Today is Paul Simon’s seventieth birthday. Happy birthday, Paul. I’ve loved you and your music ever since my mom and dad played me the Graceland cassette when I couldn’t have been much older than two. Here’s to seventy more!
Tag Archives: Graceland
Well, I last left you in front of Memphis Slim’s house after a full day of rocking out and getting down. Unfortunately, as I said, I became rather ill by the time we reached Stax and our visit was abbreviated. We went back to the house and I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening trying to recoup while my mother and aunt visited their aunt, who had just gone through surgery that day, and cousins in the hospital. My cousins Molly and Clark took exceptional care of me, and I was feeling much better that night. Clark and I watched the American version of Let the Right One in. He reminds me much of myself at that age, and we both have a penchant for the macabre. He then introduced me to an animated Batman film and he expounded on the virtues of Harley Quinn and the virtues of the darker Batman stories. They were both topics about which I do not have an extensive knowledge, but it’s always nice to talk to intelligent kids who have interests outside of their cell phones and crappy MTV reality shows. He’s very bright, and we’ve always gotten on very well. It’s hard to believe he’s about to enter high school, and I swear he grew a foot since I saw him last summer. I’m starting to become painfully aware of how fleeting time actually is.
Enough about my family, though. You really want to read about my adventures at the home of the King himself, Graceland, don’t you? Yes, that’s what I thought.
We all started the morning off in the car singing this. However, I think Paul saw something much more appealing in the experience of Graceland than I. Although, I’m sure the Graceland of his song is much more a theoretical concept than the actual physical place (tourist trap *cough cough*) that is Graceland. I think he meant the area and atmosphere of Memphis as the starting point for the Mississippi Delta. I’ve always found the fascination held by those far removed from the Delta with the Delta very interesting. I understand it completely (see my post about the first day), but I still find it interesting. I had a professor this past year from Washington state who I’m pretty sure knew more about the Blues than any other person in the world and has made many a pilgrimage down South in search of the greats and their haunts. He’s actually just released a book about Son House called Preachin’ the Blues: The Life and Times of Son House, which is a great read for anyone interested in American music history. I really enjoyed it. I really enjoyed Prof Beaumont’s class on the Blues, for that matter, but not everyone can study under him at Rochester unfortunately.
Wow, so I’ve really gone of course already. I suppose I should be honest. I’m not an Elvis fan. This could very well be the reason I seem to be veering off so easily when I should be talking about a trip to his famous home. Let me be immaculately clear. I can appreciate Elvis’ importance, and I find a few of his early, early songs before Sam Phillips sold his contract enjoyable. He was a rebel who revolutionized music, Elvis I mean, because that description fits Phillips as well. I do think Elvis is one of the biggest (maybe even the original) sell-out stories, though. His music post contract sell was awful and his Hollywood career was groan-worthy, oh, and don’t get me started on Vegas. I never had a desire to go to Graceland. You’ve seen one bad 1970s decorating job, you’ve seen them all in my opinion. However, our dear cousin kindly arranged for us to go with comp tickets, so we thought what the hell. At least then we can say we’ve been, and we never have to go back, and let me tell you, I never will.
With all that said, let me give you my take on Graceland. We received the mid-level tickets which allow you a tour of the “mansion,” a tour of his two airplanes, access to view his car collection, and access to four exhibits which to me just appeared to be a bunch of film clips and rhinestone-studded jumpsuits. The house was first, and it was another one of those damn headset tours. I couldn’t stand the set to wear it so I didn’t actually learn much going through the house other than Elvis liked shag carpeting and ceramic monkeys apparently.
I apologize a head of time for the rather appalling quality of my photos. It was crowded, we couldn’t use flash, and they push you through pretty quickly.
Oh yeah, he liked folded fabric on strange surfaces as well.
The house itself isn’t very big by today’s celebrity standards. It was owned by a physician prior to Elvis’ purchase. Interestingly enough, when my grandfather called on our drive over that morning, he told us that he and my grandmother had eaten dinner at the private residence there as guests the week of their wedding. This of course was before Elvis bought it.
The tour takes you through the bottom two levels of the house. The top level is permanently closed to the public. It also takes you through his father’s office, the hall of fame with all of his gold records and awards, the racquet ball court holding a bunch of other commemorative records and jumpsuits, and the garden where Elvis and his parents are buried, as my uncle so cleverly quipped, “Like a hamster in the back yard.”
Bit harsh? Maybe, but I can say that because I am American. Isn’t that what the rule book says?
As we walked to the shuttle stop beyond the burial site, my cousins and I agreed that the whole atmosphere was incredibly surreal and strange, the adulation and near worship expressed by many of our fellow visitors were very off-putting, and we had seen just about all we cared to. So, lunch and air conditioning was in order, right? Ha ha, no, that’s where you’d be wrong! We were going to hit all six other stops on our tickets come hell or high water according to my uncle. I will admit, the car exhibit was pretty cool, but who doesn’t like looking at awesome classic cars, but after that and being dumped into the madness of about millionth gifts shop, I really was done. Guess what, Memphis is hot in July, hotter than blazes, if you’ll pardon the very southern colloquialism, but by golly we had every last tab on those tickets torn off by the time we left.
All right, so here’s my final assessment. Graceland did not change my life. I think I could have lived undisturbed for the rest of it by not visiting, but then again, I’m not an Elvis fan. There were so many people around us who were into it and soaking up every last fiber of acrylic mucous-green shag carpeting. That’s great. If you’re into that, then please go by all means. It was an experience. I personally am not sure what kind, but it was an experience nonetheless.
I will say this, though, the entire trip, even Graceland, was wonderful if just for the fact that we got to spend quality time adventuring as a family. I don’t get to see them as often as I like, and any chance I do get, I relish. I’ve begun making the ever clearer revelation that we are growing up, and times like these are harder to come by with each passing year due to busy schedules and increasing distance. It took me a while to realize the importance of family, but I’m getting there.