Elvis is all around this part of town. Like a lot of the urban America that we’ve already passed through, you need to endure miles of strip malls before you get to the actual town centre. America doesn’t go up… it goes wide.
But Elvis isn’t downtown. We are staying in what was once countryside, and now Elvis Presley Boulevard is a long and ugly road to nowhere. Half way along you get to Graceland, and this is a slick operation that bounces thousands of people from gift shop to exhibit to gift shop with smooth and skilled brilliance that you wander from hours later with bags full of Elvis paraphernalia: out of context this looks cheaper and tackier than it did just moments before. The Presley clan need to be recognised for this brillant business accumen if for nothing else. This glorious portrayal of Elvis – forever young -lightly dances over the last period of his life, where he was overweight, dulled and slurring from pharmaceuticals, hardly able to perform for over an hour. Here, at Graceland, he is a youthful philanthropic heart-throb, with a young gorgeous bride.
Everywhere you walk, Elvis songs are broadcast from speakers and women ‘of a certain age’ gather in packs to purchase luggage and t-shirts commemorating their pilgrimage here. It’s the most visited private home in America, and for $35 you get a platinum pass to all 6 exhibits (of which we managed 3).
We are staying in the campground directly across from the Elvis metropolis, in which we cooked a meal last night as Elvis serenaded us. A pink limousine just came to collect some eager young campers to take them god knows where. It is a surreal environment but one where you truly become aware of what a huge impact this man had on the world.
This morning, however, one of our dreams was realised. Stopping in the Elvis diner, one of the many available here, we sampled Elvis’s favourite snack – a fried peanut butter & banana sandwich. We had misread this titbit of information earlier, and thought it was going to be deep fried. Disappointed we were when presented with a very simple sandwich. What did it taste like? Much the same as it did when I made one similarly as a kid when camping. Apparently Elvis flew a famous trip to Denver from Memphis at 1am in the morning to sample one similar.
This sandwich provided a nice analogy for our trip to Graceland. A great deal of hype resulting in something less than filling. It was nice, a little sweet, but didn’t reveal as much as we’d hoped. The mythology of the King is passing into folklore but the truth is somehow not what the millions of people that have visited this part of America are seeking…