News » Cover Feature

Summer Issue '05

Yes, friends, it's time again for the Flyer's annual Summer Issue. This year, it's all about the who, what, when, where, and why of Cool.



"But why a Summer Issue?" I hear you ask. "In fact," I hear you sneer, "given Memphis' sizzling summer weather, isn't that a bit like a cotton farmer celebrating the arrival of boll weevils? Or Panama City having an annual shark festival? Or Nashville sponsoring a Holier-Than-Thou parade?"

Good questions all. But the fact is, we don't really know why we celebrate summer here in Flyer-land. The custom's origins are lost in the sweaty mists of time. No doubt, at one point, some advertising hotshot thought we could make large money by convincing advertisers to plunge into summer with a big ad buy. It still works, but mostly because advertisers have learned that the issue usually turns out to be fun, and our readers like it -- therefore, it's a good deal for them as well.

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

At any rate, for one week, we turn away from covering scandals and railing at Fox News and spanking Dick Cheney and just have a good time celebrating the joys of summer. And, unlike any other medium you will encounter in the next few days, this week's Flyer is absolutely guaranteed to be Michael Jackson free.

There's nothing cooler than that.

-- Bruce VanWyngarden

Cool Contents

Be Cool by Chris DavisKeeping Cool by Janel DavisPolitical Cool by Jackson Baker
Cool Shakes by Mary Cashiola Cool Street by Bianca Phillips Cool House by John Branston
The Merrymobile by Michael FingerCool Reads by Leonard GillCool Fighter by Frank Murtaugh
Cool Vacation by Bruce VanWyngardenCool Concerts by Chris Herrington

Keeping Cool!

10 Ways To Keep Cool Without an Air-conditioner

by Janel Davis

Two years ago a certain Flyer reporter moved into a house, theoretically well on her way to achieving a portion of the American Dream. Unfortunately, no one told Hurricane Elvis, and one morning, it became a nightmare.

I didn't have to deal with downed trees or any physical destruction, but I was faced with something far worse: no air-conditioning! While I waited at the bottom of a service list to have my utilities reconnected, MLGW employees said they were busy with other things, like powering hospitals, rescuing old people, and getting water to babies. Sure, whatever ...

In the meantime, I contemplated all sorts of things: death by heat stroke being one. But I also wondered what people did before there were breathable fabrics and air-conditioners. At the end of the ordeal, I realized that going without coolness builds character. And there are other ways to beat the heat:

1. Speed, er, drive at a reasonable pace, on I-55
"You got a fast car/I want a ticket to anywhere/Maybe we make a deal/Maybe together we can get somewhere."
Tracy Chapman knew what she wanted in that song, "Fast Car." With speed and lowered windows and a little bit of interstate, your car can become your best friend.

2. Take the Riverfront trolley
You're likely to find the trolley car relatively empty. Take advantage of it and get a seat by a window. To feel the breeze off the river, take the 2.5-mile Riverside loop from South Main, through downtown and the Pinch District. You'll then round the corner for a bracing return trip at top speeds of about 8 miles per hour. The trolley drivers really like to get their cars moving on the backstretch.

3. Play in the fountains on Main Street Mall
There's real "coolness" in the Main Street Mall's man-made geysers. Strip down to your skivvies (like the day-care kids here) and go wet-and-wild concrete-style.
Actually, we're pretty sure there's a rule against grownups prancing around downtown in their unmentionables, but, hey, until you get caught, go for it.

4. Ride the Rebellion at Libertyland
The Rebellion takes passengers 92 feet into the air for a scenic view of the broiling Memphis landscape, then it plummets to earth, creating a terrifyingly cool blast of air. Libertyland entrance fee: $10; cost to enjoy all the rides, including the Rebellion: $15; keeping cool and having a heart attack at the same time: priceless.

5. Hang out in the frozen-foods section of the Midtown Schnucks
For high-quality cool air at a cheap rate, there's nothing better than a grocery store frozen-foods section. You can pose as a health-conscious shopper comparing fat grams in various brands of frozen dinners. Or bring your own name tag and act like a stock boy.

6. Stand on the roof of the Madison Hotel
This suggestion will only keep you cool if there's a breeze, but at 17 stories, the view is always cool.

7. Park under the trees and watch the planes
On late afternoons, grassy spaces along Airways Boulevard become parking lots, as people pull in to watch the planes come and go. The planes create a slight breeze in the trees. This is best done in late evening, as Memphis police have been forcing people to leave the area earlier in the day.

8. Coast a bicycle down Riverside Drive
Start at Georgia Avenue and head north. After a couple of turns of the pedals, gravity takes over and you're coasting all the way to Union Avenue with a cool wind in your face.

9. Take a dip in a city pool
Sure, you may have to wade through the weeds to get to the gate, but once you're inside one of the city's 17 pools, it's all worth it. Non-swimmers, take care; the city is still in the process of hiring lifeguards. Until then, it's every man/woman/child for themselves.

10. Read a book
Visit any local library. Kick back with a good book, preferably about a cool place.

Note: This story was written inside an air-conditioned office, directly under a cooling vent.

Cool Street

Summer Never Ends on Summer Avenue

by Bianca Phillips

When I moved to Memphis three years ago, Summer Avenue seemed a world away from my Midtown apartment. But one warm summer night, a friend and I set out to explore the wonders of Summer Avenue. We started at the Midtown end and drove until we were well past Bartlett. Then we got scared and turned around, but boy, did we see some cool stuff along the way -- a drive-in movie theater, a retro bowling alley, Putt-Putt, and lots of shopping.

Summer was the happenin' hangout for young guys and gals back in the 1950s. It was also home to the world's first Holiday Inn. These days, it's still the height of kitsch cool. You could spend a whole day stopping at strange little spots along the avenue. Here are a few to get you started:

1. Paris Adult (2432 Summer)
The PAT sells and rents porno movies -- gay, straight, and fetish. It also has a huge selection of dildos, sex toys, and nudie mags. The highlight is supposed to be the theater itself, but on my visit, I chickened out from going inside. I'd heard rumors of sticky seats.

2. Jun Lee (3425 Summer)
Ask any fashionable girl in Memphis where she got her dangly chandelier earrings or her hot-pink vinyl clutch purse, and she just might say Jun Lee. This import store has every accessory a girl could need, really -- really -- cheap. The catch: You have to spend at least $30. But $30 at Jun Lee buys a lot of stuff. I split the bill with two co-workers, and we walked out with at least three items each.

