My genius wife, in order to celebrate the occasion of being allowed by our government to become married to me, was struck a few weeks ago with the brilliant idea of leaving our kids behind and driving to Memphis for a one-nighter full of gambling, hoops and food. And although I was no more successful at the craps table than the Grizzlies were at containing Gordon Hayward, loose slots and loosened belts made the trip a rousing success. Plus, hell, who doesn't get a little thirsty on a road trip?
Did somebody say road trip?
Our first stop, as is tradition, was Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken. (Rendezvous is closed on Mondays for reasons presumably unrelated to having to drag me out of the smoker like a raccoon in an engine compartment). The meal was as good as ever, but it gives me no great pleasure to report that the unbelievably approachable and working class atmosphere of this Memphis staple has been somewhat tainted by a slight commodification, for lack of a better word. Their website has a rotating slideshow of smiling kids and a Franchise Inquiry Form, for God's sake. Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken should not have a website. Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken should be a dump, forever and ever, and the tablecloths should be sticky with grease until they are thrown out and never replaced.
For residents of Memphis, I guess seeing a "local boy made good" story in progress probably generates mixed feelings. On the one hand, it's good that someone has been able to pull themselves out of the economic muck we've made out of the Mississippi Delta, and bring people in to the ramshackle ghost town that is Downtown Memphis. But you don't want to totally tear down the ghost town. After all, those are our ghosts. The world has enough exposed brick condos. It must be tough.
But for me, it just meant that drinking a 40oz bottle of Miller Lite at dinner was kind of a bummer.
Gus's used to feel like a neighborhood dive that happened to serve some great food, and drinking big shitty beers was expected, if not mandatory. But this time around it felt like ordering a White Russian at a bowling alley. It tasted great, sure, but it was not cute. It was not "fun" to drink a Huge Beer with my chicken. I felt like a dumb jackass. Conveniently, after a kilo of damn beer, that's what I was.
Next, it was time to grab our seats at FedEx Forum, where we had the distinct privilege of sitting directly behind the TV cameras and paying $9 for $2 brews. Sadly, the Grizzlies played without Zach Randolph and Tony Allen, and also without much effort, so the best part was probably watching the camera operators do their thing. They all had a cool chair that swiveled around on a track, and attached to the top of their screen was a piece of paper with the names and pictures of the players and coaches. So if you know who Joe Ingles is on sight, you're better than the dingalings at Fox Sports. You're also better than I am, because when I saw some reasonably athletic guy with Official Jazz gear in our hotel elevator I had to Google him to make sure I hadn't screwed up by not getting his autograph. When I saw him on the court stretching out Rudy Gobert, I still wasn't sure.
Luckily, most pro teams will give you whatever kind of beer you want for a flat fee, because sports arenas are places where small hot dogs are $6.50 and large hot dogs with souvenir buns are $6.51 just to screw with you. Economies of scale do not exist in stadiums. You ever see the people who work at a concession stand opening an 8 pack of hot dog buns? Couldn't you guys have bought that in bulk? Jesus. Ok let me get back there and start ticking boxes. I worked at a GameStop for 2 years in high school, I can do this.
Anyway, so I met a local friend (who graciously offered to buy me a cold one) at the Ghost River Brewing stand. Just look at this logo!
I want to say I had the Golden Ale, but because of the fact that I had already toasted several not-golden ales by this point in the evening, I can't say for sure. It was a hell of a beer though, which makes it painful to note that GRB is mostly confined to the Western TN area. Hey! I guess that kind of makes it craft beer. Also I spilled some of it by accident, so sorry to everyone for that.
For a nightcap, the wife and I decided to take a stroll down to renown party capital (and open container-friendly) Beale Street so that I might drink a tall, slushy plastic tube of Blue or Green. But it was closed for some reason? All the little windows you could walk up to and get vodka juice were shuttered, and the only sound was people doing Iggy Azalea karaoke on opposite sides of the street. So we watched some kid do a couple of backflips and went back to our room, trying desperately not to disturb the spring-loaded Jim Beam and peanuts.
Because I'm a clown who does whatever commercials tell me to do, the next day we made the short trip to Tunica to visit the Grizzlies-sponsoring Gold Strike Casino, where we met a guy who asked us what day it was. He was at the roulette table, sitting uncomfortably close to my wife, and losing his several hundred dollar bankroll rapidly. He had apparently been gambling since 10pm Monday (it was now 2pm Tuesday), so big shout out to that guy.
While at the craps table, I order a Red Bull & Vodka. I guess because it's not like you get a menu of drinks so you kind of just have to think of something you can say to a woman wearing lingerie without looking stupid. Since I was already looking plenty stupid trying to figure out how to play craps, which is insanely complicated, I decided to keep it simple.
The drink was incredible. I love the taste of Red Bull, and the nominally free cocktail tasted just like Red Bull. In fact, it probably was just Red Bull. I'm not sure how much sense that makes for the house, since surely the minor difference in price per oz between the ubiquitous energy drink and garbage vodka isn't enough to negate the wallet-prying capabilities of the latter. But they paid for my steak so obviously Gold Strike's business acumen is somewhere south of genius. Talk about eat, shoot, and leave! Oh baby!
On the way back home, we stopped for some road beers at the crummiest possible service station just over the state line. If the owner or workers of the place are reading this, I'm really sorry, but the gas station was bad. There were bugs in the fridge, which the bars on the front windows were evidently unsuccessful at keeping out, and there was a periodical on the counter that appeared to be exclusively local mugshot pictures. That's not news, man. That's...what is that? That's bogus. I bought 4 copies.
I grabbed some crap and waited in line behind a guy delivering about 20 cases of Yuengling on a large hand cart. Except he wasn't delivering them, he was buying them. Because that shop was "the farthest west you can buy Yuengling", and because he is very stupid. Shout out to the stupid Yuengling buyer and also the hammered up all night guy from earlier. Hope all is well with you two fellas.
So, Memphis — ah, maybe not the most extreme Beer Idiot destination, but a fun one nevertheless. The capital city of Grit and Grind delivered on a very blue collar experience for yours truly, one I hope to repeat very soon.
Next on The Beer Idiot: Smirnoff Vodka