, The Rendezvous for dry ribs & Neely's for wet.  Realizing tho that I am just a novice in this division, I asked my good friend, mentor & resident Memphis culinary expert Leroy for his input. He turned the question right around on me.  "Who do you think has the best Brother Lou?"  After I told him, he started to laugh. "Interstate...Interstate??  Have you seen their BBQ pit?"  Why no.....I haven't.  "Yea, well neither have they Brother!.....C'mon I'm taking you to lunch at one of the best..... Payne's!" Now I probably would have never bumped into Payne's myself, unless I lost my way, which I have also been known to do.  It's not in the best location, over on Lamar, and nothing to look at, being a converted gas station (it's been there so long no one can seem to remember what brand of gas it use to be) but damn if it wasn't the best pulled pork sandwich I had ever tasted!  Ms. Payne, a beautiful woman, was kind enough to even show me the BBQ pit   I had the 'Jumbo' (Leroy asked me how many Jumbo's I wanted. will do just fine!) BL had the sausage & BBQ bologna which looked equally as awesome.  I decided right then & there....I needed to know where all the best Memphis BBQ is......just in case someone asks me the question: Where's the best??? 
I really had limited myself to Topps, A&R, The BBQ Shop, Central, Corky's, Blue's City and a couple of others.  Upon finishing up at Payne's, Leroy tells me "Next week we're going to Cozy's". (Cozy's Corner over on North Parkway).   Um, this is going to be a real challenge & I am going to need some serious training if I have any hope for survival......
I've come to understand there's a world more of Memphis BBQ out there and I've decided to find out for myself, ala Anthony Bourdain, on
Yankee's Memphis BBQ World Tour 11/12.  

I think I'll even get some t-shirts made!  Locations & dates on the back even.  Damn....maybe I can hook a reality show or at least a cookbook deal out of this.  OK, I'm getting carried away a a lot but what the hell, shoot for the moon and if not the stars at least you'll find yourself with a plate of ribs!
 If ever there was one position in the newspaper business, other than my own, I would aspire would have to be Food Critic.  Eat & get paid for it.  NICE! Admit would too and I'd put a bottle of Rendezvous Hot Sauce on that. 

Cozy's Ribs on Deck
I asked one of our food critics at the paper - DD- for his input and while he agreed that Payne's & Cozy's were among his favorites, he also related that some of the best Memphis BBQ is in Arkansas. YIKES!? This is going to be much tuffer than I originally thought.....and off such a seamingless simple question too.  After all, when one starts off with the premise that barbeque is a sauce & intended to cover one's cooking've got a long way to go!
I'm up to the challenge......only my cholesterol level stands in the way.
Here's to Where Pigs Fly & not how you start but how you finish 8-)
a yankee in Memphis

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A tale of 3 women.........& Elvis

Wouldn't you know it, just as a frisky female comes storming through my old neck of the woods, where am I?  .....holed up with beautiful weather in Memphis, TN.   Irene would have probably blown my socks off (or 'coconuts' if I were a palm tree).... That's usually not a feeling you'll soon forget.   What do hurricanes and red neck divorces have in common?  In the end someone is gonna lose a house trailer.  Ba da bump.......

Climate is what you expect.  Weather is what you get!  Officially, a hurricane is a tropical cyclone with winds exceeding 74 miles per hour and if they are big & bad enuf.....they get to have their names retired.  It's kind of like the Hurricane Hall of Fame.  Hurricanes form in the Atlantic & Pacific Americas.  Typhoons are hurricanes only in the western Pacific. Have been thru several hurricanes (2 in particular come to mind)........ Belle in '76 (ironically) & Gloria in '85!  Both significant but inconsequential as far as personal damage was concerned.  I remember quite vividly both 'eyes' passing directly overhead and that strange calm before the storm feeling.
Hurricane Belle was a real gum drop! 
My wife and I owned 2 fudge shops (Laura's) on Long Beach Island, NJ......1 in Ship Bottom.....1 in Beach Haven....... 5 miles apart.  Evacuating 100,000 people on an island 18 miles long & only 4 blocks wide, with one point on and off the island, will always be a  significant challenge for LBIers!

