Christian Bionat, Day 1: JF Spring Trip

Wednesday, February 22: Good evening everyone! I’m Christian Bionat, a senior at Sam Houston State University, and the President of the Political Science Junior Fellows.  Today we started our five-day journey to the Arkansas Political Science Association Conference, and it was an enjoyable first day.

We left at three a.m., so that we could arrive to our destination during business hours, and fit in at least a half of a day of site-seeing.  Our destination for Day One, but our first stop was Hope, Arkansas, where we visited the childhood home of former President Bill Clinton.

As I noted, however, our goal was to get to Memphis.  We arrived there around noon, perfect timing for a lunch at Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken, emphasis on “Fried” and “Chicken.”  In fact, other than two starters, fried chicken is their only entrée.

Following lunch, we visited the National Civil Rights Museum, located at the former Lorraine Hotel, where Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated.

The Museum did a good job of laying out a timeline for the Civil Rights movement, and it also permitted a view of the exact spot where MLK was assassinated, as well as the spot where James Earl Ray fired his fateful bullet.

Junior Fellows, at the Lorraine Hotel

We are visiting the Little Rock Central High Civil Rights Museum tomorrow, and it will be nice to follow up today’s education with a focus on one of the key battles of the Civil Rights movement.

My favorite stop of the day was Sun Records.  We were able to tour the studio—the birthplace of Rock and Roll—while listening to some of the earliest recordings of rock music.  The sampling included Elvis’s first recording, as well as tracks by Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis.  A highlight was getting to stand in the same spot as Elvis while “singing” into an old-school microphone.

Christian, As Elvis

I also purchased a record—an actual LP record.  The title: “Elvis—A Legendary Performer, Volume 3,” the start of my record collection.

Other than the music, a highlight of Memphis is the mighty Mississippi.  We explored the river a bit just before sunset, walking up a linear park that showcased nice views of the town’s bridges and a few pieces of art.  One creative piece of public art doubled as a bike rack; in the Junior Fellows’ hands, however, it soon became a jungle gym (it was designed for public interaction).

Junior Fellows on the MIssissippi

We closed the long day with dinner on Beale Street at King’s Palace, where we had “Gator Chips,” crawfish tails, and seafood gumbo—and that was just for starters.  For the entrée, Justin (our Vice President) and I shared a Cajun Feast, featuring “voodoo potatoes,” jambalaya, and voodoo chicken.

Adding to the ambience was the live music, mostly blues, and a few fleeting glimpses of street performers outside.

Until tomorrow…


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