On our Great Southern Roadtrip, we trekked over to Graceland, home to Elvis Presley and his family from 1957 until sometime after Elvis’ death in 1977, after we visited Sun Studio. Personally, I was underwhelmed and a little weirded out by the experience. To my mind, it was a sad comment on the deadening excess that too often accompanies the success of music that is born out of raw passion.
Jennifer has a different take on it, so in honor of Elvis week, we give you Graceland…
The first time I went to Graceland I was 17. It was during a particularly packed (and fraught) college visiting trip with my mother, an hour or two taken out to do something that probably wouldn’t result in mutual seething. At the time it seemed enormous and glittery and truly awe-inspiring, and I loved it. I got a small metal pink cadillac key-chain as a souvenir, which I have referred to as the “pink cadillac of freedom” ever since. It represented everything I thought college would be: my chance to get out of the house, to be glamorous, to be, essentially, not what I was, which was dumpy, suburban and square.
Of course that dream only partially came true. I got out of the house, but remained who I was (and I more or less still do), but I still have the pink cadillac in my pocket, to, I suppose, remind me to dream big. Or maybe that the road is there, and I just have to get in the car and get on it.
The second time I went to Graceland was almost approximately seventeen years later. To my adult eyes, Graceland seemed much smaller and far more pedestrian, and yet, readers, can I tell you a secret? I still love it.
The Pool Table
I love it because it is glittery and awe-inspiring, frankly ugly in places, and kitschy in a way that is oddly comforting. I still feel incredibly peaceful when I step into the Jungle Room, even though it is not as Jungle-like as I remember, as if they had renovated it, which of course is not possible.
The Jungle Room
Everything about the place is just a little bit overblown. It appeals to the part of my heart that also loves Brandon Flowers (The Killers) for wearing his sequins unironically. If you’re going to be a rock star, if you’re going to glitter, best to do it in a gold suit:
But on a more sober, detached note, it’s a little sad to walk past the movie posters and the platinum records and feel the narrative shifting. To watch the years march on and the costumes become more ornate and have to start the internal countdown to the end of the story. Graceland itself doesn’t soften the blow; you walk out of a room full of awards and jumpsuits, it’s only a short path to the end:
But even the stark finality of the grave seems somehow unreal. Elvis Presley died 33 years ago this week, and yet, he lives forever. At Graceland, in our hearts (yes, even mine), in the pages of supermarket tabloids, on the radio, and blasting out of the speakers at beach bars. His spirit is still backstage at dirty rock clubs everywhere, hair slicked back and ready to walk out on stage to swivel his hips, make the rafters ring and the girls swoon. He’s bigger than life, he’s rock n’ roll, he is, indeed, the King, and Graceland is his castle.