Hurricane Belle

Debbie & I were in Beach Haven when Belle neared.  Our daughter Dawn & niece were in Ship Bottom when evac plans started.  It took us nearly 5 hours to traverse 5 miles & Long Beach Blvd to get to Ship Bottom.  Had to eventually abandon the car (& wife) in Brant Beach' and run the rest of the way just to get to our store and the kids

At that point there was no way getting off the island .  We taped up all the windows, opened up the jealousies to relieve the pressure and waited on the impending storm.  Thank God the rest of the building was literally a concrete bunker! Time to brace for the 'parte'! There were so few of us left on the island and thankfully it all worked out!  Fun tho at the Hurricane Party later that night, via candle light at the Dolphin Restaurant.   Still remember that erie feeling, even today, going outside as the eye passed directly over us!   ......not so fond of roller coasters nor Batman-The Ride at Great Adventure but have never ever been afraid of a riding out a good cane 8-)

Hurricane Irene

In the  last 7 days the northeast has felt a 5.9 earthquake and a Category 1 hurricane....... 
Is 2012 coming early or did those religious nutz with all the billboards just miss their mark by a few months?
Thank God I'm in Memphis now...... tho I still own a home near the beach in South Jersey.  Thanks also not much damage to life & limb up north....... tho I have heard that the toll is up to 24 storm related fatalities.

The only 'cane' with catastrophic results in this Mid-South region was ironically from a storm that became commonly known as....Hurricane Elvis  It hit on July 22, 2003.....not even an actual hurricane.....just disastrous 'straight line' 100 mph winds...... it came without warning, attacking from a blue sky on an otherwise calm summer morning....much like Dec 7th    Its winds reached the level of a Category 2 hurricane but lasted for only 10 minutes in most areas  As the storm crossed the Mississippi River into Downtown Memphis, a barge recorded an unofficial wind reading of 108 mph.  A Commercial Appeal reporter happened to be driving to work that morning around 6:45am when he heard the thunderstorm warning over the radio about the 100 mph winds. Ten minutes later it came screaming in, literally as if a hurricane were passing overhead, lasting just a good 10 minutes with stuff flying everywhere and rain blowing sideways! The sun was up before it hit but became as dark as a ever a sky could after sunrise!  East Memphis looked like a war zone, I'm told, & many were without power for weeks in the Mid South July heat.  Having been here for 5 summers now, i'm quite sure that had to be quite nasty in 90 degree plus heat!  
Ironically, that storm got scant coverage in the national press...... 

One tuff Broad - Katrina a Cat 5

For news coverage you need only go back to a young lady by the name of Katrina.  I know they do name hurricanes & typhoons after guys too but why is it that the ladies always seem to wreck the most havoc!  Katrina, Camile, Gloria, Hazel, Celia, Donna, Belle...... (I think Andrew was secretly Andi!) Just sayin....

Kat formed on Aug 23 of 2005 and dissipated just 7 days later.  With winds recorded in excess of 175 mph, she caused 108 billion dollars in damage and left 1,800+ dead in her wake!   Well that's about it for this 'light hearted 'death & destruction' issue...... As I said, I'm never quite sure where this blog thing is going to take me......with this season's floods, storms & quakes, I am hopeful that I will not be writing any time soon on the movement of the New Madrid fault & the term liquafication in the same sentence! 

Friday, August 19, 2011

Which way is UP?

Traveling around Memphis always seem like an adventure for me!  Hell, it took me nearly a year and a half before I felt comfortable enuf to give anyone directions but I still remember the pride I felt the first time I was able & it just happened to be to The Med (Regional Emergency Medical Center)...a good time to be able to 
Lot's of Memphis roads don't make any sense to me! Come on..... North Parkway runs east & west.  East Parkway runs north & south....WTH.  Union and Walnut Grove are the same road just named differently in different parts.  What crack head here was in charge of road nameage???  In New Jersey, the Garden State Parkway doesn't become Wildwood Ave all of sudden somewhere down the road for Pete's sake (& still, who the hell is Pete anyway???)  Interstate 40 & 240 intersect with each other and kind of become the same road.  It's easier to understand once you see them as a 'beltway' around the city but still itz complicated and don't even get me started on the Nonconnah!  I find myself using all kinds of hand gyrations, more than usual for me anyway, as I try to explain that one.  There are also areas of the city you just don't want to wander matter who you are & even if you live there!  
I've been lost in them more than a time or two.

