Archive for the ‘Back Home’ Category

Unbelievable!

Saturday, March 12th, 2011

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Photo credit: Mark Weber of the Commercial Appeal

WEVL Fall Pledge Drive Ends Today!

Saturday, November 13th, 2010

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Last day to make a pledge for WEVL’s Fall Pledge Drive. Hurry up!

RIP Miss Shirley

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

Recently, I found out that Miss Shirley, the bartender at one of Memphis’ most infamous dive bars The Lamplighter passed away after a battle with cancer. Shirley was one of the kindest individuals that I have ever met, and the news of her death is very hard to take.

If you have never step foot in the Lamplighter, imagine someone’s dingy basement, and you get a pretty good idea of the interior. There is a dusty couch, fake panel walls, and lots and lots of smoke. The beer is cheap, and the jukebox is stocked with actual `45 records. The pool table is a steal at only 50 cents, even though there is a rule of no trick shots. There are only about three beers available, with Pabst the only one on tap. The bar is truly an unique character of it’s own, but without Shirley, it will seem quite empty.

For me, Shirley was the heart of the Lamplighter. When you entered the bar, Shirley would always greet you with a smile and immediately serve you your beer before you even had time to ask for it. No matter how many people came through those doors, she always remembered which beer you liked the best. It was more than a parlor trick. Shirley knew her clientele and treated them as friends, happy that they had stopped on by.

When I was single, the Lamplighter was like a second home. My buddy Brad and I would head to the bar, order a burger, and watch the Memphis Grizzlies on their cheap television set. When it was halftime, we would play game after game of pool. Sometimes we would have too many beers and start acting a fool, but Shirley was not the judging type. She understood the faults of her customers and yet she always greeted them back with a smile.

Shirley was a large person. Sure, size wise. But, more so because she could command a room without saying a word. You always knew that you were in her world. She was quiet, but when it was slow, she could always be steered into a conversation. My favorite story was when she threw out legendary photographer William Eggleston on the street for being unruly. When she told us the story, she wasn’t bragging. She didn’t even bring it up. Brad and I had heard the legends and wanted to know if it was true. It was. However, when she recalled the evening, she didn’t seem angry just a sense of disappointment. Still, what a sight that must have been!

Shirley had rules. In fact, there was a plaque over the bar with “Shirley Sez” guidelines. Most importantly, you did not cuss. I suppose Shirley figured that once you started cussing, you became agitated, and there was no good in that. If someone did start swearing, Shirley would pull out a hard stick from behind the bar and smack it on the counter, letting the patron know that when you are in Shirley’s bar you better play by her rules. I never saw her use that stick on anyone, but I never doubted that she would have.

One of the best kept secrets of Memphis is the burger at the Lamplighter, known better as the Shirley Burger. I don’t know what she did, but Shirley never failed at making the tastiest burger I have ever tasted. It was the perfect mixture of flavor, juice, and grease. I took a photo of it on one of my last trips to the Lamplighter:

The only thing about ordering food was that Shirley would have to go to the kitchen in the back room. Even though she could still see the front door from there, she would have to give up tending bar since her shift was always a lone one. So, we would feel guilty and often delay ordering even though our bellies were rumbling. When Shirley found out that we really wanted food but didn’t say anything, she would shrug us off as being silly and proceed to get out the ground chuck and buns. Before it was done cooking, she would bring over the condiments getting you more and more eager. When the food finally arrived, you tried to pace yourself because you always knew it would be gone too fast.

My most memorable night at the Lamplighter was when my buddy Brett got married. His first stop after tying the knot was to pay Shirley a visit and share the good news. Instead of sitting at the bar, we got a table. Later, Brett told me that Joaquin Phoenix, who was in town filming Walk the Line, was hanging out one table over with his entourage. I was so caught up in the moment, I didn’t even notice. Shirley brought us over a round of beer, and said that the first round was on her. I got up and put a quarter in the jukebox. The happy couple danced in the middle of the bar as Shirley watched on with a smile.

While I was at the bar one night waiting for Brad, I was suddenly brought into a discussion with with a few of the patrons around the counter. One of the regulars pointed at me and stated, “He knows. He’s a regular.” It was at that moment that I figured I might be spending too much time in a bar. Not long after that, I started dating Apryl, and I didn’t have the same desire to hang out in a dark, cavernous room. Even so, I’m happy to say that I did take Apryl to meet Shirley. Anytime I visited without Apryl after that, Shirley would go on about that cute redhead.