3. Thifting & Antiquing (all along the avenue)
If it's used clothing and knick-knacks you seek, Summer is the place to be. There's the Disabled American Veteran's Thrift Store, the Salvation Army, the Junior League of Memphis Thrift Store, Thrift Citi, and lots more spread up and down the street. But beware -- the clothing is almost always a little picked over. If it's antiques you're after, try Bojo's Antique Mall (the place with the giant red clock on top).

4. Malco's Summer Four Drive-in (5310 Summer)
As of 1999 (the latest stats I could find), Tennessee only had 14 drive-in movie theaters, down from a peak of 112 in 1958. So if you haven't been, go now. The 15-acre drive-in offers a true escape from the rest of the world. And where else can you catch a film in your pajamas and fall asleep on the hood of your car when the movie gets boring?

5. Skateland (5137 Old Summer)
"Quads" are back in a big way! And with $2 skating on Wednesday night, there's no cheaper, cooler way to spend the evening. It's a great workout, even if you do fall on your ass a couple of times. The kids will only laugh at you for a minute.

6. Leahy Trailer Park (3070 Summer)
I've come across a number of places in Memphis that just reek of John Waters-style white-trash chic, like the drag shows at J-Wag's. But if you really want to feel like you've stepped onto the set of one of the Sultan of Sleaze's classic works, take a quick drive through Leahy. On my most recent visit, I spotted a couple of women wearing daisy dukes and halters who, well, shouldn't have been. If Divine were still alive, she'd live at Leahy's.

7. Super 88 (4400 Summer)
Again with the cheap merchandise! But I'm talking dirt-cheap, like 88 cents. This place is massive, and they sell everything from food and cleaning supplies to knickknacks and kid's toys. I once bought the New Kids on the Block comeback album here for -- you guessed it -- 88 cents. Of course, that's probably all it was worth.

8. Imperial Lanes (4700 Summer)
This blast from the past offers bowling just like it used to be, before everything went electronic. Scores are recorded on paper, and the decor is as retro as a Midtown hipster. Caveat: They don't sell alcohol.

9. The Pancake Shop (4838 Summer)
Sure, Memphis has plenty of cheap 24/7 greasy spoons, but this one is different. Unlike at CK's or the Waffle House, the waitresses at the Pancake Shop care about you. Or at least they're damn good at pretending. And they do adorable things, like calling customers "Honey." If you go often enough, they may even remember your "usual."

These are just a smattering of ideas to get you started. As you drive along Summer, keep your eyes peeled, because treasures abound -- like Edo for super-cheap sushi, Animax (the anime store), the Peanut Shop, Pop Tunes, and the Fantasy Warehouse, to name a few. Happy Summering!

Cool Fighter

Andre Ward Aims To Stir Saturday Night's Fight Crowd

by Frank Murtaugh

What could be cooler than winning a gold medal WITH your fists?

There was a time when an Olympic championship meant a short road to superstardom for American boxers. Cassius Clay (1960), Joe Frazier ('64), George Foreman ('68), Sugar Ray Leonard ('76), Pernell Whitaker ('84), and Oscar De La Hoya ('92) all became ring legends shortly after hearing the Star Spangled Banner played as they stood atop an Olympic medal stand. How times have changed.

Over the last two Olympiads, only one American fighter -- San Francisco native Andre Ward -- has earned a gold medal. (Ward beat Magomed Aripgadjiev of Belarus for the light heavyweight title last year in Athens.) Ward will fight Saturday night on the undercard of the Glen Johnson-Antonio Tarver showdown at FedExForum in what he hopes is a springboard toward the kind of success his gold-tinted stateside predecessors enjoyed.

"You train for 10 years for something, and then it actually happens," reflects Ward. "I've said all along, the Lord empowered me to do what I did. Not just the fact that I won, but I felt God was with me the way that I won. I was very light. I had to literally eat the day of the weigh-in to make 171-172 [pounds]. And people were snickering; no one really believed I could do it. I liken my story to David and Goliath. I did it for myself, my family, and my country. I really felt I was destined to win gold."

Ward will enter the ring against Ben Aragon as a middleweight, having dropped a division since his Olympic performance. The Memphis bout will be only the fourth of Ward's professional career. He stopped super middleweight Christopher Molina on a second-round TKO last December, won a six-round decision over previously undefeated Kenny Kost in a February bout televised live on Fox's Best Damn Sports Show Period, then gained a victory over Roy Ashworth in April when Ashworth was disqualified for hitting on the break after being floored by Ward in the third round.

"A lot of people think I've scaled down [in weight]," says Ward, "but I was never comfortable at 178 pounds. I feel good. I'd love to [eventually] be a heavyweight. My father was 200 pounds, and he was a late bloomer. If I ever feel uncomfortable at this weight, my team will make a change."

The 21-year-old Ward is a second-generation fighter, his father Frank having won all 16 of his fights as a California amateur. Frank introduced his son to trainer Virgil Hunter before Andre's 10th birthday, and the Olympic champ continues to train out of Hunter's King's Gym in Oakland. "Andre showed up every day at 5 a.m.," says Hunter, "three hours before school, and trained harder than any of my teenage fighters. He was mature beyond his years even back then."

Ward's relationship with his trainer remains especially strong since Frank's sudden death in 2002 (at age 45, Frank suffered a massive heart attack). Only 17 at the time, Andre found himself with a budding career in the ring (he won the California Silver Gloves championship three consecutive years) but minus the inspiration that led him to don gloves in the first place.

"God took something away from me," concedes Ward. "I loved my father very much, but God loved him more, and it was time for him to come home. I've learned to accept that. But He also gave me something else, and that's Virgil. He's way more than a trainer. It's a struggle every day. I think about the stories [my father and I] used to share, and now I'm sort of living the dream by myself. But I believe he's with me in spirit and it was the Lord's will, so I have to accept that."

Middleweight boxers have performed over the last few years in the considerable shadow of Bernard Hopkins, ranked by Ring magazine as the top pound-for-pound fighter in the world. But Hopkins is 40 years old. And other big-name middleweights, like De La Hoya (32) and Felix Trinidad (32), are also on career downswings. Which gives Ward all the more reason to feel he was born at the right time, with a title belt in his future.

