Ramblings from a bloke with his head in the clouds, literally

Chapter 5: Memphis, Humidity and all things Elvis

So here we are again. Sorry for the delay. Between life being life and having little to no motivation for almost anything lately this blog is one thing that has been neglected. I hated that I didn’t have the effort in me to get on with it, but I also knew the time would come were I would feel compelled to just sit back and smash some out……so here we are kids. Sit down in your nice comfy bean bags, grab a mug of warm and get your read on for what is affectionately known as,

Chapter 5: Memphis, Humidity and all things Elvis.

So after the debacle with the weather in the Houston layover we were pleased to board our connecting flight to Memphis. Well, we were. Now as some of you may know I have a pennant fear of flying so it wasn’t very comforting to board a plane that was literally 1 row on the left and 2 rows wide on the right. There wasn’t much room to move, and it didn’t take long for the hostess to move me to a slightly more accommodating seat. The catch being from my new seat I had a clear view out the window over the wing and out beyond. This sounds great however it didn’t take long to realize that our plane was indeed a bit of mystery. The whole reason we had been delayed was due to technical issues with the original, and now here we were sitting on this thing that had been located and deemed suitable. I wish I had a picture of it but don’t. From my vantage point over the wing I noticed that the wing itself did not have one matching panel on it. It quite literally looked like someone had worked out our first plane was broken and had gone out to the scrap yard and rustled up enough parts to make a replacement plane.

So naturally my fear of flying was being fed by the fact that we were about to travel on something that looked like it came of that foxtel show “junkyard wars”.  Being our second flight on continental airlines I was not overly surprised that with the heat they offered up drinks soon after takeoff. There is nothing like being handed a container that your apple juice comes in while you’re in hospital with the straw stuck idly through the lid and told to enjoy. No frills airline? Got that right.

Anyways, enough about that.

We landed thankfully in one piece and made our way out to the car rental spot. I should have been suss from the get go as it was so damn humid on the walk through the car park. The guy at the counter happily took our booking and divulged the information that no matter how moist the air gets it will never rain in Memphis at the moment. I had no idea what the hell that meant and had to clarify. He explained happily that while the humidity counter said 98% it would never rain as it’s so damn hot the rain evaporates before it gets to the ground. Great, Another few days of melting to my underwear.

While he was processing our booking he began to laugh quite heartily which was odd as neither me nor Juzzy had said anything. We signed everything, grabbed our keys and left for the car park. It became pretty obvious within about 30 seconds why this guy was pissing himself laughing. The car that we had just booked and paid for was a delightful little red Chevy Avio. Now for those of you not very car minded, think of a Holden Barina, change the badges to Chev and then make the car a wee bit smaller. This bloke must have found it amusing that I was about to spend the next 9 days with my knees around my ears tucked up in this little box.

After compacting myself in and setting up the GPS we headed off for the La Quinta Inn suites. A fancy looking place that we were quite surprised by. They messed up our booking and instead of a double queen room gave us 2 double queen rooms. Naturally I took advantage of this and pushed my beds together and made a double king sized bed of sorts. How nice it was to go from sleeping on a couch for the last week to sleeping in this little lap of luxury. By the time we got there and got setup we were basically to knackered to do anything. Between the ungodly houred drive in Canada and all the flights and running around, to finally be in Memphis and sweating like crazy neither of us had the energy to do anything. Which was a bit of a bummer cause with how warm it was the onsite pool did look amazingly inviting and the stories that I had heard about Biel ST sounded awesome.

After collapsing through either dehydration or exhaustion, the next day began pretty simply. Breakfast and the decision of where and what to do. Now that was pretty simple really as it had been the thought of going to Memphis for one main reason. ELVIS. I know I know, how touristy. But seriously, being a fan of the king all my life, I couldn’t pass up the chance and we made that our battle plan for the day. Go out to Graceland for a bit and then see what else we could come up with for the rest of the day.

Soon as we stepped outside we knew were up for another hard day as the humidity seemed even infinity fold. The second we stepped outside, you just kind of started dripping like you had just got out of the shower. It was insane and being from Adelaide something I wasn’t really used to.

We jumped in the death box Avio and headed off. Now forgive me for saying this but damn…..Memphis is a mess. Driving around and getting ourselves over to Graceland was interesting but depressing at the same time. I was a taste of what the place was really like. Driving around the streets we got to see dereliction at its finest. So many run down, abandoned and just waiting to collapse buildings covered in graffiti gave the place a sense of character but at the same time it was kind of heartbreaking to see how whole neighborhoods were essentially lying in tatters. I don’t know why this is the case but it was kind of nuts. Even just while sitting at the lights and looking around we saw Memphis fire department tending to a homeless man in a park, while being watched by a massive group of this guys fellow street dwellers.

