Thursday, August 16, 2007

1000 MILES TO GRACELAND: Our honeymoon pilgrimage to Memphis

We celebrate many birthdays. But to the best of my knowledge there are only two people that the western world takes time out to commemorate the deaths of: Jesus Christ, and Elvis Presley. Curious, that...

So today is the 30th anniversary of the death of Elvis. Which a lot of folks no doubt are going to be remembering in various ways. Here's mine: the story of how Lisa and I wound up devoting a considerable chunk of our honeymoon five years ago to the King of Rock and Roll.

I suppose all of this came about because of what you see in the picture on your right. This was taken at the rehearsal dinner on the night before our wedding at this restaurant in Calhoun, Georgia. As dinner was winding down Lisa's dad thanked everyone for coming from such far away (we had guests in from Brooklyn, Australia and Belgium!) and thought that it would be a good time to introduce everyone and how they were related to the bride and groom, and basically it was a great idea to "roast" us as he put it.

Well, I had no idea that this was coming, but Chad Austin spoke about how he and I had been friends since kindergarten, all on up through high school and it was at that point that he mentioned Chris "doing his Elvis impersonation". HOW THE %@#$ DID HE THINK TO BRING THAT UP AT A TIME LIKE THIS?!? That was something that started in one particular session of computer class when we were juniors in high school, and before I knew it there were posters all over campus advertising "CHRIS KNIGHT TONIGHT LIVE, SEE HIM DO ELVIS AT 8 PM!" Well, being a good gracious groom at my own rehearsal dinner I thought it'd be wise to demonstrate just what the joke was about, so I got up from the table and in front of everyone I did my world-famous "Elvis shaking his pelvis" routine. It was a huge hit! And that's all that I plan on talking about that. In fact, forget you ever read this much about it.

Let's move on, shall we...

So we finished with dinner and Lisa went back to her parents' house for a lil' "get-together" with the girls and a bunch of us guys - Chad, "Weird" Ed, Johnny Yow, the amazing "Lowbridge" and I - went off for a bachelor's party at U.S. Play in Marietta. The next day we had the wedding and that afternoon Lisa and I took off for our honeymoon in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. We'd planned on being there from Saturday night on 'til Wednesday but decided to extend our stay there a day. That still left us with plenty of time for our honeymoon trip but we didn't know where to spend it at.

I think it was late Tuesday that the idea hit to drive all the way across Tennessee, and make a "religious pilgrimage" to Graceland in Memphis.

We checked out at the cabin rental place on Thursday morning and it wasn't long afterward that we were on I-40 headed west across the whole length of Tennessee. We left Gatlinburg at about 11 and after a loooooooong drive we finally got to Memphis almost at 8 p.m.

The next morning, we went to Graceland. There's a visitor's center where you board a shuttle and if you like you can get this fancy audio tour thingy that you wear earphones with as you walk around the grounds.

Anyways, here's some photos from our visit to Graceland. First is the front door of the place...

There's not too much photo-taking allowed inside Elvis's house (and the upstairs portion - where the King lived and ummmm, died is strictly off-limits) but we were able to get a few good pics elsewhere on the grounds. Here's Elvis's swimming pool...

Here's Lisa in the backyard area...

And here in the Meditation Garden of Graceland is the grave of Elvis Presley, along with mother Gladys, father Vernon and his grandmother Minnie Mae...

And here's a closeup of Elvis's grave...

A quick note about the name on the King's grave marker, since it's helped fueled speculation over the years that Elvis didn't die in 1977. You see, Elvis's full name really is "Elvis Aaron Presley". But for years it's been claimed that his middle name was actually "Aron". Indeed, that's how Elvis himself spelled it for a long time, until he discovered that his legal name did include "Aaron". The reason for the "Aron" spelling was that Elvis thought it sounded so much like "Garon", the name of his stillborn twin brother. Anyways, when the official death certificate was made out for Elvis it spelled his full name as "Elvis Aron Presley"... which led some to wonder if there might be something sinister at work. And some have said that the name on the grave marker is not the actual legal name of Elvis, either. Which is which? Since it was Vernon Presley who was in charge of the grave arrangement and how the memorials were made out, I'll defer to his judgment.

