Sunday, May 07, 2006


Our plan for the weekend was one we called "Willy Nilly". After we arrived in Memphis, we'd just call each other and figure things out from there.

Friday, May 5; THE JOURNEY

My departure from St. Louis on Friday was later than I had planned. I couldn't get away from work early, and then this happened and then that and before you know it, was hitting the road for a 5 hour trip at 8:00 pm. To help myself stay awake early in the drive, I called everyone I knew and chatted with them. When I called Lab, I suddenly thought I had accidentally called another friend of mine; and the conversation got a little strange. We finally got it straightened out that I was speaking to the party to whom I was speaking.

After the drive, complete with construction slow-downs, I arrived at my hotel around 2:00 a.m. I stood at the elevator with all of my stuff, waiting for it to arrive. Up walked a guy about my age, carrying a brown bag. He was very friendly and started asking me the usual strangers in an elevator questions. When strangers do talk in the elevators. He introduced himself as "Slade, with a D." We got off on the same floor, and then he pointed to my room and said, "There you are."

Oops. He knew my room. I recalled he was nearby when the desk clerk gave the room key to me and announced my room number. Great. His room was next to mine. As I opened my door, he called out to me and asked me if I'd like to come over for a drink, and indicated the brown bag.

I said, "thank you for asking, no," then scurried into my room. A few minutes later, I heard a knock on the door. A shiver went up my spine, not so much from the knocking but from the fact that my room was absofreakinglutely FREEZING!!!!! The AC was on full blast. I didn't answer the door, but DID leave a message on a friend's CallNotes and told her that if I suddenly disappeared off the face of the earth, to check with Slade in room 307 of the Fairfield Inn. Another possibility was that I had succumbed to hyperthermia.


I showered, dressed, partook of the complimentary continental breakfast (yogurt and raisen bran) and drove to downtown Memphis to meet up with Lab, The Insolent Wench and Federal Duck.

I thought this would be a good place to start looking for The Duck.

But I was wrong.

I thought maybe I'd find him at his cousin's.

Again, I was wrong.

As I walked up Third Street, I saw a sign. Apparently, I had just missed him.

I was not fooled by these silly decoys:

I heard something about a Duck Walk at The Peabody Hotel, and thought I'd go try my luck there.

I sat in the lobby bar, ordered a mimosa and waited.

This duck hunt was drawing a huge crowd.

The ducks arrived to a John Phillips Sousa March (the one that sounds like the Monty Python theme song). None of them were of the Federal species. One of the young men waiting to see the Duck Walk returned to the bar stating, "I can't believe I waited all that time to watch 5 ducks.

I called Lab and told him I was in the lobby bar and had ordered another mimosa while waiting, which he dismissed as a "girly" drink. I pointed out to him that there was a young man sitting next to me drinking one. He asked how young and suggested it might be The Duck, and if it was, he was disappointed in him for drinking a girlie drink. I dialed The Duck, looked at the phone on the bar next to me, wondering if it would ring. It did not. When Federal Duck answered, he said he was still about two hours outside of Memphis.

About a half hour later, I met up with the Lab and his wife. He had told me I'd recognize him because he'd be the guy in the Speedos. He lied.

We headed down to Beale Street, where we were immediately approached by a panhandler with a different kind of a spiel. He said that Jerry Garcia had double-charged him for a burger. He wanted to sell his swag to us in exchange for busfare. OK, Jerry Garcia is dead, and the guy didn't appear to have any swag. As if, anyway. We declined, and then he cussed us out.

As we wandered further down Beale Street, The Wench received a call from some friends of hers and we met up with them at BB Kings. We listened to some really great blues while lunching on pulled pork sandwiches.

At the table next to us was, oddly enough, Jerry Garcia. A very thin Jerry Garcia. But I guess he hasn't been eating much the last few years, what with being dead and all. I found it difficult to sneak in a picture of him, so you'll just have to take my word for it.

The music was loud and I didn't think I'd hear my cellphone when The Duck called. So I sent him a text messge:

We are at BB Kings on Beale
Under a sign
that says Lucille.

(that was not a haiku).

