The female DG remained a bit ambiguous about visiting Graceland ever since the Dual Gs arrival in Memphis. She’s not a huge Elvis fan and the whole pilgrimage thing was a bit too much. But as it was almost on their way to the Mississippi Delta, it became “why not?” The verdict: it’s a true slice of American kitsch and while way over-produced, the people watching is amazing. The house itself is far from a mansion (by today’s standards) and the time-stamped early 7os decor is awful beyond words – there’s even shag carpet on one ceiling. The male DG spotted our South Pasadena refrigerator in the kitchen (barely visible in the left hand corner) where it seemed fitting to photograph “the chef.” All that aside, the “Trophy Room” that spotlights Elvis’s recording and movie career was yet another walk through a lifetime.
A day’s journey that began at a mansion ended when they checked into the Shack Up Inn (where there’s a lot of old stuff strewn about for authenticity, as the photo shows), which resides in the former slave quarters of the Hopson Plantation in Clarksdale. It’s another kind of kitsch overlaid with some good old fashioned entrepreneurship on the part of owners Bill and Guy. The other guests are two couples from Belgium. Only in America.
So the Dual Gs (gimpy and [much less] grumpy) continue to limp their way through Memphis and, speaking for the female DG, find themselves amazed. Maybe it’s just their West Coast bias (e.g. uninformed) but there seems to be something of interest in every block. Example, they’ve never seen so many vintage 60s automobiles cruising around in mint condition as they’ve see in the last 48 hours in this southern city. Not to mention how many places in America can you see ducks march from a fountain in a hotel lobby to an elevator (at the Peabody) and two minutes later be in the birthplace of blues (Beale Street) and then – at least on this Sunday night – be thinking this must be 1969 and here is Gil Scott Heron (The Revolution Will Not Be Televised) but it was 2009 and they were listening to Virghost who did some spoken word during a set by Tonya Dyson and the Green Onions at Cafe Soul on South Main. Tomorrow they move further south to the Mississippi Delta ( after maybe seeing Graceland).
There’s a lot to see in Memphis. The Dual G’s found out that’s no tourism hype. They saw a bit of Memphis today – the farmer’s market at Central Station and a police-sponsored gun turn in that netted about a 100 weapons – and a couple of landmarks. The National Civil Rights Museum uses the Lorraine Motel where Dr. King was assassinated in an incredibly evocative way, including a view from the boarding house across the street where James Earl Ray stood in a bathroom to take his shot. The Stax Museum of American Soul also uses the original record storefront and theater where the label was founded to tell its story. Taking in both meant reliving the events and sounds of a lifetime. Between museums, they stopped at quintessential dive bar Earnestine and Hazel’s (a former brothel) for a Soul Burger. They really could not have had a better day and they’re thankful for gimping their way along.
“Long distance information, give me Memphis Tennessee” sort of summed up the Dual DGs’ long journey from San Francisco to Memphis today. Whining about cramped airline cabins and airport delays – both of which they experienced – is routine and boring, so no need to be documented. Part of their delay was due to a big storm that passed through the Tennessee city today, which was only starting to clear when they got their first view of the mighty Mississippi and downtown as their plane made its final descent. But that was just the start of what would become an evening of discovery, including meeting their driver known as the Silver Fox, getting into the kitchen of phenom chef Kelly English (and enjoying every bite of their dinner at Restaurant Iris) and meeting not so typical residents – a poet and a film animator. It’s difficult to think of ways they could have packed more into their first few hours. And just for the record, they did get up at 3:30 AM PDT, so no apologies that they’re both beat.