Going to Graceland … and Back Home

Elvis Presley's Graceland Mansion in Memphis

Elvis Presley's Graceland Mansion in Memphis

When my alarm woke me up this morning, I said out loud: “denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.” Today was the last day of my two-week “Miami-to-Memphis” tour, and I’ve been dreading its conclusion ever since I left New Orleans. But I still had a few hours before I had to catch my plane … which only meant one thing left to do on this vacation: going to Graceland, Elvis Presley’s mansion on the south end of town.

People had teased me about going to Graceland for its opulent tackiness, and my boss even said he wouldn’t go if it was “across the street.” But a visit to the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s abode was a surprisingly spiritual experience, one that helped me feel rejuvenated about this vacation. First, Graceland isn’t nearly as grandiose or opulent as one would imagine. I had always pictured a glorious antebellum plantation that Elvis bought once he became famous, and redecorated it with only the tackiness that a “nouveau riche” star would do. But the house was built in 1939 … and was surprisingly modest in scale. Sure, Elvis added his flair with shag carpets and a few extensions on the property. But it didn’t live up to the ridiculous hype those who like to make fun of Elvis have made it out to be.

The music room at Graceland.

The music room at Graceland.

Besides a tour of the mansion, a very tasteful museum has been displayed about the life and accomplishments of Elvis Presley. While I would have liked to have seen more focus on his earlier rock ‘n’ roll career in the 1950’s … rather than the drab Vegas lounge singing years of the 60’s and 70’s … you couldn’t help getting excited walking through the exhibits as the King’s music blared throughout the room. “Before Elvis, there was nothing,” said John Lennon … as the undeniable impact Elvis has made to the development of music was felt as you did the audio tour of Graceland.

As I moseyed about the Mansion Tour for a couple hours, I couldn’t help but think what a great experience I’ve had in these past two weeks … from listening to roosters have a “crow off” in Key West, to canoeing the silent marshes of the Everglades, to viewing the snow-white beaches of the Florida Panhandle, to celebrating the first Mardi Gras in Mobile, to dancing to Cajun music in Breaux Bridge, to partaking in the festivities of New Orleans, to watching authentic live blues in Clarksdale … it would be a tough time to go home. At the end of the Graceland Tour is a “Meditation Area” where the tombs of Elvis, his stillborn brother, parents and grandmother are all buried. I sat there, as the noontime sun shown on the nice garden … and thought about what this trip has really meant for me.

Elvis Presley's tomb

Elvis Presley's tomb

This trip was all about exploring parts of the country I had never been to … it was about continuing my famous 28-state road trip I did after college where I had left off … and it was about taking a real vacation I may not have the opportunity to do for a very long time. As I set off on an exciting but stressful chapter in my life, I can always look back at this time as my moment of repose. I’ve been woefully ignorant of the major news developments in the past two weeks, as I have consciously avoided keeping up with current events … nationally, and back in San Francisco. Now is the time to head home … now is the time to head back to reality again. Now is the time to say farewell to the King, and goodbye to this trip.

P.S. Stay tuned for a blog posting tomorrow, where I summarize some final thoughts about this vacation.

2 Responses to “Going to Graceland … and Back Home”

  1. sherman Says:

    Paul:
    Sorry you missed my tour when in Memphis! I cover Elvis from age 12 on up plus everything else that’s great about Memphis blues, soul, rockabilly, rock ‘n roll, gospel & r&b. http://www.shangrilaprojects.com/?page_id=16

    Next time around!

    Glad you enjoyed Graceland!

  2. Janay Carsno Says:

    Thanks for posting this, I found it valuable. I was born in Memphis and still have several warm memories of the area. I am working on a visit back there this spring. Has Memphis changed much from the early 80’s? I am really looking forward to seeing Graceland again.

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