For some reason, Lab felt compelled to wear some food....and this was before any alcohol was consumed.

Awhile later, we decided to
leave and head to the river front for the festival. I sent The Duck another text message "We left BB Kings. We're walking in Memphis." OK, even I rolled my own eyes at that.

Lab started his own efforts in looking for The Duck.

He even built an impromptu duck blind.

A couple of blocks later, I received a text message from The Duck. "I'm here." I called "Where is here?"

Duck: BB Kings.

Me: We left, but are only a few blocks away. Just walk up the hill and you'll find us.

Duck: Which way?

Me: UP the hill. (I would later find out that if this particular duck had to migrate for the winter, he'd end up in the Artic).

A young man was approaching us and I said to Lab, "I bet this is the Duck". As he passed, Lab gave a duck call, and the guy kept walking. And then suddenly, The Duck arrived and joined us.

Oh, yeah. It started to rain. But that was OK. I had an umbrella which I was convinced would collapse if the wind hit 1 knot per hour. Lab and The Wench were fully prepared and had ponchos, and an extra one for The Duck because oddly enough, water does not roll off his back. We went to the Blues Tent, the only one of the four stages that was under cover. Great music there! We first heard Honeytribe featuring Devon Allman..... an offspring of an Allman Brother.

Next was Richard Johnston (a local favorite) & Jessie Mae Hemphill, a legend. Most of the set was Johnston, which was great. At the end he brought up Jessie Mae and the crowd went wild. After introducing her, we waited and waited. People were still standing. Since he's tall, I asked Duck what was going on. He reported that they were helping a very old black man to the stage. I asked him if it's possible that it was a very old black woman. He checked, and yes, it was possible.

They sang one of Jessie Mae's favorite songs, and by "they", I mean, Richard Johnston. Jessie Mae played the tamborine. After the song, the crowd again went wild. I thought that the Memphis folks must really like tamborine. Then we heard a scream, and Jessie Mae started singing and again brought the house down. About 12 years ago, she had a stroke which ended her career. Lab said she's a legend, which is why everyone was going nuts. I'll admit that I've heard her name, but am not that familiar with her music. Lab admitted he'd have to google her when he got home.

This was one of the few (read "only") music festivals I've attended that featured tractors, and lines of people waiting to drive them.

As we walked around the grounds, it was easily apparent that the festival featured food on sticks; chicken-on-a-stick, pork-on-a-stick, beef-on-a-stick. The Duck was hungry and ordered the original meat-on-a-stick; a turkey leg. We returned to the Blues tent, and I found myself sitting between him and one of The Wenches' friends, both of them ripping meat off of turkey legs. All they needed were trenchers and mugs of mead and we'd have a real barbaric meal. But seriously, the turkey smelled wonderful. The vendor proclaimed it the original Jamaican turkey.

Show of hands, how many people were surprised there are turkeys in Jamaica. I mean other than the sunburned kind arriving on cruise ships. Yeah, me either. I think it's hype.

Lab mentioned that there was an apparent error in the schedule and Bruce Hornsby, not Jerry Lee Lewis, would soon be playing on the stage close to the entrance; so we loaded up and headed out.

As it turned out, the schedule we had was correct, but we decided to stay and listen to The Killer. As we spread out the ground cover so thoughtfully brought by Lab and The Wench, a random guy wondered by started giving The Wench some guff for not throwing away a beer can that was next to her. She looked up and told him she hadn't thrown it there, that she properly throws things away. He continued by telling her she could throw it away anyway, and he proceeded to be really obnoxious. The guys nicely asked him to move along; but he chose to stay and hassle us. It was no surprise to me at all that the guy was wearing a shirt with a "Dirty D!cks" logo on it. How appropriate.

Lab told us that when The Duck and I were out getting Jamaican turkey legs, the guy gave them some trouble about saving our seats. A real pleasant fellow.

I tried to get a photo of Jerry Lee Lewis, but someone (quack) got in the way.

A number of people approached Lab and his wife and asked them where they got their mat we were sitting on, and complimented them on being so prepared. The explained that every year, they upgrade their provisions. They ran into some people from Michigan with fur-lined ponchos. I believe I saw Lab coveting them.

