Michael and I made it to Memphis, July 3, 2008. We spent the night at the Heartbreak Hotel and returned to Nashville the evening of July 4. The Hotel is next to Graceland. Being a AAA member got me a discount. We toured the mansion! It was my first time at Graceland since Karen and I were there 26 years ago. It was good for Michael since he was born and grew up in Tennessee. We filed through with other people. One thing that was different was that we could take pictures.
We rode the shuttle to Sun Recording Studio at 706 Union Street. It is where Sam Phillips recorded Elvis Presley in 1954 and 1955. We stood on the spot where rock n roll began. I wanted Michael to get a feeling for the Elvis story and for music superior to what he grew up with. He called the Sun Records tour "interesting."
We went to Beale Street! It had been renovated since I was there in 1977. We ate at Hooters. It rained, and I feared for my Indiana Jones fedora. We went in the Gibson Guitar store, and I took a picture of Michael with a guitar.
We drove to Tunica, Mississippi. Tunica offers casinos and gambling. We had planned to stay the night but decided to head back to Nashville. With gas at $4 a gallon, we needed to watch our money.
Karen and I went to Memphis in November, 1982. The Elvis legend was the one thing that had taken on a new dimension since 1977. Little did I know then that he had only 2 months to live.
Graceland was open to tourists, and for 5 bucks apiece we were escorted through several rooms. We saw the TV room with the 3 sets, one for each channel, and the trophy room full of mementos. Dozens of gold and platinum records lined the walls. Karen liked the gold piano! Outside were several cars Elvis had owned. He is buried by the pool along with his parents and grandmother. We walked to the gravesite before the tour began. Karen bought post cards of the inside of the house because no pictures were allowed. There were souvenir shops across Elvis Presley Boulevard.
Leaving Graceland, we went to the zoo. The Memphis zoo is my favorite perhaps because it was the first I ever saw. It is well-planned. I like the way the primates, carnivores & reptiles are housed.
We took in the same things I did in 1977: Brooks Art Gallery, Pink Palace & Memphis Queen. We got to the Pink Palace at dusk and could just make out that it was pink. It was cool aboard the riverboat, but the experience deepened my understanding of our nation's river system. We drove by Sun Records.
We finished our trip the way it started, with Elvis! We drove to Beale Street looking for a statue of Elvis recently erected in an attempt to renovate the area. "There it is!" Karen shouted. We leaped from the car and ran to it!
The following are some random thoughts I had during my stay in Memphis, June 18 & 19, 1977. It is a written photograph to remind me of my visit. At 8am, June 18, I stood in front of the iron gates of Graceland, home of Elvis Presley. Graffiti covered the stone wall circling the 14 acres. Women from across the nation vowed their undying love. Cars were parked out front along Elvis Presley Boulevard. People gawked curiously over the wall. Men looked slightly awkward, and middle-age women momentarily became teenagers again. People of all ages streamed by. "This is a shrine!" I thought. Unexpectedly, the guard opened the gate and announced that Elvis was away and groups could be taken up to the house. Everyone would have to remain in the jeep, however. The guard provided some information on the ride to the front door. Elvis bought the house in 1957. At that time, it was miles from anything. The area has since been developed. Elvis occupies the upstairs. His aunt and grandmother live downstairs. They attend the church next door. When the guard mentioned that Elvis' bedroom was in the upper right corner of the house, a lady expressed her wish to know who took out the laundry. I guess she felt a need to ask a question. I asked if Elvis had his own studio. The guard said no, that when the Moody Blue album was recorded there, furniture was moved to make room for the equipment. The house has 23 rooms. A prominent feature is the set of lions flanking the walkway. The guard took pictures for those who had cameras. About 10am, a parade of decorated cars passed by. It was sponsored by the fan clubs.
Memphis State University
MSU is the major university in Memphis, and I was able to spend some time on its campus. Undoubtedly, it draws heavily on the Memphis school system, but a school the size of MSU is influential statewide.
Overton Park Zoo
I made observations of the various animals:
The giraffe's neck whirls like it is made of wire. The spots on its body are large. Those on its neck and legs taper and grow smaller. The entrance to its quarters is conveniently high to allow for its height.
The Kodiac bears are interesting. Their little ears, big snouts & thick necks make them look like teddy bears. They stand on their hind legs and catch the food people throw.
It is remarkable how much hippopotamuses resemble pigs. They are related! Hippos are aquatic and may remain submerged in water for lengthy periods.
Gorillas are not as large as movies have portrayed them.
I was struck by the awareness of the baboons. Their eyes dart to and fro and look as if they are studying you. They seem bored.
The orangutans are the most bizarre of the anthropoids. Their arms are longer than their legs.
The tiger is the most intimidating of the big cats. The lion is smaller and more passive by comparison. There are 2 species of tigers: Bengal and Siberian.
The kangaroo uses its tail to form a tripod when it sits.
Llamas are found in the Andes of South America.
Zebras look like ponies with stripes.
Peacocks wander leisurely. Their colors make them the most beautiful of birds, blue necks and green tails. The noise they make will cause anyone to jump.
Brooks Memorial Art Gallery
Paintings here are of an international variety. The most striking are from northern Europe. There are works by English, French & Flemish artists. "Portrait of a Lady" is by Peter Paul Reubens. To me, these old paintings are unrivaled. They seem to embody life itself just as great music seems more than a mechanical arrangement of notes and chords.
Pink Palace Museum
Museums reflect the areas in which they are located more so than libraries. Objects cannot be duplicated or run off a press. The Pink Palace has 2 kinds of exhibits, those of natural history and those of cultural history. The agricultural and economic background of Memphians is displayed. An early drugstore is reproduced.
Memphis has riverboats offering rides to the public, and I went for a ride on the Memphis Queen. Hernando de Soto discovered the Mississippi River.
The Mississippi divides the country into east and west. It was romanticized by Mark Twain. I crossed the river to Arkansas. I rode up Beale Street. The hot spot from another era was virtually abandoned.