Memphis – the second pilgrimage (after Vegas) for my trip. I’m a big Elvis fan – have been since my young teens. I hated contemporary music growing up, and found solace in Elvis. I was teased and ridiculed growing up, and still sort of am now (though in a much for jovial sense). I don’t mind, as I thoroughly enjoy Elvis’ music as much as I ever have now. He’s not the only musician I listen to, or give credit to (I often think that Roy Orbison is slightly better), but he is probably my favourite.
With all that in mind, I was not going to be late for the day’s activities. One by one, the 3 alarms I had set for myself went off, and I was racing around as if I were late. I was far from it – giving myself a luxurious hour and a half to be ready – but my nerves and the anxiousness to get to Graceland was in full swing then. I was one of the first in the lobby to meet the bus. There were a few bleary eyes and saw voices (from the night out at the karaoke bar), and a few people calling out “Let’s get ready to Moooooustaccccchhhhe!” in the same way boxing announcers say “Let’s get ready to rummmmmbllllllle!”. I thought that perhaps someone had the ‘bright’ idea to come up with that (the nickname still wasn’t sitting too well) at the moment. Boy, was that far from the real situation.
We got on the bus and headed out. One of the women on the tour (who I had hardly spoken to, as I thought she was a bit of a snob (hypocritical much?)) asked if I had fun last night. I said I enjoyed the dinner and got a good night’s sleep. She asked, surprised, if I wasn’t at the karoke bar. I said no. She had to ask twice more before she believed me. Then she turned to the ‘boys’ at the back and told them I wasn’t there last night. A lot of people started to laugh – at them, or just in general, certainly not at me. I asked what was funny. Apparently, all of the ‘boys’ had got up to the microphone, and during one of the songs had done the moustache pose (finger to top lip) and kept saying, over and over again, “Moustache!”. Then the went crazy in saying it and went on and on about it, and then someone did the “Let’s get ready to Moustache!” thing. And the entiretime they didn’t notice I was there. Apparently it went on for something like 2 songs – and they didn’t noticed. I didn’t care for the moment because I was so amused at the stupidity of the act and the people.
Finally, we got to Graceland. There’s a ticket/waiting area that has a museum, his aeroplanes (a private jet and a passenger plane), his car collection, and a special event museum, as well as 5 different gift stores. We passed this on the way in. Then we were informed that there are no video cameras allowed into Graceland. I nearly blew up – I hadn’t taken my still camera once again specificallybecause I planned on taping things. I negotiated with someone (Peterrrrr, who coped the manipulation of his name (remember ‘waiverrrrr’ from part VII?) to get any photos I might need. I also took The 18 Cup with me, knowing that I wouldn’t be letting this opportunity go by. We boarded a shuttle to cross the road and get into the Graceland compound, then unloaded to get into the house.
There is a vast amount of things inside the house, ignoring for the moment the setup and regular household items you would expect. Two buildings have been turned into memorabilia museums with thousands of gold, silver, and platinum records, costumes and performance clothes, awards and trophies, and everything else you can think of. The house itself is left nearly as is, and you follow the tour path past all the rooms on the ground floor (you’re not allowed upstairs, as it was Elvis’ policy back when he lived there), held back by velvet ropes. The decor is, well, certainly from the 60’s and 70’s, and rather garish at times. You are given, at the start, a headset with an attachment that gives you an audio tour as well. It certainly helps with things, and there was something like 1 and a half hours of stuff (you can skip parts or not listen to optional segments) that I listened to.
At the end of the tour of Graceland, you come to Elvis’ burial place, alongside his mother and father, grandmother and brother. Of course, I was moved to shed a tear or two. I don’t see how you can’t, having just witnessed Elvis’ live in his home for the past hour, and then finish with the tragedy of his untimely death. There are flowers and wreaths in place, and a nice fountain behind it. It all makes for a touching scene.
We returned by shuttle to the first area and I took a little tour of the car collection, then the planes, and then was back at the gift stores to spend as much money as I could muster. The first stop was the clothing store, and I burned through my cash there. That was followed by another gift shop of general things, and another. I picked up some more postcards there to send around to fans of mine back home too. Itw as all good, and I think I restrained myself well enough. The most expensive things I brought were the licensed shirts – 3 of them. Two of them are black with various patterns on them (one with the card suits down the side to the front, which would prove to be luck come New York), and one is pink with a 50s/60s design across the front. The pink one was my favourite of the lot, and would be included in my favourite story to retell. The main reason, though, that I brought shirts was that I was sick and tired of not being able to find an uncreased shirt, and was sick of having to wash and iron the ones that needed it. This way, after rotating them around, I could get nearly a week out of them (provided I did the impossible and not spill stuff on them).
