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Rhodes College economics professor and Forbes.com columnist Art Carden is leaving Memphis to take a position on the faculty at Samford University in Birmingham, Ala., and today he dedicates his column to all the things that he and his family will miss about our city. Rhodes was Carden's first academic job out of graduate school, so Memphis will always have a special significance for him. He begins his appreciation -- for the city's restaurants, kid-friendly activities and Fellowship Memphis church, among other things -- by noting that Memphis is doing better these days even by Forbes, whose city rankings haven't always painted Memphis in a positive light:

Forbes catches occasional flack around town for ranking Memphis on its "most miserable cities" list.

It's not as miserable as you might think, though. We like Memphis, and it's improving; Jane Donahoe of the Memphis Business Journal notes that the city fell to #16 on the 2012 list from #6 in 2011, #3 in 2010, and #2 in 2009 and points out how city leaders have responded.

We're going to miss Memphis. We've had fun here, we've made a lot of friends here, and we started our family here. Here are a few things we're going to miss about Memphis, and a few things you should look for the next time you're here.


USA Today lauds Cozy Corner: a true Memphis barbecue 'joint'

 
ddcozy2.jpg Maybe because the peak tourist month of May is approaching, national travel writers seem to be flocking to Memphis in recent weeks. The latest is Larry Olmsted, who devotes his Great American Bites feature for USA Today to one of my two or three favorite barbecue spots in Memphis: Cozy Corner.

Like all the great Memphis barbecue places, Cozy Corner puts a few signature twists on the usual template, and Olmsted astutely points them out. First up, the Cornish hens:

I am not a huge fan of barbecue chicken, and at the end of the day a Cornish game hen is just a small chicken, but it was very good as BBQ chicken goes, and unlike the full-sized version, you get to eat the whole thing. Since the meat is never far from bone and pieces small, the interior stays juicy, with white and dark meat relatively indistinguishable. You simply dig in and devour the little bird in gloriously messy fashion.

Then, the little cup of barbecue spaghetti on the side:

At Cozy Corner it is the opposite of al dente, overcooked to the mushy consistency of Spaghetti O's, which causes the noodles to swell and coat with even more sauce. This works here because the sauce is so good - the pasta is more of a vehicle for sauce delivery than anything else.

And, finally, the choice of connoisseurs' (Get there early in the morning before they run out):

But what I loved above all else was the rib tips. Rib tips are to barbecue what hanger steak is to butchery, a chef's cut, lesser known to the public but beloved in the trade. In homes occupied by barbecue fanatics, rib tips are often a treat for the pitmaster and never reach the table. Basically if you take a whole rack of spareribs, which is trapezoidal, and cut down one side to make it more symmetrical, leaving the similarly shaped ribs known as "St. Louis" cut, the thin strip leftover is rib tips. Each bite-sized morsel has some fat, bone and cartilage in it, and they are smoked, tossed in sauce, and piled high on a plate - a plate of barbecue hog heaven.
Continuing a cross-country road trip diary for The Huffington Post, travel-guide writer and -show host Rick Steves stops through Tennessee to compare and contrast the three grand regions represented by the white stars on the state flag. His pointing out that there are differences throughout Tennessee made me consider actually posting his travelogue (I usually don't bother linking to such pieces, which usually rehash the usual Elvis/barbecue/blues/barbecue/Elvis tropes.). There was also the fact that he referred to Memphis' skyline not only as "little," but also as "smart." He actually seems to like it here.

Memphis, with its smart, little skyline, overlooks the Mississippi River. It was one of the first cities to fall in the Civil War, so it wasn't destroyed but occupied. After the war, freed slaves came and helped power the local factories, mills, and cotton shipping. Its industrial wealth shows itself in fine, old neighborhoods filled with grand, "Four Square" houses--two-story homes of equal width and depth, many with a breezeway right through the middle that vents the four, equal quarters.

