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Tennesseeing is Believing

USA | Thursday, 20 January 2011 | Views [337]

Hey coolest people

Hope all the Aussies are doing well, and welcome to the new American friends I have made - you are joining literally a legion of loyal readers of the Star-Spangled Blogger. At this point I should clarify that in Australia "legion" means my family and a couple of my bored and easily-distracted friends who are trying to kill a few minutes at work.

So after we successfully navigated our way out of Chicago we made tracks to the American version of the Great Southern Land - otherwise known as Memphis, Tennessee. It was a hefty nine-hour drive, and we were more than a little excited to finally get out of the car and greet our generous and unsuspecting host Diana. We were ready to really start embracing the true American culture. As we sat down to Chinese dinner that night at the Panda Buffet I decided that the true American culture would probably be waiting at least one more night. I also decided that my hopes to see a real-life Panda in the restaurant were soon to be quashed.

Our first day in Memphis had us spending it in true American style by doing virtually nothing, and we followed this up with the most Southern activity we could think of; we went to church. Now don't stop reading, it's not as dire as you think - our US host had a choir rehearsal that was taking place in a church. Now again, don't stop reading - we thought it only polie to attend. As we stepped over the threshold the first hurdle was achieved - the church SWAT team did not ascend on us. As I tried desperately to rack my brain to recount the Hail Mary I found myself coming up empty. I had to go to plan B: pulling out my St Christopher's medal with the hope I might be able to blend in. As we left an hour or so later I felt like an underage kid who had successfully made it out of the club at the end of the night with his now foolproof fake ID.

Our next major stopoff in Memphis seemed fairly obvious, and seriously, who amongst you could turn down the claim of "America's Number One Zoo"? Neither could we. As we proudly entered the domain of what must have been a plethora of the world's most amazing creatures we pondered why the establishment was ensconced in cheap-looking and confusing Egyptian paraphernalia. We were soon to find out the zoo's claim may have been a tad melodramatic. Maybe it was the time of day, maybe it was that there was still snow on the ground, but the zoo was, how shall I put it, scarce to say the least. Our first stop off was Cat Country, where I was given the impression we were going to either see some cats, or see some countries. After several empty enclosures we found a Puma and a Snow Leopard who were lazing about with a look of "You really paid money for this?" that they threw at us before going back to sleep. More invisible animals later, as well as fish and then some bears who were beating the crap out of each other, we left the zoo noting down the management's email to send them a querying message about their "number one" slogan.

Over the next few days we decided to take inspiration from the Memphis zoo's animal population and hibernate. The extensive driving on the wrong side of the road had finally taken its toll. Over the following days we took in Beale Street, where I did my best to look as affected by the blues as possible. Taking in as much music history as possible we also went and visited Graceland, and I am sure Elvis would forgive me for accidentally driving on his driveway; the security guard eventually seemed to.

The rest of the time in Memphis has been about soaking up the real American way of life. We shopped at a Wal-Mart, got lost in a Wal-Mart, and thanked Australia for not having Wal-Marts. One night consisted of several games of ten-pin bowling - an ability I am thankful the Wii has kept me mildly skilled in; at least enough to blend in to the sea of scary "league" bowlers who surrounded us. We also took in our first Casino experience - my attempts to look like a card shark went unsuccessful in this venture.

We have also been really fortunate to meet some lovely people here in Memphis. Diana has been a fantastic host, and has been at work probably just enough so that my snickering at her use of "y'all" didn't get annoying. Special mention also to Mario ("got yo' back, bro'!"), our waitress friend Lauren from Fox and Hound (which became our local for the time we have been here), as well as Rachel and Michael. We're also looking forward to meeting more great people at the official combined-birthday party for Diana and myself on Friday (the two we have already had just didn't quite seem like enough).

But I have to close this one with the three highlights of Memphis.

Number 1: The Outback Steakhouse. Yes, this was the Americans' take on an Australian restaurant. Unfortunately the reference to a Koala "Bear", the use of "Shrimp on the Barbie", and the convict-themed portraits that adorned the walls put this into the fail category. The only thing that could have saved the establishment was if the '89 Grand Final between the Raiders and Tigers had been on the big screen. It wasn't.

Number 2: The American flags that are EVERYWHERE! Normally I would refrain from using capitals so haphazardly, but this situation calls for it to explain the gravity of the situation. Every time I turned around I saw those stars and stripes staring me in the face, and not just in a regular-sized flag, but a huge flag that had me wondering how the pole was keeping it upright. I just wanted to say to the Americans "It's ok. You got us. We're already here." Either that or maybe they just really easily forgot where they are.

Number 3: Drive-Thru ATMs. Just take a moment to process this. I know I did. Drive-Thru ATMs. This is as it sounds; driving up to an ATM as if it were a petrol bowser and using an ATM from inside your car. The stupidity of this as I imagined it came to fruition as we went through one day with our host and watched the lady in front of us practically fall out of the car. I just wonder how much extra car insurance is to include the "lazy policy". I guess the drive-thru doctors will take care of everything.

So that's nearly it. A couple more nights in Memphis and then we hit the road again. Thanks to everyone here, and just so you don't take any offence Memphisians, it's ok, I am just as cynical about my own country as well.

I do miss it though.

Blog again soon everybody.

Much love. Nick, xoxo

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