From Graceland you can get a free shuttle back to the hotel after stopping at the famous Sun Studios for an hour. And it just so happens that they run a 45 minut tour in between hours. Convenient, huh? I headed to the place where you got the shuttle and there were peoples already there, waiting.
Now, over the day, I realised something. I had probably isolated myself from the group. No one noticed I wasn’t out with the group the night before. I had not been out more times that I had been out. I had sat next to the same person on the bus for the past week nearly. I missed out on getting into one of the groups/cliques, and hadn’t attempted to get into one. And I tended to go off and do things on my own (i.e. Santa Fe and and Little Rock, my trip of self-discovery at the Grand Canyon, and my general rushing about). Looking back on it all, together, it would seem like I was an anti-social person. Someone had even commented to me on a lunch trip at KFC once that I wasn’t much of a ‘people person’. I guess that my behaviour, far from being an attempt at that, could be seen as such. And, to top it all off, I was beginning to feel a little lonely when everyone went out or went to places as a group.
So, with people waiting at the shuttle stop, I figured now was as good a time as any to change things up and I went and hung around with them. Of course, it was the right group to pick, as it was the women who had encountered me for a night in Vegas. And they were still rather interested in this strange and peculiar person. A loose group of about 6 to 8, though at the moment it was only 4. We chatted about Graceland and some of the tour, and then the shuttle came.
We got off at Sun Studios and we went on the tour. It was amazing! As good as Graceland was, being 3 buildings, and acre of land, and more memorabilia than you could poke a stick at, Sun Studios packed a lot of bang in for their buck. It was a tour well worth going on, and if you’re ever in the area you must go. You go into the same recording studio that Elvis, Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and many, many others recorded in. And all the equipment is still there! U2 managed to go back and record there in years gone by as well. It is a really fascinating place, and a mix of all the celebrities that walked in, not just Elvis.
I tipped rather generously then, and as the tour ended, the group sat down at a spare table and chatted. I asked where everyone was headed after this, and they all said they would go to lunch, and then they did something that really surprised me. They asked if I wanted to go with them. I took them up on their offer. I thought I would use the restrooms before we left, and left. When I came back, the table was empty. I wasn’t too surprised, and made my way over to the door to wait for the shuttle by lonesome. Suddenly I was pushed from behind and pulled towards the waiting shuttle. Turned out that as I left, the shuttle pulled up, and the group had forced the driver to wait until I was back. I was rather impressed that they had waited for me, and more so that they had got the bus to stop too.
This whole part of my story might seem trivial or silly to some people, but it means a bit to me. I am, in all honesty, not a ‘people person’. That person was right when they said that. And I certainly don’t make new friends easy. Nor do I handle new social situations well. Or the company of women. Definitely not the company of women. The holiday was meant to be something that shook me, and my tendencies, up. And while the first few days had been that, I had relapsed back into my old ways. But it was this moment on the trip that changed it, and quite possibly the rest of my life, for the better. People may think ‘the rest of my life’ as a hyperbole, but I assure you it’s not. Anyway, I realised that here and now, my abject fear of other people and women really was unfounded. These people had waited for me when they didn’t have to at all. I realised, then, that I wasn’t as contemptible as I thought I might be. I was able to start to turn the page.
We bused back to the hotel and, after changing into one of my new shirts and depositing the rest in my room, we went to TGI Fridays, where I had chicken and prawns, but most appealing was the mash potatoes, the veggies, not so much the cheese. But the veggies! I had hardly had any to this point, and certainly the minute amounts I had had no where near fulfilled my dietary requirements. The group had picked up a couple of additional people, one of who was one of the ‘boys’. He made the probably apt remark, as I talk over lunch with the people, that he’d ‘never heard Moustache talk this much all trip’. This was coming from someone who was on the raft with me way back in Durango, so that’s saying something I think.