"I don't want to be like anybody else," stresses Ward. "I want to set my own legacy, and I'd love for kids to look to me one day and try to be like me. My work ethic is second to none. People ask me what's my favorite punch and I tell them, the one that hits you. I just have to learn how to settle down, to realize I have a lot more time [in pro fights] than I had in the amateurs. Patience is the key word."

As for staying cool in Memphis, with a June fight on his calendar? Ward has a two-word solution: ?Be yourself. That s cool.?

Be Cool!

Memphis Hipsters Contemplate the C-word

by Chris Davis

So you want to know what cool is? Maybe I can help. It was somewhere between the late bright and the early morning when I found myself beside myself, holding up the bar at the Two Way Inn on Cooper. Corey Branan (wearing a shirt, unlike in his famous Rolling Stone portrait) was hanging out, shooting pool, the breeze, and even the occasional beverage. E.J., a local music blogger known for getting ahold of the hottest recordings before anybody else knows they exist, held forth on his life as a performing artist who studied with playwright David Mamet and actor William H. Macy. A gruff but attractive young poet and writer of short stories leaned over and whispered in my ear. She was sauced.

"Why did the hipster cross the road," she asked slyly.

"Well I don't know," I answered. "Why did the hipster cross the road?" Surprise lifted one of the tough lady's eyebrows, and disdain lifted the other.

"Oh," she said with smug astonishment, "you haven't heard." Languidly she peeled herself off the bar and turned away, sucking conspicuously on a cigarette and laughing like a loon.

Whoa, I thought, as the punch line sunk in. This bird isn't cool, she's meta-cool, and that ought to be against the law.

Cool is magnificent and cruel. It's something everybody craves, but if everybody gets it, cool disappears. It's defensive and rebellious. To define cool is to lose cool. But this is Memphis, the great incubator of cool culture. This city spit out Elvis. It's the birthplace not only of cookie-cutter motels and televised wrestling but also of Harold von Braunhut, the guy who invented Sea Monkeys and X-ray Spex. This is where the Wolf howled, the Killer knocked 'em dead, and Black Moses parted traffic in his solid gold Cadillac. If Memphis hipsterati -- so spoiled, so famously unimpressed -- aren't cool enough to tell you who's cool, what's cool, and how to be cool, it can't be done

Al Kapone: Cool is what you are, unless, of course, you aren't

"Being yourself is cool," says rapper and producer Al Kapone. That's easy for him to say. He's the friggin' godfather of Memphis crunk. His work on the soundtrack for Hustle & Flow is picking up buzz. And when MTV comes to town to film Block Party: Memphis, they're dropping in on big Al. But what if "yourself" is uncool? Can that be fixed?

"You've got to be who you are, but you've also got to be current," Kapone elaborates. "You've got to be up-to-date. You can't be square. If you're square and you're being who you are, that's cool, I guess, but if you really want to be cool, you've got to be hip."

What's hip about Memphis hip-hop? According to Kapone, it's all about keeping a slow-to-medium tempo and pimpin'. "Love pimpin,'" he says. "That's when we're using [sounds from] people like Al Green or Bobby Womack. It's a Stax sound with wah-wah guitars and funky basslines."

While Kapone is cool with being cool, he's not sure it's all it's cracked up to be. "It's better to be hot than to be cool," he says. "Because if you're cool, you're all right, but if you're hot, you're the shit."

High Fidelity with Eric Friedl

Goner Records is both a shop on Young Avenue and a thriving online community. At you can find local hipsters talking about everything from music to MATA. In the shop, you might find a recording of Lou Rawls covering Donovan's "Season of the Witch" and Goner guru Eric Friedl getting jacked up on R. Kelly's five-part R&B opus "Hiding in the Closet."

Off the clock, Friedl plays guitar in the Dutch Masters. Back in the day, he was one third of the Oblivians. His cool bona fides are unquestionable.

"Cool is sporting your own style in the face of the everyday grind," he says.

Where can a person who suspects he or she isn't cool find some? On a Web site, in a club, browsing through a record store? Nah.

"Drive around South Memphis, North Memphis, and downtown with the windows down," Friedl suggests. "Cool will hit you right in the face. And don't forget to check out the river! The Mississippi will always set you straight."

The Goner Web site weighs in

Why ask one cool person what's cool when you can ask an entire community of cool? The forums at are peopled by Memphis hipsters who know where to find good tunes, fine art, and flava. Here's a list of cool things from participating Goners:

Cucumbers, Fonzie, the Vernons at the BBQ Shop, Boss Ugly Bob's, Wild Bill's, DeAngelo Williams, Antonio Burks, Juicy J, Tim Goodwin, that brother that played guitar for the Gamble Brothers for a few minutes in my livin' room, Impala, Dixie Queen, the Joint Chiefs, the Summer Avenue drive-in, Space Age Pimpin', the Secret Service, Tuesday Nights at the Hi-Tone, the Buccaneer, Goner Records, WEVL, an Angel Sluts show, Jack Stands, Cool Buds, Cool Breeze, and Cool Jerks.

Rachel Hurley: What comes after cool?

Blogger Rachel Hurley knows the Memphis scene inside and out. On her Web site, she chronicles her habitual excursions into Memphis nightlife, searching out the coolest sounds, the coolest bars, and the coolest crowds.

"Cool is pretty much society's rebellious need to stay tied with youth, which we do by showing how we relate to new things," she says. Hurley provides a vicarious fix for aging scenesters who just can't get out of the house like they used to. "Of course [cool] is subjective, and that's why it remains so elusive," she adds. "[Its] shelf life is so short in this day and age, it's lost most of its meaning. The real question is what comes after cool. It's a cycle that didn't seem to be around before American music -- jazz, rockabilly, hippies, disco, grunge ... hipsters."

Craig Brewer

What makes Craig Brewer cool? Three years ago, his first film, The Poor & Hungry, was the talk of the Hollywood Film Festival. On the night of the awards ceremony, he didn't have a buck to his name. In the nervous hours before his big win, he drove around L.A. stopping at topless clubs to ask if they sold "gift certificates." He wasn't interested in the floorshow; he needed to find someplace that would run his credit card and give him cash.

