Friday, August 15, 2014
Alone at Graceland
During our PCS drive we stopped in Memphis, Tennessee. This was intentional. I love to sightsee (surprise!) and you can never be sure if you will make it back someplace. So I said that since we were driving that direction anyway I wanted to stop in Memphis and go to Graceland. My loving husband begrudgingly agreed, although he wasn't interested in going.
Well, then the whole surgery thing happened and I wasn't even sure I'd be up to it.
But, in the end it worked out. Ryan decided to stay back at the hotel with the kids since they wouldn't be interested in Elvis and probably prevent the enjoyment of touring his home. It was the first day I wore real pants (non pajama or yoga) since the surgery which was not even 2 weeks prior! I was without kids and on a time crunch to get back to the hotel before checkout.
I got there shortly after it opened and purchased the smallest package (with military discount). It was perfect for the time allotted. I didn't get to see the planes or the cars or other Elvis Presley things nearby, but I got to see what I was there for... Graceland.
When I got in the moderately long line to get on the shuttle bus I was glad I showed up early. When I came back afterwards the line was MUCH longer. I was standing behind two Canadians from Montreal. The woman didn't speak English but the man did and he was the big Elvis fan. It was cute to watch them interact and see how happy he was, singing old Elvis hits. We all received our special audio guides and loaded up.
A quick note about the audio guides: I loved them! I enjoy learning and obtaining information anyway so I'm pretty sure I listened to every chapter they had available. The most endearing sections were probably when Lisa Marie shared memories she had of her father.
The shuttle takes you across the street, up the drive, and drops you off in front of the house. My first impression was "it's smaller than I thought it would be." It didn't look like a mansion, just large house. I know that's all a mansion is, but by today's standard of "mansion" I don't think it is one.
I entered the house and realize this is a step back in time. Everything downstairs has been left to look how it was while Elvis lived there in the 60's and early 70's. I saw the living room, the room his mother stayed in, and the staircase that leads to the private quarters on the second floor. Apparently it has always been off limits to the public and to this day is still private.
Stepping back through the foyer I crossed into the dining room and walked through to the kitchen. The kitchen was large, even by today's standards. I can only imagine what a renovation would do in there. It definitely had the feel of being the heart of the home.
Down the mirror lined stairs to the basement and I saw Elvis' tv room/bar and also the pool table room. The walls were covered in wild, colorful fabric! A bit strange for my taste.
Back up the stairs I come face to face with the famous Jungle Room. Whoa. I think it is kind of cool and weird and retro... and I could see how it felt comfortable to people back then.
Outside, past the carport was the business office and Lisa Marie's 1970's swingset. From there I took some time to look at the horses in the pasture.
The next building is the trophy room. Now, I knew Elvis was big. I mean, he's an icon! The King of Rock 'n' Roll! But it was here I realized his impact and what kind of work and dedication he had as an artist. There was quite a bit of memorabilia but what amazed me were the walls FULL of gold and platinum records as well as a case of Grammys. This museum part of the house leads to showcasing his roles in film and his charitable work. Suddenly I began to see Elvis as a person, a real person, not just a celebrity and singer. Those were the clothes he wore. He was a real father. These signs represent the work he did. It was sobering to see these things he had done and would possibly do in the future and yet already know the outcome for his life.
Back outside I crossed into the Racquetball Building. I saw some workout gear and a hang out spot from the 1970's and viewed the piano Elvis played his last songs on the early morning before his death. Then I walked into the display room (the actual racquetball court) with Elvis' jumpsuits he is so known for. There is an entire wall of awards that he received posthumously. It was here my audio tour started screwing up (operator's error) so I took the time to watch the video of Elvis performing in Las Vegas and fiddled with the headphone remote until I got it working again.
Outside again, next to the swimming pool I reached the final part of the tour: the Meditation Garden. It would have been nice to spend a bit more time here in the relative peace. There weren't a ton of people so if I wasn't on a time constraint I would have liked to stroll longer. I joined the slow moving, short line to go past the resting place of Elvis and other members of his family. It really was a beautiful place.
The tour was over. After unloading from the shuttle I quickly ducked into the gift shops to pick up a few things and then hurried back to our hotel so we could check out of the hotel and continue on our journey to Texas.
I have to say that I'm so glad I was able to experience Graceland. Special thanks to the husband, who stayed behind with the kids and indulged me on my request to visit this place. It was a lovely and a great memorial to an amazing performer and American legend. Everybody I came in contact with was friendly and courteous (even the other tourists) and although they definitely don't go out of their way to have you save a buck, I found it affordable. If you ever find yourself going through Memphis, or even nearby, take the time to see Graceland for yourself.