When we first started talking about the route we would take to get back east, one of my few requests was that we stop at Graceland in Memphis. My mother was a teen-ager when Elvis hit the national stage so as kids we watched every Elvis movie, some many times over. I grew up loving Elvis and really want to get a souvenir for Mom, who doesn’t like to travel and has never visited Graceland. (Whenever people see 1950s photos of my dark-haired, good-looking father, they often remark on how much he looked like Elvis. They were of similar age, too. My Mom certainly noticed the resemblance.)
When we bought our tickets online, I did a little reading so we’re not surprised when the mansion seems incredibly small by today’s standards. Elvis bought the house in the 1950s and while he expanded over the years, he also died in 1977, well before the era of mega-mansions.
We’re on the first bus of the day, which is very nice because it means that the house isn’t very crowded. We take our time looking at the living room, kitchen, dining room, billiard room, lounge/movie room, his parents’ bedroom as well as the famed “jungle room” before heading out for a brief tour of the grounds, offices, pool, racquetball court and “meditation garden.” What surprises us most is that Elvis and his parents are buried in the meditation garden that he’d built several years before he died. I guess I’d always assumed he was buried in a normal cemetery, not at Graceland.
Anyway, we’d bought the “Elvis Experience” tickets so when we get back to the main complex across the street, we tour Elvis’s cars (the white Lincoln was my favorite but there were a bunch of sweet cars), his stage costumes, his two airplanes. There’s really a lot of memorabilia but there’s also nearly as much merchandise for sale. There’s everything from pink Cadillac keychains to peanut-butter-and-banana-flavored coffee. There’s a pair of $1,000 rhinestone-studded sunglasses and Elvis saltwater taffy, potholders, guitar-shaped ties, beach towels, a jailhouse rock clock. Of course there’s t-shirts and hats galore. There’s young Elvis and 1960s loungey Elvis but no mid-70s bloated Elvis. I buy Mom a scarf that has an image both of Graceland and a young Elvis. My souvenir is limited to our tickets and the ice cream we have before heading out.
We wind up at Corky’s BBQ for dinner. I mean, really, how can we come to Memphis and not eat barbeque? It’s tender and yummy and the restaurant has got a fun vibe with lots of signed photos from celebs who have stopped by, as well as concert posters from people who have played in Memphis.