In January, Brewer's second film, Hustle & Flow, broke records at the Sundance Film Festival when it sold for $16 million.

Brewer didn't tell me what cool is. He showed me by flashing the kind of bling you can't wear around your neck. He buzzed his peeps in Tinseltown, and minutes later a photograph zipped its way through cyberspace, courtesy of some guy named Dino at Paramount. It was a picture of the Brewer leaning on Terrance Howard's junkyard Chevy from Hustle & Flow. The pieced-together hooptie may be three shades of ugly, but the sweet chrome rims are money.

Confessions of a cool photographer

"I'm a bit of a word freak," says Christian Patterson, a photographer and protÈgÈ of William Eggleston. "I love slang. I use 'cool' more than most other words of the same meaning. When someone says 'cool,' I have an instant, almost instinctual response. It's like cash. It's understood and accepted everywhere."

Patterson, named one of 30 Young Artists to Watch by PDN magazine, doesn't have to look far to find cool things to shoot. "I look out of my car window," he says. "I do a lot of exploring by car. I turn onto random side streets for no reason other than to see what's there. It's one of my favorite things to do in Memphis. I hear about other cool stuff from friends at the coffee shop."

"Having friends in-the-know is key to coolness," Patterson says. "I got a fortune cookie the other day. It said, 'Helping a friend is like helping yourself.' It's the Golden Rule with a twist. It's a bit more active, rather than reactive."

Tad Pierson, American dreamer

Tad Pierson has a master's degree in English, and back in the mists of time he was a teacher. But somewhere along the line, his gypsy spirit took over and he decided to drop out. He bought and beautifully restored a 1955 Cadillac and uses it to give tours that drive to the heart of American cool. He used to drive tourists along the remains of Route 66, but he moved to Memphis, and now he gives tours of the land of the Delta blues.

"Cool is the art of absorbing the glint off of Miles Davis' horn and infusing it with the shine of Elvis' shoes, so that when you lean in the shadow just beyond the evening glow of a streetlamp you know the other cat's game before he is ready to step into the pool hall and line up his cue ball," Pierson says, copping a Kerouac style.

"Cool is a mystery," he concludes. "Hot is a commodity."

Are we cool yet?

So now you've heard from Memphis poets, rockers, rappers, artists, hipsters, and hustling independents, the kind of folks commonly associated with the elusive C-word. If you take them at their word, cool is currency. It's about knowing not only who you are but where you are. It's about avoiding Main Street and knowing all the dirt roads. It s not about being young but about hanging onto the spirit of youth. It's a mystery. It's a way of life. Cool is cool. Cool?

Cool Nostalgia
Bringing Back Those Merry Memories

If you don't remember Merrymobiles, you didn't live in Memphis 30, 40, even 50 years ago.

The brainchild of a local ice-cream vendor named Robert Heffelfinger, the little red, white, and blue merry-go-rounds on wheels began rolling down the streets here in 1954. The putt-putt of the one-cylinder engine and the tinkling bells -- activated by a string pulled by the driver -- told every kid in the neighborhood, "The Merrymobile is coming!" So they would run inside, grab a fistful of nickels and dimes, and wait by the curb. Without getting out of his seat, the driver would dig into freezers mounted on both sides of his little vehicle and hand out ice-cold popsicles, Dreamsicles, Buried Treasures, Drumsticks, Eskimo Pies, and other mouthwatering delights.

At one time, more than 50 Merrymobiles operated out of the Merrymobile Ice Cream Company on Broad. But by the early 1970s the fleet had dwindled to less than a dozen. Most of those were barely running, their parts scavenged from other vehicles. A few years later, the last Merrymobile disappeared from the streets of Memphis.

Until now, that is.

Ten years ago, a derelict Merrymobile (right) was discovered sitting outside an auto-repair shop in Millington. Memphis magazine ran a photo of this relic from a bygone time. The rusting hulk still sported its distinctive canopy and diamond-patterned paint job, but it was missing its wheels, engine, and ice-cream freezers. A full-time Memphis police officer named Joe Patty saw the article, and that got everything rolling -- literally. In 2004, Patty had started his own business here, the Lickety Split Ice Cream Company, with two pink-and-white trucks that he would take to children's parties, day-cares, and schools.

"Most ice cream nowadays is awful," says Patty. "It's really just flavored ice. The whole idea behind my company was to bring back a better, more upscale business of ice cream on the streets. It had taken a hit in the last 15 years, and I decided to try to bring it back to life."

Patty knew an actual Merrymobile would give his company a unique identity, so he drove to Millington and after a few weeks of dickering found himself the proud owner of the last Merrymobile in Memphis.

Restoring the Merrymobile was a major project. The body -- mostly aluminum and stainless steel -- was in good shape, and Patty had to replace only one exterior panel. The missing engine and chassis were another matter. Patty and a friend eventually spent two months mounting the vehicle on a 1994 Cushman golf cart.

Except for the new, smaller headlights, most of the exterior is original. The little car still sports its "43" metal identification tag, which Patty says indicated its route number -- in this case, Highland Heights and Frayser.

Patty has driven the Merrymobile in parades in Bartlett, Arlington, and Collierville and taken it to Shelby Farms. He mainly uses it for special events but "depending on the manpower available" occasionally drives it through suburbs.

Because its top speed is only 15 mph, he hauls it around on a special trailer. "I was taking it down the road the other night, and the trailer lights weren't working, so I switched on the Merrymobile lights," he says. "As I was driving, I thought it was lightning, because cars were pulling up alongside and snapping pictures of it."

The original Merrymobiles sold ice cream and popsicles manufactured at their own plant on Broad. Today, Patty hands out Blue Bell brand ice-cream sandwiches, ice-cream cups, chocolate-covered bars, and a treat called the Strawberry Shortcake. There's one other change from the old days: The ice cream now costs a dollar.

For more information on the Merrymobile, go to

Cool Vacation

The House Where the Wind Goes To Die

A few months back, my wife suggested that we should try to take our blended family -- my two young twentysomethings and her 19-year-old and 8-year-old -- on vacation. The logistics were tough, since the three older kids live in other states. But we managed to find a week in late May that worked for all of them. All we needed was a destination.

"How about Punta Allen?" I said.

"What the heck is Punta Allen?" said my wife.

