I’ve never been an Elvis fan. Nobody in my family has. Growing up we had racks full of records in my burnt-orange shag-rugged den. None of them were Elvis records.
I’m not sure why that was. Perhaps it was the age of my parents, who were already married with kids by the time Elvis rocked his pelvis. Maybe it was because we are Jews, and there is something about the Memphis megastar that feels forbidden and foreign as a rack of BBQ pork ribs
Is that IT even? I don’t know if my theory is sound. I haven’t polled my fellow Jews about their feelings on the “King”. All I know for sure, is that when you are in Memphis, you go to Graceland. Given the opportunity, off I went.
First we stopped at Sun Recording Studios. It’s important to have context.
Also useful: A sign to tell me what I’m looking at.
The air here hangs thick with the scent of the past. It’s almost as though a breeze could blow it away, but a force field of nostalgia keeps the reality of the 21st century at arm’s length. This makes my mind go odd places.
Like what would happen if Justin Bieber showed up right now in a pink cadillac, and sidled up to the soda fountain? Would there be a warp in the time space continuum?
Stickers slapped on the light post seem placed there for luck. Like pennies in the fountain of recording star history.
This is your jumping off point for a tour of the Memphis music scene. And then it’s on to Graceland.
I’m not sure what I was expecting Graceland to be like. I just instinctively knew there would be bedazzled white coveralls.
When I was a little girl I used to mix up Elvis and Liberace. In my mind they were one sparkling jump-suited musician with greased back and coiffed black hair. I know better now but early impressions are powerful and the image of Elvis’s manse that I conjured was equally overwrought and grand. I expected much. I expected more. What I didn’t expect was something that felt very nearly like my own childhood home.
Graceland isn’t all that grand. If you take away the memorabilia and the man that made it what it was. It’s just a house – albeit a biggish one. But just a house, similar to mine, and my friend’s homes that I grew up running in and out of.
The formica counters and tv in the kitchen. The stained glass windows and lamps. The faux fur and vinyl and the rec room in the basement. And the colors of teal, avocado, orange and purple, punctuated with slashes of white in the formal living areas. Period perfection. Perfectly preserved. We had the same smoked mirrors and swing set out back. Swap the blue candy dish in the living room for the same one in red and you’d nearly have my parents house.
What a surprise to find I’d come home! Maybe not to my place,exactly, but to my time. I felt odd. Old. The earlier Elvis stuff – well before my time, gave me solace.
Though there was plenty of Elvis memorabilia to stare at, I was more intent on staring at the shoes that were the same as the ones my dad wore in summer, all through my childhood. I marveled that Lisa Marie, just a couple of years older than me, had the same crib, dress and baby pictures as me. It was oddly like looking at my own childhood photos.
Of course I never had a plane. Or a famous father. Or all the other things that make Graceland so interesting to pretty much everyone else in the world.
The closest I could come to relating to Lisa Marie is that we’ve both had fathers who were masterful at branding. Mine came up with “10 Records for a Penny”. Hers sold a few million records and branded himself with a lightning bolt and the motto TCB – “Taking Care of Business”. Such a great motto.
It could be text language. TCB and a zigzag emoticon. So modern. I dashed it out on my i-phone. Still works. But so poignant when you see it on a grave.
Before I left, I snapped this photo of a check made out to the Jewish Community Center, on Elvis’s wall of charity. Who knew? My theory may be dashed.
I couldn’t leave Memphis without trying the pork ribs. I don’t normally eat pork but I also don’t keep kosher.
It was all so foreign, and yet strangely familiar. An odd barbecue-spiced dream during a whirlwind 24 hour trip. Sometimes places surprise you like that.
Note: This post was made possible by Expedia, who brought me to Memphis as part of a blogger initiative to spread the word about their September partnership with St Jude Children’s Research Hospital. You can read more about the partnership between Expedia and St Jude here.