Five hours in Memphis, Tennessee on Friday, April 28, 2006
This quick trip was designed around 3 things: the Maxfield Parrish exhibit at the Brooks Museum, Sun Studios and BBQ ribs.
We left Nashville around 8 a.m. on a Friday and pulled into Memphis a clean 3 hours later. First stop, the Brooks Museum to see the Maxfield Parrish exhibit.
Maxfield Parrish’s work is a wonder of colors and details. It’s full, dreamy, magical. Blues of every nuance…and that’s just the mass produced prints. Standing in front of the actual 1922 Daybreak oil on panel was like looking into a window of heaven. Blue, violet, periwinkle, cerulean, lavender, mauve and the light. It was as stunning 10 feet away as it was with my nose nearly pressed against the glass.
Some things I learned: Parrish never mixed colors, he instead painted in layers–60+ sometimes–layering in gouache, glaze and more color. He photographed friends and family in the poses and then sketched them onto his paintings to get the details. And he kept rocks in his studio to “model” for the backgrounds. He was a perfectionist with an eye for light, color and nature–and a keen sense of humor. He aspired to be considered more a fine art creator versus being the illustrator.
Next stop was Sun Studios: recording home to Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis and Johnny Cash during the 1950s. The studio tour starts with a memorabilia tour next door. They have early recording equipment, scratchy recordings of Howlin Wolf, Elvis, Johnny Cash and more. Plus, they have Elvis’ social security card and high school diploma (on loan from Graceland), and some pre Ed Sullivan video of Elvis’ hip shaking. Back downstairs, you enter the Sun Studio reception room from the side. The studio itself is behind the reception room. It’s much smaller than I’d imagined. But not so difficult to imagine a young Elvis coming in one afternoon to record a song for his mother. The very intuitive receptionist, running the studio solo that afternoon, smartly made a copy of Elvis’ first recording for her boss Sam Phillips. It’s the stuff of legends! Old microphones, pianos, photos, and guitars line the walls. And it is still a recording studio…for $75/hour, you too can record at Sun!
Next stop, Blues City Cafe on Beale St. for ribs. A no-nonsense kind of place with huge portions. The full rack of ribs was moderately priced and some of the meatiest ribs we’ve ever seen.
We walked down a few blocks to pay our respects to the mighty Mississippi River and then headed east on I-40 back to Nashville. Wishing we could have spent the night on Beale St…they were gearing up for that music in the streets. Next time…
For Bryan’s birthday, we went to Washington DC. We stayed in a Bed and Breakfast in Dupont Circle and spent a lot of time riding the subway and walking around to absorb the place.
From the Washington Monument lawn, we saw the President’s helicopter land on the White House lawn…escorted by a few other helicopters and with several sharpshooters positioned around the rooftops.
The Lincoln Memorial…he’s got a great view.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial: subtle story in the escalation of the wall’s height as it digs into the earth. The names are in chronological order by date of death. Stunning volume of names.
The U.S. Capital: We contacted our congressman for an escorted tour, and it saved buckets of time. We tried whispering in the whispering spot in the old Senate chamber. The House of Representatives chamber is smaller than it looks on TV. But we got to sit in the upstairs galley, like the President’s family! And we learned that on CSPAN, when you see someone up at the podium speaking, he/she may or may not actually have an audience in the room…Speaking on camera there is a way to go on record, but it doesn’t mean they got to call a meeting!
The Supreme Court: nine chairs facing the door. And next door to the Library of Congress.
The museums: In the darkened Archives museum we saw The Declaration of Independence, The Constitution, The Bill of Rights, one of the last surviving Magna Cartas, and Nixon’s resignation letter.
Other museums: a room full of shoes from the Holocaust victims, Lincoln’s assassination night clothes and the gun that killed him locked into the same display case, the 1812 flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write The Star Spangled Banner stretched out for some TLC, the Spirit of St. Louis plane dangled from a ceiling, a moon rock waiting to be petted, Dorothy’s Ruby Red slippers from the Wizard of Oz, Jackie’s pearls, Fonzie’s jacket, Archie and Edith’s chairs…it is a treasure trove of history, of culture, of inspiring things and of events we ought never see again. Light a candle in the Hall of Remembrance.
Washington National Cathedral: We tried to identify the flags as we walked the two miles up Embassy Row. At the Cathedral, we heard the peal bells but not the 10,000+ pipe organ. The church welcomes all–the Dalai Lama has spoken here, and Buddhist prayer beads and Jewish menorahs are sold in the gift shop. I didn’t see Islamic items–but I’m sure they are there! Helen Keller is interred in the lower level.
Georgetown’s Bistro Francias has great ambiance and tasty food. The New Orleans place in Adams Morgan is good for gumbo. Ethiopian restaurants abound. We could have stayed a month and not seen it all. One day we’ll go back…or move here!