Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A cool Memphis/Southern/American experience

Jason and Tad talking by the Cadillac in downtown Memphis.
As a writer, there are times when I hear the spoken words of someone else and see those words as they would appear in a book. A turn of phrase so well crafted it evokes a visceral response; you can actually feel what they're talking about or imagine yourself in that setting.

Driving through the streets of Memphis, Tennessee, hearing our guide describe the handshake of Red West - a high school friend of Elvis - as like shaking the hand of a gnarled old oak tree, my writer's sense went up. I could feel the hardened roughness of this man's engulfing hand, and imagine his role in the life of The King. Shiver. Gives me chills.

It's a rare treat to experience an historic American city with a writer-souled guide. Our tour took us to the most run-down parts of the city and the glamorous, towering Victorian homes - a mere five miles separating these two polar lifestyles.

We saw landmarks of American history - Sun Studio where Elvis, Johnny Cash, B.B. King, Jerry Lee Lewis, among others, were found; Elvis' high school and the exact apartment in public housing where he grew up; the hotel where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and the window his gunman fired from; Beale Street and the blues clubs. And we heard countless amazing stories of Americana in this town with a tumultuous past.

Your view of Memphis from the back seat of Tad's caddie.
When you are with a guide capable of visualizing clearly what things might have been like and then also capable of relaying what he sees to you, you are then able to imagine yourself in that chaos and that time, what it might feel like, the weighty importance of it all.

So if you're going through Memphis for any reason, look up Tad Pierson's American Dreams Safari and see the city from a unique perspective. Here's a video of him on You Tube. This guy has lived in the city nearly 20 years and has talked to everybody. He knows everybody. His '55 Cadillac is signed by Elvis Costello, Rufus Thomas and other famous musicians. As we drove through town in his Caddie, people from every walk of life imaginable would wave and smile and give a thumbs-up. He's a fixture in this town, and those are the best eyes to view it through.

Not only that, his laid-back, contemplative style helps you relax into your vacation. I highly recommend Memphis as a destination and this guide as part of your trip.

He also does this amazing modern environmentalist folk art. 

Elvis Costello and Rufus Thomas's signatures on Tad's caddie. 
Elvis's High School, really cool to see it within the context of the town.
Cool old restaurant with an interesting story. Ask Tad.
Tad talking to a group of strangers outside of Sun Studio.
Pretending to sing with the actual microphone used by the famous guys!
Talking to Tad outside Graceland.

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