I am writing to report back to you my two-day excursion in Memphis – Tupulo.
Truth to be told, I had more curiosity than anticipation before the trip. After all, Elvis seems to be for a completely different generation. I had marginal interest for the city of Memphis. Though packed with history, it is no New York.
We (my mother, Zoe, Beth my classmate, and me) started our day on Beal street. It was Thursday early afternoon and the street was nearly empty. We had lunch at King’s Palace Cafe. Though it is a typical touristy destination, the service was genuine and food great. With great courage I had gumbo combo. I love the red walls and oil paintings depicting Elvis and other performing artists.
We went across the street to A.Schwab, the famous general store. Zoe got a Raggedy Andy (I did not know there is an Ann version until later) after nagging long enough. The whole space was giant. What intrigued me was the Ice Cream parlor with its long, worn, wooden bar and a seating area that did not seem to have changed for the past 50 years.
We then headed to Graceland. The area did not look convincing. It took us several U-turns to realize that parking and everything were across the street from the mansion. The home, though a landmark, was humble enough that it did not stand out immediately if it were not for the “sheet music” front gate.
I must say it is so gratifying to witness a true mid-century American home such tastefully decorated. The hint of luxury and privilege were present but not overwhelming. Each room has its personality. The living room is spirited and elegant. The entertainment room is sharp and futuristic. The pool room, with beautiful fabric lining, is full of imagination. The home mixes the traditional and the modern perfectly. I wish I could have a cup of tea there.
Maybe it’s because of the grave, or the fountain, the meditation garden felt a bit sentimental to me. I can imagine the intensity of emotion it must have been for you to experience. The resting place of the King of Pop is an intimate water garden. No more and no less. In the picture below Zoe was befriending 8-year-old Hayden, an Elvis fan.
Believe or not, we knocked on the window of the radio station you told me about and got interviewed by Big Jim. My classmate Beth talked about our class at Hopkins on air! Big Jim was kind enough to burn a copy of the CD for us to take back.
Tupelo was a pleasant surprise. I imagined taking a picture of the shotgun house after a 90-mile drive and turning right back. The actual experience was so rich, contextual and fun! We enjoyed the short movie about Elvis’ childhood, reading Elvis’s stories told my families and friends, listening to his music in the beautiful chapel, and laying on the grass under the blossoming trees. We even stopped by the hardware store where Elvis got his first guitar, and chatted with the owner of Johnny’s drive-in. In Tupelo I became more aware of the unique soil and nutrients that bred Elvis the musician, the man, and the revolutionizer. Had he been born in Connecticut there would not be an Elvis as we know today. The aura of the American South, a blend of warm hospitality, spirituality, and melancholy gave Elvis’s music a soul that could not have formed elsewhere.
Peiling, I enjoyed my trip very much. It is not possible to have gone through this experience without being changed in someway. I am not sure what, but I know as we study a life we often learn about ourselves.
I hope you are doing wonderful. Thank you again for all the pointers you provided!