Over the weekend I was working on my house.......power washing, gardening, mulching, etc.  I have this wonderful little garden patio & I found myself in need of new outside chairs.  I have a round glass table top out there but the chairs were really meant for indoor use.  Let's just say they had been weathered & were in 'assed-out' condition.  So, all proud of myself, I take them out to the curb, after I all I'm getting new chairs!    These chairs weren't out there 5 minutes before some old guy in a pick up truck stops and retrieves them. Some things don't change no matter where you live. I'm still out on the patio & surprised this guy doesn't knock on the door and ask " gots a table to go with them there chairs?" or maybe "can you give me a hand loading them there chairs into my truck?"
So now I've disposed of the old chairs and off for the new ones!  I had already checked out Lowes & Home Depot.....nada!  One place left....Garden Ridge.  GR is literally Chair City....thousands of them!  One problem is that it is about 18 miles from Harbor Town and I don't have a truck. I have a Saturn Sky convertible which has no trunk space and barely enuf room for my golf clubs.  It's like this..... Skys don't even carry a spare tire.  If you get a flat (& I have twice in Memphis) there's a one word description for it..... FLATBED. Ugh!

Off I go anyway.  I'll figure something out and I do, in fact, find some beautiful metal framed canvas chairs....2 to a box, on sale & "Easy to Assemble in only 15 minutes" too.  So now I have to get them home and in separate trips.  Maybe I should have just asked the old guy for the use of his pick-up truck......

This, I realize now, is really a BIG box (& I'm not confident enuf to take all the parts out of the box in case I need the damn box to take the damn chairs back) and itz not fitting so good......but I finally get it jammed in there with the top down & off I go down the Interstate (40 BTW)  towards home.  I can only imagine how funny looking this is driving down I-40, dumb yankee in a sports car with the top down & a BIG over sized box in the passenger seat,....which then becomes somewhat dangerous with the wind whipping around itz decision time & I make a bold move & off I-40 onto Jackson Ave....which is also dangerous.....cause now 'I drivin in the hood!'.....
I soon find myself lost in a section that I had no business being in because I decided an even 'smarter move' would be to make a right turn off of Jackson......  plowing me further into God knows where. The cops looked at me like I was crazy but didn't pull me over?? & I swear I even saw one of those Channel 5 News Choppers hovering close by waiting to see some 'action' or at least have a submission to America's Funniest Home Videos!  Just about that time I am thinking what a flat tire would mean.......(FLATBED).  I make one of those quick Hollywood turns and do what any man would do.  Head for the nearest gas station!  Turns out.....  damn Jackson does run smack dab into the Bass Pro Wonderland....I mean Pyramid!   & yeah, just like I thought it would!  Smarter than I thought all along!
Anyway, I get them over the bridge & safely home. That is where Adventure 2 begins! Putting the "Easy to Assemble' chairs together with directions you can't even read even if you had more than a pair of dollar store reading glasses & pictures that make you say HUH????....seriously. Rubik's Cube directions in Chinese must certainly be easier.  But somehow, eventually, I figured it out several beers & hours later. They do look sharp though and, hell, I somehow ended up with a few extra parts to boot......   I cut down the second chair assembly time in half and by the 4th chair I was damn near an 'expert chair assembly man'.  Assembly was never a strong suit for me anyway.....which is why I always let the ex put the Christmas toys together. One helpful hint maybe.....a hammer will not necessarily fix everything and probably is not called for if you do not see a picture of it in the directions!
                  The second trip out for the chairs wasn't nearly half as fun.

The Chairs.....Out of the Box
I am definitely going to need some help getting that garden fountain home from Lowe's tho       cause there is no way that sucker is fitting in the car.
I love adventures,
Beautiful sunsets on the Mississippi!
& Memphis in general  8-)
The yankee

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Gone With The Wind.....Part Deux

There is nothing quite like it and this past weekend it happened again!
The Summer Film Series had its annual showing of Gone With The Wind at the wonderfully resplendent - Orpheum Theatre.  It is my favorite pic of all time and while there are many contenders for the top spot, nothing quite compares to the 1939 classic & in this beautiful setting before a decidedly southern audience on the Big Screen.....
The Summer Film Series is simply fabulous (with Casablanca, Breakfast at Tiffany's & The Firm in the lineup) and at 5 bucks a ticket.....a Bargain!

