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Chapter 18 - MEMPHIS

After our rather soggy concert in Chicago we left for another long overnighter, this time to Memphis, Tennessee. I won't tell you how many miles it was from Chicago to Memphis but I will tell you we left Chicago just before midnight and got to our hotel in Memphis at approximately 8:00 a.m. the next morning.

As we approached the outskirts of Memphis, one by one, each of us woke up and migrated to the front of the land yacht for some caffeine-induced energy. We had battled the bouncing bunks all night and it showed. Our rumpled clothes and various styles of "bus hair" were testament to that. So, we arrived at our hotel in hopes of getting a few hours of quality sleep in a stationary bed. But of course, since we were exhausted and had arrived at eight in the morning, our rooms weren't ready yet. I should have known that road rule #14 would again come in to play. Just in case you forgot, road rule #14 states; "If you're exhausted and you arrive early, your room shall not be ready"! Well, we were and they weren't!

So with no other recourse, we invaded the hotel coffee shop, bus hair and all, for a pre-nap breakfast. Tell me that doesn't sound strange. Anyway, by the time we had finished eating, our rooms were finally available and we drug ourselves to the elevator and then to our respective cubicles. We didn't want to miss our day off in "Blues Town" but we had to get at least a few hours of rest before hitting the streets.

We were staying at The Peabody Hotel, one of the oldest in Memphis and a throw back to the grand hotels of the thirties and forties. The hotel is a true historical landmark in Memphis and it's also the home of the famous Peabody ducks. That's right, ducks! No, not an athletic team, real live ducks! And they actually live at the hotel. The focal point of the Peabody's enormous two-story lobby is a very large and very beautiful marble fountain right in the middle. Twice a day a red carpet is rolled out and these pampered pets are ceremoniously escorted into the elevator and down to the lobby where they waddle across the carpet from the elevator to the fountain. Then they proceed to jump in to the fountain and swim, wash or just hang out until the trainer comes to take them back to their rooftop home a few hours later. And four times a day the lobby is packed with camera bearing tourists trying to get a glimpse of this strange procession. You'd think there was a royal coronation taking place but the ducks are quite oblivious to the whole thing and seem quite content to spend their time preening and frolicking in the fountain until it's time for their uniformed escort to usher them into the elevator again.

As I understand it, the whole thing with the ducks started back in the thirties when visiting duck hunters would congregate in the lobby bar at the end of the day and, as a gag, some would float their duck decoys in the fountain. One day a couple of these guys decided to do their fellow hunters one better. They put some real ducks in the fountain. Everyone enjoyed the prank and a few days later, the hunters checked out but they left the ducks behind. Of course, with first class hotel accommodations at the Peabody, the ducks had no interest in migrating anyplace for the winter. The ducks became a novelty that drew throngs of tourists so the hotel decided to keep them and a tradition was born.

Our day off started around one in the afternoon with, what else, the 'Peabody Ducks Extravaganza' then a bad movie followed by a great Memphis style barbecue dinner at 'The Rendezvous'. We then finished the day with cocktails in the lobby bar while watching our fine feathered friends frolic in the fountain.


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