Monday, April 28, 2008

Getting Reacquainted With Elvis

Ed wanted me to visit Graceland. “You’ll like it,” he promised. Graceland is listed in my highly regarded travel reference book, 1,000 Places to Visit Before You Die: A Traveler’s Life List. And, this same travel book claims Graceland is the “most visited home in America after the White House (when the latter is open for tours).”With these strong endorsements, how could I pass on the opportunity to visit the revered home of Elvis Presley? I admit, the price of the Platinum Tour almost deterred me, but I let the lady behind the Plexiglas swipe my American Express card for $60.80, one adult and one senior.

I had never bought an Elvis record. My Aunt Gertie passed her collection of 45s on to me sometime around 1963 when she tossed out her record player. There were a few Elvis records in the mix. Back then, I was a fan of the Beatles and Tommy James & the Shondells. Elvis music was on the bottom of my top 30 list; still I played “Heartbreak Hotel” almost as often as I played my other favorites “She Loves You” and “I Think We’re Alone Now.” When we entered Graceland, the music playing softly in the background renewed my acquaintance with the many songs that made Elvis the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. I enjoyed hearing each one.

Just like his music, Elvis Presley’s Graceland Mansion is frozen in time with its shag carpets, peacock stained glass windows and box TVs. Some might even say the Mansion is “tacky”. If it went on the real estate market today, the realtor would surely recommend major changes. But, the place is as Elvis left it in 1977 - the year I graduated from PITT. I felt compelled to walk quietly through the house, respectful of this place Elvis loved as his home.

I appreciated the narration of the audio-guided tour through Graceland. With the headset, I didn’t have to strain to hear a tour guide or tolerate the annoying interruption of questions from people in the tour group. If I wanted to linger, I could. If I wanted more detail, I had the option to press some buttons for more information and I did.

I enjoyed listening to information about Elvis’ life and seeing clips of his old home movies. He seemed to take joy sharing his lifestyle with his family and friends. There were horses to ride, cars and motorcycles to enjoy, and so much more.

Gold and Platinum Records shimmered in the light reflecting off walls of the Hall of Gold. Costumes from Elvis’ movie days hung behind glass cases. Segments of his movies caught my attention as they played on new Sony’s overhead. I’d seen most of the Elvis movies play on television’s “Million Dollar Movie” years ago. Plaques on display gave recognition for his charitable giving. Videos played segments of his televised concerts. I had watched them all on TV a long time ago.

I marveled at the detailed beading of Elvis’ signature white jumpsuits. I imagined him swinging his hips and moving across the stage while wearing these costumes during his shows in Vegas and Hawaii. Now, they hung motionless on display in the Jumpsuits All Access area. They were works of art. Elvis was a marvelous performer.

We walked through his two custom private airplanes. And, we learned about his break from stardom while stationed in Germany serving in the U.S. Army.

I passed the gravesites of his mother Gladys, his father Vernon, twin brother Jessie, and grandmother. Then, I paused at the grave of the King. Flowers arrive daily sent by music fans that remember and loved Elvis. I wished that I had thought to bring some flowers to add to the grave. “What a remarkable life cut too short,” I thought and decided I was glad I had come to visit Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee.

April 23, 2008

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