Uneventful, but busy, Friday in Memphis. But I did take an hour break for a couple of errands and got to see more of the city.
Memphis is an interesting city. Population 655,000, metro population about 1.3 million, which makes it very similar to Oklahoma City in size. Memphis is much older, of course, founded in 1819, 70 years before OKC, and incorporated in 1826. Memphis has great history and great character and great music and great attractions, from Beale Street to the Civil Rights Museum to Graceland. It has St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. Memphis also has rampant poverty and high crime. Locals will warn you about staying away from certain sections of the city at certain times of the night.
But I drove around Mid-Town and the medical district Friday, and it was very appealing. I found a Sonic, had a cherry root beer; stopped by the Memphis Commercial Appeal to pick up a Tuesday edition for a friend whose picture appeared in the paper; and then I went to Sun Records, the famous small recording studio where Elvis Presley was discovered and Johnny Cash cut records.
Last year, I toured Sun Records and really enjoyed it. I also found in its memorabilia shop the perfect gift for one of my brothers. Both of my brothers are great at giving cool Christmas gifts. I am not. I almost bought the item last year, decided not to, then regretted it all year. I went back Friday, and sure enough, there it was. Well worth the $70. I can’t tell you what it is because he might read the blog.
My job has changed over the last few years. Less than 50 percent of my workload is related to the newspaper. The rest is for the website. For instance, after sleeping in Friday morning after my late Thursday night, my first order of business was to write a post-game blog. My second mission was to join A.C. Slater and RFD for a podcast.
A.C. has some machine that easily records podcasts, so we sat in RFD’s hotel room and talked all things Thunder. Then it was off to Thunder practice for interviews.
Later in the afternoon, about 5 p.m., A.C., Johnny Damon and I walked the three blocks back to FedEx Forum to film a video. The exterior of the Forum makes a great backdrop for our videos.
I got back to my hotel room, sat down and wrote another blog, then finally got around to my Scotty Brooks column. I like all the different things we do and hope you guys do, too, but it’s far different from the old days, I promise you.
The Thunder media reps, led by Matt Tumbleson, host an annual first-round party for the media. The party was Friday night at Bardog Tavern, a joint on Monroe in downtown Memphis.
I went to be sociable. I didn’t stay long. I don’t think, and I prefer to watch my playoff basketball solo or in small groups, though I stayed long enough to see the ends of Brooklyn-Toronto and Washington-Chicago.
We had the basement for the party, and no one was smoking, but up in the main bar, all kinds of people were smoking. I didn’t know you could do that anywhere anymore. It’s a stark feeling, to smell the smoke inside a building. It’s something I was used to when I was a kid, but smoking largely has been eradicated from public places.
I did get to chat with some good people. Matt Wells of the Thunder video unit told me we’ve shared a soccer sideline — his son plays youth soccer at the Y in Norman, where my granddaughter played last year. And Steve Aschburner of nba.com filled me in on his duties. Six former newspaper writers now write for nba.com and spread out to cover playoff series all over the country. The media world has changed. But newspapers still drive the boat. No company has more presence at the Thunder-Grizzlies series than OPUBCO Communications. We’ve got five people here in Memphis, giving you all things Thunder throughout the day.
Photographer Bryan Terry Burden and I left the Thunder party and went for a pizza. We had eaten at Aldo Pizza in downtown Memphis last year and enjoyed it.
It was about 10 p.m., and the place was less than half full. Some people were sitting outside, but we decided to sit inside so we could watch Blazers-Rockets. The hostess took us to a small table that seated two, with one of the chairs facing away from the television. I asked if we could have the four-seat table next to it so we both could watch the game. The hostess said no, she wasn’t allowed to sit two people at a four-seat table. Well, I said, can we turn this little table sideways. No, she said, we’d be in the server’s way. I looked around. There were probably 20 tables in our section, and maybe five had patrons.
I was ready to bolt. I’ve seen enough Restaurant Stakeout to know that some employees you just can’t deal with. The hostess detected my frustration and found a compromise. On the other side was one of those half booths, half tables. She moved some chairs around and was able to sit us at what amounted to a two-seat table that was sideways to the game. But for crying out loud. It didn’t have to be that tough.
We had a good salad and split a small pizza. Pepperoni, black olive and onions. She asked if we wanted the onions carmelized. We said yes. Should have said no. Pretty much ruined the pizza.