One of the last times I saw Shirley was when I was back home visiting from Chicago. She was very excited to hear that Apryl and I had gotten married. Even though she was never one for pictures, she did amuse with the photo you see at the top of this post.

For many, Miss Shirley was seen as a motherly figure. So with her passing, it’s like losing a member of the family. I completely understand that. On top of that, I feel like it’s a closure to a part of my life. Even though I can step foot in the Lamplighter again, it won’t feel like I’m coming home. Shirley made that possible.

Read the Commercial Appeal article. (If you note that I didn’t read this article before I wrote this post, you’ll realize that Shirley made lasting impressions on others that were very similar to mine.)

It ends today!

Saturday, April 17th, 2010

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Pledge here.

Sivad and the Sound

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

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Speaking of Pitchfork, the new Reigning Sound album Love and Curses was reviewed today. Despite the ho hum rating of 7.6, the review gets a 10.0 for exposing a wider audience to most endearing monster of ceremonies from the Mid-South, Sivad. The Pitchfork review not only references Sivad, but reviewer and fellow Tennesseean Stephen M. Deusner uses the Sivad character as a catalyst for the influences of the Reigning Sound sound. Apparently, “love and curses” was Sivad’s motto, and Reigning Sound’s frontman Greg Cartwright honors the phrase with the naming of the new album. While I wasn’t alive when Sivad was on air (thus not recalling the uttering of “love and curses”), I certainly remember that Fantastic Features opening which WHBQ-TV took out from the vaults every Halloween. In recent years, thanks to Judy at WEVL, I’ve become more and more familiar with the cult status of Sivad (including his short music career). Below, the one and only Sivad:

It’s tonight!

Saturday, July 25th, 2009

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Redbirds vs. Cubs – Attended Game #7 (5/29/09)

Saturday, June 13th, 2009

Redbirds Our Seats

Redbirds 0, Cubs 5

Ever since my renewed interest in baseball, whenever we’re visiting Memphis, I look forward to catching a ballgame at AutoZone Park. And as Apryl mentioned in a previous post, that’s just what we did. Apryl and I had been talking about attending the Redbirds game on the 30th, but when I learned that on Friday night the Redbirds were going to be honoring Memphis’ Minor League past by donning Memphis Chicks uniforms for the evening, I knew that was our game!

I have fond of memories of watching the Memphis Chicks (Kansas City Royals affiliates) playing at Tim McCarver Stadium. Tim McCarver Stadium was notorious for being one of the ugliest of all Minor League parks. The reason for this was the oddity of having a grass outfield mixed with an artificial turf infield. It just looked awful. Of course, when I was younger none of this mattered. It was just exciting to be watching professional baseball even if the Chicks were only Class AA.

Now I’m not sure if I’m recalling this correctly, but I seem to remember one game on Independence Day when Bo Jackson was playing for the Chicks (This was a couple years away from the “Bo Knows” ads, but even then Jackson was seen as something special.). It was the bottom of the ninth inning with the game tied, and Jackson was taking a large lead off of third. And then suddenly, Jackson broke loose and sprinted homeward. He slid into home plate, was called safe, and the excitement was followed by a 4th of July firework display. Did this really happen? I mean it seems too perfect, right? (Sometimes baseball is magical.) I have been trying to research this game but even with the extensive stats on baseball, it’s quite difficult tracking down details on a Class AA Minor League game that took place over 20 years ago. It’s okay, I’ll live with my “memory”.

Unlike Tim McCarver Stadium, the Redbirds’ AutoZone Park is regarded as one of the best ballparks in the Minor Leagues. And while I personally haven’t visited many other Minor League parks, I find it hard to believe they could get any better than the one planted at 200 Union Ave. In my last baseball post, I mentioned how the Birmingham Barons left Rickwood Field in the city for a new park in the suburbs. It seems that’s quite common with cities that host a Minor League team. If it’s not in the suburbs it’s most likely not in the heart of downtown. The Redbirds could have easily done the same and built AutoZone park outside the city, perhaps near the Agricenter. But how can you compare making your way to the ballpark by passing The Peabody with walking through a large, concrete parking lot? If you favor the latter, I don’t think we would agree on much other matters.

