Part 1: I arrive at La Guardia Airport and wait at the security checkpoint. An older woman who has clearly had "some work" done arrives and demands to be taken to the front of the line. She carries about 18 Louis Vuitton sacks and satchels and wears a conspicuous diamond-crusted bracelet. The man behind me shouts "Well, aren't we special!" When I board the plane, there she is in First Class. Gosh, I think, people can still afford First Class! Things aren't so bad!
Part 2: I arrive at my hotel in Memphis, The Crowne Plaza. As I'm checking in, the man behind the desk excuses himself and disappears for about 10 minutes. "This hotel is just as lousy as they say!" I fumed. Back he came, only to announce that the hotel had no room for me as was overbooked. But! They would put me up at another hotel downtown for free, shuttle me there, and buy me a cocktail or two to make up for it. Things were looking up! I enjoyed some wine at the bar and then the manager of the hotel drove me to my new destination.
Part 3: I ventured out from my new hotel, The Holiday Inn Select, and headed down toward Beale Street to get some food. On the way, an aggressively friendly gentleman leapt out and inquired as to my business there. "Why, just looking around," I said. "You going to Beale Street?" he asked. "Sure," said I. "This way!" said the gentleman, and made a quick left down a dark and abandoned street that was in no way the direction of the famous Beale. Dark and abandoned street? Strange town? I sure wanted to follow him! But, a police officer hove up and chased the fellow off, with many rude words.
Part 4: I sat down to dinner at the Blues City Cafe. Fantastic! They served something called Texas Toast, which is like toast, but made with lard instead of wheat. It's really good dipped in garlic butter. I also had some gumbo. I read my book while I ate, until the guy at the next table yelled out "Whatcha reading? Good book?" I normally think such questions are deeply criminal--who wants to be disturbed while they read? But he was so friendly my annoyance fled. And then he and his wife talked to me for the entire course of the meal. Welcome to Memphis!
Part 5: The next day, I visited the St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Absolutely amazing place. Give them all your money now. The hospital was founded by the entertainer/comedian Danny Thomas after he made it big. While we were on a tour through the place, I spotted a familiar-looking "worked-upon" face. "Hey, that woman was on the plane with me," I said. "She's the one who cut the line!" Our tour guide didn't miss a beat. "That's Marlo Thomas," she said. That Girl! Free to Be You and Me!