Catfish extraordinaire

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Every local we asked, “Where should we eat lunch?” had the same answer – the Flying Fish.

All the walls in this downtown Little Rock diner look like this photo. It’s a little weird until you know the story.

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Turns out, if you bring in a mounted fish (like Big Mouth Billy Bass) for the wall of this Little Rock eatery, you get a fish dinner for free. ( Plus your name (and fish) on the wall for posterity. )

We didn’t know, so we had to pay for our catfish dinners. Worth it. I had the baked, and Mark had the cornmeal-crusted fried version. Both delicious, but I liked my accompaniments better, especially the thinly sliced, highly seasoned squash.

 

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Clinton Presidential Library – Mark’s highlights

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There are only 13 presidential libraries in the country, and we visited one (the first of 13 if I get my way!) in Little Rock. IMG_3249

At the Clinton Presidential Library, there is an apartment for the Clinton family perched on the roof. Grass and gardens and trees cover the roof and help keep the LEEDS building insulated. Floors inside the library are made from bamboo or recycled tires.

Two White House rooms are replicated inside the Library. For the Cabinet Room, the same craftsman who constructed the cabinet members chairs built the chairs for the recreated room. I tried to sit in the president’s chair but was beat out by an elderly woman. I will be working out now to improve my museum walking speed. You can tell which chair is the President’s because the back is two inches higher than the rest. I ended up in the Secretary of Defense chair. The chairs closest to the president are the oldest cabinet offices.

IMG_3264In the Oval Office, Clinton’s collection of military minted coins and many of his other personal belongings were on display.  You can see the coin collection in the photo behind the chair, as well as the replica of the Resolute desk.The desk, made from wood of the British ship, the HMS Resolute, was a gift from Queen Victoria in 1880.

A huge room with floor to ceiling cases houses Clinton’s correspondence. If you ever sent a note to President Clinton, it is somewhere in that room.IMG_3267

On the river in Little Rock (Saimi’s highlights)

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The campground we planned to stay at on the banks of the Arkansas River in Little Rock was full, but the sympathetic host let us stay in “overflow.”  Translated, that’s a parking spot, with a garden hose for water and a giant extension cord for power! We didn’t mind – she only charged us half price ($15 a night).

The campground is at the base of a former railroad trestle that has been converted into a pedestrian and bicycle bridge, complete with flower boxes.

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It leads to the Clinton Presidential Library, green space and a 17- mile bike path. Before the library was built, the area was a run down mess of abandoned warehouses.

With apologies to the architect, I must say, from our side of the river, the Library looks like a railroad car.

 

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I was especially impressed that the Clinton Library (built with private donations, not tax money) includes exhibit space for rotating displays. Currently, it’s installation art by world famous glass artist, Dale Chihuly. Several displays, all staggeringly beautiful.

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Beale Street Blues

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I was feeling a little blue (pun intended) about visiting Beale Street during the day, because we’d miss the night time music scene. Turns out, Beale Street has a cool vibe even during the day. A saxophone wailed in the park, the streets were full of interesting people, and wonderful aromas wafted from nearly every doorway.

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In keeping with our pledge to taste local specialties, our mission was to find Memphis BBQ.  Overwhelmed by our lunch choices– B.B. King’s, Central Barbecue, and Pig on Beale (“Pork With Attitude”) — we asked a cop where the best ribs were and he said, “Right over there.” That’s how we ended up at The Blues City Cafe.

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I had the pulled pork and Mark had the ribs. Good stuff, but a lot like Ohio’s version – smoked pork basted during cooking with a tangy sauce. But the ambiance was cool. Famous folk from  R Kelly to Hank Williams Jr. to Queen Latifah have eaten here.

 

Memphis: We skipped Graceland (gasp!) but still paid homage to the King

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We only had time for one – Graceland or Sun Studio – both iconic destinations in Memphis. Fortunately, for both of us it was no contest.

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MARK:  Here we go again…what do Elvis, Roy Orbison, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Mark and Saimi have in common? They all stood in the same tiny recording studio in Memphis, Tennessee.

Believe it or not, Elvis was so shy in his first group recording in Sun Studio that he turned around so he would not have to face the people in the control room. Luckily for the music world, he got over that. In the photo of me, the little “x” on the floor is the spot Elvis stood to make that first recording, “That’s All Right.”

IMG_3184Elvis gets a lot of attention at Sun Studio, but the list of famous artists and bands that have recorded there is long.(B.B. King, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis to name a few.)
I took particular interest in the recreated radio studio in the Sun Studio museum that DJ “Daddy-O” Dewey Phillips of WHBQ used. Phillips introduced Elvis’ first song on the radio.  Some of the equipment was original and it reminded me of some of WRMU’s old equipment.

I also enjoyed listening to the first rock and roll record ever made, “Rocket 88” by Jackie Brenston and the Delta Cats. The song’s unique raspy rattle was from an amplifier that broke on the trip to Sun Studio.  Anyone who took my intro classes knows about the quality sound of ribbon microphones. It looked a like a museum of microphones in the recording studio but recording sessions still take place two nights a week by amateurs and professionals such as Maroon 5 and U2.

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SAIMI:   Because I co-own a tour company (Foodie Field Trips) I am both appreciative and critical of tours and guides. The Sun Studio tour was brilliantly designed, with live narration, photos, displays, and well-timed audio and video clips. However, our guide had obviously done the tour hundreds of times, and did it a little too much by rote, and a little too rushed. A good reminder for me when my tour season starts again in May.

My favorite bit was listening to the demo tape that Elvis dropped off at Sun Studio in an attempt to break into the music world. He sounded like a 12 year old! Adorable.