A Travellerspoint blog

Summer in Tennessee - Entry 3

A Night Out in Memphis, Tennessee

Hi! Now this is an email story, but it is also a mystery I want to figure out that I need some help with...
Saturday night we were staying in Memphis after Graceland. It was one of those random nights that turned out to be SO much fun, I will send the pictures so you can check out life in the South if you want. So we go out to dinner at this place that has great bbq- supposedly the best in the state- (now the bbq here is different, it is pulled
pork,,,, interesting).
After getting some free beers from the bartender who was about 60 but was really into us because he wanted to be like Willie Brown, we headed out to Beale Street (which is basically like being in New Orleans at Mardi Gras minus Girls Gone Wild). It is a street with tons of bars, where u can drink in the street, etc... So we went to a few
really fun bars until we met this group of people. They were from South Beach (in Florida for those of u who don't know the happenin places in the country). There were 2 girls and 4 guys in the group. Most of them were Cuban and there was one guy who was a Brazillian fighter. They were in Memphis for a fight (that I think the Brazillian
guy was in).
The dynamics of their group was quite interesting. The one guy we met first was this guy named Zeke. We were at a bar with a bunch of college age kids so there group stuck out because they were not from Tennessee (which is easy to spot, just like us) and they were older and dressed nice. We started talking to them and when I found out they were Cuban, I got really excited. They also had a bunch of really good cigars and it turns out I had cigars with me also that I had bought in the DR and wanted to smoke (since u can smoke in bars here). They were
really nice and we smoked cigars, they bought us a bunch of drinks and put money into the tip jar for the dueling pianos everytime a song came on that we liked.
One of the girls in the group was there with her boyfriend, and was normal and cool- the other girl was there with what we thought was her boyfriend, but things got a little strange soon after. The other girl was dressed like a stripper and was sitting on this guy Stan's lap for awhile so I assumed they were together. When Stan started
hanging out with my friend Tara, then that girl just backed off, didn't seem to care, and it was really strange.
I thought they were really fun, so I asked one of the girls if they wanted to come with us to the club we were going to later- a place called "Raffers," that we heard about that was suppose to be "ghetto fabulous, and they only serve 40s there." Also, I heard that Raffers was in a bad neighborhood so I thought it would be better to
go with a group. She told me, "you will have to convince the guys. Ask Z, he's the Godfather." She told me that "the girls didn't make any decisions, it was up to the guys because its easier that way." It was as if she couldn't even tell them, "lets do this" as a suggestion.
Now, I didn't think much of it at the time, but it turned out to be a little strange, because Zeke decided he was in love with me, and since he was "in control," it actually turned out that I became in control of what we did for the night. Even though I never even kissed him, just the fact that he liked me was enough. So when I said I wanted to go to Raffers, the entire group went to Raffers.
Now, instead of taking a cab, they got us a Cinderella carriage. No joke. You have to look at the pictures. It was a horsedrawn carriage with a Cinderella ball to sit in. It was so much fun.
Raffers was AMAZING- one of the best clubs I have EVER been to. Its all smoky in there and they only serve 40s so that is what we drank for the rest of the night as we smoked our cigars. They had the BEST music ever!!!! Michael Jackson, Outkast, disco music, you name it, they played it! We danced all night until after 3am, when Raffer (the owner) decided he really liked our dance moves and invited us into the VIP room.
Now, this was no VIP room in Vegas, this was Raffers VIP, equipt with a pole and everything. So we got in the VIP room and they literally said to us, "there's the pole," like we were suppose to start stripping. Now, given that one of the members of the group looked like a stripper and probably was one, I wasn't surprized, it was just funny. But then we thought it was funny so we hung out in there for awhile and took some pictures.
The group we were with (I guess I should call them "the group") were also staying at the Marriott, so they took us back. We were all hanging out in his hotel room (guys and girls), sitting around. Then the stripper girl left (I guess it was her cue).
Then things got funny. Zeke was telling me how he knows he's not the kind of guy I usually go for (yeah, its true that I try to stay away from guys that remind me of sugar daddys, although he was only 30 and not too bad looking), but he knows me. Basically, he was telling me how he could give me the kind of life that he knows I want. (Sorry buddy but I'm in law school and can create my own life). It was strange, but funny because we were talking in Spanish and my Spanish needed some practice.
Then Stan, the guy that liked Tara started to ask her about what ethnicity she was. Then when she told him she was European, he asked her one of the best lines I have EVER heard- "are you looking to lighten or darken your family tree?" (I guess he was part white, part Brazillian, etc...).
All in all it was a really fun night and the group was harmless, its just I'm so curious about what they do. They said they do commercial real estate, and they are obviously loaded, but Stan and the other girls' boyfriend both said they work for Zeke. Stan also said he use to be a bodyguard and his job has taken him all over the world (but now I guess he said he does real estate). But also, in our conversation, Columbia came up a few times, although Zeke said he'd never been there. I just wonder what they do, maybe they just do real estate, but the "godfather" comment really threw me off. And the fact that the stripper type girl just left everytime Stan was talking to Tara after it seemed they were together.
The next day, Zeke called me to ask me if he could fly me and Tara to South Beach to hang out with him. Now its REALLY hard for me to turn down a free vacation, but we were not about to hook up with them (not even kiss) for a weekend in South Beach. That's just not my style, but it was tempting.
Also, the next day I went to a souvenir store in Nashville and bought a grab bag for 50 cents "(so I didn't know what I was buying) and it turned out to be a keychain that said "Miami Beach" on it (where South Beach is). Is that WIERD or what??? We are in Tennessee, not Florida. IT was like a message from God or something.
After reading this email (if u read it all) and looking at the pictures (if u did)- do any of u think that these guys are commercial real estate businessmen, or are they in the mafia or something? I'm just curious, I want to know!!! Any ideas?

