In Search of Elvis Etcetera: Day 3
Sunday, August 19, 2012
Birmingham, AL to Memphis TN
There is no better place to spend Sunday morning than in Joe Minter’s African Village in America, especially if Joe is around to offer some spiritual perspective about the sacred ground he calls “a church of the heart.”
Joe has been building his African Village art park in the yard around his house since 1989, using found objects to create shrines, totems, sculptures and plaques to tell stories of the African-American experience, and to share messages from the Bible and from his personal relationship with God. His yard is tucked between two African American cemeteries, and the spirits of over 100,000 Africans around him make this sacred ground.
Our next stop is Sloss Furnaces, a now defunct iron foundry which has gained national historic site status. We get there hours before it officially opens to the public, but the gates are open to allow vendors from a big event the day before to pull up stakes and get their RVs off the grounds. We take advantage of the situation, and wander around the deserted plant taking pictures of the beautifully rusting old machinery.
The morning is almost behind us by the time we set off for Memphis. We are eager to get there, but we have one more stop--our first official Elvis pilgrimage of the trip.
This is the perfect lead-in to our visit to Memphis, where a visit to Graceland is the keynote activity on tomorrow’s agenda.
We get to Memphis late in the afternoon. Our hotel, the Memphis Westin, is perfectly located around the corner from Beale Street, the lively entertainment district of Memphis. We stroll up and down the street, savoring the live music coming from every the courtyard and open doorway. The street is closed to traffic, and there are people dancing in the street, an artist is gathering an audience watching him do a portrait, a park is full of vendors. The music is too loud inside anywhere we pass, but we find a rooftop restaurant, where we can enjoy the sound of music wafting up to us from below, and watch the action on Beale Street as the sun goes down and the neon lights brighten up. The beer and barbecue are nothing special, but the atmosphere more than makes up for the food.
That charming little quirky exchange was the perfect ending for a wonderfully eclectic day.