Punta Allen was a map dream I'd had for a few years, a dot at the end of a dirt road in the magically named Mexican state of Quintana Roo. In previous trips to the area I'd thought about taking the road -- which splits a half-mile-wide peninsula for 30 miles -- to its end but had never had the time.

I had googled Punta Allen and learned that it was a Mayan fishing village located in a 1.3-million-acre "biosphere," a nature preserve set aside by the Mexican government. I learned that its inhabitants harvested lobsters and that they would take you to see crocodiles, manatees, giant rays, ibis, and all manner of jungle and ocean creatures. I learned that the reefs were perfect for snorkeling and that the fishing was incredible. And I learned that hardly anybody goes there except hardy souls willing to brave the road. The town has one phone and Internet line.

We found lodging through the Internet -- an American couple who own a guesthouse called Serenidad Shardon. It took them a week to respond, but finally we got through and booked five nights. We also booked a night at a slightly more civilized resort before and after our Punta Allen stay, a staging area, if you will.

We flew into Cancun, rented a very uncool Chrysler minivan, and set off. After a pleasant first night in air-conditioned comfort, we headed south. At Tulum, we turned onto the dusty, rutted washboard that leads to Punta Allen. My son Andrew slipped an instrumental by the Talking Heads into the tape deck. It was slow and ominous, droning Heart of Darkness music. It fit perfectly as the jungle closed over the one-lane road. Occasionally, through the undergrowth, we'd see a glimpse of beach and perfect aquamarine water. Birds of many colors flew across the road. Iguanas were everywhere, big ones, little ones, fast ones -- dead ones (which were probably once slow ones). I couldn't drive any faster than 30 mph or so, and usually much slower, as we negotiated many gaping potholes and ruts. After more than two hours, we came to a small house. Two very short brown men flagged us down and welcomed us to Punta Allen.

"Por favor, donde esta Serenidad Shardon?" I asked.

The men responded in rapid Spanish and for the first of many times, I was grateful for mi esposa Tatine's fluency in the local language.

We followed the road through the tiny village, which was not at first glance a place of beauty. The streets were rutted sand. Houses were mostly ramshackle stacks of cinderblocks topped with palapa fronds. Dogs were everywhere; children played in the dusty open spaces. The young Americans in the back of the van said nothing, but what they were thinking was clear: We're staying here? For a week?? Are you old farts insane???

Niki, our host, greeted us on the front porch of her two-story thatch-roofed house. It was surrounded by tall swaying coconut palms and was easily the nicest place in the village. She was vivacious and charming in a New Age-y sort of way and led us through the sand to our home on the beach. And it too was a fine house, with a kitchen, three sleeping rooms and six beds, each nestled beneath a fine white mosquito net. Several large fans were blowing full-speed, but the house was still quite warm.

"You'll get acclimated to the heat soon," Niki said. "Besides, there's always a breeze coming off the ocean."

We quickly put on swimsuits and walked the 25 yards to the beach, where a cooling breeze and the gentle murmuring surf made Punta Allen seem like not such a bad idea after all.

At dinnertime, we discovered a small cantina called Cuzan's, just up the beach. It was run by an American college student from North Carolina named Dave, who no doubt had the oddest summer job in the history of summer jobs. After a wonderful dinner of fish and fruit and vegetables and several piña coladas, we headed home. The breeze off the water was cool, but our house was still stuffy and warm. You might even say hot.

"This is the house where the wind goes to die," said my daughter, Mary. Nevertheless, we all crawled into bed, fans blasting. Two hours later, the hum of the fans suddenly stopped. Silence filled the house, followed immediately by pained moans, as we all remembered Niki's last words: "The power in the village goes off at 1 o'clock."

It was a long, very sweaty night.

But over the next few days, Punta Allen showed its charms: We went snorkeling in water the color of sky; we saw sea turtles, rays, sharks, the nesting islands of great frigate birds; we caught bonefish, jacks, and snapper, and Roman (the 8-year-old) tied into a four-foot barracuda. We turned red, then brown as Mayans; we ate fresh fish every day; we grew to love our two constant companions: Pancho, the enormous golden lab, and his little female companion, whom we named Teats, for reasons that would be obvious if you saw her. It even cooled off enough so that we could sleep.

At night, Dave introduced us to every variety of tequila known to man from his well-stocked bar. He showed us how to hand-line for snapper off the dock and introduced us to several charming locals who were delighted to spend their evenings helping Agatha and Mary learn Spanish.

And the night sky ... Jesus. The night sky was a billion diamonds deep. We'd sit on the dock under the diamonds in the dark and watch lightning dance for a hundred miles through far-off thunderheads over the Caribbean. Magical.

On our fourth day, the heat returned full-force, and sleeping was again impossible. Not wanting to end our experience on a sour note, we bid hasta luego to Dave, Niki, Pancho, and Teats and headed back to air-conditioning and toilets where you can flush paper.

A couple days later, we're on the tarmac in Memphis and it's 95 degrees and Punta Allen is a map dream again.

On Monday morning I'm back at work, editing a story, immersed in my work like I never left it. My e-mail alert chimes. It's from Mary in Washington, D.C., also back at work.

It reads, "I miss the house where the wind goes to die."

Me too.

Cool Reads

You Think You've Got Problems?

by Leonard Gill

Problem #1: Why is it your ice at home comes out cloudy and/or cracked when what you want is a cube that's clearly perfect?
Solution #1: Chill out. Ask your ice-maker to take it slow -- real slow -- to avoid air bubbles. Or head for the deep-freeze: Antarctica.

Problem #2: You're through with work for the day. You're in a bar. You'd like some peace of mind. Impossible. Somebody asks you to pick up an ice cube using a single strand of human hair.
Solution #2: Tear your hair out. Place hair on ice cube. Sprinkle with salt. The salt will refreeze the ice around the hair. Lift gently. Tell the somebody in question to mind his own business.

Problem #3: You think you're Keith Richards. You are not. You think it's cool to drink Jack Daniel's. It is not. It is coarse in flavor. It is overpriced.
Solution #3: Get off it. Switch to Gentleman Jack.

Problem #4: You're down under. You're about to order an Australian beer. Stop right there. Australians produce "noxious" brews, and their "banging on about the importance of keeping it ice cold is one thing, but ... you can't polish a turd."
Solution #4: Order a lager from the Czech Republic. These people know how to brew. They are, in fact, obsessed. Forget the fact that they also once issued an invitation to Frank Zappa to join their government.

