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

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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?

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