Write Back!!!

Posted by bjmorris14 11:07 Comments (0)

Summer in Tennesse - Entry 2 Memphis

Living In Tennesse Part 2


We drove to Memphis last Saturday and went to Graceland. It was really cool to see it because its one of those places you have heard of your entire life, and one of the places you have dreamed of hitting up on your roadtrip across the country with your best friends (u know, the one that never actually came through).
I will send pictures so you can see it, but it really was not as spectacular as you would picture Elvis' house to be, but that is probably just because its not as modern as the glamourous houses celebs have these days. We took the "Platinum Tour," so we got to see the house, his grave, his cars, his plane, etc
After Graceland, we decided to drive into Mississippi (just because it was close) and then Arkansas. The Mississippi is really cool. We didn't have much to do in Mississippi, so Cassi e decided we should go to Hooters and get some t-shirts. My experience in Hooters was only notable because the girls working there were a bit "slow,"
and I had never been into a Hooters before and was surprized to see so many families. You wouldn't expect so many parents to take their young kids to Hooters in the Bible Belt!
I don't have much to say about those places other than my only image of Arkansas before I got there was the HBO special I saw awhile ago called "Gang Bangin in Little Rock." Turns out the Arkansas I saw was a bit different.
Saturday night was SO MUCH FUN that it deserves its own email I will write in a moment.


1) HANGERS AT WALGREENS- When I first got here, I went to Walgreens to buy some hangers for my room. I got 40 hangers and brought them to the cash register. The girl working the register was not exactly the smartest fish in the see. I told her I had 40 hangers so that she wouldn't have to count them but instead of putting in the price of one
hanger and then multiplying it by 40 (I know that modern cash registers are capable of doing this), she decided to scan EACH AND EVERY hanger INDIVIDUALLY! This took about 7 minutes and the people in line weren't thrilled about her customer service performance. I was so shocked, I couldn't even say anything. Are people really that dumb? I
guess so...

