Peaceful Places in Memphis: The Peabody Rooftop as the Sun Sets at 7:16 PM

Posted on April 28, 2015

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By: Lily Kate Anthony

In a city of over 600,000, known for its sound and certainly not its silence, I often thought that I needed to escape to find peace. Only recently did I realize that I did not have to go so far after all.

3830225I pause at the marble-topped bar in the lobby to order a Shirley Temple that costs me all of three and a half dollars. Saccharine, roseate grenadine blushes upward from the base of my cocktail glass, now faceted with condensation, as I select a secluded table in the corner screened by potted palms. Breaking Maraschino cherries between my teeth and relishing their viscid excretions, I settle into the anonymity afforded by my surroundings and convince myself that I, too, am a tourist beneath the Peabody’s stained glass ceilings (when, of course, I am not). The grand fountain is empty of mallard ducks, and a pianist in street clothes with a smoker’s voice lingers over the final notes of Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World.” I leave my perspiring, now empty glass on the tabletop and join a young couple–likely newlyweds–in the elevator, which ascends patiently after decades of the same vertical journey.

As I step out onto rooftop, I realize just how indebted I am to the Peabody. It was on one of the fourteen floors that my father, the beverage manager for the hotel at the time, declared at first sight that he would marry my mother, a PR assistant. And it is beneath the illuminated red letters spelling out the name of the building for the crepuscular city below that I continually rediscover just how beautiful Memphis is.

I stand at the roof’s edge, which was always forbidden as a child due to my father’s acrophobia, overlooking gilded glass windows and concrete stained the color of overturned champagne as the sun incinerates the edge of the sky, spilling over itself into the river like honey or molten glass. The sounds of street-corner saxophones drift northward from Beale, intermingling with the murmur of traffic and faraway freight trains and the smell of Huey’s cooking grease. The skyscrapers that from the ground seem to support the firmament are suddenly made small. The skyline severs the bridge in the distance so that only one of its arches can be seen extendi1955010ng out over the Mississippi. The carriages move lazily down Union, and the river currents circulate indifferent and undisturbed.

Maybe Ferris was right when he said that anything is peaceful from 1,353 feet. The precise quantitative height he offered is unimportant, of course, but the sentiment is applicable almost everywhere; removing oneself from the rushing chaos of grounded society imparts an illuminated perspective and an unconventional appreciation of beauty. Standing on the rooftop with the wind catching my hair, I look down at my city–the oily street lamps that extend endlessly in succession behind me, the pedestrians congregating at the crosswalks, a shred of the word Orpheum surrounded by glittering bulbs, and the bluff tumbling into mellifluous brown waters. Looking down through the veil of nightfall, Memphis is simultaneously alive and serene.

I take a photograph for a group of college-age girls, vow to look upward more often, and finally descend with the last of the saffron light.

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Posted in: Lifestyle