By the time The Killer had finished, we were pretty much wet and cold. We decided to listen to a little of Bruce Hornsby, and then head back to Beale Street and food not-on-a-stick. That place ended up being Huey's where we sat and talked for about two hours, covering a plethora of subjects; sleep disorders, how Lab and Wench met and fell in love, the fact that they got married on April 1 on purpose, writing styles, child rearing styles and Paul Teutul.

When we left Huey's, The Duck and I said goodbye to Lab and his wife, 'cause we weren't sure we'd be meeting up with them on Sunday. They were spending another day in Memphis, I was heading back to St. Louis and Duck was heading back to Nashville.

The plan was for us to walk to Duck's car and he'd drive me to my car. Remember I had mentioned his sense of direction earlier? After some wandering and wondering, I mentioned that I thought we were close to my car, so we could get it and then drive around looking for his. As we walked across a park opposite the FedEx Forum, a guy came up behind us asking for money. We said no and kept walking. He kept following. We told him to go away and walked faster. So did he. Duck told him we couldn't help, we only had plastic. We were sort of speed walking at that point; heard the guy mutter something, and he left. WHEW!

I saw the parking lot where my car was. And the high fence surrounding it with razor wire that stood between us. We walked around the circumference for quite aways before we found an opning to get in. I was beginning to worry that my car was locked up for the night. And about three blocks later, we found his car. Ironically, we had almost gotten to the parking lot, when we gave up and went to my car.


Duck and I had decided to meet for brunch. Lab and Wench said they just drink coffee for breakfast. Well, if you are going to have Sunday brunch in Memphis, The Peabody is the place to go. And not surprisingly, he wanted to check in with the family.

Here he is having a private conversation with a cousin. You can kind of see him behind the fountain; I didn't want to intrude.

I had sent a text message to Lab telling him of our plans and asking if they could join us. The message back was that they were in search of a pharmacy with good drugs. Lab managed to come down with a cold and I'm sure sitting out in the rain didn't help. I'm hoping they got in some good music on their last day.

Sunday Brunch is in the Skyline Room. Very nice. The Duck had the more traditional brunch fare with a Bloody Mary, and I hit the salad and seafood bar and had another mimosa. Absolutely delicious. It sure beat the heck out of powdered donuts and YooHoo.

We pondered if The Peabody ever had duck on the menu. He suggested that perhaps they show the menu to the flock to keep them in line. I imagined a waiter some night saying, "Tonight's special is Gerald, a mal-performing mallard which the chef has prepared on a stick."

Then there was the dessert bar. To. Die. For.

After brunch, we went out on the terrace to view the skyline, and to check out the Duck Palace.

Seriously, the Peabody ducks live on the roof.

This was when I began to suspect Federal Duck is a stalker.

The Duck Palace even has a back yard.

We checked out the view of Memphis from the roof before heading down; such as AutoZone Park.

We strolled down to Beale Street for a bit, I bought some souvenirs and then we said goodbye. Federal Duck is a great guy and a lot of fun.

On my way back to my car, I managed to get lost myself and in my searching, I ended up getting interviewed by the Fox News crew about panhandling. They said that Memphis is trying to deal with the problem and asked if I had experience any of it this past weekend. I related the stories about the Jerry Garcia guy and the guy who hassled us in the park. The interview was interrupted several times by trolley cars. I chided the guys a little bit for setting up shop next to the trolley tracks. I have no clue if that's going to be on the news tonight. I don't know anyone in Memphis to call and say "HEY, watch me on TV!"

Oh, side note about Lab; he tries to act like a curmudgeon; but it's hard for him to pull that off with that twinkle in his eyes. He and his wife are a load of fun, and I hope to be able to meet up with them and with Federal Duck next year for the music festival, if not before.

As I had said, we termed our plans as willy-nilly. At one point after we had all finally met up, we declared the will-nilly plan as successful. But Lab did say that he'd had plenty of willy and could use some nilly.

No one said anything as we digested that.

Then he said, "that didn't come out quite right."