You've got more problems? For more solutions (and opinions), see David Bramwell, author of The Perfect Buzz: The Essential Guide to Boozing, Bars, and Bad Behavior (HarperResource).

Problem #5: Your drink is on the rocks, but you've reached rock-bottom. You've got one last sip. That's when it hits you, full in the face: an ice cube. You look like an idiot.
Solution #5: To save face, invest in an "Ice Stopper." It's a wire net that fits over the rim of any glass to catch any ice. It is dishwasher-safe.

Problem #6: You're gassed up on beer or carbonated mixers. Your stomach's had it, but you haven't.
Solution #6: Continue drinking but not before turning to the "Drink De-carbonator," a cup that fits onto an electrical device that activates "high-powered vibrations which awaken the gas molecules and hasten their natural upward departure." Whatever. Your stomach's free. You're free -- to focus "solely on the problem of inebriation."

Problem #7: It's the morning after. Your head's had it.
Solution #7: An "Auto-cycling Cool Compress." It comes with several feet of plastic tubing and a "pampering" pump. Wind the tubing around your head, stick the pump in a bucket of cold water, turn it on, and there you go -- to sleep. What's that "low-pitched womb-like pulsing"? Your Auto-cycling Cool Compress!

For added unusual and useless contraptions, turn to The Big Bento Box of Unuseless Japanese Inventions: The Art of Chindogu (Norton) by Kenji Kawakami, translated by and additional text by Dan Papia, and edited by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Ask for them by name at the bookstore. Watch your bookseller have a fit.

Problem #8: You are decorating your house or apartment. You think the '70s were cool as hell. You have lost your mind.
Solution #8: Interior Desecrations: Hideous Homes from the Horrible '70s by James Lileks.

Does your ideal paint scheme tend toward interesting colors, "such as those found on the buttocks of a rudely shaved monkey"? Do you favor radioactive interiors that glow "like a Chernobyl technician's thyroid"? Must you have supergraphics to direct you to a bathroom's towel rack? Does your idea of a bedspread look like the welts you got after eating some questionable seafood? Do you dream of wallpaper inspired by the exploded lungs of a cow or a kitchen with the same impact as a cayenne enema?

To quote Lileks on the decorator magazines of the day: "Sweet smoking Jesus, what was the matter with these people?" And, good Lord, what are you thinking?

Answer: You aren't thinking. Far from cool, your brain must be fried.

Cool House

Archimania Builds a Doozy on the Bluff

by John Branston

There are some unusual homes on the South Bluff overlooking Riverside Drive but none more eye-catching than the one being built for Phil and Terry Woodard.

Like the prow of a ship, the roof comes to a point 40 feet above the ground. Most of the front is tinted glass that makes the house a fishbowl by day and a mirror at night when the windows are lit up (or will be when the house is completed in October). The roof and exterior walls are plywood and corrugated metal. The spine is a stone wall running from floor to ceiling and front to back, 102 feet long and 40 feet high. From top to bottom, the house is all odd angles and asymmetrical shapes.

"I want something totally different," says Woodard, a plumbing contractor for 30 years who became active in downtown renovations and new construction about 10 years ago. "If you're going to build, why not have fun with it?"

Designed by the local architectural firm Archimania and built by Archer Custom Builders, the main house, guest house/studio, and garage cover 5,900 square feet of space and will cost well over $1 million. It includes a small pool, several cantilevered decks, glass floors, and exposed pipe columns and steel beams designed to help the house withstand winds of up to 125 miles an hour.

The house borders the Bluff Walk and is tucked into a 50-by-120-foot lot. The contrast and proximity to the more conventional architecture of its neighbors emphasizes its uniqueness even more.

Architect Todd Walker says the design and construction take maximum advantage of river views, sunlight, and local materials. The blue stone in the wall was quarried in Missouri. Corrugated metal covers the roof and 70 percent of the exterior. The birch-veneer plywood is marine-grade and will be left unpainted.

Walker says Archimania's design was influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright homes in the Chicago area, known for their cantilevered roofs and use of stone and glass.

"We pushed the limits but within the law," says Walker.

The house is outside the South Main Historic District and review by the Landmarks Commission, but it is subject to zoning restrictions that limit elevations to 34 feet on the bluff. The house gets around that by having an "average" height of 34 feet in the middle, with the front being higher and the back lower. When the house is lighted at night, Walker and Woodard expect it will become a residential landmark highly visible from Arkansas and the two bridges over the Mississippi River.

"We're moving from a secluded little lot to a fishbowl," says Phil Woodard. "We pushed the modernism and kept it a home."

Political Cool

A Mini-primer on an Underestimated Art

by Jackson Baker

God knows what the exact etymology is for "cool" as an all-purpose word signifying acceptability, poise, style, and the upside of virtually everything else you can think of.

But surely this now all-pervasive term has something to do with that quality that Hemingway referred to as "grace under pressure" -- the ability, in other words, not to get "hot under the collar" or "fly off the handle" or indulge in any of a variety of like clichÈd reactions characterized by out-of-control heat.

Cool exists in politics as in other ways of life and, as with those other ways, is best defined by example. Here is one test case, in this season of political scandal, that will illustrate the range:

UNCOOL: When faced with charges of impropriety, one does not try to fob the whole thing off as an assault on some large and incontestably innocent generic group to which one happens to belong. Public figures ranging from city councilman Rickey Peete to former Juvenile Court clerk Shep Wilbun to ex-state senator Roscoe Dixon, a current indictee, have sought to exculpate or excuse themselves when in legal trouble by invoking race as a reason for their predicament. "Not guilty" by association is the idea.

Similarly, City Council member Carol Chumney has more than once sought to deflect criticism of her sometimes over-the-top political ambition by blaming it on gender bias.

At best, these responses are exaggerations; at worst, they are absurd (some of Chumney's chief accusers, for example, are politically active women). Most importantly, though, they are crushingly literal-minded. Way uncool!

COOL: One can still respond to charges by casting forth red herrings, mind you -- so long as the act of doing so involves some imagination, chutzpah, and creative self-awareness.

John Ford, for example, couldn't have been more outlandish when, after the now-former state senator was caught in an FBI sting and arrested for extortion, he accused the Feds of being the "wicked" ones. After all, as he pointed out, they had "lied" to him about the nature of the dummy corporation they used for the sting!

