If you ever find yourself in Memphis you’re going to go to Graceland. Just as Mariah and I did today, you will undoubtedly play a classic Elvis song and Paul Simon’s Graceland en route. Just know that from the moment you pull up to the gate and incur the ten dollar expense to park your car in the designated parking area (followed soon thereafter by the payment of an exorbitant admission fee); your return on your investment will decline steadily. The anticipation of your visit will far exceed the actual experience. The best of Elvis has most certainly left the building. It has also left the minimally maintained grounds, the tired exhibits, the long guest lines, the overpriced mediocre food, the revisionist presentation of his life and the inefficiently managed and indifferent staff. Time spent with any of the multitude of Elvis biographies or retrospectives readily available on Amazon would have been a better investment. Memphis is also home to The National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Hotel. I am certain that at any time, this museum would take your breath away. Visiting while the media reports 24/7 on the recent carnage in a Charleston, South Carolina church and describes yet another in an endless stream of horrific racially motivated attacks was sickening. The museum presents the United States history of discrimination in a clear, factual, well-documented, interactive and profound manner. For example, visitors may board a bus and see a life-size Rosa Parks unwilling to move to the back. They may sit alongside young adults as they peacefully stage a sit-in at a Woolworth’s lunch counter in response to a white’s only service policy. They may view Reverand King in a Birmingham jail cell. A plethora of films, artifacts, newspaper articles, photographs and much more are woven together in room after room after room to convey the history of the civil rights struggle in the USA in visceral terms. Knowing all the words beforehand, however, does little to lessen the impact of the film taken of Martin Luther King, Jr., preaching his now infamous final sermon, in a Memphis church the night before he was killed. The room and balcony at The Lorraine Hotel where he died as well as James Earl Ray’s room across the way are preserved and on exhibit. If you can, you should visit. You really should.
“I saw the ghost of Elvis on Union Avenue, I followed him up to the gates of Graceland and watched him walk on through. Now security did not see him, they just huddled ’round the tomb. But there’s a pretty little thing waiting for the King down in the jungle room.” M.C.
Shame about Graceland, sounds like a commentary: a coarse, dull waking from our evanescent American dream.
Glad the National Civil Rights Museum was excellent and moving. As Rebecca was pointing out last evening at dinner, our bodies are comprised mostly of water. So we are all the color of water.
It is wonderful that Mariah is seeing these things up close and in person. Cue up “Car Wheels On A Gravel Road”, “The Way It Is”, “Summertime (Fantasia version), “Pride In the Name of Love” and “Stormy Monday” today for mood and context?