Thursday, July 26, 2018

Road Trip Day 3 & 4 - Memphis

Day 3 (Wednesday) was our first in earnest Memphis tourism day. In the morning we watched TV and did stuff at Jessica's  apartment (my sister who lives in TN), so we didn't get started until lunch.  For lunch we wanted to try the one dimsum place in Memphis since dimsum is a big Chinese tradition and we were interested to try it in a place that doesn't have a huge Asian population like we have in the Baltimore/DC area. It was good - not the best thing I ever ate, but it filled my craving for dimsum with my family which is all I really wanted. I didn't take any photos of the food, but here is what we ordered and a photo of the menu.


After lunch we went to the Pyramid, a former sports arena that is now a giant Bass Pro Shops.

Nathaniel and I went to the top of the pyramid while Jessica and Stephanie stayed below exploring the store. The Memphis skyline has an iconic bridge that links Memphis, TN and West Memphis, AR with a large M shape, so seeing that from the top was kind of fun. We also saw a lot of pools, because it is HOT in TN in the summer and pretty much you only want to be outside if you're in water.

The pyramid boasts a number of entertainment features, including an aquarium, live alligators, an arcade, an archery and gun range, two restaurants, a gift shop that sold fudge (in addition to the actual Bass Pro checkout lines) and a bowling alley. We saw the aquarium and alligators, and tried out the arcade (with a fake laser gun as seen below) and underground bowling (which attempts to look like a fishbowl), but not the range because it did not rent firearms and we didn't know it was #BYOG (Bring Your Own Gun). We did get a fudge sampler - Orange Creamsicle, M&M, Butterfinger, Chocolate, Peanut Butter and Oreo fudge were the six flavors we opted to try out.


That night, after Derek (my brother in law) got back from work we went out to sushi for dinner to continue the test of Asian food in TN. Then we went to Shelby Farms, which is one of the largest urban parks in the nation. I think Central Park is still more impressive because Shelby is just barely on the edge of Memphis, while Central Park is literally the heart of the city, but it was a nice place to go for a walk at twilight, with the sun at your back and the moon in front of you (see below).

Day 4 (Thursday) Jessica and Derek both had to work so Stephanie, Nathaniel and I went to the Civil Rights Museum on our own in the morning.

The Civil Rights Museum was packed with information, so I can't go over all the things, but here are some observations that I took away from the museum:

- There were no little white kids there, only little black kids. Plenty of white adults, but not kids. Shows a lot about education and how this is systemic - if you aren't educated to think about your privileges, you will carry on the prejudices and injustices trained into you. The people who need reminders the most are frequently the ones who don't hear them.

- There was a protester outside the museum. Her main points was that too much money is spent memorializing the past in the museum and not enough on furthering present day civil rights. She also called it the "James Earl Ray museum", saying too much time was spent on him in the exhibits.

- Most of the big moments from the civil rights movement that I recognized were surrounded by lesser known people and work, and not just the flashbulb moments we know. For example, Brown v. Board of Ed was actually the last in a long line of cases to desegregate schools - Thurgood Marshall and his team started with cases to desegregate graduate schools, citing it as too expensive to have separate but equal law schools - they built a series of precedents before going to the grade schools. It reminded me of Isaac Asimov's Bicentennial Man, which imagines a robot rights movement. 

- For another example, the bus boycott started by Rosa Parks refusing to move was actually only successful because thousands of other women (housekeepers, maids and laundry women) who walked instead of taking the bus for OVER A YEAR. And many women before Rosa Parks were arrested for sitting on other bus seats. They had the famous quote "Well-Behaved Women Rarely Make History" on a magnet in the gift shop - and I think that I would amend that to say that the NAMES of well-behaved women don't make history, but if the civil rights museum taught me anything, it's that history is built by many, many people, most of whom are nameless or are only footnotes to bigger names (think Sam Phillips and Johnny Cash from my Nashville trip post!)

- The museum linked a lot to present day history, with ongoing cases for gay rights in the Supreme Court and the separation of children from parents at the border as the two primary links. But there was also a note about the repeal of part of the Voter's Rights Act in 2013, and other subtexts about how this is not a historical movement only, but really a living an active ongoing part of history. 

I Am A Child border exhibit (parallel to I Am A Man, the Memphis sanitation workers march)

The protester across the street from the museum, and a note about how the march on Washington didn't really achieve it's goals - many other moments were more significant, even though this one was the most iconic (it's where the I Have A Dream speech came from)

In between the two parts of the Civil Rights Museum (because it's two buildings) we had lunch at Central BBQ, a famous Memphis place that had a line around the block after we left (we went early because we're from the east so our tummies were an hour ahead of everyone else).

After that we went to Sun Studios, where Elvis and Johnny Cash and other country/blues/pop/rock and roll music stars got their recording start. We didn't go on the tour, just stopped for photos and the gift shop, as an homage to Johnny Cash after our Nashville stop. Sun Studios was a lot smaller than I realized - it has a record shop and cafe on the first floor and a tour of the studios on the second floor. It is still an active recording studio!


We also went to Beale Street, which is typically known for bars, but as my siblings are both minors, was mostly me making them take photos. We did go to Beale Sweets, a candy store specifically designed for minors, and got a Blackberry Lemon Rose "Mempop", a local frozen treat. (

Beale Sweets Teddy Bear, BB King Guitar and Johnny Cash Guitar on Beale Street

Beale Street Home of the Blues and a Memphis Tiger (there are lots of these over the city).

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