As this has long been an African American center and an industrial powerhouse, it's where black and white culture come together musically, too. Rock 'n' roll has its roots in African American and blues music. And Memphis is therefore logically the city for blues and rock 'n' roll--and the home of the man who helped black rhythm and blues enter white culture, Elvis Presley.

Moving on to Graceland, Steves repeats what seems to be becoming a common reaction to Elvis' old Whitehaven estate: In the post-"MTV Cribs" age, it seems quaint and unpretentious.

The mansion itself was nowhere near as gaudy as I expected. Elvis bought it when he was 22 for $102,000. It's a stately mansion with big white pillars out front. Like so many nice homes in this part of the country, it overlooks a sprawling and fun-loving estate. The interior is a trip back to the 1970s--shag carpets, mirrored ceilings, all the finest low-tech accessories of the age with Elvis' flair for fancy. While my house in the 1970s was tiny and humble compared to Graceland, the decor, furnishings, kitchen, and so on were remarkably similar.

From Memphis, Steves moved on to Atlanta. Read all about that here.

Huffington Post blogger praises vegan, vegetarian dining in Memphis

 
Over at the HuffPo, green-lifestyles blogger Carolyn Scott runs down some of what she saw and ate on her trip to Memphis. Scott, who is a vegan, says she was "beyond delighted" with the quality of vegetarian and vegan options among Memphis restaurants. Among her findings:

Imagine Vegan Cafe:

Located in the hip Cooper Young district, this fun diner has got everything a vegan comfort food joint should have. And I mean everything! Their menu is giant and everything on it rocks. Being in the south, I had to have their "pulled pork" BBQ sandwich with hush puppies. Oh, and I split the spinach artichoke dip with some buddies!

The Majestic Grille:

Playing old films and vintage cartoons, the menu is just as cool as the location. And cooler yet are their plentiful vegan dishes! Try their homemade veggie burger or their delicious veggie flatbread with caramelized onion base. And their bloody Marys and mimosas are not to be missed either at brunch or dinner.

DejaVu:

Chef Gary is not only one of the most fun people you will ever meet but he will treat you right in his place. Always packed to gills, customers are more then happy to squeeze in with perfect strangers to enjoy a meal at DejaVu. Chef whipped me up a fabulous creole pasta full of veggies along with plantains, veggie rolls, carrot cake and banana nut bread.

R.P. Tracks:

College kids are so progressive, so you are sure to find health conscious dishes nearby. RP Tracks is exactly that kind of place. ... Famous for their BBQ tofu, they can sub it for basically anything. I shared the BBQ tofu nachos and the BBQ tofu burrito loved every bite!

The restoration of famed World War II B-17 bomber the Memphis Belle is well under way at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton, Ohio, according to an item on Cleveland.com (scroll down to fourth item):

The Memphis Belle, famed Flying Fortress of World War II, is undergoing complete restoration at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force in Dayton.

... Restoration of the aircraft -- named for the pilot's wartime girlfriend in Memphis -- started in late 2005. When that work is finished in 2014, the aircraft will be displayed in the museum's World War II Gallery.

Visitors can view the restoration in the museum's Behind the Scenes Tours offered on Fridays. For details, visit the museum web site at www.nationalmuseum.af.mil, or call 937-255-4652.

For more details, here is a recent report from the Air Force museum:

Both wings were mated and the landing gear was extended on the Memphis Belle, a Boeing B-17F Flying Fortress that in May 1943 became the first U.S. Army Air Forces heavy bomber to complete 25 missions over Europe and return to the United States.

"The museum's restoration crews have been working long and hard to see that the Memphis Belle is restored to its rightful position as a national icon," said Roger Deere, chief of the Restoration Division. "With these major milestones, the public is that much closer to seeing the aircraft on display once again."

Impressions of Memphis, Oxford from National Review's Jay Nordlinger

 
In his Impromptus column at National Review Online, conservative commentator Jay Nordlinger has some reflections on the Mid-South after he traveled to Oxford, Miss., for a wedding. Having flown to Oxford previously on a private flight, he discovered this time that there's not much of a commercial airport scene in the picturesque university town. So, as he puts it, "'it's Memphis for you, buddy.'" ("We have a great airport," Jay.)