That night, the Redbirds were taking on the Iowa Cubs. We actually got to the game a little late because Apryl, her sister Steph, and I were chowing down on some barbecue at the Bar-B-Q Shop. Which I might add was totally worth our tardiness. As we were walking into the park, I snapped this photo:

Redbirds Open

Sure, the surrounding scenery is impressive, but it’s the openness of the ballpark which really gets me. In fact, it reminds me a lot of the lower level of the Cell. In a lot of past games, I have walked throughout the game around the concourse, watching from multiple views, each one of them great. However, for that evening, we stayed in our seats for the entirety of the game.

And why move? My brother-in-law Adam, who works with the Redbirds, is quite gracious and lent me and Apryl his season ticket seats for the night. And as you can see from the photo that opens this blog entry, the seats were quite nice. We were right above the Redbirds dugout, so I was able to grab some nice photos of the team walking off the field, as you can see:

Redbird Chick

How bizarre to see that Chicks’ logo on an active jersey again!

Also being so close to the Redbirds’ dugout put us in direct view of the Chicks’ Indian mascot showing the crowd how to do the tomahawk chop. The Tomahawk Chop, which Apryl found a bit embarrassing, is more commonly associated with the Atlanta Braves. However, when I was following the Braves through my youth, I don’t remember this chant. Perhaps, it’s because I was a fan during the rough years, before their successful run in the 90’s. Anyway, squirm if you like:

As for the game, it was pitcher’s duel until the ninth inning when the Redbirds started playing similar to the Chicago Cubs in the playoffs last season, and gave up five runs to the Iowa Cubs. During that horrendous 9th, I saw something I had never seen in baseball, a huddle. Really, just like you see in football. See below:

the huddle

Unfortunately, whatever was said, didn’t effect the results. After several careless errors, the game got away from the Birds, and the Cubs took the victory.

Evidence perhaps why I shouldn’t shoot baseball games. I completely loose control of the shot when out of the corner of my eye, I see that the shortstop is about to make an error.

Cubs win.

No worries though. As long as there’s a house band, no one leaves disappointed!

And we sure didn’t. It’s always nice to catch a ballgame at AutoZone. Heck, it was nice to be at a ballgame in May without having to wear a coat. Thanks Steph and Adam.

Hayden and Steph

Go Redbirds! Go Sox!

Southern Tour, May 2009, Part 2: Birmingham and Nashville

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

Hayden had to get out of Memphis a second time, for a day trip to a baseball game in Birmingham. A few days later, on our way back to Chicago, we all stayed the night in Nashville with Hayden’s sister Paige and her family.

Birmingham

On Wednesday, Hayden and his dad got to cheer on Hayden’s favorite baseball team, a mere 650 miles away from U.S. Cellular Field. The fates must truly support Hayden’s love of the White Sox. Somehow the stars aligned so that my mom’s surgery was scheduled the day after Memorial Day, putting Hayden in prime position to get to Birmingham the following day for the Rickwood Classic. Only once per season, the White Sox’s AA affiliate, the Birmingham Barons, play at Rickwood Field, “America’s oldest ballpark.” Even being hoarse from his sore throat, Hayden couldn’t help feeling in heaven.

Rickwood Classic Ballpark

Exterior of Rickwood Field, the oldest operating baseball park in the United States

Rickwood Field Hayden up to bat

Hayden up to bat at Rickwood Field

I won’t relate all the details of the stadium and the game, only because Hayden promises to write a full recap later. More photos and video are here.

Nashville

On Sunday, we headed to Nashville—followed closely by Ashley, Sydney, and Clayton—to see Paige, her husband Mike, and their kids, Jackson, Andrew, Reid, and McKenzie Hayden. I don’t know what could have made their dog, Greer, think of making a brief escape. Hayden and I also went out that evening, not for escape, but to see our friend Brad. Fortunately, Eva had plenty of distractions to keep her from wanting to leave Paige’s house.

