Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Griping about lost time and glimpsing the Memphis ghetto

Our road trip was affected by a small quirk: T. had to find Starbucks coffee whenever possible. This can mean detours off the highway directed by some gut level instinct of where Starbucks should be. Perhaps near a newish mall or bookstore? Maybe down this road or that? We toured through Lawrence, KS this way and got to our friends' in KC a bit later than I had hoped. (By the way, Lawrence seems pretty cool and Boulderesque.) The next day this got on my nerves big time after driving around 45 minutes not knowing where we were, I'm guessing somewhere near Springfield, MO (I'm terrible about remembering what towns we stay in along the way and where we got gas, etc. But, T. remembers it all, including where the Starbucks were on his last trip.) Since there are at least 2 colleges in Springfield, a Starbucks must be nearby, right? Wrong. This photo shows what finally saved T.'s a*_*_ (life) as we were about to drive on. I would hate to say that this is the exact reason we were a bit late getting into Memphis, but....

(Do other couples have tension over dumb stuff like this?)

We approached Memphis from the west side. We were looking for 2 things: a motel for the night and the area where the Civil Rights Museum was so we would be able to find it easily in the morning. The museum had closed at 5 p.m. That night I hoped to go to Beale St. and hear some music. We are blues and jazz fans. That would be so fun. We didn't realize how close to Beale we were, but we must have been driving around it and away from it. The first thing I noticed was how "bombed out" everything looked. "In complete disrepair" would be a very nice way of saying it. We got a good look at neighborhood after neighborhood that looked like it should be condemned. On one avenue a woman was walking in the traffic lane toward us, eyes glazed and completely out of it. It was a very scary area. I felt so sad about the conditions I saw. I imagined the poverty, lack of opportunities, slumlords, and inattention, combined with substance abuse and hopelessness, were big factors in the history of this side of Memphis. Where are the advocates for solutions here? I hope there are some. I am ignorant of what is actually being done to turn things around. It must be a hard battle to raise the quality of life in what appears to be so unchangeable in the poorest of the poor areas. Memphis was the worst place we saw in terms of poverty and abandoned and literally burned-out buildings. We wondered if the most desperate parts of New Orleans would have been similar. We drove down several highways trying to find a place to stay, wishing we had found out about a decent place or booked ahead of time. We ended up south of the state line in MS. I still wanted to head back up to Beale St., but it didn't happen. We stayed in our little motel area enclave near chain restaurants. I must have been wanting comfort food by then because I kept suggesting Zaxby's (chicken place with sweet tea.) I was outvoted for reason of "too much traffic" (do Chris Farley finger quotes here) on that side of the road, and instead we tried a family-run local Mexican restaurant and then hung out at the motel with the weather channel and The Secret Life of Bees. I couldn't get my nose out of that book.


Blogger Susan said...

How I love a road trip. Especially one with a purpose.

I haven't traveled much in the South and I expect it is nothing like the world I know, Yankee that I am.

I want to hear more about the Civil Rights Movement focus that is bubbling up right now. What made this come to the forefront for you at this time? I know it's always been there, but what brought forth the action?

4:49 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

For a while I have been thinking about how to be a bridge-builder and how to be involved in reconciling the 2 communities--white and black. I have some ideas for ways to do that in my home town, but could only see it being possible with a team of people going there for a period of time with a very intentional approach. So right now it's kind of a dream unless God makes it happen sooner than later. I read an article about the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis and this being the 40th anniv. of the death of MLK. When we decided to drive, I knew I wanted to make that a stop.

9:54 PM  

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