2) TARA GOES ON A DATE- So my friend Tara went on a "date" with a guy she met at the gym. His idea of a date was to bring some whiskey over to her house. Cool. Well the story really gets good when they decide to drive around and Tara says to him, "they should have made this town more asthetically pleasing." His response was, "girl, you're gonna have to speak english to me." Now I didn't know that "asthetically" was such a tough word, but I guess it is.

3) SWEET TEA- The other day we went out to lunch. In Tennessee everyone drinks sweet tea. They also have regular unsweetened tea also, but its not real popular. Being from California, we decide the sweet tea has too much sugar in it, so we ask for 1/2 sweet and 1/2 regular. The guy looked at us like we were OUT of our minds and asked,
"where are you guys FROM???" Wow buddy, I didn't realize that was such an insult.

Posted by bjmorris14 11:06 Comments (0)

Summer in Tennessee - Entry 1

Life in Tennessee

Hi Everyone,

I have been in Tennessee for 9 days so far, and it has been a really incredible experience. I LOVE it here! Maybe its just that I am a traveler at heart, and am easily adaptable to new situations, but I think its more than that. So far I have had quite a few interesting experiences and learned a lot about a side of my country I didn't really know much about.

Also, working for the judge has been really INCREDIBLE!!!! I have gotten to do and see so much! I just finished writing the judge's order (13 pages!) in a social security case. I have also seen lots of criminal hearings and a civil personal injury trial. The criminal hearings I've seen include crack cocaine sales, Meth Lab manufacturing cases (these are REALLY big around here), and a Child Pornography Case (which was super interesting but watching the two child porn offenders in the courtroom- who were 20 and about 65, respectively, but creepy at the same time).
In the civil trial, it was a personal injury case, and I get to sit right next to the judge (so I don't even have to sit in the audience in the courtroom- but its funny because everyone probably wonders who I am). I got to sit in on the judge's settlement conferences with each of the lawyers as he tried to convince them to settle the case because it was the right thing to do and he had a vacation to go on.
The settlement experience was really interesting because all the lawyers were greedy, slimy or just plain old jerks, but they were all kissing my ass of course because I was working with the judge. Always fun...


FIRST THING: People in Tennessee are really nice, but the guy's here don't really "get" the concept of a hairstyle that looks good. So far, I have identified 4 main hairstyles for guys in these parts
(1) The Bandana Mullet Look- mostly for Harley Riders (yeah, you put a bandana on your head that is in the shape of a mullet because you're not quite cool enough to grow the real thing,
(2) The Side Swept Bangs Look- For Southern Preppy Guys (this look is usually found on guys who are attempting the JFK but have got it ALL wrong.
(3) The Side Part Look- For Corporate Lawyers (I spotted this "look" in our courtroom during the personal injury trial. This horrendous hair do is so high maintenance that Instead of focusing on the trial, the lawyer spent every two minutes adjusting his coarse frizzy horse-like hair and as a result was probably not as sharp a lawyer as he should have been.
(4) The Curly Bowl-Cut Look- For Frat Guys (this do' is most often spotted on frat boy looking types. It is a curly hair do, in the shape of a bowl, and there is not much I can say about it other than, its just not flattering.

