August 6, 2014

Graceland

Day one of our family vacation started at 0'dark-thirty.  We planned one overnight stop on the way to the Great Smoky Mountains, and Memphis fell conveniently in the middle.

I have not been to Memphis before (other than an airport layover), and though we wouldn't have time to do all of the things on our wish list, we all agreed that Graceland was a requirement.

I didn't have high expectations.  I am a fan of Elvis, not a Superfan, but aware enough that I know Graceland wasn't/isn't what today's standards would describe as a 'mansion'.  I know that Elvis had a surprisingly low net worth at the time of his death and that the Elvis 'brand' is something that Priscilla built after his death.  Despite my mental preparations, I was still a bit disappointed by how schticky the experience was, mostly on the entry side of the street.

I was also disappointed in the amount of vandalism and graffiti along the street-side wall at Graceland.  When did society decide that the way to pay tribute to someone is to paint/carve/write your sentiments on their property?

I thought Graceland was a lovely home.  I suppose I would applaud someone of Elvis' ego not going waaay over the top, though some of his choices might have seemed so at the time.  The Jungle Room wasn't that much different than many 70's-era 'rec rooms', Elvis just had the resources to take things up a notch.  My kids thought it was fantastic.  I thought it looked like it needed to be dusted.  And I wondered if they vacuum the ceiling carpet.

The audio tour, as expected, glosses over everything negative in Elvis' history.  I wouldn't expect them to give the gory details of his drug abuse and death, but they seem to go to great lengths to pretend otherwise.  Not being a Superfan, I was a little ignorant about the details of the story told on audio, while viewing the piano in the racquetball building, and hearing about how Elvis played and sang for friends on the morning of his death.  Later, while fact checking something else, I learned that he was playing that piano at 4 am in a drug induced haze, after calling up friends and making them come to Graceland to play racquetball with him in the middle of the night.

Overall, I found the experience of touring Elvis' home to be sad.  I was melancholy the rest of the evening, and it still makes me frown to think about.  I'm glad I can say I have done it - and managed to leave without purchasing anything in the gift shops, or buying entry to any one of 4 additional presentations.  I appreciated the opportunity to (shell out $42 and) see Graceland, but the rest of it was tacky and unnecessary.  While some point to the astute business savvy of Priscilla and the empire she built after Elvis' death, I am left thinking that, at some point, you need to let the man rest in peace.

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