.... there's a pretty little thing, waiting for the King, down in the Jungle room...
When I was a kid, thoughts of the jungle room entertained me for hours. I heard it was added on below the the main house, and that spurred all sorts of additions to my dream house. Suddenly I had a grand basement with 20 different themed rooms, many with shag carpeting on the floor, ceiling, walls and windows.
I think my imagination was a little more expansive than reality can accomodate. Graceland was fabulous, although nothing like the dream mansion, castle really, that existed in my head. It was actually quite reasonably sized. No Hearst monstrosity here, just a nice old house with a couple additions. And so seventies. So, so, so seventies, it kinda defies belief. Pictures don't do it justice. You just can't conceive of that level of... seventies, without it being in front of you.
It rather brought the house down from its pedestal for me. You can't really be overawed by a place with mirrors on the celing and lemon yellow upholstery that would make the Fab 5 cringe. I was suitably impressed by all the memorabilia, and the displays were all just perfect.
I was most impressed by the organization. (Well, that and the white fur bed with mirrors. Mmmm.) The house brought you in the front doors with stories about a fresh-faced Elvis, glowing with his success, moving his family up from the two room shack in Tupelo. Through the beginning of the tour, images of a baby faced Elvis jump at you. He grows older through the house, and through the trophy room, untill you finally reach the last room that contains enough rhinestoned jumpsuits to blind. From there, all that's left is to go out the door to his gravesite.
It was amazing. Whoever organized this did it perfectly, so that all who passed through were led inexorably to that point. Even if you didn't love Elvis, you'd be tempted to through yourself wailing on his grave by the end. I saw many women wiping the tears from their eyes, the same women that had been grinning in the bus ride there, and vaulting over each other to get a shot of the scratch on the pool table at the beginning of the tour.
Something has to be said about the crowds. I expected it, of course, but it was still amazing. I went on a Tuesday morning, and yet it was still full to capacity. My first, and favorite, shot was of the back view of 50 heads gazing at a dining room table that you can barely see.
And that was Graceland. Ahh, but I haven't talked about the Jungle Room. It wasn't the tropical oasis of my dreams, but it was a fabulous bit of Tiki heaven. Still... what with the green shag everywhere, it kinda reminded me of my family's rec room, except with a wee waterfall in the corner. Like I said, seventies decorating is the great equalizer. Who doesn't have memories of an avocado stove somewhere in their past?
From there, I caught a free shuttle (yay free!) downtown. The shuttle was supposedly for the Sun Studio tour, and Beale Street Gift Shop, but it's just a short walk over to the Peabody Hotel. I sipped a cocktail in the lobby lounge, right next to the duckies in their posh fountain, and watched the crowds form. By 5, the time for them them to walk the red carpet to their elevator to the penthouse, there were so many people, I could barely see the floor. These ducks are pros; there was nary a quack as thousands of flashes went off all around them. Quite a show.
And that was Memphis. Much fun. Beale Street looked like a cool, hip place to be after dark, but as I am neither cool nor hip at the moment, I headed back for the highways.
Enough of the happy traveler shit for today; time to rant against interstates. Driving down a beautiful blue highway, I was able to finally put into words what I have against them. Interstates don't say anything. From sea to shining sea, they are all exactly the same. They have a kind of uniform dull roar, with no words at all. In the country, it's a low hum, as you pass through lots of nothing. In cities, the hum is magnified as it bounces off retaining walls and skyscrapers, but it's the same boring hum.
Backroads will talk your ear off. Not just about the area that you are passing through, although they are well versed in culture, food and history. They speak to you of every person that they have nurtured, every man and woman that was once a child in their province. They can tell you about everyone that was ever influenced by them; artists, authors, musicians, even actors. James Dean may be quintessential Hollywood, but the Indiana backroads can tell you a bit about him, and every midwest boy that wants to be him.
This is why I am always so obsessed about fitting the soundtrack to the road. This is why I describe every place in terms of books and movies that it reminds me of. The back roads have a direct link to a mountain of creativity. They should; they still speak to all those artists.
Cities are like that as well, I'm forced to admit. It's just much harder to tap into that source. You have to find someone that knows their way around, or rely on blind luck to find the corners that speak. You also have to spend much more money to get them talking, it seems.
Okay, think I've run that metaphor to the ground. Have fun, and go hug your backroad today.