Saturday, September 19, 2009

Civil Rights & Hip Thrusts

The Beignet Cafe, located on G.E. Patterson at the corner of Mulberry, may not look like much from the outside, but once you walk in the gated front door, you'll be pleasantly surprised.  This place is adorable. Our server, Latoya, has a wonderfully warm personality and Memphis pride we're coming to appreciate about the city's residents. She tells us a story about a former coworker who used to complain about the snail's pace in Memphis, how country the city was and that there was so little to do there. But Latoya and the other employees are natives, and they kindly suggested if she didn't like Memphis, she should leave.

We all agree ... Memphis is fabulous. 

We order cafe au lait and beignet that the girls say are just as good as those in New Orleans. The coffee needs a little sweetening, but otherwise -- I don't disagree. And it does the trick for brightening our mood ... if only it could have done the same for the weather.

Sadly, it's pouring when we get outside. Cats and dogs doesn't really do this downpour justice. It's more like lions and bears.

But I suppose the rain is fitting as we head over to the National Civil Rights Museum and the Lorraine Motel, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968.  The girls decide to stay in the car and keep dry as I hike my pants up, take my shoes off, and sprint for the door. Since the museum is slow due to the weather, I am greeted by just about the entire staff in the lobby when I arrive dripping wet. The museum is fabulous -- and thorough.  I'm most struck by the courage of those that fought so hard for their equality. 

I was glad the rain camouflaged my eyes a little as I ran back to the car.

Next stop ... Graceland. 

It really is difficult to describe how kitchy this place really is.  At almost $30 to get in WITH the coupon from the magic binder.  That means seeing the King's jungle room is almost three times as expensive as seeing the room Dr. King spent his final hours. That just seems wrong to me.

The tickets we get allow us entry into about six different exhibits, including the tour of the mansion. Nearly every exhibit dumps you into a gift shop.  This place is a cash cow, but I guess, in a way -- so was Elvis. He made Forbes Top-Earning Dead Celebrities list the past two years, most recently grossing $52 Million.  That's more than living artists, including Madonna and Justin Timberlake.

But I have to say, seeing some of the rooms in his house and looking over official Graceland recipes, money can't buy good fashion sense or taste in food.  Imagine ... munching on bacon-wrapped meatballs in a room entirely swathed in the ugliest fabric imaginable. 

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