A quest to make sense of it all. Or a sense to make a quest of it all.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Kitsch and Loafing in East Memphis. Also an ode to engineering.

Saturday morning, the beau and I headed westward to Memphis, with the intention of checking out the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception (the same one I passed a million times when Lindsey still lived at the Mayflower). There were no solid plans for the rest of the day, no pressing task at home to tend to. So, we loafed. The Cathedral was really something. Very pretty, very big. I didn't take any pictures, because I figured it would feel kinda tacky taking pictures inside a church, especially when people are sitting there praying. We took our time, said our prayers, met a nice priest. There was some sort of function going on for the Latino parishioners in another part of the building, and the sanctuary intermittently rumbled with the bass and voices associated with a vigorous bilingual worship service. Cool. No reason a church can't feel like it's backed up to a nightclub from time to time. Which leads us to....

.... Disco Jesus.

He's watching you. And He wants to put on His, His, His, His, His boogie shoes.

That picture isn't from the Cathedral. No, that would be from Crystal Shrine Grotto, which is where we went next. It's this gaudy, sparkly, hand-dug cave using sculpture and paintings to depict scenes from the bible. I love that we went here. It's pure Memphis kitsch, with its odd blend of muddled Christianity, humor, cheap materials, and a little magic.

We dined at India Palace (hataz keep drinkin that Hatarade!) and decided to go downtown. He had never seen the Peabody ducks being herded, so we tried to make it to the Peabody in time for that. We missed it by about five minutes, so we wandered around the lobby and gift shops, wondering why anyone would be okay with paying an extra hundred dollars for a pair of shoes just because they're in a fancy hotel lobby. (And this is the Peabody. Not The Plaza. I don't think the level of fanciness in this case really justifies excess for the sake of excess. BUT...) I then fell victim to overpriced charm myself, and bought a new coffee mug. Justification: I recently broke my favorite mug in the whole world. It was from Duke's Griddle'n Grill in Ventura, and its abscence in my life is keenly felt every day as I sip from a lesser cup. My new cup falls just a little short of its predecessor's glory, but it's better than most. We went up to the roof and took some pictures and indulged in some brief canoodling, because you just can't not canoodle a little when you're up there in the late afternoon sun and the weather is almost perfect, with just a little chill to it. Plus, there were ducks. Ducks who live in a clean little enclosure and hang out inside a little replica of the hotel.

From up high, Memphis doesn't look quite so broke and crimey. We stayed up there until we got ran out by a flock of red-shirted tourists. Adventurously (and probably stupidly), we ducked through alleys and found shortcuts to nowhere, since we weren't trying to get anywhere. Where we ended up was ambling along the riverbank, with the sun setting and the din from Beale growing. We found a nice bench to park ourselves on, and sat there for a long time. I took pictures of the fading orangey pink glow beyond the Memphis-Arkansas Bridge and listened to him think aloud about the process of diverting the Wolf River and how it might be done differently now. Engineer rambling is the best rambling.

There's a reason I'm drawn to dudes of this profession, ya'll. They're artistic without knowing it, or without considering the way they think to be artistic. But what else do you call a way of thinking in which you constantly look at something and see not just what's physically there to see, but how it got there and what can be done with it? This is second nature to artsy types, and completely foreign to the millions of other people, who see things just as they are and accept them at face value without giving them a second thought. That building just is, that bridge just is, this road just is. Most people only become aware of structures and their congruence with the topography when there's work being done, and even then, only as a matter of personal inconvenience. I mean, have you ever really thought about how you would build a major bridge if someone told you that you had to do it? They don't just grow out of the ground like giant steel potatoes. They have to be designed and planned, and done so with enough confidence in accuracy and reliance on math and the laws of physics to be reasonably sure that this thing that sounds ludicrous will actually work. Once you get past the incredible part of designing it, you get to the equally incredible part of physically building the thing. This extends to everything in our lives that's factory made, every mode of transportation without hooves, every tall building that doesn't collapse in a stiff breeze. The items that are so common and standard for us now and which are produced in factories using workers who are either unskilled or low-skilled...even the mechanisms of production for those things are constantly being tweaked, and those tweaks mean that some engineer is scratching his head somewhere and drawing diagrams and mumbling formulas, to make this work on paper first and be confident enough to risk hundreds of thousands of dollars of comapany money in implementing it. Consider it the next time you notice "Now With 30% More!" on a shampoo bottle.

Whoa. Got lost there for a minute. Anyway, the point is, Memphis is a cool town and it's made that much cooler with good company.

This photo is not from this past weekend, but a couple weekends before, when we heard there would be live wrestling wrasslin' in Selmer. How could anyone possibly pass that up??

The rubber chicken is apparently a big thing. You hold it up in the air and honk it when one of the wrestlers does something cowardly. Tamara suggested that this practice be extended to every sport/discipline, and I tend to agree. Or if you could just honk it when someone near you becomes unbearably lame. Honk, honk, honk.

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