Saturday, March 24, 2007

Beale Street’s Blues

It’s been about 8 years since I’ve made it to Memphis. So when my Mom and sister proposed a mid-week “chick trip” to the Home of the Blues, I jumped at the chance. I eagerly anticipated an afternoon and evening on Beale Street listening to Memphis jazz and blues.

Fun, cool and smooth were how I used to describe the Beale St experience. But those words escaped me as I made my way into the downtown area. Stadiums? Boutique restaurants? Hard Rock Café? What has happened to the Beale St area?? Even the stately Peabody has sold out the grab-a-buck culture with a high-rise mall where their parking lot used to be.

As I walked down Beale, there seemed to be as many rock and alternative clubs as there were blues clubs. The Hard Rock Café sits like a bloated toad on the third block of Beale. And the WC Handy Park thrummed with the sound of Metallica.

But then I heard it. The low slow sounds of a soulful sax backed up by guitar. There at the corner of Beale and 4th, past the normal tourist flow were two old-timers playing blues the way they should be done.

I had to wonder…was their song for the loss of Beale Street’s uniqueness?

Friday, March 9, 2007

Those who travel...

There are the "sight seers". The "see 16 countries in 2 weeks" tours were made just for them. They've been there, done that. Have the T-shirt and post cards to prove it. You can spot them by their loud voices, bad attitudes and constant critical remarks.

Then there are the "tourist". They have come to see something in particular and have made preparations by studying up on whatever that is. There is appreciation for a culture different than their own. You spot them on local tours (one hosted within the area) and in the historic areas, and they are usually are a fairly happy lot. They bring home objects that remind them of the places they saw.

Finally there are the "travelers". They come to be a part of the culture - to know it for its people, its history, its food, its everyday life. They learn a bit about the base history of the area (to be able to hold a conversation with someone they hope to meet) but they keep their mind open to what can be taught by each person they meet. You usually DON'T spot them as they blend in with the locals or at least look like they belong there. They bring home gifts given to them by the people they have met and shared with (and to whom they have brought gifts for - because they *knew* they were going to meet someone fascinating on the trip).

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Reason for the journeys

Now in my 40s, my life list is about me. It's things I want to experience. Things I want to become part of my soul.

There's a quote I've heard that has embedded itself in me "But do you know what the Sistine Chapel smells like?" I don't know what the Sistine Chapel smells like (yet) but I do know the smell of an African savannah and have seen lions living free. I have stood in the spray of Yosemite Falls and felt the vibrations it causes. I know the dead and hopeless feeling of a town who has seen too much hate and killing (in Bosnia). I have ran my hands along the wall of a place I was taught to fear when growing up (the Kremlin Wall, Moscow Russia) while standing beside my Russian friend. I have tasted Navajo fry bread, made just for me inside a hogan in Monument Valley.

These are all part of me now. And I want more. So much more...