Everyone separated after this. I probably could have gone with some of the women in the group, but they intended to go shopping, and that had no interest in me. I went walking, intending to see the Mississippi and Mud Island (where there’s a history display about the river) – I had said to Father I would do that after Graceland. I couldn’t find Father, so I went walking alone.
I ended up in a very dodgy part of town. Call me racist or stereotyped, but when I can’t see another car, another white person, or a store that isn’t boarded up, I get afraid. I ended up in a part of town like this and, not chancing getting lost or going any further, turned around and headed straight for the hotel. It had wasted some time, but not nearly enough.
I passed a ritzy hotel on the way back that had a gift store. I brought some stamps for some postcards and made it back to my room. There, I passed time by writing out more postcards. Then it suddenly hit me, and I was ridiculously tired. Looking back, I can see that it was the final throws of jet jag – yes, 12 days after the big flight. You see, the first night in Vegas would have only compounded the problem, leaving 11 days. But I hadn’t even nearly adjusted myself, rather just tried to convert to American time anyway. Which was compounded againby changing time zones every 3 days or so. I went from East Coast to Mountain to Central. I would get into a fourth zone later. But not once did I decide to slowly try and adjust. And thus, 12 days in, my jet lag was finally about to fall away.
Father came home some time, and he woke me up. It was past 5pm, and I had missed a little thing that happens in the hotel across the road – something to do with ducks and a fountain, and being ushered around. I’ll try and find information on it. But I was disappointed I had missed it. We agreed to go down to the lobby together and get some tea, preferably with some other people. When we got down there, there were two groups preparing to leave – the ‘beautiful people’ (what I called the group made up of all the attractive women and a couple of guys) and then a few people who I had had lunch with, only this time with more people who I hadn’t had much to do with. I told Father I’d be going with the latter group, to which he also showed a preference. We headed out.
One of the group members had been speaking to a local. David, our tour guide, had recommended a restaurant right next door to our hotel for great ribs and steak. The local that one of our members had spoken to said that the restaurant was ok, but there’s an even better one on the corner of Beale St. With this snippet, we all snuck around to this place and got a seat, hoping that this exclusive place would be ours and ours only.
Boy was it a great meal! Hugerack of ribs (puts LoneStar and Spurs to shame), a pile of chips, the sauce was magnificent, and there were veggies too! Plus, it all came to less than $10, with a free refill giant drink. No one could finish their meal. The place had a live band, and the singer did impersonations of Elvis, Orbison, Cash, and Lewis. And I swear to you I have never heard better impersonations than this guy. You could have thought they were playing tapes or something. He was that good.
Eventually, we uped and left to walk around Beale Street. It was, unfortunately, a Tuesday night so the city was pretty dead. We still made some entertainment going to the gift stores, but that was it. Eventually, all our dinner partners left. Father and I found some other Contiki people walking the street, a real friendly group of people who would turn out to be some of the best people on tour. We wandered around, drank a couple of beers, and had some laughs. There were some buskers there who would do back-flips (I don’t know if that’s the right word – where the would spring from their feet to the hand over and over again, going backwards) down an entire block. It was a real sight.
Eventually, this group dwindled down, and it was just Father and I. We wandered around and had a good chat. I thought myself extremely lucky as here was an experience I wouldn’t ever have at home – talking to a late 30’s farmer on equal terms, nothing bothering either of us, no where to go, and no where to be. It was a real moment (‘As opposed to all those fake moments Thomas?’), and one I am glad I had. Eventually, we walked enough and headed home, going through a closed mall, and back via the gift store of the ritzy hotel that sold stamps. Father needed stamps too.
On our walk home, before the store, he said he had seen the tackiest Elvis gift ever. It was an Elvis sink-plug strainer. We both had a good laugh at that. Father was amazed at all the different things you could buy with Elvis’ name on it – he thought you could get anything! When we walked into the gift store, I was looking around and I found the same plug strainer! We had another good laugh.
Finally we made it back to the hotel. Not tired, after my doze, I switched on the T.V. and Father and I watched. We talked some more, and realised this would be our last night as roommates, seeings that New Orleans was the next stop, and his tour ended there. I won’t say I was moved or anything, but I was a little sad that he’d be gone, after I had really got to know him over the past some days. Plus, I thought, I’d never see him again.
We exchanged formalities before turning off the T.V. and the light, eager for the next day.
Little did I know what it had in store for me …..