McKenzie Hayden gnaws on a toy by the pool

McKenzie Hayden gnaws on a toy by the pool

Ashley, Hayden, and Paige

Ashley, Hayden, and Paige by the pool

Drew Greer and Sydney

Andrew, Greer, and Sydney after Greer’s escape and capture

Eva on the "Get it" rug

Eva on a maize, aka “get it” rug

On Monday, we packed up the car and had a smooth drive back to Chicago—except for half an hour of bad thunderstorms in Indiana.

A thunderstorm on I-64 in Indiana

More photos and video are here.

Southern Tour, May 2009, Part 1: Greer’s Ferry and Memphis

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

Starting Memorial Day weekend, we spent nearly two weeks in the South, visiting family and friends.

Greer’s Ferry

Eva and I stayed put most of the trip, she at Hayden’s dad’s place in Collierville, and I at my parents’ house in Memphis. However, Hayden left town the day after we got to Memphis. He went to his dad’s place in Greer’s Ferry, Arkansas, to fish and, of course, look for Bigfoot with his dad, sister Ashley, niece Sydney, and nephew Clayton.

Dad and Sydney fishing

Hayden’s Dad and Sydney fish in Greer’s Ferry Lake

Sadly, both Hayden and our old Canon ELPH digital camera got sick. Fortunately, Hayden’s sore throat and coughing subsided after about a week. Unfortunately, the little digital camera didn’t make it. Don’t worry though; there are still plenty of photos from the rest of the trip. Somehow Hayden was able to get over his loss and pick out a new camera, with his friend Daniel’s help, the very next day. More photos and video are here.

Memphis

I started my trip, without a camera, by hanging out with my sisters Lisa and Stephanie and seeing Summer and Elaina and their adorable kids Silas and Eva (not named after our cat). On Sunday morning, we brunched with our friends Brett and Vanessa. Later, Hayden saw his friends Daniel and Melanie, in town from LA, while I had a girls’ night with some friends from high school and college. Because two of the girls are moving away this summer, one to northern Georgia and the other only 2.5 hours south of Chicago (yay!), I commandeered the new camera.

Amber, Charlotte, Jennifer F, Caroline, Apryl, and Jennifer B R

Amber, Charlotte, Jennifer F, Caroline, Apryl, and Jennifer B R celebrate the last girls’ night for a long while

After sleeping most of Sunday and Monday, Hayden woke up long enough to go to a Memorial Day cookout with my mom, dad, sisters, and brother-in-law Adam. On Tuesday, I got up around 6:00 a.m. to go with the rest of my family to an outpatient surgery center for my mom’s gallbladder surgery. That woman has a higher pain tolerance than anyone else I know; she took only four pain pills and was back at work on Friday. Because she was so lucid Tuesday night and Wednesday, we were able to spend lots of time relaxing and chatting.

While my mom and I were lazing around, Hayden was with his mom cleaning out things in his old bedroom—including lots of old baseball cards—on Tuesday and with his dad at a baseball game in Birmingham on Wednesday (see more in Part 2).

Baseball Cards

Hayden’s tin of baseball cards

On Thursday, Hayden had lunch with his friend Greg, and I with my friend Becky. Then Hayden did a show on WEVL. After a nice chat with Judy, we went to dinner with my sisters and brother-in-law and stopped by Lisa’s house so Hayden could see how big her crazy cat J.P. Hubert has gotten.

On Friday, we introduced Stephanie to the Bar-B-Q Shop (she and Adam went back a week later) and enjoyed watching the Redbirds play in old Memphis Chicks uniforms (thanks for the tickets, Adam!). We ended the night by staying out much later than we had intended, until 2:00 a.m. Our friend Caroline was having a going away party, and every time we turned around, more friends of ours showed up.

Redbirds vs Cubs Stephanie and Apryl

Stephanie and Apryl at a Memphis Redbirds’ game

We dragged ourselves out of bed on Saturday to have lunch with our friends John and Julie and dinner with Brian, Michelle, and their sweet-tempered, smart, and funny son, Joe.

Hayden Apryl Julie and John

Hayden, Apryl, Julie, and John after a delicious lunch

Joe going down the slide, aka escalator

More photos and video are here.

WEVL Spring Pledge Drive `09

Friday, April 10th, 2009

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It’s that time of year again to pull out your pocket book and show your support for the greatest radio station around, WEVL 89.9FM. Pledge securely online here.

Spring Pledge Drive goes from April 10 – 18.