Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Soul Burgers, Juke Joint and Ghosts
One of my favorite fun haunts is a stone's throw from the Mississippi River in Memphis. After some of the swankiest parties and hottest tickets in town, if you moize on down to Ernestine and Hazel's joint, chances are you'll be at the after party, celebrities and tourist alike. Oh Lordy, you haven't lived until you've downed one of their juicy Soul Burgers in the wee hours of the morning. Sure there's a secret recipe, it's cooked on a grill that is flavored with enough years to garner it retirement. And some say this legendary bar serves up two kinds of spirits. Some from a bottle, and some from beyond!
A noisy brothel once thrived upstairs and a couple of barflies have apparently turned out to be ghosts. It's just a turn of the century pharmacy turned bar where the doors swing open at five but the real action doesn't heat up until midnight. Watch as Soul Burgers are cooked to order behind the bar. Won't you have one more beer and think about all those who have been within these four walls over time. Honky tonk angels and society mavens alike are belly up to the bar side by side. Rendezvous ended, hearts mended, songs written - God only knows! It can happen at Ernestine and Hazel's.
The jukebox churns that Memphis sound and beckons you to the dance floor. Those in the know venture upstairs into various rooms bathed in dim blue suede light and furnished with retro vinyl sofas and rummage sale tables. Don't let your mind wander to what took place here, just listen to the piano music drifting down the hall. Ray Charles hung out here in the 50's - could it be what gave Elvis, Isaac Hayes, Al Green and Justin their Memphis groove?
Keep poking around and in a room lit by the bar's neon sign outside the window you'll find Nate, the bartender who's just...well...waiting for you, who cares the time. He's been around since the Roaring Twenties and doesn't have any plans for moving on. If you want to talk, he'll listen, if not, chances are he's heard it before. Drink up, drown your sorrows, muster up the nerve for what faces you tomorrow, or just sit there. Either way, Nate's there but if you dare to engage this genteel old soul in conversation, listen closely and don't miss a thing. No one knows it or can tell it like he does about souls in this world and beyond.
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