Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The King is Dead and Buried in the Back Yard

All this month, the radio has been playing Elvis music, in recognition of the anniversary of his death. I don't know why Elvis's death anniversary doesn't stick in my head. I'm going to make a fried peanut butter and banana sandwich and ponder this.

The music does remind me of the three weeks I spent in Memphis. Let me tell you, there is more to Memphis than Elvis. There's Beale Street, with lots of blues clubs, including B.B. King's place. I spent many a night investigating everything that Beale Street had to offer,  carousing up and down more often than a whore's drawers.

But, really, Elvlis is the heart of Memphis. Even though I'm not a big Elvis fan, I had to see Graceland. Just had to. The first thing about Graceland is that its not set in some bucolic surroundings; it's right there, in the middle of sub shops, shoe stores and car dealerships. Seriously, imagine Graceland right smack in the middle of Pulaski Highway and you get an idea of what I mean. 

The other surprising thing about Graceland is the size. It's not some big ol' Tara type of  mansion, its just an average size house that would fit right in Middle River or Hamilton or Parkville. But nobody who loved Elvis really cares about that. To his faithful fans, Graceland is the Mecca in the Church of Elvis.  

The tours won't let visitors upstairs to Elvis's bedroom or bathroom, where he died, ingloriously, on the toilet. But I did see the infamous Jungle Room. 

Oh my. 

There was emerald green carpeting...on the floor and the ceiling...and lots of brown furniture and orange decoration against a wood-paneled wall. There were also lots of posted signs that said, "Please DO NOT Touch The Furniture." Which I, of course, interpreted as a dare. I did touch the furniture, and a lot of it, I'm sorry to say, was cheap plastic. Not even vinyl, but plastic. The tour guide said that Elvis himself had gone  into a local furniture store and selected every piece of furniture in only 30 minutes. I just stared at the room, thinking,"Yeah, 30 minutes. That would have been my guess, too."

Oh, and Elvis is buried right out back. [Uh-oh. Hey, guys, Elvis is dead. Real dead. Okay, Junior, Bubba, Vance, let's me and y'all get out the shovels and start digging. How about that real nice place behind the septic drain?} Actually, I think Elvis had a good idea about that. When I'm gone, just bury me in the back yard, near the four o'clocks. I'll go to my maker with flowers in my hair.

The one thing that really touched me at Graceland wasn't Elvis' decorative taste, or all of his gold records, which were on display, or even his burial place in the back yard of Graceland...it was the faces of the faithful.  For many of the other tourists, this was a once-in-a-lifetime trip to pay homage to a man who's music was as much a part of them as their blood or bones. Elvis is the ultimate American Icon...a man who started with nothing, worked his way up to something, and died from ingesting everything. The quiet reverence that his fans showed moved me to wonder if I had been missing something. I have to admit, I still don't quite get it, but there's no doubt that hordes of people still love him tender. 

All I know is, if I ever get to Memphis again, I'm going back to visit Graceland. Maybe I'll see you there. Let's make a pact to meet at the Heartbreak Hotel with the rest of the hound dogs.

1 comment:

  1. I'll go!!!! I'll go!!! I loooooovvvvveeee Elvis and I was young when he died. But...watched his movies and listened to his music all the time. Ohhhhhh, and cried and cried when the King died. You can blame all this on my momma!