A December a couple of years ago, I had reached the end of my work year and still had all my vacation days unused. To this day, I’m not really sure how I pulled that one off other than I must have been really focused that year. With two of my three weeks ‘use it or lose it’ days, I needed to do something. On a whim, I decided to drive from my home in Kansas City to Memphis. I had always wanted to visit Graceland and I figured they would have it especially decked out for the holidays. The only problem was this wild idea hit me at ten pm, and I ended up making the eight-hour drive in the dark.
The car I had at the time really wasn’t up to the journey and tended to arbitrarily overheat. I-55 between St. Louis and Memphis can be a lonely stretch of road in the dark. Following the Mississippi River, as it meanders south, the highway cuts through the river bluffs often making radio reception difficult. I had to often rely on singing to myself while nervously eyeing the temperature gauge. But I didn’t fret, I knew I was going to ‘Graceland. Graceland Memphis, Tenessee.’ And when one comes to Memphis, you have to see the King. And by King, I mean this guy
Elvis and not as in Costello. (Although he’s pretty good too). No, Elvis Presley the first and only King of Rock and Roll. He may be long gone (or is he?) but his shadow is still widely cast in Memphis. His home called Graceland is on Elvis Presley Boulevard and is the second most commonly visited home in the country, second only to the Whitehouse.
It was a cold rainy day when I visited. The yard had some lovely firs decorated in full Christmas regalia. I found there’s more to Graceland than just the home. There are several museums housing Elvis’ cars, airplanes and gold records. There’s a very nice hotel called “The Guest House” that has a four-diamond rating from triple A. ( I stayed at the motel6 down the street I mean I am on a budget) But the guest house did look very nice, They also have several theme restaurants like “Vernon’s Smokehouse” and: Gladys’ Diner” named after Elvis’ parents. Elvis’ former wife Priscilla and executor of his estate have really turned this into a real commercial enterprise.
You can’t go to the front door and walk in, tickets must be purchased across the street. The prices range from 39.00 for just the basic fare to the house to a luxuriant 169.00 “Ultimate VIP Tour” which includes a personal guide to the grounds, access to all the museums a really prestigious looking VIP laminate you get to wear. There’s and an ‘exclusive private photo-op’ which both sounds equally ambiguous and intriguing. But alas, I’ll never know just what that photo-op entails. If I could only rate a motel6, I certainly wouldn’t be able to get the VIP package. I opted for the next tier down still apparently a VIP but with a slightly less illustrious laminate. I joked to myself I was a KIP “kind of important person,” but it worked for me.
As you enter the front door of Graceland one of the first things you see is the grand staircase leading to the second floor. The second floor contains Elvis’ bedroom and the restroom where he was found on the day he died. Lisa Marie’s room is there as well and from what I was told she comes to visit on occasion and will stay there. The area is off-limits and has never been part of the tour.
To the right, as you enter is the front living room. The room has an extremely long couch, and I really like the peacocks on the stained glass.
The living room from another angle.
Facing the left as you enter is the formal dining room
I was shocked at how much of the mansion I had to myself. Sure, it was a weekday in wintertime, but there wasn’t really anyone else there. I got to stroll at my own, slow pace which meant I got to drink in the jungle room in all its glory. I had a headset which described all the places. The recording on the headset said kept saying ” Please step aside so others can see” and I was the only one in the room. I thought that was quite funny.
The kitchen area next to the formal dining area. Almost every room had a television set. Elvis was an avid watcher.
There are two rooms in the basement, a billiard room, and a lounge area. The longe had three television sets. During Elvis’ lifetime, there were only three commercial networks operating, ABC, NBC, and CBS. Not sure if the King watched public TV or not. The thing I noticed about his home was how small it was for a famous multimillionaire celebrity. The house seemed well, homey and comfortable. Kind of down to earth.
Just a few of Elvis’ many awards
I saved the grave-site for the end of my visit. Elvis rests next to his parents at a tiny outdoor chapel beside his swimming pool. As I approached the grave, I saw a woman standing next to his graveside weeping. I didn’t contact but held my ground a respectable distance away to allow her to have her moment. She pulled a card out of her coat pocket and set it on his grave and walked away. I walked over and looked down at the card. I was curious as to what it said. All it said was “Always on my mind” (the name of one of his hits). I’d be lying if I didn’t say it made me tear up a bit myself.
My first thought when I saw this woman crying was ” It’s amazing how someone we never even meat could touch our lives so much to make us weep for them.” The older me realizes that’s a silly thought. Of course, she met him, even if she never saw him face to face. What makes Elvis well, Elvis was his ability to reach others through music. He left his soul in the notes of his songs. We connected. We all met him, we all miss him.