Surely one of the best things about the Memphis airport is the smell of barbecue. I'm later told that the joints in the airport are lousy. That they are pale imitations of their counterparts in town. I'll test one of those airport joints on my return.

Across from the rental-car agency is the Catfish Cabin. "From 11 to 4, you can't get a place in the parking lot," someone says. "It's completely full."

In the rental-car agency, I hear one of my favorite terms: "ink pen," with the second word pronounced "pin."

Once he gets to Oxford, Nordlinger enjoys his dinner at City Grocery, notices that a lot of attractive young women attend the University of Mississippi, and gets a kick out of how people around here pronounce "Lafayette."

Photo essay of Beale Street patrons' shoes from Third Coast Digest

 
Milwaukee arts-and-culture site Third Coast Digest has a photo essay by fashionista Val Moody of Beale Street revelers, or, more precisely, their shoes. The pictures look good, and they capture the Beale Street vibe pretty well. 

My husband and I are both avid music lovers and so last month, we took a short vacation to Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee. The combination of live Blues music filling the air, great food, warm weather, and the best people watching on the planet was FAB-U-LOUS!

With the promise of purchasing a few drinks throughout the night, we were able to lay claim to a tiny sidewalk table right on Beale Street. Innocent observations of footwear fashion turned into a spur-of-the-moment photo essay. Not only is it fun to see what people are wearing but also to imagine what these people look like, where they came from, and where they're going.


Onion AV Club tours Sun Studio in Memphis

 
The Onion AV Club's "Pop Pilgrims" travel show stopped in Memphis for a peek inside Sun Studio. Tour guide Cora Pitt shows host Dan Telfer such notable sights as the Shure microphone used by Elvis ("We let people lick and kiss the thing if they really want to," she says), a piano key with a burn mark left by Jerry Lee Lewis' cigar, and the drumset used by U2's Larry Mullen in 1987 for the band's "Rattle and Hum" sessions. Goner Records founder Eric Friedl also appears to talk about his favorite Sun tracks.
From UK tabloid The Mirror comes a remarkable story of a Welshwoman's survival and devotion to Elvis. Adeline Bevan, a 56-year-old mother of two, visited Graceland three years ago with her husband and was struck by a truck in front of the mansion.

She spent 31 days in a coma suffering massive head injuries, a ruptured spleen, a punctured lung, broken ribs, a displaced eye socket and shoulder and knee damage.

Incredibly she pulled through and is back home. Adeline said: "It's a miracle I survived." She was brought back from the brink of death several times during 14 operations at the Elvis Presley Trauma Centre in Memphis and was given just a 20% chance of survival.

With her massive injuries, Bevan had no memory of her Graceland visit (probably a good thing), so she and her husband recently returned to Memphis, this time bearing a 4,000-pound (about $6,500) donation for The Med.

UPDATE: The Med Foundation's website has more details on this story.
Last weekend's visit to Memphis by the casts of the Nickelodeon TV series "Victorious" and "iCarly" happened to coincide with "iCarly" star Miranda Cosgrove's 18th birthday, E! Online reports today. Recall that the young actors were in town along with the shows' creator, native Memphian Dan Schneider, to appear at the "Stars for the Kids" benefit for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

The celebration got started on Friday night and included a Saturday visit to Graceland, E! reports (with photos):

According to Cosgrove's Twitter, there was a pillow fight in her hotel room as well as a hallway singalong of "Happy Birthday" in her honor.

... The event afterparty turned into a birthday celebration for Cosgrove with a colorful six-tier cake from local bakery The Flour Garden along with sushi-shaped minicakes. "Was serenaded by an Elvis impersonator at the after party," she tweeted.


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Deputy Online News Editor Mark Richens takes you through all the news about Memphis from sources outside the Mid-South.