My son Bill helped me manage a cookout on Memorial Day so I could have some fellowship with friends and family and bribe them with food to come to me. Some people brought their kids and Bill entertained them upstairs with Dance Dance Revolution on Dad's big drug-dealer television set. I complimented my dad's step-granddaughter's V-cut haircut. She told me her friend had cancer so she donated her hair to St. Jude Children's Hospital and some kid with cancer's wearing her hair.
My son Bill and dad's step-granddaughter Vanessa are playing Marvel Nemesis, a video game where Marvel Comics characters fight hand-to-hand and use superhero weapons and throw things at one another. Both of them are playing The Thing, but instead of fighting, they're playing catch with a delivery truck. So many people complain that kids will hold a stick as a toy handgun, but sometimes they turn violence into a game of catch.
My cousin Kelly tells me about TardBlog and how it encouraged her to study school psychology. Interesting stuff about how they're trying to balance the standards of learning with what teachers have found to be useful for kids to know. She tells me her mom, Cousin Oneata, has some poems out. I had no idea she wrote.
Ever since I moved away from Memphis, Dad's started my visit with a tour of Memphis ghettos. This time I put my foot down and insisted on driving. That way I maintain an illusion of control. We visit the priest at St. Patrick's, my childhood church. Imagine a Catholic Church run by the Blues Brothers. We go to lunch at Gus's Chicken, famous thanks to Food Network.
A lot has changed. Prince Mongo's is now a Curves. The Pyramid Arena's going to be a gigantic Bass Pro Shops outlet. Developers have reclaimed a peninsula off the downtown area and turned it into Harbor Town, a suburb straight out of The Truman Show. My old suburban neighborhood shopping mall's closed except for the cinema and Sears. Money's been flowing into Memphis for a few years now, but you can't keep the ghetto down. No more boarded-up storefronts. Now the junkies troll in front of a shopping mall. We're constantly harassed by panhandlers.
Panhandler: "Excuse me-"
Basil: "Lemme guess. You're embarrassed to ask me this and you've never asked anyone before, but you need some money 'cause you're just tryin' to get somewhere."
Panhandler: "No. No. No. No."
They know they scare people. They don't care. They need money. I need to be left alone. Everyone I know who was homeless told me that handouts kept them on the street longer.
We go to the Peanut Shop. Dad took me there when I was a kid for Boston Fruit Wedges, but I forgot about it until they were featured on Food Network. I took Bill there and get some for myself. He gets Brazil nuts and cashews. Much better taste than me. The owner tells me he's flooded with people every time the Food Network runs the Peanut Shop episode.
A. Schwab's is like a dollar store without the upscale pretention. Stuff stays on the shelves for ten years when it graduates to the museum upstairs. The museum has an old Cole's Blue Book with a listing for my grandfather Basil White's monument and sandblasting companies. On the way home we get trapped in a blinding rain from nowhere, a classic 20-minute Memphis monsoon. Now we're watching The Mission, the 1986 film. De Niro, Jeremy Irons, Aidan Quinn, Liam Neeson. Even better than I remember.