Tuesday, December 25, 2007

2007 NOLA Trip Part 1: Elvis

So much happened over the course of the week in which I traveled to New Orleans. Where do I start? I guess I'll start with Elvis.

I'm not a big fan of Elvis - I don't hate him, I don't love him. I think "That's All Right" is one of the best songs ever recorded, but that doesn't stop me on occasion from launching into a mocking imitation of the King singing the maudlin "In The Ghetto" with my own snide version of the lyrics.

This was my third trip to New Orleans, and also the third time I'd be passing through Memphis, via the lovely I-55. I had decided in my own mind that this was it -- I was finally going to see Graceland. Andy, my fellow traveling companion for this trip, is a pretty easygoing guy, and had also not seen Graceland. He was up for it.

I reserved a room at the Graceland Days Inn off of Elvis Presley Boulevard (it was just a bit over fifty bucks!), and we set off from Chicago around 1:00pm on Sunday, December 16th.

Our trip on I-57 through the majority of Illinois was absolutely awful. It had snowed several inches the day before. While it was bright and sunny, it was bitterly cold, and the snow was whipping across the highway, creating hazardous road conditions. We passed many cars that had wiped out in the ditch by the side of the road.

An obligatory roadside sunset shot

What would normally have been an eight hour trip lasted almost ten hours. We checked into the motel and got to our room.

Elvis photos festooned the walls

A TV channel in the room gives one access to Elvis movies, 24/7

I was pretty exhausted. Andy was flipping through the TV channels and settled on the Matthew Broderick - Danny DeVito Christmas movie Deck The Halls. I protested weakly. I felt this sappy piece of dreck perch like a vulture over my soul as I just lay in my bed, barely able to move after our long trip. After the really, really sentimentally terrible ending I quickly dropped off to sleep.

I woke up after a relatively comfortable night's sleep. The longest part of our journey was over. It was only six hours to New Orleans, and we weren't checking into Camp Hope until later that evening.

So, to Graceland!

But first, some things I took note of when I got out of the motel room in the morning:

Guitar-shaped swimming pool

A nice juxtaposition of signs in the motel parking lot


We forked over fifty more bucks for two basic tickets to see Graceland and took a tram across the street to the house. The tour was self-guided with audio accompaniment. I spent a good amount of time in each room, just taking it all in.

I really hadn't counted on this trip to Graceland to be as moving as it was. I believe I got a really good sense of at least a part of who Elvis was as a person. I hadn't known what to expect. There's plenty of people making a buck off his name, but the trip through his home was something strangely contemplative. I took a lot of pictures, but when I got to his resting place, that also had the graves of his parents, grandmother, and a marker for his twin brother, I just couldn't take any photos. I just stood there, feeling something strong and overwhelming. I can't really explain it.

The people at Graceland had adorned the various rooms of the house with Christmas decorations, which gave the place a nice feeling that people visiting during the more busy summer months don't get the benefit of seeing. So, some Graceland pictures for you, a lot of them with a bit o' Christmas:

Living Room

Dining Room

Jungle Room

Just 'cause I'm a dork, here's the fusebox for the house

The below picture is a portrait of Elvis' dad, Vernon Presley. It was hanging in the living room. I thought it was special, and took a picture of it.

One of the later additions to Graceland was a racquetball court Elvis had built behind his house. The court is now used to house all sorts of memorabilia. It's a pretty impressive room.

If you haven't seen Graceland, it's worth a visit. Something moving and a little sad lives there.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of my 2007 NOLA Trip: Homebuilding. In the next installment, I answer the burning question -- what the hell was I doing there, anyways?


Dr. Zaius said...

Watch out! Elvis knows both karate and President Nixon.

Distributorcap said...

like you i dont hate elvis and i dont like elvis --- very neutral on elvis (tho lisa marie did not get the talent genes)

i would have thought graceland would have been as tacky and cheesey as we all imagine it to be. i guess i am surprised you found it to be more than that. i am glad you did. it must be something about dying so famous and so young -- as if you are really not dead - like James Dean and Marilyn Monroe - omnipresent without being present.

nice start to the trip -- tho that motel is a bit much. do you think in crawford the Days Inn will be an homage to George Bush one day?

PJ said...

Loving the guitar-shaped pool.

Joe said...

I'm looking up that Days Inn for our trip in March.

Great pictures!

dguzman said...

Nice travelogue so far; too bad "Change of Habit" wasn't on the Elvis channel, though.

What's with Daddy Elvis' bad posture?

Splotchy said...

dr z, that handshake with Nixon is one of the most iconic photos of the 70's!

dc, only time will tell regarding Dubya's presence in the motels of Crawford. I will say that I spared you the sight of a couple pictures I took of some framed letters from Dubya honoring Elvis at an entrance to one of the buildings at Graceland.

pj, if it wasn't freaking cold I might have dipped my finger-pickin' hand in it.

bubs, thanks a lot! Don't forget to get a room where the lock works!

d, I had forgotten about that one! Mary Tyler Moore as a nun! The film that happened to be on was a concert movie, but they show his "fiction" films as well. I wouldn't doubt that Change Of Habit is one of the films they show.

SamuraiFrog said...

You're the second person I know to go to Graceland this year; my dad went a few months back. Thanks for posting pictures--the old man didn't take any! I actually love Elvis and would really love to go there. My dad said he was surprised how small the house was, at least in comparison to how he'd pictured it. Great, great pictures, man.

Jon the Intergalactic Gladiator said...

That. Pool. Is. AwEsOmEW!!!1!!

Splotchy said...

sf, thanks a lot, man. You should definitely go, if you don't mind the travelin'. It was definitely not a large house. I would have been surprised at its size, but several people already told me how small it was. If anything, it was bigger than I imagined :).

jon, it's awesome, but doing laps in it ain't easy.

Unknown said...


Fran said...

Thanks Splotchy. This was so insightful and good to read.

While I am not at all a huge Elvis fan, in fact not really an Elvis fan at all, I do respect that he was ELVIS.

And I have always wanted to go to Graceland. You are not the first person I know who found it as strangely moving as you did.

Anyway, I just appreciate your take on it.


You know Splotch, I just can't help falling in love with you!

(p.s. GREAT film notion by dguzman)

Unknown said...

I have such a knee-jerk reaction to Graceland. In fact I just ran across an old ticket from there when we went back in 2000.

Is the Krispy Kreme still down the road? How about a waffle house?

Just wondering.