The film made box office history. It received ten Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress, Brest Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress (for Hattie McDaniel - the first time a black person had been nominated & so honored) & no, Clark Gable did not win for Best Actor.  GWTW is the highest grossing film of all time (adjusted for inflation).  Costing almost 4 million to make, a tidy some back then, box office receipts for the movie, if adjusted for inflation, would make it the top grossing movie of all time; Star Wars would be the second most successful movie of all time. According to the Guinness World Records, the total gross in 2009 figures would be $3,785,107,801.  To date, over 200 million movie tickets have been sold!

Interestingly too is that author Margaret Mitchell's first choice for Rhett Butler was Basil Rathbone (Sherlock Holmes???).  The part was later turned down by Gary Cooper and then offered to Clark Gable who really didn't want the role and saw the movie as 'a woman's picture'.  Ummmm Clark, the term now is chick flick. This southern film was shot almost entirely in Culver City, California. Tara sat on a 40 acre back lot that later became the TV set for Hogan's Heroes.  The first movie scene shot was the burning of the Atlanta Depot, filmed on December 10, 1938. If there was a major mistake during that filming, the entire project might have been scrapped. They actually burned many old sets that needed to be cleared from the studio back lot including the "Great Wall" set from King Kong.  The fire cost over $25,000, and yielded 113 minutes of footage. It was so intense that Culver City residents jammed the telephones lines, thinking MGM was burning down.
Clark Gable & Vivian Leigh had not even signed as yet and were stunted for.

OK, so there's a bit of little known (& useless) trivia on the flick unless you've got a spot coming up on Jeopardy next week.  The lore and timeless attraction make this film so special none the less.  It is historically romantic in its portrayal of so many aspects of the era....including its decidedly racist view of slavery.  Nevertheless, it gives a fascinating view of the American South of long ago and when viewed in an elegant southern theatre before a southern audience it is even more special & fascinating!
Friday night The Orpheum Theatre was packed.  I have seen GWTW 4 out my 5 years in Memphis and the locals always come out for this one.  It's interesting the wide diversity of the crowd and we even had some 'southern belles' decked out in full regalia. The house lights went down precisely at 7:15 and the Overture began to resounding applause.

Interesting too are the very distinct halves of the film.  The first part featuring the glories of the south & "We'll show them Yankees" along with, of course, Scarlett's infatuation with Ashley Wilkes and the second part with the devastation & recovery of the south, the tumultuous relationship between Rhett & Scarlett and , of course, the continuing infatuation with Ashley. Then too there is always Tara!  Sitting in the audience you can feel the mood and pulse of the crowd as it changes dramatically through the course of the 4 hour viewing.  Some things never change though....resounding applause for Rhett's final line in response to Scarlett's "But Rhett what shall I do?" -----"Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn!"..... ironically a rather harsh curse on film back in 1939.  Even louder & sustained applause after Scarlett's final line and the credits!  No wonder in my mind that GWTW continues to endure and, I suspect, will always be my favorite movie........made even more special by the venue, my own parallels &, of course, my hometown - Memphis!
Two other small pieces of trivia:
All four principal characters appear together in the same scene only once, after the raid on Shantytown, when Rhett tells the anxious group of the fate of Scarlett's second husband, Frank Kennedy. Yes Scarlett, you are a widow once again!

The scene where Scarlett makes a dress out of a curtain was later spoofed on The Carol Burnett Show in what became one of the most memorable comedy bits in TV history. Carol Burnett as "Starlet" O'Hara wears the curtains with the rod still in them. Harvey Korman as "Rat" Butler says: "Starlet, that gown is lovely", to which she responds: "Thank you. I just saw it in the window and couldn't resist it!"  I swear most everyone in the audience thought of this spoof and laughed when Vivian Leigh pulled down the curtains to make that dress 8-)
                                   GWTW in 2 minutes & 34 seconds
                            Movie Rating: 5 Big Ass Beale Street Beers 
How do you top off a Friday night like that????  Only one way.........

