WHEN IN GRACELAND 

WHEN IN GRACELAND

It’s Elvis week, so I thought I would write about ... what else? My experiences with Elvis. Unfortunately, I never slept with Elvis; I was never hanger-on or a handler, so my experience is limited. I did go on a tour of Graceland once, but nothing much happened. I also went to the Elvis vigil one year. Now I like Elvis, but I don’t like Elvis. I think I1m the wrong demographic, plain and simple. But my group of Memphis transplants and Memphis natives arrived shortly before midnight, armed with cameras and flashbulbs, ready for a show. And we got it. There were devoted fans clad entirely in Elvis memorabilia, impersonators signing autographs, and one devil child who screamed at us to get away from her wax ground painting. It was scary. Scarier even when, at around one in the morning, my friend Ashley was demonstrating how she goes to public restrooms without touching anything in the stall with her hands. That was bad, but it was borne out of idle chitchat. Worse was when a Hawaiian Elvis impersonator saw her performing this complicated series of karate-like maneuvers and squats and said, 3Nice moves,2 and then something about dancing like the King. Then, at around two in the morning, we heard reports that the line to Elvis1 grave site was short, maybe 45 minutes. Earlier reports had pegged that estimate at three to four hours so even though we hadn1t really planned on going to the Mecca, we figured, what the heck? We1re here anyway. We got in line, holding our white candles carefully in front of us so we wouldn1t burn ourselves with melted wax. At first the line moved along rather swiftly, getting us into the gates of Graceland within 15 minutes. We talked in excitedly hushed voices about the event, the people around us, everything. But then the line stopped. Short. There1s no time limit on how long you can stay at the grave and some pretty heavy mourners were up there. Of course I can only gather that was the case. We were still way down at the bottom, only feet past the gate. Maybe something else was going on up there. Maybe Elvis himself was rising. I don’t know. So we waited. And waited. Feeling the power of Elvis pull on our time. As we slowly began to trudge up the hill, inch by inch, we started talking about things other than Elvis. How we had to be at work the next morning. What had gone on at work the day before. What someone’s boyfriend had said the day before. What someone’s boyfriend was like in the sack. We got crude. We got loud. We got dirty stares from the Elvis fans around us. It looked like it was about to get really ugly, so Ashley and I snuffed out our candles and ducked out of line. But instead of going back down, instead of turning around, we hightailed it up the hill. It was so dark that without our candles, you could barely see us. We didn1t run all the way to the grave. We didn’t even run. We just sort of snuck past 100 or so people, you know, until we saw a large security guard. Slowly merging back in line, we waited until the security guard left to pull this little trick again, certain we’d soon be praying to, I mean, mourning Elvis. Unfortunately, running through the woods of Graceland had put us in a rather jovial mood. We were sort of like Elvis outlaws. It made it all the sweeter that my one trip to Graceland had been only weeks earlier and I still felt a bit affronted at the general rudeness of the EPE employees. But now, directly behind us in line was a very large woman suffering from emphysema. Riding along in a powered wheelchair, she had brought her own candles and an oxygen tank. And she loved Elvis. I never got to the grave that night. My friend and I quickly pissed this woman off with what she called our “disrespectful” attitude (She didn’t mention the line jumping). She started cursing in our general direction and at any moment, seemed poised to rise up from her wheelchair and beat us to a pulp with her oxygen tank. Beginning to fear for our lives-- this woman was frothing at the mouth and calling for our blood and she had her kinfolk with her-- we quickly ducked out of line and walked back to where our friends were waiting still, way, way down the hill. Ashley and I decided to leave instead of waiting with them. We’d had just about enough Elvis for one year. I guess the moral of the story is that old cliche: “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” That, or “Don’t mess with Elvis.”

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