First, a few updates: THE SINK LIVES! HUZZAH!! (Refrigerator still under observation.) Also, ANNIE FINALLY MADE IT ONTO THE LOFT BED! HUZZAH!
Now on to the business at hand. Yesterday, as some of you know, in addition to being the first day of spring, was also the International Day of Happiness, and coincidentally, I did two things yesterday that made me exceedingly happy. One was the culmination of a 22 year dream, the other just spontaneous serendipity.
The morning in Nashville held little of note. The old time Southern restaurant I had been dying to try, Arnold’s Country Kitchen, wasn’t open for breakfast. The lines at the Pancake Pantry had grown exponentially, and it was still too chilly for the dog-themed coffee shop that allows pets on the patio. I took Annie for a walk down Music Row, but it really just looks like a bunch of houses from the 30s. Riverfront Park was all dug up and under construction, and historic Fort Nashboro was closed for renovations. So we hit the road jack, Memphis bound. As we were walking back to the car from our failed river walk, Nashville held one last moment of weirdness for us. This dude, upon espying Annie and I, very excitedly shouted “YOU let the dogs out! Yes you did! Why didn’t you tell me? You SURELY let the dogs out!”
Although it spans the distance between two vibrant, cool, and culturally fascinating cities, where some of the most important American music has been made and played, the drive down I-40 couldn’t be more boring. Pine trees, pine trees, and yet more pine trees.
But it was so worth it.
The absolute, Number One, no question, hands down, first order of business upon arriving in Memphis was heading straight to The Peabody Hotel to see THE PEABODY DUCK MARCH!!! For those of you who are woefully ignorant of this great Southern tradition; ever since a practical joke went awry in 1933, the Peabody has hosted five resident ducks. Every morning at 11am they are marched by the Duck Master from their rooftop penthouse, down the elevator, across a red carpet, and into the fountain in the middle of the lobby. Every evening at 5pm , accompanied by music and fanfare, they are rounded up out of the fountain, marched down a small staircase, back across the red carpet, into the elevator, and up to their rooftop penthouse. It may well be the coolest thing ever. And The Peabody is no fleabag slouch of a hotel. Every sitting President since Harry Truman has visited. Elvis signed his first contract with Colonel Parker in that lobby on Peabody stationery. Everyone who is anyone in the South passes through their doors.
Some of you may know, I took a mini version of this trip back in 1993. I was fresh out of college, recently out of a long relationship, and eager to prove myself an independent adult woman. Back then I wasn’t crazy enough to quit my job, so I only had ten days in which to explore the South (an area of the country I’ve always been fascinated with). It was in planning for that trip that I first learned of the Peabody Ducks, and I was dying to see them. Unfortunately, the day before, I took a wrong turn in Louisiana, and, lacking GPS or a cell phone, wasted a day figuring it out and correcting my course. Which left me no time for Memphis and the ducks. But finally, at long last, I SAW THE DUCKS!!! Alas, the Duck March just doesn’t photograph well. The place is packed so one has to view from a distance, and the lighting is a bit dim. This is the best I got-zoom in to the red carpet to see the duckies.
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!! The duck event got even crazier! I was standing on the mezzanine, waiting for the action to start, and I struck up a conversation with the woman next to me. WHO ONLY HAPPENED TO GROW UP IN FRICKING PURCELLVILLE!!!! (For those who don’t know, this is the very small town five miles down the road from the barely even a whisper of a town where I live). HOW IS THIS EVEN POSSIBLE? AND… she is going through a major life overhaul as well. At 37, she lost her job at Cooperstown Hall of Fame, and is starting over with Teach America. She’s been posted to Memphis and is now educating underprivileged kids at a high risk school. Very inspiring to see someone else recreating their life at an “advanced” age. One of the women she was traveling with, who was roughly Step Doug’s age, told me about how when she was 23, she toured the country in a trailer for nine months with her husband, dog, and two kids. I feel even more as though I am on the right path.
One additional duck fact of note. In 1981 the General Manager decreed an edict to the Head Chef that duck would never be served for any meal at The Peabody. You can see his letter here.
BUT WAIT, THE FUN JUST KEEPS COMING!! Leaving The Peabody, and still on a duck high, I discovered a fleet of horse drawn carriages providing tours of the historic downtown area. And each of the drivers had a dog seated beside them. AND THEY WOULD LET ME BRING ANNIE ALONG FOR THE RIDE!! (This wasn’t all a totally random twist of fate, I had researched earlier that Memphis had such a service, but I had no idea they would be parked outside the Peabody, and NO idea that the first driver to approach us would be the one captaining the CINDERELLA PRINCESS CARRIAGE!!)
Besides just being one of the coolest things I’ve ever done, it was pretty fascinating. Memphis is ranked Number Six in the country of cities with buildings on the Historic Register (and Number Five in terms of violent crime, but who’s counting) and I’m looking forward to going back and exploring more closely on foot.
That was about all the excitement either of us could handle for one day, so we retired to our second Air B&B rental in the Cooper Young District. More on that later, I am off to Graceland!