When we were all in California during the election wondering who in the hell in this country had voted for Bush and WHY, we could have figured it out A LOT quicker if we had just come to Tennessee.
Now I'm not going to knock every single Republican out there because I guess I can kind of understand why a rich person may want to be a Republican because they are selfish, greedy, and for tax purposes (not to mention, some of my favorite people, including the Judge I work for are Republicans), but I never quite understood why poor
people are Republicans until I arrived in Jackson.
This hit me during a criminal hearing, when the defendant, a guy about my age, had grown up using meth since his family gave it to him at age 12 and could not read or write. Now I guess if I had been on meth since age 12 and could not read or write, but was functional enough to fill in a bubble on a ballot, I might vote for Bush also, just because I had no clue and if you drive around here under the influence of meth, and all you see are churches and George W. bumper stickers, maybe you would be easily persuaded also.
Another FUN FACT about Tennessee that I learned on Friday night, while being an audience member in the Miss Tennessee Pagent is that 25% of Tennesseeans are ILLITERATE, so the literacy rate here ranks 49th in the country!!!! Yikes, another reason Bush is so popular here. If u can't read, but u can watch TV, I would relate more to Bush because he talks more to these kind of people if you know what I mean. When Cassie, Tara and I heard this in the audience, we could not stop cracking up!
Its funny though because the first question the Judge asked me when I got here, knowing I was from Berkeley, was what my political status was. He wanted to know if I was a socialist, or a moderate democrat, or what. As I looked around his office, at the signed photos of George Bush (the big fish and the little fish our President), and
Reagan, all personally addressed to him, I replied, "uh, I don't know."

Corn bread comes with pork in these parts. The other day, Cassie was here and we were going to the Old Country Store to eat breakfast. This is the type of place where u see people with such cool outfits as a woman, not wearing overalls, but wearing a t-shirt with a picture of overalls on it and you can buy things like quilts and politically
incorrect salt and pepper shakers.
We sat down, said how hungry we were, I told the waiter I was a "big eater," and I asked what he recommended. He said, "oh, you look like a big eater," (joke- he was the one who looked like the "big
eater") "Skinny girls like you usually order fried chicken and fries." Well, when I said I wanted cornbread, he said, "why? That has so much fat in it!" I said I didn't care.
When the cornbread got to our table, we started to eat it. Then Cassie said it tasted like sausage, I said, "no way, no way," but turns out Cassie was right. The cornbread was made with pork cracklins and you can even watch them make it. So, they make this stuff by pouring an entire pitcher of grease and pork cracklins (whatever those are) over not too many pieces of cornbread. I can't imagine ANYTHING healthier!!!

Here is a list of what I did last weekend: Thursday night- went out to dinner for my birthday in Nashville, then went to some bars there. First we went to some good bars, like the kind you would find in the Marina Dist. of San Francisco. Then we went to some HONKY TONK BARS- I'm not exaggerrating, that is what they are called. Tootsies,
etc... (for those who know Tennessee), these are the bars where all the country singers got famous.
Now I'm not the biggest fan of country music, but to be quite honest, those bars were SO much fun!! (and the people were so damn funny, such a great photo opportunity). We danced to country and took some great pictures, including- I saw this Japanese guy with a jeweled bandana (looked like he had a be-dazzler at home) and some shades on sitting in the VIP section. You know, the type of guy that thinks he is God's gift to Nashville. So when I saw him, I started laughing. Then some guy came up to me and said, don't laugh at him, he is really famous in Japan. I don't care if you are famous in Japan, if you can't go to a club without a be-dazzled item, shades, and hair spiked to the ceiling, I don't care who you are. So when he went to the bathroom, we asked to take a photo with him. I don't think he knew that the photo was because I thought he was funny-looking, not because I thought he
was cool. But that's okay.
The next day we ate at The Pancake Pantry, which is suppose to have the BEST pancakes ever. Then we drove to the Jack Daniels Distillery. On our way there, we passed through Lawerenceburg, where the KKK was founded, scary.... Jack Daniels was fun, especially because I felt like I was in a different country because our tour
guide's accent was so thick, it was like he was speaking Chinese to me.
That night we went to the Miss Tennessee Pagent. It was QUITE an experience. The next day we went to Graceland, and toured Memphis, and we also drove through Mississippi and Arkansas. I also visited my first WAL-MART SUPER CENTER yesterday, so as u can imagine, I have LOTS more to write about that, but as much as I write, I'm lucky if you read to the end of this email for now. Write back and say hi, I want to hear about life away from this small town...


