One Of A Kind
June 10th, 2010
A number of places have a certain thing about them that is aptly described as unique, but just one or two things in most cases. Duck Hill, Mississippi, for instance, has trees that grow damn near sideways out of that namesake hill. It takes a bunch of things like that before the whole place can be thought of as unique.
Folks, this place is unique.
As published in The Daily News, June 11, 2010, and in The Memphis News, June 12-13, 2010
Really unique is really not. Memphis is.
Nothing is really unique. Unique is unique. If there is more than one of it, it isn’t.
Memphis is et up with unique.
The Peabody is unique. Two hammered duck hunters dump their live decoys in the lobby fountain. One is actually the hotel manager, and instead of getting him fired, that drunken prank makes the place world-famous. Almost 80 years later, ducks are still in that fountain by day, live in an air-conditioned penthouse by night, march back and forth twice a day to a packed crowd, and are on TV as much as Daffy and Donald.
Graceland is unique. Depending on who you talk to, Elvis has been dead since 1977. Visit Graceland today and tell me you don’t think he’s still in there somewhere. Somebody has just been napping on that gi-normous couch. Those dark TVs are still warm, and somebody’s screwing around with a guitar in the jungle room. Walk by the kitchen and you can smell peanut butter and banana sandwiches. There’s a reason they won’t let us go upstairs.
Memphis In May is unique. “I’ve got an idea,” someone certifiable said at the first meeting, “Let’s have a barbecue cooking contest. Contestants will come from all over the world, bring smokers that look like locomotives, set up booths 30 feet tall, and 100,000-plus will come down to the river to watch them cook food they can’t eat.”
The National Civil Rights Museum is unique. There is one Lorraine Motel, one balcony, one bathroom window through which a modern-day prophet was killed but his dream refused to die. What fed that dream and what feeds it still is on display in one place.
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital is unique. What all those unbelievably dedicated people drink over there isn’t Kool-Aid, it’s great big gulps of hope. What they do every day to give children a chance at life shines a bright light from Memphis the whole world can see.
The Rendezvous is unique. It’s in a basement. You walk by a dumpster and step over a couple of puddles of God-knows-what to get in. Not only do they charbroil their ribs down there, the restaurant itself has burned twice. The beams are still charred. Everything in this city’s collective attic is hanging on the walls or from the ceiling. Their ribs started and continue to fuel a worldwide debate. Wet or dry.
Cozy Corner is unique, a barbecue joint famous for … Cornish hens? The National Ornamental Metal Museum is unique, both for what it is and the river view from where it is. Dyer’s is unique, deep frying hamburgers in a vat of grease I think Andy Jackson brought with him when he founded the city.
The list goes on and on, and that’s the point. Beyond and because of music, and barbecue, and cotton, and race, and hospitality, and river, and creativity, it goes all the way to soul. Uniquely.
I’m a Memphian, and I’m unique.