Friday, April 2, 2010

Travelogue: Walking in Memphis

Well, we walked down a stretch of Elvis Presley Boulevard at any rate.  The last day of our trip centered on our visit to Graceland.  We stayed the night before at a hotel in Jackson, Mississippi.  I can't say much about the state, as we merely passed through it; but the scenery was beautiful, seemingly a vast landscape of green the whole way through it.  Memphis was to be our last stop before the 11-hour drive home through Tennessee, Arkansas, Illinois, and....nice try!  As readers know, Der Viator never reveals his place of residence; if I had a nickel for every female stalker trying to track me down!  But I digress.

Visitors to Graceland are immediately struck by the “smallness” of the place. How do I know that? That’s the impression my wife and I had. Also, some obnoxious lady on the tour bus was remarking on the house as we approached. I wanted to bop her on the head (not out of malice, mind you, but as a service to humanity). You know those people who are ostensibly talking to their friend but really speaking loud enough because they want everyone to hear their brilliant opinion? I hate that, but I digress again. Although Elvis’s home doesn’t quite match the opulence of today’s rich, Graceland is quite a spread, what with horses, a carport, a racquet ball court, a meditation fountain, a shooting range, an office, and more.

Throughout the trip we had been listening to a CD of songs having to do with the places we’d visit or at least pass through, two of which deal with Graceland: Mark Cohn’s Walking in Memphis and Paul Simon’s Graceland. Both of these tunes are not my normal genre of music, but they’re great songs nonetheless, and I find the lyrics of the latter particularly clever and even profound. But I didn’t see the ghost of Elvis getting it on with “a pretty little thing” in the Jungle Room, nor did I receive any spiritual solace.

I'm not a huge Elvis fan, but I did enjoy the tour.  Years ago I read some fairly disgusting things about Elvis, his sexual exploits.  And I haven't been able to think of him in a positive light ever since.  However, we all have a bit of saint and sinner in us, and some more than others.  During the tour, however, Elvis impressed me in a couple aspects.  You get the sense that he never forgot his roots.  Indeed, he kept his residence in Memphis, and gave to charitable causes and to individuals in need.  The way he resolved to lift his parents out of poverty when he became famous was particularly touching.

Postscript: Elvis gave to the city of Memphis and, as my wife pointed out, he's still giving.  Graceland is pretty much a money trap that employs a fair number of local yokels.  If you make a visit, be prepared to slap down more cash than is really worth it, unless you believe in the second coming of the King, in which case you'll want to pay homage whatever the cost.