3/25/2008 - MIFA, illness and despair

i managed to get myself some weird little allergy cold thing traipsing around in overton park on sunday night - i suppose it's my fault for ignoring the signs and going in after dark anyway. suffice to say i felt like crap all day monday and tuesday, which hampered my usually adventurous spirit, and limited me to one measly store this week, albeit a good one. i'll be shamelessly padding this entry with quick looks at two other local landmarks though. here's how it all went down.

monday - replaced the smashed out window on my car, one of the perils of working downtown, i know. i thought the fact that i drive a ten year old beat up station wagon might have tipped people to the fact that THERE'S NOTHING WORTH STEALING IN MY FUCKING CAR but that was admittedly a bit naive on my part. so, learning experience, anyway. spent the rest of the day doing laundry and sitting around being sick. fascinating, i know.

tuesday - saw the wife and lil' sis off to work, and immediately hit the couch for one of my favorite activities when i'm feeling under the weather...watching the big lebowski. i'm an inveterate achiever, as i'm sure some of you also are, and there's this website where you can watch it for free, along with some other stuff that's not too bad either. perfect, though...for those of us who are too lazy to sort through our box of dvds and actually get the disc out and put it in the player...now you don't have to!

anyway i was inspired. i decided to have a big lebowski day. so while i was out tooling around on summer ave, doing some errands i swung by a local landmark i'd been meaning to visit since the first time i came to town. it was around eleven am, and i remember wondering if they were going to be open or not. if only i'd known...


imperial lanes, 4700 summer ave, 683-5224. when i walked up to the counter i saw a sign advertising their prices from 8am to 12am, and i mistakenly assumed those were their hours. it wasn't until i went to pay and leave that it was explained to me that there are no posted hours because THEY NEVER CLOSE. i'm going to be a little snide and presumptuous and say that many memphians (memphibians?) must not be aware of this fact, because from what i understand this place has been on the verge of being sold or closing down on and off over the past few years, so i'll just state it plainly here:


for those who haven't been, this is what you're missing


total vintage decor, everything about this place is the genuine article, right down to


the old school overhead projector scoring tables (mark it 8, dude)


the SNACK BAR (mmmm) and of course


the sweet ass vintage arcade. in case it's not coming through in this picture that's (from left to right) super pac man, galaga 3, donkey kong, an original popeye machine (kind of rare), and a playchoice-10. that's the one that lets you play like one of ten different NES games on a timer. also, cropped out for necessity's sake was an original teenage mutant ninja turtles console. not the fun co-op one where you could spout all sorts of cool catchphrases and kick those little rat catcher things through walls, but rather the unbelievably hard first game where you spent most of the time trying to avoid getting run over by foot soldiers driving giant steamrollers. awesome. but i digress.


the only gaping hole in the whole operation was the lack of a bar, or one that i could see anyway, but if you can't figure out how to sneak alcohol into a bowling alley then maybe this relationship just isn't destined to work after all (white russians may be a little trickier though). they did however have this cool, mysterious little meeting room in the front of the place, suitable for renting out for your next corporate event/bar or bat mitzvah/freemason initiation/what have you. did i mention my birthday's in september?


i need to move this little travelogue along, i know, but i can't bear to bring myself to leave. i really can't think of enough good things to say about this place. it was eleven in the morning when i rolled in and there had to be at least a dozen old timers hanging around and gabbing at each other in between frames on the other end of the place, and one guy doing that thing that i never really understand where you talk on the phone the whole time you're bowling and don't even watch the ball after you throw it to see what happens, like the bowling is something you HAVE to do while you'd rather be talking on the phone? i don't know, i don't get it.

the shoes were $2.25 to rent i think, and i believe i paid $2.75 for the one game i played. there were other specials too, paying by the hour and different things for different times of day, too many for me to write down or remember but if you call i'm sure they'll happily give you the rundown. i bowled a pretty shoddy 108 but it's been maybe three years since the last time i rolled at all, and anyway if i at least break 100 i'm not too terribly embarrassed. they give you a sheet at the front counter to keep score on, and another one (if you ask for it) that explains the basics of scoring your own game (which was useful, as i hadn't done that in a long time). the guy at the counter was super friendly, the vibe in the place was really great, i'm gonna go ahead and make a standing invitation for anyone to join me for a game, my treat (pay for your own shoes you cheap bastard) and you tell me if it doesn't make you feel good just being there.

