June 28th, 2006

little review

Poem for Wednesday

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Early Tuesday morning we drove from Kentucky over the line into Tennessee, a state I had never visited before. I wasn't expecting it to be so lush with forests, somehow, nor so hilly -- we passed the Nashville skyline on the way to Memphis and it was beautiful. We stopped for lunch at a rest stop dedicated to Patsy Cline on the Country Music Highway and arrived in the city in the early afternoon. We took the monorail over to Mud Island; younger son had his doubts about this at first, citing his fear of heights, but he ended up enjoying it a lot once apaulled did not contradict older son's declaration that the monorail car probably had a parachute in case of emergency (the monorail is less than 30 years old and has never had an emergency) and we got an interesting partial-aerial view of the city and the river.

Mud Island has a Mississippi River Museum which is fantastic: not only does it have the expected artifacts and historical displays about how the Native Americans, Spanish, French and English used the river, plus a history of slave life and a long section on the Civil War with recreations of both a Union battleship and a Confederate battery complete with cannons, but it has a partial recreation of a steamboat complete with music parlor, dock ramps and steering cabin and an exhibit on the history of music from early field work songs and spirituals through the blues to Elvis. Outside is a scale model of the Mississippi River from its source in Minnesota through all the states and major cities it traverses, leading to a big pool with ducks representing the Gulf of Mexico. The model fills with rainwater like the actual river, so it reflects at least the local flood points; water rises when it's very wet and subsides when it's drier. There were people walking barefoot in the water (older son managed to step in wearing sneakers) and many red-winged blackbirds ducking in for a quick bath.

Late in the afternoon we took a riverboat ride between the bridges that mark the boundaries of Memphis (and technically were in Arkansas waters at one point, so I have now been in that state too!) The tour guide was very knowledgeable about local history, particularly Native American and African-American history, and since I know next to nothing about Memphis proper -- I certainly did not know about the nightmare of the sinking of the riverboat Sultana, which killed 1500 people, nor the 1878 yellow fever epidemic and the African-Americans who figured out that the mosquito infestation in the sewage system and not the wrath of God was killing people. We are probably not going to have time to visit Elmwood Cemetery or the Chucalissa Archaeological Site, so it was nice to get this overview.

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We had dinner at the home of The Artist Formerly Known As Captain Kate -- some of you know whom I mean, she did the covers for several issues of Now Voyager back in the day and bears a passing resemblance to a certain Star Trek captain. I had never met her in the flesh despite having known her for nearly nine years! She lives in a house on a lake with her husband who was regrettably out of town, two dogs and her nine-month-old son who was probably scarred for life by exposure to my children, but it was so great to get to meet her after all this time! We arrived very late at our hotel and promptly had a flood in our room because the people upstairs didn't use their shower curtain properly -- the hotel is completely full, no chance of moving -- but the kids got to swim, which is all they cared about!