The Transformative Spiritual Power of Graceland, LLC.
There are many landmarks on Earth that make contemplate the universe’s vastness, the devastating randomness of genius, the haunting knowledge that we, as humans, are destined to pass through this world while other monuments lie immortal and unexplained. Peru’s mysterious Las Lineas de Nazca, the windy cliffs of Ireland’s Aran Islands, the ghastly beauty of the bones in Prague’s Sedlec Ossuary come to mind. And, obviously, Graceland.
Standing in line with church groups, retirement communities and Eurotrash, I marveled the paragon of Americana that this man, this fat, happy, spangly, sexy man truly was. Provided you bypass the exhilarating danger of Memphis’ bus system (although you can make back Graceland admission costs in the numerous handjob solicitations you get going down Elvis Presley Blvd, as I discovered slouching in the back of the 43 bus while my bus mates enjoyed breakfasts of Malta India and hooting about what I’d charge), and take a cab, a pilgrimage to Memphis is truly affirming. And only complete when your shuttle bus rolls up the front driveway of the Apex of Spangles, Elvis Presley’s house.
For the big guy’s entrance.
Mr. and Mrs. Presley’s bedroom:
This is where you make an Elvis!
Lisa Marie tells you over a headset (that, regardless of how many cleanings it gets, probably aren’t enough in consistently 95 degree weather), that Elvis refused to come down these stairs until fully dressed and utterly jangly. Everything was an entrance to Elvis, LM mono-toned for whatever she got paid, and he took hours getting ready before descending these stairs.
Peanut butter and banana sandwiches, they say.
- This was my favorite, the epicenter of family and creativity. He felt kinda like a person here.
The Pool Room:
This is where Elvis played pool and probably also felt very claustrophobic.
I took my headset off for awhile but I think there was something said about sex because other people looked scandalized while listening.
The Jungle Room:
You just can’t even bother trying.
I won’t even bother, because what can I offer about the Jungle Room that’s new? This is the Jungle Room, this is a chair. I heard people murmur ‘Jungle Room’ about 30 times while I was in there. They also talked about the Jungle Room when we went into Elvis’ dad’s office, because the office wasn’t that great, I guess. But Jungle Room!
The Record Room:
Get it, Grandma!
The 30 foot tall racquetball court turned Gold Record Room. He was everywhere, on celluloid, immortalized in oil paintings, stand-up forms wore his jumpsuits. The elderly gaped at the sky-high collection like they were at the Sistine Chapel. If it were made of sequins and flat screen TVs.
The Pool, the Finale:
He’s buried in his BACKYARD. How fucking badass. It probably makes for a weird Labor Day barbeque but really, who are any of us in comparison to this Southern boy? Whose grave is by a POOL? That people come in hordes to stare at. This man was the saddest one I saw at Graceland:
What WAS it about Elvis? I was progressively more interested by the tourists, how they related, mourned, danced around the record room. There was, of course, some disinterested and perfunctory mincing through the estate, and I personally took shots taken millions of times before. There was eye-rolling excess and mid-century kitsch. But there was genuine revelry for this guy. He loved booze, fatty foods, idiotic purchases and God. He was fun and lavish. He was sexy as fuck when he was younger and he really did buy a pink Cadillac for his mom. Elvis embodied sensuality and guts. Talent. He was really, really good at singing and dancing and making people feel, even if this house was walked, distilled a million times until becoming a life-sized diorama.
There are planes in the backyard of Graceland, and the planes have TV’s and phones and crushed velvet.
Of course there’s a car museum.
As I made it to the front of the line and handed my ticket over for an experience rivaling a visit to Nepal’s Swayambhunath Temple, the young woman tore my stub and looked at me incredulously. “You here bah yoself?” she twanged, referring to Graceland and the hot, dark city itself. “Yeah, is that weird?” I asked. “Naw, naw. Plenty of people come her bah thaymselves.” She lowered her head conspiratorially. “Just not… no ladies… ya know?”
I do, girlfriend. I do. But as much as it means to a young single woman traveling to the Taj Mahal, Tiananman Square or that hotel made of ice in Moscow or whatever, there are certain rituals providing a sense that you are, at once, both very small yet very much connected. It is a feeling you chase alone. And as I slipped on my headphones and listened to Lisa Marie drone a script heard by the other 750 worshipers crowding the Jungle Room, I was a roaming citizen of Memphis, of rock n’ roll, of the world.