Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Pappy & Jimmy's

When my family first moved to Memphis, my parents had a great deal of difficulty finding a Catholic Parish where they felt at home. My parents were both true New Yorkers, having grown up in Brooklyn and Queens.

The Catholic Churches we’d visited in Memphis had a sort of plastic veneer that made my parents ill at ease. To them, Catholicism had been experienced through an ethnic lens. As Memphis really only has black people and white people, the Catholic experience there lacked a familiarity and authenticity that my parents craved as they tried to feel comfortable in an alien town.

Finally, upon the recommendation of the pastor of the Dominican parish we’d just left in New York, we visited St. Peter’s Church. Immediately, my parents felt at home, became active in parish doings and thereby, made measured strides towards assimilation.

St. Peter’s Church is in downtown Memphis, a twenty minute drive from our house, which was on the outer reaches of the city limits, in East Memphis. Despite this, we trekked there every weekend. Driving home from downtown after mass, we’d go by way of Poplar Avenue, a main east-west artery.

As this drive would pass through Midtown Memphis, on the corner of Hollywood and Poplar we’d pass a seafood restaurant called Pappy & Jimmy’s. Its sign, whose the partially destroyed remains can be seen here, featured two lobsters with the superimposed heads of (one must assume to be) Pappy and Jimmy.

Now this was not a nice looking establishment and I never ate there. Now that I think of it, I would never eat at any seafood restaurant that is located thousands of miles from the…well…sea. But each Sunday, I looked forward to passing Pappy & Jimmy’s and pondering this sign.

It was my brother, (a brilliant man at that) who fabricated the storyline that Pappy & Jimmy had long been engaged in a armed struggle against one another with the objective of becoming The One Lobster featured on their sign. Martin created skits which we’d reenact in the car, Pappy emerges from the kitchen with an assault rifle as Jimmy sends a rocket propelled grenade across the restaurant. All the while, two things never changed: (1) loyal nonplussed patrons would continue to eat their food and (2) the men would always fail to kill one another.

Sadly, the damage to the sign seen in this photo was NOT the result of this prolonged conflict but rather the effects of a windstorm. In 1994, I’d leave Memphis for good. Pappy & Jimmy’s would leave Midtown Memphis to relocate to an unremarkable, anonymous strip mall just outside of the I-240 loop on Summer Avenue. They must have shut down sometime thereafter. I just called the number listed for the Summer Avenue location and a recorded voice said the line had been disconnected.
Who knows, maybe one day both those guys got lucky and knocked each other off in one fantastic explosion?


  1. By the looks of Jimmy's bruised visage and the wry smile peeking out at you from the old man's face, it looks as though Pappy may have violently won the day after all.

  2. You know, the claws (sans rubber bands) do enable a kind of gladiator element to those two. What a shame places like this don't exist anymore - and no one would tolerate such fun idiocy on such a sign in these our days of faux sophistocation.