Posted by bjmorris14 16:00 Comments (0)

Insights after Domincan Republic and Haiti Trip

Last Thoughts on My Trip

I'm sorry to send so many emails all at once, but I am using them as my journal of the trip and I want to send them to people in the hope of spreading awareness and understanding of the things I have experienced, that most people probably don't know about.

Ok, now that I got the comedy out of the way, I have to move on to real life. This trip has been a truly incredible journey for me. I have learned so much and been exposed to so many things. It is hard to believe that this trip is only 10 days long (if u don't include the two traveling days), because there are so many things I will never forget.

For one, Haiti. Just being in a place like Haiti, is very moving because when you are able to walk across a border and be in a land that truly feels different, it is a feeling that sticks with you. I have NEVER seen such poverty. You can tell the people there are suffering, and it is a heart breaking feeling, especially because I wanted to do so much, but couldn't really do anything. In Haiti, if you wanted to make a difference, you wouldn't know where to start.
Everything is wrong with the country. Aside from the lack of resources, there are hardly any trees there which is apparent the moment you cross from the Dominican Republic, which is green and reminds you of a lush tropical forest, into Haiti, which is brown and all you see is dirt. The people there have cut down all the trees, which is one of the reasons that they have nothing there and can't even use their own agriculture in order to obtain food.

One of the other things I have learned is the difference between visiting a country as a tourist, and visiting as a volunteer or a student. I have been to the DR before on a cruise, and I was blind to what was happening on the island of Hispanola (the island that is split between Haiti and the DR for those of you who don't
know). It was really interesting today, we went to the market in Dajabon, which is a market where people come from all over Haiti because every Monday and Friday they are allowed to cross the border into the DR for the day.

There are tons of human rights violations at the border, many of which we were able to witness. I think I mentioned this in another email, but the Haitians are too poor to cook the regular rice they receive as aid from the UN, so they bring it into the DR illegally (by paying off the guards), and trade it for rice that is cut up in
smaller pieces, like deformed rice, that will cook faster and not use as much wood.

Those who come in illegally walk through the river, and pay off the guards on the way. Those who come in legally get pushed and shoved and harrased on the way in, and for everything they bring in or out of the country, the miliatary chases them down and "taxes" them illegally. This is how the military makes all of its money, off the starving Haitians, and it is really sickening.

It was interesting for us, because we were standing at the bridge, watching the military abuse the Haitians (physically and by stealing their money), and taking pictures, so as soon as they saw us taking pictures, they thought that we were journalists, so they stopped making the Haitians pay them. We know all of this because we
went to the market with 2 guys from the Solidaridad Fronterista, the organization we were with in Dajabon.

Also, Solideridad is a organization that deals with human rights and trying to help the people, on all the levels I have explained in my emails. So, the military men knew the guys we were with, and when they saw violations, such as the military abusing the Haitians, the man we were with went in and broke up the situation. It was amazing
that he had so much power, but the military listened to him and would stop the abuse while we were there and I'm sure it started again when we left.

The market was the most chaotic situation I have every seen, especially at the bridge where people were crossing back into Haiti, I saw people carrying SO many things, like 20 live chickens held by their legs, women balancing 10 crates of eggs on their heads, men carrying SO much stuff in wheelbarrows it wasn't surprizing to see more bloody hernias coming out of their stomachs. It was quite the photo opportunity.

Another thing we did today was meet with the police and the DA. At the police station, we saw a man who was handcuffed to the gate of his cell, so all he could do was lie there on the floor. Solideridad came to help him, and told us he had been handcuffed to the door, so he could not even walk for the past nine days, for bringing in weed from Haiti, AND he was mentally ill. The police and the DA were especially nice to us, but we could tell many of the
things they said were not true, but it was still interesing to visit their facilities.

Another interesting thing we learned about is the trafficking of children at the border. Many kids are sold either into
prostitution, or into slave labor, mostly shoe shining. I noticed many kids walking around with shoe shining kits at the beginning of our trip and didn't think much of it until we learned about it from one of the organizations. So today, I asked a kid about 8 years old who was standing near me about his life. He wouldn't give me too much information, but he did tell me that he was from Haiti and was now living in the DR and that he did not live with his parents and that he had to work. Very sad.