one more weird little thing and then i'll move on, promise. in the interest of full disclosure, i should mention that for most of her pregnancy, my mother tended bar at black earth lanes in scenic black earth wisconsin (SO classy, i know), and as a result, walking into a bowling alley and hearing the sounds of the pins crashing and the fans blowing and the people chatting has always made me feel very safe and secure and happy. all of that by way of saying that i don't really expect anyone else to share my ridiculously over the top reaction to this place, i just have to give my perspective on the whole thing, and for me, it was like being in a church must be for some people. i honestly felt reluctant to even walk around and take pictures, like it would be disrespectful or something. it definitely takes something special to make me feel self-conscious about being a jerk wandering around with a camera.


the next time you find yourself all wound up, just take a deep breath, channel walter sobchak and say, in a calm clear voice, "fuck it dude...let's go bowling" and head to the imperial. i might just meet you there.

ps lebowski fest memphis anyone?


okay moving on, i actually made an honest effort to go to some thrift stores today, but with the wife and sis at work and my trusty traveling companion taylor (a.k.a. well never mind, i used up all the good nicknames last week) otherwise occupied, i was forced to go it alone, and in my weakened condition that proved to be a little too much to ask. i had intended to hit up the salvation army on danny thomas blvd, and the DAV and "Shadow of Treasuries" (what an awesome name) on elvis presley blvd but instead opted to settle for only my second store inside the highway loop so far, but one i was REALLY excited to find again, the Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association thrift store, which the wife to end all wives and i had kind of just stumbled across on our first tentative sojourn into the wilds of the greater memphis area, but hadn't been able to find again, for one simple reason:


it's not listed anywhere as a thrift store! this is one of the ways in which i hope this silly little self-indulgent project can actually be kind of useful to people. i get the sense even if you've lived in memphis for a few years, even if you're marginally interested in thrift stores or secondhand culture or ANY of it, you still might not know about this place. it's not in the yellow pages or under a google search for anything to do with the word "thrift," and it's on the corner of Vance and East, in a neighborhood that's not HORRIBLE but definitely leans a little on the rough side, and is (more to the point) not really on a major thoroughfare, so doesn't really get a lot of traffic.

i posted their web site above because it explains what the MIFA actually is, along with the store, hours, sales, etc etc. "well doesn't that render you kind of redundant in this situation then, dave?" you might well be asking yourself, or rather i guess i'm asking myself that now but AHA, dear reader, where would this whole project be without my scintillatingly insightful photographs and commentary? eh? where would it be then?


just kidding. the fact of the matter is i went all the way down there and took a bunch of pictures and notes so i'm going to put them up here so the day doesn't feel like a COMPLETE waste of time. this is one of the smallest thrift stores in town, but they make up for it with real eclecticism (that CANNOT be a word) and a variety of selection that really impressed me


the books were good as well, $1.50 for hardback, less than a buck for paperback, but i won't lie, after spending most of the last two days hopped up on any combination of benadryl, ibuprofen, no-doz, zantac, red wine and B2E (budweiser's answer to sparks, which basically tastes like someone dropped a cough drop into a can of bud and just SHOOK THE SHIT out of it, but which the kroger in poplar plaza is selling for like $1.50 a 4 pack), i was really not feeling up to sorting through the whole thing


two "jogging strollers," for like $30 a piece i think. kind of amusing to see two of them together like that. they look like they're getting ready for a race. have these things not been outlawed yet, though? just for good taste if not safety reasons? anyway "jogging stroller" is a contradiction in terms. think about it.


i didn't say this place was perfect though. 40 BUCKS for this "antique telephone stand" that was covered in...well, i hesitate to speculate WHAT exactly it was covered in, horribly wobbly and was actually no shit growing mold on the inside. i understand you can do a lot with refinishing, and i recognize the importance of creative visualization when exploring the untamed secondhand frontier, but...come on. 40 bucks?


