Hello, Tar Heels. Hey there, Sooners. Howdy, Zagnuts. And welcome, Orange people. We, the people of Memphis, are most happy to have you around this weekend. We hope you enjoy our fair city — not to mention our restaurants, hotels, bars, attractions, and gaming facilities. In fact, we'd like you to party like it's 1999. We don't need no steenkin' recession.
Here are a few things you should know: We have two mayors — one for the city and one for the county — but the most powerful man in town right now is John Calipari. You see, Memphis is actually the world's largest college town, and your teams will be playing in FedExForum — the Tigers' house — so treat it with respect. Whoever survives this weekend may have a date with our guys in the title game.
That big pointy building down by the river? It's, um, empty. It used to be the Tigers' house — the "Tomb of Doom" it was called. Now, it's more like the "Tomb of Gloom." Think of it as local government's biggest airball.
Here's another hint: While you're downtown, you might see somebody waving you into a parking space, as if they owned it. They don't. Just put money in the meter and walk away. Memphis has a lot of downtown entrepreneurs whose only product is chutzpah.
Do enjoy the Bluff Walk, at sunset or sunrise is best. Don't miss the National Civil Rights Museum. It is a life-changing experience. Do eat some barbecue. (It is against the law to spend more than two days in Memphis without eating barbecue.) If you must eat health food, I recommend Gus's Fried Chicken on Front Street. It's also life-changing.
Beale Street is your friend. Located right next to FedExForum, it offers lots of great joints where you can bond with fellow fans — not to mention smack-talking opponents' fans, celebrating that big victory, or drowning your sorrows after the ref cheated your team out of a shot at glory. Take a horse-drawn carriage back to your hotel for a truly surreal experience. Oh, and if somebody on the street sold you this paper — well, sorry. They don't call it the Bluff City for nothing.
Exactly seven years ago this week, I wrote a column decrying a proposal by city engineers to turn the Overton Park Greensward into an 18-foot-deep "detention basin" designed to stop flooding in Midtown. The engineers claimed we'd hardly notice the football-field-sized bowl. "Except," I wrote then, "when it rains hard, at which time, users of Overton Park would probably notice a large, 18-foot-deep lake in the Greensward. Or afterward, a large, muddy, trash-filled depression."