On this trip we were also wanted to go to one of the sweatshops in the "Free Zone," we could see it from where we were between DR and Haiti, but apparently they wouldn't let us in because the organization we were with has gone there before and pointed out violations, so they no longer let anyone near there.

I'm sure that is more than enough information for anyone to read in an email, so I will end now. To end our trip, we went to the beach for the afternoon. It was so beautiful, secluded and relaxing. A good way to end this experience, but at the same time, I felt guilty lying there on the beach, and then being whisked away in our air conditioned van, back to the US, to a life many people I have met here wouldn't even be able to imagine. It has been great, and these are expereinces I will never forget.

Good night...

Posted by bjmorris14 09:19 Comments (0)

Dominican Trip wrap-up - ingrown hairs!

The MOST annoying thing in this country....

Hi everyone,
At the end of my trip, I have many things to say, all jumbled up in my head, but I will try to make sense of them. First of all, I have to get something out of the way, this one girl on my trip is NUTS, I mean out of her head. Ok, so this girl developed a little spot on her leg, it was either a mosquito bite or an ingrown hair, and it got a tad bit infected, as sometimes happens. SO, as a result, in the middle of our trip, she stops participating in activities, refuses to walk, and when we do go somewhere, she says she NEEDS her own air conditioned car, NO JOKE. For a god damn (I'm not suppose to say that since we are here with a priest) ingrown hair. But the story only gets
worse, and she starts to get really NERVOUS about it, and everytime someone asks her about it she starts CRYING.
Then, after sitting in the room, crying for days over a INGROWN HAIR OR a MOSQUITO BITE, I suggest that she take the antibiotics I have, but that makes her NERVOUS also, so she refused to take them, even though I told her to chill out. So, I finally got so sick of her that I called my dad, and asked him, and like I suggested, he told me to give her the antibiotics, so she started taking them. And u know what, that still wasn't good enough.
For those of you reading this, keep in mind what we are talking about, a spot on your leg, keep it real, when u come to a foreign country, especially to study human rights, u expect to get some bites. Back to the story, so she decides on the LAST day we are here that she is going home early, a few hours early, so she can go back to the place we stayed, the Jesuit Center at the start of the trip, in Santiago (a few hours away) so she can go see a doctor.
So, we were going to put her on a bus back to Santiago, but that was NOT good enough, so the school, USF had to pay to hire her a private car back so she could get her really GRAVE problem checked out by a doctor. Ok, the story only gets better.
Here is the pinnacle.... Aside from missing half the trip, not going to Haiti, and spending days and days crying and feeling sorry for herself after we have seen people in the most inhumane situations, this girl gets on her private car, which cost a LOT of money, gets to the Jesuit Center and gets taken to the emergency room and GUESS WHAT- they tried to prescribe her the EXACT medication I had given her, the same antibiotic and told her that was
all she needed.
That still wasn't good enough, so she went to a private doctor, who she also thought was incompetent. Doctor #3 was a house call doctor that came to the center she was staying, but you guessed it, still not good enough, SOOOO.... she goes to doctor #4, another private doctor, who although he wasn't good enough to treat her
INGROWN HAIR, he was okay for the time being.
Keep in mind we are leaving tommorrow morning, so she would only have to wait about less than 24 hours to see a doctor in the states, which she is going to do anyways. People like her make me SICK!!! After being exposed to many horrific things, it is truly disgusting that someone like her thinks she should get all this special treatment and money wasted and doctors that could be spending their time where it is really needed. Anyways, that was one story, I have more coming. PS- if u want to know who she is cause u go to USF, email me back and I can hook u up with that info. That is how annoyed I am....


Posted by bjmorris14 06:34 Comments (0)

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