August 9, 2000





Greetings from the Land of Elvis.

I write these words from Room 330 of an Embassy Suites Hotel in beautiful downtown Memphis, Tennessee, where room service detritus is stacked on the tablette, a pot of coffee is brewing in the kitchenette, four suits and assorted "business casual" clothing is hanging in the armoirette in the bedroom, my laptop is perched atop the coffee tablettette, Oz is flickering on the TV, and my ass is parked here on the couchette as I lounge barefoot in a T-shirt and boxer shorts. Welcome to the ubiquitious "business trip," Chuck style.

I'm here because BigBux Financial Institution bought Not Nearly As BigBux Financial Institution a few weeks ago (just before being bought themselves by Really Extremely BigBux Financial Institution, by the by) and they're now converting the branch offices from their original trading software to BigBux's version of software that does the exact same thing. I'm here as part of a 4-person training team assigned to the Memphis branch and I'll be here until next Friday.

So, here I am in Memphis, TN. There's a lot to be said for Tennesee, and for Memphis in particular. As previously alluded to, Elvis used to live here. The blues are reputed to have been born here. "Dry" and "wet" barbeque. There's Beale Street downtown, where you can hear live music every night of the week, and where my favorite axe-man Stevie Ray Vaughan got his start. Paul Simon sang that he was "going to Graceland, Graceland, Memphis Tennesee..." and Mark Cohn sang about "Walkin' in Memphis, walkin' with my feet ten feet off of Beale..." And... Well... Um. Okay, there's not a LOT to be said for it, there's just a few things to be said for it.

There are also some things to be said against it. For example: It's fucking hot here. And humid. It's a wet blanket heat, which is not at all like the dry heat you hear so much about in Vegas and points west.

Also, the people here can't drive. At all. Or, to perhaps put it more accurately, they choose not to. If I could do one thing to improve the driving skills out there, I'd introduce people to the accelerator pedal. I really don't think they use it. It's as though they start the car, put it in gear, and then let the engine idling take care of the rest.

And then there's the "parking" solution many Tennesseeans seem to subscribe to. It works a little something like this: pull car to side of road, get out, leave. Now, that may not sound so weird when I describe it that way, but believe me, it's almost eerie how many abandoned cars there are around here. And they're not parked; they're just ... stopped. Everywhere I've gone, I've seen at least one car haphazardly abandoned at the side of a road or highway, usually straddling a curb or sidewalk or half-sliding down an embankment. Park and leave -- apparently it's the Tennesee way.

So... Here I am in Memphis, away from my home and family for two weeks, living on room service and dry barbecue, sweating in my wool suits. Oh, it's gonna be grand. Oh, the stories I'll have to tell. Oh...