As you can plainly see, there is no film critic future for me.  I am just hopeful that my passion here & for excellent customer service does not mean a different career path.........Hello! Welcome to Wal-Mart 8-)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Kewl Times in Memphis

So something happened to me today on another blistering hot day in Memphis that was very very cool!  I'd been working on a promotion with one of our fabulous marketing partners, Panera Bread, and today we went over to Fed Ex Flight Training Center to deliver the first place prize (What else......FOOD) to an office full of very happy and grateful workin folk.  I'm sure I even saw someone hold up the sign---- WILL WORK FOR FUD!  
There is almost nothing more gratifying than seeing the 'vision' work out even better than expected! 
What made this particularly special though is what happened after.  As the team's manager, David, walked us back down to our cars (good thing too......because we hadn't left a trail of bread crumbs on the way up & there was no getting back on our own)  BTW Fed Ex IS one of the 7 Wonders of the Modern World....It is too!!!! & if it's not it should be.  God bless Fred Smith! 8-)  Anyway David asked if we would like to see the Flight Simulator Room.   UM.....HELL YEA!  I mean........yes sir. That would be nice 8-)
The place is incredible in a most incredible place!  For one thing, it has to be the single most expensive 'Game Room' in the world.  There were 15 extremely large simulators in the room.    Each one of these GIGANTORS  [OK.... I made up that name but I swear it fits] cost $20,000,000 a piece.  Quick math & my trusty calculator tells me that's $300,000,000,000 & the most expensive video game room in the world!  I owned a video arcade in Sea Isle City at the jersey shore & while Robotron was pretty cool back in the day, I can assure, it was never like this.  Remember those little hydraulic cars & fire engine rides outside the grocery stores......well kind of think of it that way except $19, 999, 500 more......
We even got to enjoy the inside of one of the simulators on its way across the Atlantic from London's Heathrow to Chicago's O'Hare.  Looking out over the flight deck at the clouds below with the sun setting fast in the west.  Except that we weren't really up in the clouds and it was only 9am.  This was just one of those simple, unexpected and special  Memphis Moments that I've come to thoroughly enjoy!

There have been so many of them now & I've been very fortunate! It would be hard to narrow them down to just a handful of the best.....  Game Six against the Thunder with my kids in the building would be very hard to top.  Man, the Forum was rocking that night!!! Tigers games can be mad, especially againt UT, but nothing could compare to that night!
Memphis in May is special.....BBQ & Beale St Music Fest are nice but Sunset Symphony is always my favorite event.
I think the very first time I walked down Beale Street with a Big Ass Beer in my hand was pretty darn special and I'll always remember it that way! You just can't walk down a street in NJ with a beer in your hand and your 'first time' is always special!

Elvis's 30th (& we're coming up on 34), was pretty awesome.  I'll remember it for a few reasons.  We put together this dynamite Elvis Collector Card promotion with Mapco convenience stores and I got to play Elvis.  The Man The Legend The Suit.  I have never been photographed or had my ass pinched before or since by so many  I also visited 86 Memphis area Mapco locations in 8 days as Elvis in 100 degree and out of air-conditioning.  The very next week.....I went on, what can only be described as, The Elvis Diet.  I lost 25 lbs in less than a week. The ultimate crash diet!  I thought I smelled the faint aroma of barbecue all week.  I just didn't realize it was my own ass burning in the Memphis sun!

I met my dear St. Jude's family & Little Robert just outside Redbird's Autozone Park several years ago by what can only be explained as divine intervention. I've been truly blessed by them and their remarkable heroics 8-).

There have been so many gratifying moments, memorable concerts & events.  Live at the Garden is always going to be tuff to beat here..  Saw Huey Lewis & The News there last Friday.  I think the good Reverend & hometown boy Al Green owns the place tho!  My most memorable concert here just might be the most obscure.....the last concert & event at The Pyramid & the only time I was ever inside the place......Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band in February of 2007.  The Pyramid is such an iconic part of Memphis history & damn I wish they would just go ahead.....make it a Giant Bass Pro Shop & be done with it.......I don't even own a gun or a fishing rod even!
So many great friends & co-workers here too that always seem to make things special and even more I'm sure I'll remember later & after I hit Post.......but for now I hit my limit. 
Today was a 10!  Everyday has the opportunity to be ONE 8-)
the yankee