There's a pretty extensive collection of Elvis's belongings that are on display at Graceland, including all the King's certified gold, silver and platinum records (this takes up every bit of wall space in one cavernous room and it's still growing). You can also see Elvis's vehicles, including his planes and his cars, not the least of which is his famous Pink Cadillac...

There's that guy again, unholying the holy ground...

We spent most of the day at Graceland, and thought it was well worth taking an unplanned excursion for it during our honeymoon. Later that night we went out to explore Memphis some more. Here's a shot of Lisa taken right before sunset, with the Hernando de Soto Bridge crossing the Mississippi River in the background...

A short while after this, since it's not everyday that you get to cross the Mississippi, we got in our car and took I-40 over the bridge. That way we also got to say that we visited Arkansas during our trip. But since by this point the sun was fast going down, I told Lisa that we had better get out of Arkansas "before the monsters come out". Look this is the state that produced Bill Clinton: that's more than enough to scare me about the prospect of being stuck there when darkness falls, 'kay?

So we turned around fast and headed back over the river and got back to Memphis. Here's a groovy statue of Elvis that we found...

And here's a statue of another famous son of Memphis, B.B. King...

Lisa and I took a nice trolley ride through downtown Memphis. We got to see Beale Street, which was just as lively as I imagined it would be. And I just did miss getting a picture of this because it it took about 5 seconds for me to realize what it was that I was looking at, but we also saw the Lorraine Motel: the place where Martin Luther King Jr. was shot (it's now the National Civil Rights Museum, but it's still quite recognizable as the Lorraine Motel).

The next morning - on Saturday, now a week after we were married - we left Memphis and headed back to Calhoun. To get there we decided to go through Mississippi and Alabama. Lo and behold the route included Tupelo: Elvis's birthplace! So of course to make our pilgrimage complete we had to stop and see the place. Here's Lisa at the historical marker outside Elvis's childhood home:

Here are some photos inside the place...



And here's Lisa and I on the front-porch swing...

And that's pretty much how we spent a good part of the second half of our honeymoon: paying our respects to the life of Elvis Presley. From the time I left Reidsville for the wedding, until we got to Memphis, it was roughly one thousand miles (hence the title of this post). Considering that our wedding had included wacky music, Star Wars action figures, and a garter snake, I suppose it was a quiet enough way to wind things down :-)

So, too all of my friends who are reading this: considering that this is the 30th anniversary of his passing, should or should I not likewise pay tribute to the the King by posting a YouTube video of myself "doing Elvis"? :-P

5 comments:

Chad said...

I had forgotten all about the Elvis posters from high school. Is there a performance tonight in honor of the King?

marc said...

Chris, a question about Graceland....I've never been there, how large is the house? I dont mean how much square feet. I mean, just how big did it look to you? Is it HUGE, mansion like huge? Average, like middle class suburban house average? Above average large? How about each individual room that you were allowed to see? From pictures I have seen of the interior, it seems as if the rooms are pretty small, at least for a house that size.

Chris Knight said...

NOT as big a place as you would imagine. So far as the main house goes anyway. I've been to Biltmore near Asheville and it dwarfs Graceland. The accompanying grounds are fairly large (enough to display Elvis's private jets etc., have the museum buildings etc.) but the actual house seems fairly moderate. There are houses around Greensboro that are much bigger in comparison. Heck, there's at least one home here in Reidsville that would be bigger than Graceland.

marc said...

"should I not likewise pay tribute to the the King by posting a YouTube video of myself "doing Elvis"? :-P"

I vote "should". :-)

Bill Lawson said...

FYI - here's more info regarding the Birthplace park and Elvis's Childhood home in Tupelo, Mississippi.

Cool trip, btw!

regards,
Bill