Tennessee is such a wonderful name, I don’t know why, it just sort of rolls off the tongue. My journey to Memphis was by Greyhound bus, and after my earlier experiences on the bus, I really was not looking forward to it, but I am very much in countdown mode now, only three more bus journeys to go, after this one, one long one and a very short one, so I keep telling myself I can cope.
I got to the bus station by Uber, I had managed to grab a quick bite at the hotel, and then was whisked away in my chariot, saying goodbye to the lovely city of New Orleans. I just wished I had had more time to really get to know it better. Maybe one day I will come back, who knows. I got to the bus station in good time to get my bag tagged etc, and got in the queue. The first part of the journey was to Baton Rouge, and only about an hour and a half so not too bad, and the bus was quite full, but I got myself settled in and before very long was in the waiting room at Baton Rouge waiting for my connection. The next bus was virtually empty, what a difference it makes when the bus isn’t crammed full of people.
However it was a little scary getting onto the second bus, I had noticed two police officers standing near the ticket office, and just before boarding I noticed one of them had put blue plastic gloves on! As we boarded they approached the queue and were watching everyone. Once aboard they too boarded the bus and reminded everyone that it was a federal offence to carry any weapons on a bus and also mentioned that drugs were also forbidden. Then they said they wanted to search our bags and interview us and we might need to provide identification. Good job I am a good girl. My bags were both searched and all was good. I did find the whole thing a little disconcerting, it was as though they had had some sort of tip off, but no one was arrested or turfed off the bus.
After that excitement the journey was mainly uneventful. Just quite long. I arrived at Memphis and my host had offered to pick me up at the station, which was extremely kind. A great lady called Heidi, who loves travelling and has a very old VW Camper. Her house was fab, very eclectic and my room was extremely comfortable. I was starving so we ordered chinese food and sat chatting in the kitchen for an hour or so. One of those times when you just click. Fairly early night as tomorrow’s plan was Graceland and possibly the civil rights museum which was highly recommended. Then going to Beale Street for some blues with Heidi in the evening.
Arriving at Graceland was a bit strange, all the local businesses were named after Graceland, which was quite amusing and then we pulled into the entrance way, which is actually across the road from the house which is Graceland, although you don’t realise that at the time. His two planes are right there at the entrance and of course you can to pay to see them, but I had been advised not to bother with the planes.
So I make my way to the main entrance, and pay my fee to get in, and then we are all shepherded into a little cinema to watch a film. From there they move us outside to catch a little bus across the road to Graceland itself, and we are given headsets and iPads to hang around our necks. Very chic! NOT. They also took out photographs and later tried to charge almost 40 dollars, no thank you. It was horrid. We were instructed on what to do with the iPads, but to be honest they were a bit of a pain, whilst they gave you a commentary, they often moved on to the next room before you were able to so I was constantly forward and back to get to where I needed to be, the iPad that is not the house. Although there were not many of us on the bus, there was a VIP tour being taken around and of course we were not allowed to be near them, so it was a bit painful looking around the house. The grounds were easier though. The house was a bit of a mish mash of styles, and of course quite outdated, given that Elvis died in 1977 and in some places it was most definitely over the top.
It is quite a big house, but not as big as people imagine it is going to be, the front entrance is into quite a nice hallway, and there are some customised stained glass pieces in the window around the door.
From there you can look into a number of rooms. The main living room leads onto a music room with a white grand piano, the decor is all white, black and gold with some more stained glass between the main living room and the music room. An elegant room, but a little dated.
Then you can look into Elvis parents bedroom which is downstairs, with some of his mothers clothes hanging behind glass in the wardrobe. A very simple but elegant room. The staircase is cordoned off as upstairs is still used by the family.
The next room is the dining room which they say is still used by the family. It has a television and Elvis used to watch the television when eating his dinner. Every room has a television set. Again another quite elegant room, but this does look less dated. There are photographs everywhere of the family. They talk a lot about how happy he was here with his family, but don’t talk about what happened later, did he still continue to live there when he had divorced from Priscilla. The marriage was only short lived, about six years, after an eight year courtship. From the dining room you get a glimpse of the kitchen which was very big, and in constant use by all accounts.
Then we are led downstairs but only a small number of people are allowed at a time, down there are the Den and the Billiards room. The den again is all white and gold, and the Billiards room has fabric ruched covering all the walls and the ceiling.
Back upstairs now to get a glimpse of the jungle room with a green shag pile carpet, and the furniture is pretty way out too.
After that we are led outside, firstly into the offices and then past the paddock where the horses are and then into a gallery with some paper memorabilia. Then out past the swimming pool into the remembrance area, where much to my surprise Elvis is buried with his mother, father and grandmother. Apparently they had to move him from where he was because of all the fans
We were then bussed back across the road, and I had paid for the full experience, so was allowed into another area. This was made up of a number of rooms, firstly all his cars, and a film running of him in his films with some of the cars which were on display.
Another area had all his costumes, mainly from the later years when he used to wear the one piece outfits.
There was also an area related to his time in the army, and a whole setting of Sun records. By the time I got there I had started to fade a little, it would have been good to have seats in each area because it was set up well with a film running of what happened in each room, but I couldn’t stand and watch each of those, even though I would have liked too. I finally made it out of there and into the cafe set up like a 60s place, for lunch and to rest my weary feet.
The place was really quite empty, but I had come early in the morning, but still I was surprised by how few people seemed to be there. The other thing that I really struck me about the visit was that there was no talk of the bad times, only the good. I think his story should be told in full, they way they talk about the marriage and everything it’s as though it went on forever. As we all know he died of some sort of drug overdose, and was addicted to prescription drugs. My Uber driver on the way back to my Air BNB said he went to school with the daughter of the doctor who gave him his drugs, small world. My question is why are we not telling the world of the addiction, in this day and age when the drug scene is much bigger and we are losing so many young people especially in America, why aren’t we telling these stories as they were instead of sugar coating the reality. That doesn’t mean I was not glad to go and see the place, but I just feel we should be telling people particularly our young people the truth and not just idolising those who have been lost to drug abuse. I felt myself coming away with more questions because it was a long time ago and I couldn’t remember. I do have one more thing to say though, he was such a good looking young man!
I decided that the civil rights museum would be too much, so had a rest and caught up with a bit of writing. That evening Heidi and I went out to Beale Street, she is a big blues fan and chose to live in Memphis partly because of that. Unfortunately for us it was some sort of public holiday so none of the usual bands were on, so we finally found somewhere to listen to a set having walked the length and back of Beale Street. I had another early start the next day, so back to the house and in bed at a reasonable hour.