Downtown Memphis is a half and half kind of place. Actually, three quarters and a quarter is more accurate. The majority of buildings is run down and ramshackle, while a select few are all slicked up for the tourists. A sign outside the Flying Fish instructs passers by to “Get Your Tails in Here” for Wednesday’s All You Can Eat Catfish special. Due to dietary inconveniences, I can eat approximately no battered catfish, so this doesn’t rate as much of a special for me. I opt to move on and head in next door to Automatic Slim’s Tonga Club. “Soul Man” plays as I peer above the menu and survey the scenery. Around me tables are filled with groups of people in business attire. Towering platters of onion fritters provide tasty table centrepieces. It seems like any other city at lunchtime. Well, it does until I start eavesdropping on the conversation at the next table. One of the two soberly suited men has just uttered the arresting words,
“Ah shoot ‘em. Ah hunt an’ kill ‘em.”
His companion chimes in with matching zeal,
“I go out there and I just want to kill things. Last weekend I shot two double doubles.”
I pause, onion fritter halfway to my mouth.
The first hotshot is now talking about having moved away from Memphis once for a few months.
“I wouldn’t want to live there.”
“Where?” asks the other guy.
“Anywhere that’s not Memphis!” exclaims his companion. “Why live anywhere that you couldn’t drive half an hour to go duck hunting?”
I move a lot and have got pretty practiced at weighing up a city’s merits. I hadn’t considered adding duck hunting to my equations. It’s possibly where I’ve been going wrong.
Guy number two grunts his agreement and they both go back to cramming onion rings into their mouths.