Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

To Graceland

Heading south, it gets dark early.  I suppose it's the season, but on my way to Memphis it was more than that.  It was going back in time, me, a man from Chicago, barreling through states: Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee -- and towns: Cooter, Blytheville, West Memphis.  I can't remember most of them, obviously, but I was terrified.

My cell phone was dead.  No one, except for two people, knew where I was.  In the early 1990's this would not have been a thing, but nowadays it was a recipe for an episode of Cold Case Files.  "We found him in the Mississippi," it would begin.

Yes, a flat tire in the peaceful rurals of Missouri or Arkansas. I could change it, I know that, but what then?  What within a fifty mile radius?  More blackness, desperation?  No towns with an open garage, that's for sure.  Maybe a strange trucker on a strange night?  Danger?  Stars?  Helplessness?  I did not wish to acknowledge my own mortality, but I had to. 

As I drove I listened to the Cardinals game, anathema to a Chicagoan, so tedious and red, but I was grateful that it went into extra innings.  I needed the monotone, the familiar pitch and catch: I could not listen to music, fearing the freedom of thought that it provides.  I needed the basic, boring, Midwestern structure that I had deliberately flouted (and embraced) on an impulse to go to Graceland, where The King lived.  As Muslims to Mecca, Americans...

I wanted, I want, to be American.  I want to love the values than we all love.  Elvis, Paul Simon, etc.  And I do.  And that is why I left Chicago on a Saturday afternoon without thought, without planning, just a reckless 80 mph drive south down I-57, guided only by the feeling that there was something waiting in Memphis for me.  I love fall foliage.  I love America.

I made it to a Memphis hotel around 11 P.M.  There was a room.  I slept there in a King sized bed, watching Law & Order reruns, my clothes draped on chairs airing out.

And the next day I went to Graceland, Graceland, Memphis, Tennessee.  There was a shuttle bus.  And people, high-school students on a field trip on a Sunday.  And I was so grateful to feel the shag carpet walls that Elvis once felt, the mirrored staircase, the sunburst clock, the Jungle Room, the televisions with dials.  And it was so neat to see the carport and the smokehouse with the videos of Elvis, once King, laughing and smirking and speaking to all of us.  There is no reason why he died, and he left us all a lot poorer.  But...

I am alive.  That's what's important.  


Blogger jorg wobblington lopez said...

I love Paul Simon. Elvis is more mythic. Sometimes I like to change t.v. channels with a revolver. No, not really. That's a part of his myth. I don't even own a gun.

1:31 AM  
Blogger JMH said...

With myth, if only we could combine Joseph Campbell with Elvis, we'd have something.

1:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've made these decisions before. Not this particular one. But ones quite similar. It usually involved hitchhikers and mountains. And once a limo with a broken back window.

I'm thankful you made it out alive and thankful that there are people who still act hastily.

This warms my heart.

10:34 AM  
Anonymous Jackie said...

Did you write on the wall outside the gates? What would Sprout say to the King of rock-n-roll?

10:36 AM  
Blogger Rassles said...

I am incredibly, incredibly jealous of this right now. I will do this someday.

12:57 AM  
Blogger Kono said...

I am very stoned... and this was very good.

8:33 PM  
Blogger JMH said...

freud - life is a constant balancing of impulse and consequences.

Jackie - I did not write there, but rather crumpled up a note and threw it in the Jungle Room for Elvis to find after all the tourists left.

Rassles - Right-O! And then write about it so we can link our posts. Oh, that means I have to go to some scary Swedish museum, no?

Kono - thanks. A stoned audience is a good audience.

10:29 PM  
Blogger D'Arcy Benincosa said...

The Graceland album accompanied through many a college trip.

Also--If I ever meet a Joseph Campbell/Elvis combo, I will marry them.

12:41 PM  
Blogger JMH said...


10:23 PM  

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