I like Elvis as much as the next guy - maybe even more. I think he was handsome, had a beautiful voice and some rockin' moves. I agree that he was a legend.
People, let me tell you, there are some die hard Elvis fans out there. Enough of them to create a multi billion dollar industry of kitsch - the Mecca of which lies at 3765 Elvis Presley Boulevard in Memphis, Tennessee.
It all begins at the ticket office, which is located in a huge plaza across from Graceland Mansion, which is just down the street from The Heartbreak Hotel, which is just around the corner from the Graceland RV Park, which is behind the Graceland Outlet Store, which is down the street from the Lisa Marie... You get the picture.
At first glance, after hopping off the Sun Studios shuttle, the line didn't seem that long. And it wasn't, except for the fact that the line we were looking at was the line to get into the building to get to the line for the ticket counter. After 30 minutes in line to buy tickets we were told our "tour" would be leaving in approximately 2 hours.
2 hours until we could get on the shuttle which would take us ACROSS THE STREET.
Walking across ourselves was not an option. I checked.
Okay, so it was suggested that we visit the Graceland Gift Shop (conveniently located near the tour departure gate.)
Several dollars and a couple of large shopping bags later we were done shopping. We still had an hour and a half to wait.
So we headed down the mall (It really is an outdoor mall!) to eat at the Rockabilly Diner. Do you even have to ask if peanut butter and banana sandwiches were on the menu? (I didn't. They were.) By the time we got our cheeseburgers and commemorative Elvis big gulp plastic cups Furry had staged a revolt worthy of calling in The National Guard.
This is when I learned the following things: Straws and plastic spoons do not entertain toddlers for long. The ketchup and mustard bottles at Rockabilly's Diner are made of glass. Mustard will travel at great velocity and long distance when spewing from a shattered bottle. It doesn't matter how cute your toddler is, people will still hate him if he interrupts their Elvis experience.
But I digress.
Okay, so after lunch we learn that there will be even further delay, as tours are now running another hour behind.
By this time Furry was sick of his stroller and completely disenchanted with the Elvis experience. He was also sweating buckets of sticky southern baby sweat. He began to scream and to do that back-arching-arm-flailing thing that toddlers do when they are upset and want the world to know.
Bojo called a cab. I later learned that it costs $50 and a healthy dose of self esteem to beg a cabbie to take you and your screaming demon child back to your hotel. Bojo said the cab driver actually appeared afraid of Furry.
But back to Little Dog and I, who are now standing in the sweltering heat watching a live Elvis trivia contest take place at the Sirius RadioElvis stage. We are fanning ourselves with Graceland fliers and believing that $3 for a single 12 ounce bottle of water is not as ridiculous as it first appeared to be.
We walked up the mall. We walked down the mall. We visited the Sincerely Elvis gift shop. We saw the Lisa Marie. We met a nice couple from New York who said yes, they hoped it was worth it too.
And then they called our tour!
We stood in yet another line and eventually a gal came to look at our tickets. Another gal came and searched my purse. (If I'd had a weapon I would have shot myself 2 lines ago.) Then the wait began again.
I'll swear I celebrated a couple of birthdays in that line.
Finally we get handed headsets and the line starts moving bit by bit. Right before we boarded the bus another gal grabbed each of us by the arm and pushed us towards a mural of the Graceland gates. Before I could form the words "What the HELL?" she said "Photoopportunitynoobligationthankyou!" and I realised a flashbulb had gone off.
Little Dog and I stumbled blindly onto the shuttle van and wedged our selves intimately close to strangers. (The lady next to me had on a very pretty bra. The man in front of me shaved his neck...but only to his collar line.)
Okay, so five minutes later we are at heaven's gate...or at least at Graceland's front door.
Did these people ever pause for breath? I went ahead and snapped a few pictures of the porch and entryway just because I'm a rebel like that.
Once inside my very first thought was, "GRACELAND IS AIR CONDITIONED! Thank you Jeezus!"
Okay, so we toured the house. I can only say that it was a very beautiful home. I didn't find the decor to be cheesy at all considering when it was last decorated. Actually, I found it to be very subdued for a man of Elvis' wealth and reputed lifestyle.
Meditation Garden was actually a very peaceful place. In fact, during the whole tour, there was a certain reverence in evidence. People lowered their voices, if they even spoke at all.
The grounds were my favourite part and I snapped some awesome pictures of the details of the barns and the swing set.
We didn't spend a lot of time in the display case areas, as we'd seen our share of Elvis memorabilia in every other museum in Memphis.
We were the first two on the next shuttle back across the street!
Immediately after we debarked our headsets were confiscated and we were directed to the kiosk to claim our "no obligation" photos where $20 bought us an 8x10 and four wallets of Little Dog and I in front of the Graceland Gates with "What the fuck?" looks on our faces.
Best. Souvenir. Ever.
So, in many ways this pilgrimage to Graceland was exactly what I expected, but it was also somewhat sad. I think it is a tragedy that a man who became a legend has had his name so grossly prostituted.
Never again will we have a star of this magnitude. Now, everyone gets their 15 minutes and people become famous just for being famous.
If Elvis were alive today I think he'd lock the Graceland gates up tight, cancel all this mansion tour hoopla, shake his head and then climb into his fur bed for a long nap.
That's exactly what I did when I got back to the hotel.