I was in this bar yesterday afternoon. Just me and another chance-met conference attendee killing a few hours on Beale street before getting a cab to the airport. Wanting to make the most of visiting a strange city, I asked the bartender what locally brewed beer they had. He simply shook his head–there wasn’t any locally brewed beer. So I had a big national brand. I don’t even remember what it was (except that I was given the choice between regular and “big ass” size).
How could a major metropolitan area, an old city with a rich history and culture–not to mention a 24/7 party zone like Beale street–not have any beer of its own? I pondered this sadly while drinking my big ass beer and listening to Albert King’s grandson (supposedly) sing the blues.
Speaking of rock legends, guess who I ran into on Beale street last night?
Robert. Fucking. Plant.
I fully understand that there are people to whom this means very little. To those stodgy, non-hip people I say: it must have been a long time since you rock & rolled, okay? Okay.*
So anyway, Robert Plant was chillin’ in this blues bar and then just walked out into the street where I was hanging around (like a complete tool, cameras at the ready).
I did not have an opportunity to shake his hand or introduce myself or anything like that. I got within five feet of the man, took his picture, and cleared off when he and his entourage indicated that they had had enough street photography.
I’d had a bit to drink, truth be told, so when I got back to the hotel I had to examine the photos, just to be sure. Yes, it’s really him.
(*Yes, I appreciate the irony of my attitude here in light of what I just had to say about Elvis.)
So I’m in Memphis at a technology conference. There are many positive things I could write about the ideas being presented, and the intensity of being around so many of my colleagues. But I rarely blog about work, so for now at least I’ll refrain. I will say one thing though: why is internet connectivity–even at technology conferences–such a struggle?
Let’s start with the hotel. Is there WiFi in the rooms? Nope. Not in the lobby or “business lounge” areas, either. Not for any price. There is, however, a network jack in my room which I may use for $12 per day. And what choice do I have? I’m in technology, I have to have it. Adding insult to injury, the network cable provided is approximately 4 inches long.
During the day, I’m across the street in the convention center. WiFi was to be provided for all attendees. Upon registration at the conference we got sheets of paper explaining how to recognize the access points and what names and passwords we would need to log into them. Problem is, the WiFi network was overwhelmed by 7 am on the first day and has only worked sporadically ever since.
Why is this such a continual problem? Can 500 people not show up at a large hotel and conference center and expect internet connectivity? A king’s ransom awaits the clever individuals who develop a service whereby they roll up in a truck and provide working WiFi to any place where large numbers of nerds gather.
I went to Graceland and I enjoyed it. Really. I took some pictures, and there are some that I don’t hate, so that’s something, right? Right. At least now I can say I’ve been there.
But you know what? The entire thing–the house, the grounds, the shops across the street–the whole thing was just one giant monument to 1970s tastelessness. This, however, is not the kind of thing one wants to say out loud while on tour. The person next to you might be having a perfectly transcendent experience fulfilling their lifelong dream to visit the King.
But tacky and tasteless is really what it is. From the jungle room to the family plot in the back yard.
What’s so special about Elvis anyway? Maybe it was just that he was the first white guy to play it. Maybe Elvis was a talented man who rode a cultural tidal wave not entirely of his own making, a wave of pent up 1950s repression that white American youth began to break out of when they saw his swaying hips on the Ed Sullivan Show.
Note: Everything I just wrote is likely wrong, as I’m no expert on the history of rock & roll.