It really put it into perspective that there were a lot of problems going on around these parts. Now I know this was only one or two neighborhoods but it made quite the impression. Especially when we finally found Elvis Presley boulevard (home to Graceland) and you could see quite clearly that all the money was spent n this one road and its surrounds. I know the king is a big draw card for Memphis, clearly. But it was almost like that was the only part of the city that mattered to anyone. While the surrounding neighbor hoods looked like something out of a post apocalyptic futuristic vampire n zombie movie, here was the boulevard with its fresh painted sign posts and neatly manicured grass all leading to Graceland. As much as I love Elvis, this kind of made me a little sick and both myself and Juz were a little taken back by it.

Rundown Memphis

We parked and made our way into the Graceland museum park after a quick stop to have a few photos with some of the pickup trucks in the parking lot. Just had to be done.  We shelled out and made our way into the place and decided to start at the Auto hall. It was kind of weird knowing that every car and bike in the place had once been owned and used by Elvis and here they all were lovingly kept and restored in this hall for the world to see. Each display had little plaques to tell you when he got the car or bike and what he mainly used it for, who he gifted it to or how it came to be in the museum. The famous Pink Cadillac that he bought for his mum was backed by a video of home footage of him with his mother in the car. It made the experience all the more surreal to be standing next to the car.

The famous one of a kind Pink cadillac

Once being done in that hall we decided to brave the cue and the heat and took our place in the lineup for the bus across the road to Graceland. After what seemed forever we were finally standing in awe on the steps of one of the most iconic residences in the world. We were handed our little walkman style audio guide thing, explained the rules and set free to explore the former house of Elvis. What made this so surreal was the fact that after Elvis passed away, almost everything in the house remained untouched. They pretty much wrapped everything in plastic and left it that way. So you truly got a sense of this being his house. The audio guide regaled us with tails of what took place in each room and enlightened us to things like that fact that no one other than family has ever set foot in the upstairs of the house. Elvis considered the upstairs floors his personal sanctuary and as such to this day, no outsider has ever seen it. It was an amazing experience being there and I had to continuously force myself to not reach out and touch stuff. But being amongst all the personal belongings and everything being untouched, it really was just amazing. What got me about the house was the fact that every room had a very distinct theme. From the TV room with its distinct yellow, black and mirrored tiles to the Jungle room of bright green shag carpet and intricate wood work. It made it evident that Elvis had very distinct tastes for his home.

The yellow, black and mirrored tv room at Graceland

We made our way through the other quarters of the house into things like the office, the firing range, the sports hall and the stables. All of which had been now converted into memorabilia halls containing everything from guitars and costumes to platinum albums and personal photos All of which was donated by the family in order to keep his memory alive.

What got me about this place the most was nearing the end of our tour. I know that Graceland is a major tourist attraction but the amount of people pouring into this place was nuts. I mean literally a busload of about 30 odd people arrived ever 15 mins. So when we got out to the swimming pool and memorial garden the silence was a little creepy. From the halls where even though no one was talking to loud you just had that noise of people shuffling around, to get out to the memorial and you could have heard a mouse fart  10 blocks away. It was something I doubt ill experience again anytime soon.

For me being such a big fan, it was a truly amazing thing to be standing in front of the grave of Elvis, surrounded by the graves of those in his family that had now moved on to join him(where ever that may be)and the ever burning candle. Between the silence and the still nature of that single moment, even the heat didn’t seem to bother me too much. It was heartwarming to see the tributes that people had left near the grave and even more heartwarming to see that another Aussie had left their little memento, An Aussie flag sun visor. A nice reminder of home in this special place. I said my thanks to the king, threw a couple of coins into the pond and bid the King and his family farewell as we still had lots to do.

The final resting place of the King and his family.

Upon arriving back to the main compound, we set in for a couple of Sundays and sodas in the 60’s style diner before making our way over to the private jets. Both jets had the same treatment as the house. When Elvis passed, everything was put under plastic and still remains the same to this day. Even down to the bottles of Gatorade sitting behind the bar in the bigger of the two planes. As awesome as it was to see them, the Kings Decoration skills clearly went askew somewhere as the both planes left a bit to be desired. At one point the color schemes literally made me nauseous.

We did a quick bit of tourist shopping, with me picking up yet another baseball cap souvenir and decided that the heat was just a bit too much so it was time to call it a day. After stopping for some more photos with pickup trucks in the car park we made our way back to the hotel to clean up and hopefully cool down. The one big problem with this was that after a shower and a seat for a few mins, both myself and Juzzy realized that not only was it nearly dinner time and we had spent the entire day at Graceland, but both of us were to stuffed to really do anything else.

So it was decided, a quick spot of Taco bell for dinner and another early night as we had another early departure in store the next day. For tomorrow we would be leaving this strange but iconic city and heading for what I deemed Juzzy’s Promised Land.

Tomorrow we were headed for Nashville, Willy Nelson and the holy land…..Jack Daniels.

One response

  1. lia

    That was beautiful and even bought a tear to my eye xx

    June 15, 2011 at 23:29

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