Second cup, no buzz yet, although my leg is jiggling a bit. This High Point Coffee just doesn’t have something that Starbucks has. (As Mike Myers would say in a thick brogue, "an addictive chemical that makes you crrrave it fortnightly," or in my case, daily.)
But the shop itself has something Starbucks does not have — free broadband wireless. Nice little joint. Friendly. I’ve been here three times, and I’ve seen one of the guys who was in here earlier all three times. In fact, I’ve heard him tell people at nearby tables about his recent trip to Jekyll Island three times as well. That’s OK; I’ve tuned him out after the first time — when he answered someone who asked whether that was in the Outer Banks by saying, "well, maybe, I think I heard somebody refer to it as that," at which point I had to butt in and tell them where the Outer Banks were.
Second time, I got into a discussion with a guy named Roosevelt who works at FedEx (you know, like Tom Hanks in "Castaway;" Hollywood thinks everybody in Memphis works for ol’ Fred), vacations at Myrtle Beach, and is orginally from Cherry Point. We talked about our kids and college. He is also a blues musician on the side (the other thing Hollywood thinks everybody in Memphis does, and not without cause). He promised to visit the blog, so if you’re there, Hi. Don’t forget to leave a comment.
It’s been very, very hot here all week, although we did get a slight break last night. I think it touched three digits the one day I played golf. We had a good time, even though I just barely stayed in two digits, so never mind the score. I’ve got my racket, but no tennis. Living in Columbia, I sort of snorted when I got here and they complained about how hot it’s been. I’m not snorting now.
Speaking of hot, the local and state primaries were Thursday, and … I just caught one of those phrases that puts me off track; some girl over at another table just said, …"that’s 2 a.m. in Ireland…" Sometimes life, for those of us with ADD, is like one of those avant-garde recordings such as Revolution No. 9, with snatches of conversation coming from God knows where that make no sense out of context. I looked up to see who was speaking, and there are these two similar-looking girls (from this angle, anyway — sisters, perhaps) over against the window. Walking past them, outside, inexplicably walking the wrong way up the drive-through lane, is a beautiful young woman with short black hair, wearing shades, looks like a model, turning right to look directly at me, although I know all she sees is the bright-sun reflection of Poplar Avenue. She’s just there for a second when she disappears around the corner. Approaching the door is a largish guy in a Nirvana T-shirt, curly, thinning hair freshly slept-in at 2 p.m., carrying a stack of pamphlets or newsletters. He dutifully deposits them on the counter (Memflix, a six-page movie review sheet, mostly written by one Jesse W. Morrison), then steps over to the two girls talking about Ireland. And they all leave. Everybody here seems to know each other, but the folks behind the counter don’t know the Memflix guy. They’ve noticed the flyers before, but didn’t know where they came from. We briefly discuss movies. I’m the only customer now. I get another cup so I can keep blogging. The Memflix guy just reappeared, walking the same path as the model, slurping on a smoothie and carrying a placard of some kind in his other hand, and also disappears around the corner.
Oh, yeah… Thursday they had the biggest ballot in history here in Memphis. Some places in the state, it was the first time with electronic machines, and there were delays. Right here in East Memphis, my sister-in-law-in-law (my wife’s brother’s wife) took two-and-a-half hours to vote. Of course, at the school where she voted, some genius had decided to hold registration the same day. A madhouse.
Results? Well, Harold Ford’s kid won the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate. I understand he’s made a pretty good name for himself in Washington, much more of a reasonable moderate sort of guy than you would expect a Ford to be. I don’t know him, but I knew his Daddy, long ago. At a dinner one night in 1978 with him, Jim Sasser and Jake Butcher, I learned a lot about how the Ford machine works. Harold had been to the dentist that afternoon, and the painkillers with the couple of drinks he had made his tongue pretty loose, and he was very eager to persuade Butcher he was going to deliver Memphis to him — the 9th District part, anyway. Sasser and Butcher were nervous and tried to shush him in my presence, but he waved it off, and said, "This is off the record, right?" I shrugged noncomittally and said, "I’m just eating here." I was traveling with the Butcher campaign, and I had to eat somewhere. It was all very interesting, but not incriminating. I don’t think I could have provided any testimony that would have kept him from beating that federal rap later.
Steve Cohen, a name it seems I’ve heard forever (his Daddy, as I recall, used to run the state mental hospital at Bolivar) picked up the Democratic nomination for young Harold’s seat. That was a nasty, multiple-candidate race that under South Carolina rules would have meant a runoff. There were accusations of anti-Semitic tactics used against Cohen a la Max Heller. But Cohen made it through, and is now the first white Democratic nominee for this seat in 32 years. Harold pere won the seat from my father-in-law’s former business partner, Republican Dan Kuykendall, in 1974. I remember hearing him speak over at Memphis State when my wife and I were students there, and being impressed — more impressed than I would later be by his performance.
See how Tennessee is just as pervaded by interlocking personal relationships as South Carolina (where our favorite question to ask candidates is, "Who’s your Daddy?" — a question to which we already knew the answer with two of the four GOP candidates for state Treasurer this year, and one Gov Lite candidate)? I would tell you about the Republican candidates for the Senate and congressional seats, but I don’t know their Daddys, so what could I tell you by S.C. standards?
That 1978 dinner with the nervous politicos took place at the Pete & Sam’s out by the airport, which is long gone now. (Butcher paid, which ticked me off, and I had to grab one of his aides’ arms and force a bill into his hand to reimburse him. I definitely didn’t want to be indebted to that schmoe, even if free meals hadn’t been against my paper’s rules.)
The original Pete & Sam’s is still there on Park, by the way, thank God. The highlight of my week was a family dinner there Monday night. It’s the realest Italian restaurant in the world. Unlike the ill-fated airport location, and another failed effort way out East, this one still doesn’t have liquor by the drink. You can order beer, but you have to bring your own wine or whatever. Fortunately, one of my brothers-in-law is a rep for a distributor, so we never go lacking in that department.
I even got Mr. Sam (Pete passed away long ago, I believe) to pose at the register in front of some of his signed celebrity photos (everybody from Elvis to Ed McMahon). See below. He also posed with my father-in-law, whom he has long known and always speaks to with great respect and solicitude. His wife visited our table, too. It’s that kind of joint — dark, homey, with a to-hell-with-decor atmosphere. Not exactly the sort of place you’d see in "Goodfellas" — more like the kind of place that the more-honest relatives of the wise guys would choose to eat at. Extremely real. Tourists can talk about the Rendezvous or Corky’s, and they’re very fine, but I’ll take Pete & Sam’s as my first choice whenever I’m in Memphis.
My father-in-law paid this time, and I had no objections.