Being a starving graduate student, I booked my hotel far from the conference hotel and took the bus everyday. I considered renting a car, but being the nosy anthropologist, what better way to explore Memphis than by public transport and walking.
The bus I took passed through the deteriorating parts of the city as well as those struggling to renew itself. I saw many boarded up homes and buildings, walls with graffiti, and homeless people. It was dreary and depressing.
On the way back to the hotel, I would take the night loop. At first it was scary, as the passengers were predominantly of one color. A few were a bit aggressive in their panhandling. But after a few minutes, I couldn't stop myself from eavesdropping on the conversations of the passengers. I even had a hard time from laughing at the jokes of this group of FedEX workers as they ribbed each other. They really enjoyed their "schoolbus" ride home.
I had fun talking to the bus drivers and my very knowledgeable cab driver, Mr. Turner. Ordinary folks were helpful and friendly in their own way. Good luck Memphis!