they did have four of my favorite NES games just sitting in a pile, which really made me laugh. yeah i was that weird kid that played all the games that no one else liked, like "Wrath of the Black Manta." excitebike still rules though


i toss words like "eclectic" and phrases like "wide variety of stuff" around here a lot, and i think they probably lose some of their effect over time but that's actually okay, if anything it just reflects how jaded you can actually get after seeing the fiftieth busted old black and white tv sitting there, but then you come to a place like the MIFA store and see, no shit, 104 copies of this book, entitled "Stories to Tell a Cat," and you kind of rediscover your ability to be amused again. it's nice. they must get a fair amount of bulk donations here, because they had 40/50/60+ copies of several other kid's books, but i didn't have the energy to count them all. i wanted to, though


speaking of bulk stuff, also, about 3 or 4 cases of this "gingerbread butter spread" (i LOVE the way that just bounces off the tongue)


and roughly 100 or so boxes of "turkey brine." what is "turkey brine," you might ask?


this is turkey brine. kind of cool, actually, i bet you could brine the hell out of a turkey with that shit. but hey, this isn't "bitter/cooks," let's try to stay on topic or at least pretend we have one, right?


the other really cool thing they have here, and it's the last thing i wanted to mention before we take off, is their "back dock" specials. there's a little printout they hang up by the front door that tells you what they have on the back dock that's for sale that they can't for whatever reason bring into the actual store. bigger stuff like desks and in this case two sweet looking upright pianos for (wait for it...) $25 a piece! the one on the right wasn't really even playable but the one on the left, with a few months' work, would really be back in a more or less serviceable shape. the logistics of trying to deal with something like that were literally making my brain bulge, but after sitting down and playing it for a few minutes, i'd be lying if i said i wasn't tempted.

so, after that ORGY of secondhand insanity (okay, fine, just one store) i found myself drained, defeated, and dehydrated. i chose to finish my abbreviated adventure in the only appropriate way i could think of:


the donut shop. donald's donuts on union, across from schnucks and the old trousseau shop. nothing to write home about but a cinnamon sugar donut and a small cup of coffee only sets you back like a buck fifty or so. nice place to sit and unwind after a tiring day, and they're open until the surprisingly late hour of seven pm most days. i didn't find occasion to bang on the counter and loudly complain about how i watched my buddies die face down in the muck so that i could sit here and enjoy my coffee, though. considering the place was empty i don't think it would have been appropriate, and probably would have frightened the nice asian lady who was working.


to recap:

Imperial Lanes Bowling Center
4700 Summer Ave
Memphis, TN 38122
(901) 683-5224


MIFA Store
910 Vance Ave
Memphis, TN 38126
(901) 271-6432‎

hours/prices/more relevant and on-topic information than i could possibly give you available at their web site

Donald's Donuts
1776 Union Ave
Memphis, TN 38104
(901) 725-5595‎

nice place to sit and enjoy your coffee

i'll be back next week with a slightly more ambitious trek, god (and my immune system) willing.

until then, shut the fuck up, donny.



Jasmin said...

That rug really tied the room together.

fearlessvk said...

your blog is fantastic. it shows me a whole side of memphis that i've barely explored at all. thank you! i just wrote an enthusiastic entry on my blog about your blog...

(that may well be the dorkiest sentence i've ever written)

theogeo said...

Wait wait wait. Imperial is open 24 hours?

This seriously changes my life. For the better, I think.

Carrie Ann said...

I love your blog!!
This is an awesome adventure/task you've taken on!!
I'll be reading.
(I found you through fearlessvk's post.)

eknbwrekn said...

Ummm, hell yeah Lebowski day in Memphis.. Dang. I'm tempted to get a layover flight long enough in Memphis to hit up Imperial Lanes, and I want you to be there dude!

PS, I like "fuck it... let's get a lane" better than "fuck it... let's go bowling", but it's a close second.

Oh well, thanks for the blog, I always appreciate a Lebowski fan. Honestly, I've been looking for an old projector-scoring-machine-bowling-alley for quite some time.... hey... we should start a website dedicated to bowling alleys that maintain the "vintageness" much like Imperial does. There's got to be loads of "small town bowling alleys" out there that haven't even gotten to the disco era yet, that certainly don't have adequate Internet representation.... ok I'm thinking out loud now..

Rance F.
Omaha, NE

cdel said...

I'm a little disappointed that you didn't mention my favorite feature of the MIFA store - the sign on at the entrance that says please do not leave children or vulnerable adults in the car.