But the clincher came when Ford, with a smirk playing on one side of his mouth and an earnest frown on the other, suggested that his downfall was due to Governor Phil Bredesen's budget-based (and widely unpopular) efforts to cut large numbers of enrollees from the state TennCare health-insurance program. Huh?!

Never mind: This one was like the old bolo punch once famously thrown by vintage middleweight boxer Kid Gavilan. It came out of nowhere, and whether it landed or not, it was fun to watch. Cool.

SUPERCOOL: But the all-time champion at fashioning certifiably cool responses to legal or political adversity was the former governor of Louisiana, Edwin Edwards, who was accused of many misdeeds and actually went down on one or two of them.

Cool-wise, Edwards' finest hour came back in 1984, when on a segment of 60 Minutes, correspondent Morley Safer confronted the then governor with several affidavits. Brandishing one of them, Safer began in high dudgeon: "Governor, I have this affidavit from so-and-so saying that he paid you $100,000 to become state highway commissioner!"

"Naw," Edwards said calmly, with a languid sidewise shake of the head. "I think it was $50,000."

Undeterred, Safer went through a pile of such affidavits from former Edwards aides willing to rat out the gov for selling state jobs. Each time Edwards responded with the same laconic "Naw," the same shake of the head, and the same halving of the claimed bribe.

Then his bottom line: "You have to remember, Morley. At the time, this was not illegal."

Okay, folks, this peerless political rascal eventually did time. He paid his debt to society. Now give him his proper due. This kind of cool is off the charts. Further proof of Edwards' status as an icon: It was he who came up with the famous formulation that a politician could wriggle out of almost anything, unless caught with "a live boy or a dead girl."

Retire the word "cool" in this prodigy's honor awreddy. You can't do much better than that.

Unless ... There was the time some years ago when perennial candidate Jack McNeil ran in a large mayoral field that included professional wrestler Jerry Lawler. At a candidate forum in Frayser, McNeil suddenly and unexpectedly went ballistic, accusing Lawler of "fixing fights." A surprised hush, then the whole room -- black, white, liberal, conservative, man, woman, and child -- howled. Everybody.

Except for McNeil.

Now you tell me: Which was this -- cool or uncool? Whichever you go with, it s up there. World-class.

Cool Shakes

Can I Get Some Fries With That?

by Mary Cashiola

I KNOW, I KNOW. EVERY TIME YOU hear the word "milkshake," you think about that song: "My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard, and they're like, it's better than yours."

Despite Kelis -- and her milkshake, however you want to interpret it -- the part-dessert/part-drink seems to have fallen out of favor. But Sandra Dee's date staple has a mystique all its own. Remember Mia Wallace's $5 shake at Jack Rabbit Slim's in Pulp Fiction? We sampled several shakes around the city to find some you could fall in love over. Or with.

The Arcade's Hand-Dipped Chocolate Shake
540 S. Main

Price: $2.85
Presentation: Served in a tall glass with a straw and a spoon. Rings of chocolate swirl around the edge of the glass and a cherry sits on top.
Atmosphere: Funky diner.
Consistency: A little thick, but that's probably what the spoon is for.
Taste: It didn't start out very chocolatey, but as the shake melted and mixed with the swirl, it became perfect.
Verdict: Pretty please, with a cherry on top.

Dixie Queen's Milkshake in Chocolate and Strawberry
2974 Covington Pike, 5740 Mt. Moriah, 4572 Elvis Presley Blvd.

Price: $2.99
Presentation: Styrofoam cup with a blue plastic straw.
Atmosphere: Well, the Dixie Queen has a drive-through, so it depends on what your car looks like.
Consistency: Easily sippable, almost like melting ice cream.
Taste: The chocolate could easily have passed for vanilla. The strawberry, on the other hand, was light and sweet with bits of berries mixed in. Dixie Queen also has pineapple, butterscotch, banana, and cherry flavors.
Verdict: Long live the Queen!

Dyer's Hand-Dipped Shakes in Chocolate and Strawberry
205 Beale St.

Price: $3.69
Presentation: Smallish styrofoam cup.
Atmosphere: Burger/blues joint.
Consistency: Grainy and icy.
Taste: The strawberry shake, which was a scary day-glo pink color, tasted sickly sweet. The chocolate was better but still left a bit of a Karo aftertaste.
Verdict: Stick to menu items cooked in Dyer's famous grease.

Steak 'n Shake Banana Split Sippable Sundae Milkshake
253 Goodman Rd., 8477 Highway 64

Price: $3.19
Presentation: Served in a tall glass with a spiral of whipped cream and a cherry. The Sippable Sundae Milkshake is available in Banana Split, Turtle Caramel Nut, Double Chocolate Fudge, Strawberry Fudge Cheesecake, Double Chocolate Peanut Butter, and Caramel Mocha Macchiato flavors.
Atmosphere: Revamped retro. Everything is red, white, and black. The waitresses all wear cute black aprons.
Consistency: Uneven. The shake itself seems thin, but because of the layers of hot fudge and strawberries, it can be pretty thick -- stuck-in-your-straw-suck-your-cheeks-all-the-way-in thick.
Taste: Heaven in a glass.
Verdict: Maybe not for the purist, but this shaken-up shake recipe won me over.

Wiles-Smith Drug Store's Chocolate Shake
1634 Union Ave.

Price: $3.25
Presentation: Served in the metal mixing cup, alongside an empty glass.
Atmosphere: Old-fashioned pharmacy. Hours could be problematic though, as the place is only open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays.
Consistency: Thick, but not too thick to suck it up with a straw.
Taste: Yum. Wiles' shake recipe could be called traditional -- the flavor isn't overpowering, there aren't any bells or whistles -- but it's a classic.
Verdict: Could become drug of choice.

Sounds of Summer
Country, R', and '80s Oldies Headline the Concert Season.

by Chris Herrington

There are bound to be lots of good summer shows that haven't been booked yet, especially at the smaller clubs, but with multiple good shows at The Orpheum, Mud Island, and (yep) FedExForum, the summer concert season is shaping up. Here's a chronological guide to some of the highlights:

Shooter Jennings

Thursday, June 16th

Hi-Tone Café

The son of Waylon attempts to put the "O" (as in Outlaw) back in country music on his recent debut album. See Music Feature page 45.