Note on the Peabody Ducks: That is a tradition that started in the 1930's. The manager of the Peabody and some buddies went duck hunting in Arkansas. They had no luck, but when they returned, decided to put their three live decoys in the hotel's fountain. (live decoys were legal back then) It was a hit with the guests. The three original ducks were replaced with 5 mallards and a Duckmaster was assigned to them. The current Duckmaster is named Daniel Fox. Seriously. My link earlier in this thread takes you to a link about more info on the ducks, if you so desire.

And in the event you were wondering about the decision to put the original ducks in the fountain; yes, alcohol was involved.

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neophyte said...

Oh hooray!! Yea, Sly!! It sounds like it was so much fun! Lab, the Wench, Federal Duck, and Slyeyes; what could be better?! Yea!!

*is very happy to read the report*

KDF said...

Sly, I almost feel like I was there. Sounds like a great weekend.

Leetie said...





Bismuth said...

Sounds like much willy was had by all!

(Even if there is no such thing as knots/hour)

Eleanor said...

Brava! Excellent story telling!

But - and don't be upset,, because I say this with all possible affection, your photo taking skills are not the best!

Fed's head is cut off in all of them.
What's up with that??? :)

All other pictures are great!

motw said...

Ditto what everyone else said! Thanks for not sparing the details. And to think, our own Sly (that's Sly, with 'eyes') is now a TV News Celeb in Memphis!

Aunt Nancy said...

Great story, Sly! A great time was had by all, and you get to do it again next year, hopefully. YaY for Sly, Lab, Wench and Duck!

Sarah J said...

Tag, you're it!

Peri said...

Uh oh. Um, whatever you do, don't go to my blog, ok>

Jeff Meyerson said...

Next year if you want some real good festival food, come to Jazzfest instead. Gumbo, jambalaya, crawfish etouffee, soft shell crab po'boys, you name it. All yummy and all $4-6 each.

And the music was great - Little Feat, Irma Thomas, Frankie Ford (wearing a yellow suit with a piano keyboard scarf draped over his shoulder; at the end he took off the jacket and showed off his black t-shirt, which - in a sly aping of the "got milk?" ads, said "got FEMA?"), Buckwheat Zydeco, Jimmy Buffett & the Coral Reefers, Paul Simon, Doug Kershaw, Wayne Toups & Zydecajun, Marcia Ball, Deacon John (Moore), Big Chief Bo Dollis & the Wild Magnolias (Mardi Gras Indians), among dozens more.

Sadly, Fats Domino did not feel up to performing but he appeared to wave to the crowd.

Bismuth said...

That movie that I linked to last night? Well, it turns out that there is no video for about 13 seconds or so, only sound. If you went past that, then I don't know what to tell you other than to try using Winamp if you have it ('cause that's what worked for me).

Sarah O. said...

sly, what a great funny story! You're such a good writer.

I was lucky enough to share pizza last winter in Naperville, not Nashville, with Lab & The Wench. They're great people and a lot of fun. And Lab does have a twinkle in his eye.

Duck is a bit camera shy, eh?

Tramp said...

Federal Duck!

It took me long enough!

Anonymous said...

I never realized Fed was so tall.

Great storytelling, sly.


Slyeyes said...

Yes, I wouldn't be surprised if there is actually an ostrich somewhere in Fed's lineage.

And thanks.

Tramp said...

I was snorkeling in Haunama Bay on Oahu one time (I was working for the Navy) about 15 years ago when a fella came up to me pestering me for an autograph. Told me I was Jerry Garcia. And I really don't look anything like the guy.

Sarah O. said...

tramp, my hubby, WAY back when we were just friends, told me that people would walk up to him and ask him if he was Joey Ramone. This seemed ridiculous to me because, although they had a very similar look, Hubby's hair is strawberry blond and Joey's was dark.

So anyway, we were walking from a club in Chicago one night and some awestruck stranger ran up to (pre) Hubby and shrieked straightfaced, "Are you Joey Ramone? I LOVE YOU!"

I've always wondered if Hubby paid that guy to impress me.

Tramp said...

Sarah, Sounds like he doesn't have to pay to impress. I mean, he got YOU!