Sugar Ray

Horseshoe Casino

Saturday, June 18th

Now that lead singer Mark McGrath is a TV personality, it's a surprise to see these "I Love the '90s" soundtrackers out on the road, but here they are. Expect to hear formerly ubiquitous radio hits "Fly" and "Every Morning," both of which boast light, summery grooves that will sound just fine on future Billboard Best of the '90s compilations.

Brian McKnight and New Edition

The Orpheum

Thursday, June 23rd

June 23rd is slow-jam night at The Orpheum. McKnight is probably the most accomplished non-hip-hop-influenced soul crooner of his generation -- like Luther Vandross with less grit. Then there's New Edition, the best boy band of the '80s turned R&B supergroup, now that the collective members have solo success under their belt. Not sure if they still play "Cool It Now," but if so, it'll be a great nostalgic moment for all those grown-up around-the-way girls in the audience still sporting the New Edition-Bobby Brown button on their sleeves.


Memphis Botanic Garden

Saturday, June 25th

The biggest British soul singer of the '90s scored big early in that decade with the smash "Crazy" and is currently riding high on a new live album and greatest hits disc.

Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson

AutoZone Park

Friday, July 1st

What's to say about this? The two greatest living giants of American song, who are both still roaring along. The green grass field of America's sport. Three days before Independence Day. Almost makes you want to bust out a verse of "This Land is Your Land," doesn't it?

Crunk Fest 2005, featuring the Ying-Yang Twins

The Mid-South Coliseum

Saturday, July 2nd

This Southern hip-hop showcase generated quite a bit of controversy last year, with fights, injuries, and local rapper Yo Gotti's Three-6-Mafia-baiting set. This year the same headliners -- Atlanta's Ying Yang Twins -- return, but hopefully without last year's problems.

Destiny's Child, with Amerie and Mario


Sunday, July 10th

This modern-day girl-group owned the late '90s, with hits sassy ("Bugaboo"), righteous ("Independent Women, Pt. 1)" and beautiful ("Say My Name"). Despite the solid single "Lose My Breath," the comeback signified by 2004's Destiny Fulfilled hasn't been quite so, well, fulfilling. But there should still be more than enough starpower to command the FedExForum. Newbies Mario and Amerie open, and the latter's current syncopated smash "1 Thing" shames anything Destiny's Child has done in years.

Kenny Chesney and Gretchen Wilson

with Pat Green


Friday, July 15th

Chesney might be more widely known now for his recent surprise marriage to Renee Zellweger than for his music, which, given the limp beach-bum country of his new "Be As You Are," could be for the best. But last year's "When the Sun Goes Down" was one of the most interesting mainstream country records of the past few years, full of unexpected lyrical turns, music that underscored mainstream country's status as the new classic rock, and a perfect moment (the honest "Kegs in the Closet") that drained the alt-country would-be competition of all its macho bluster. And tour sidekick Gretchen "Redneck Woman" Wilson? Well, she's the real treat, boasting a big voice and great debut album that earned every bit of her insta-star status.

Duran Duran

The Orpheum

Saturday, July 16th

Hey, why should the Killers make all the money updating Duran Duran's sound when the original model can still cut it? Reportedly this '80s MTV juggernaut released a new album last year, but I'm pretty sure The Orpheum crowd will be holding out for "Rio" and "Hungry Like the Wolf."

Carole King

The Orpheum

Sunday, July 24th

One of the hands-down greatest songwriters in all of American pop, King broke out in a big way with her second solo album, the intimate folk-rock tour de force Tapestry, an album so overrated at the time that it's underrated now. And don't blame her for James Taylor making "You've Got a Friend" sound sappy and fishy at the same time. She makes it sound beautiful.

Def Leppard

Mud Island Amphitheater

Tuesday, July 26th

I still remember the outrage of 9-year-old me the night in 1983 when Ray Parker Jr.'s "Ghostbusters" toppled Def Leppard's "Photograph" on MTV's Friday Night Video Fights. Pre-Guns 'N Roses, was there a more satisfying pop-metal band than these Brits? Hysteria was their biggest hit, but I was always more partial to the earlier Pyromania, so I'm glad to see it get its props with a tour -- "Rock of Ages" -- named after one of its best cuts.

Classic Rock Collision:

.38 Special at Isle of Capri

ZZ Top at Grand Casino Tunica

Loggins & Messina at FedExForum

Friday, July 29th

Decisions, decisions. Southern rock, blues rock, or middle-aged-mom rock? Talk about straining your audience! Classic-rock fans around the Mid-South won't know which way to turn July 29th, so look for a traffic jam on Third Street.

John Legend

The Orpheum

Friday, August 5th

This piano-playing comrade of Kanye West and Lauryn Hill has been R&B's biggest breakout star of the past year, unifying neo-soul and its more mainstream version in much the same way that Hill and, most recently, West have been able to bridge the cultural divide within hip-hop.

Michael BublÈ

Memphis Botanic Garden

Friday, August 26th

Buble is a star to many Today Show viewers, but we don't get up that early at my house, so we know him as that doughy guy crooning songs on that Starbucks commercial. Unlike the failed swing-revivalists of a decade ago, Buble has the pipes to evoke his chosen era but doesn't over do the theatrics. The result should be a fine evening of music in a fine setting.

Kelly Clarkson,

with the Graham Colton Band

Mud Island Amphitheater

Saturday, August 27th

If you're one of those music fans outraged by the shameless plasticity of the American Idol phenomenon, then you probably find inaugural Idol winner Clarkson's sudden, transparent makeover from quintessential red-state pop tart to tough rocker chick more than a little pathetic. But if you're a pop fan who doesn't give a flip about authenticity, then your reaction is probably a little more like mine: Hey, play "Since U Been Gone" again! Clarkson sings rings around Avril and isn't bogged down by the prog-Christian pretensions of Evanesence's Amy Lee. Rock on!

Chris Isaak, with Aslyn

The Orpheum

Tuesday, August 30th

This baritone crooner hit it big with Roy Orbison-esque slow-burn of his 1990 hit "Wicked Game." More recently, he's probably been more visible as an actor, appearing last year as Tracy Ullman's husband in John Waters' naughty comedy A Dirty Shame.

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