Tag Archives: Elvis Presley

Walkin in Memphis

Ironic then, that I ended up in a place called the Pilgram Hostel which was housed in a church. This was situated in sleepy part of town called Cooper Young, a ways from downtown. I arrived at 730am. Note to self, no more overnight flights. Public transport was sparse, so I rented a bike and started off on a 7 mile ride in the 35 degree heat. I got so hot and bothered, and hit a wall (not literally) that I turned around and came home for a kip.

I freshened up and had some beers and a late lunch at one of the local bars, smiling all the time at everyone calling me m’am and the coolest playlist of Etta James, Bill Withers, Howlin Wolf.

I later went for a walk in the balmy dusk and reveled in the pretty architecture from another era, old white wooden houses, with swing seats on their verandahs. I imagined myself on one of those, sipping on a long tall glass of ice cold tea.

I turned in for an early night, a happy girl.

The next day I headed to Graceland. My fondest childhood memories are of my mum teaching me how to rumba and samba to a bunch of Elvis tunes.

We would watch these dreadful films, which i think i knew were dreadful even as a little girl. But it didnt matter coz the hero was so handsome and he could sing, and dance, and fight, and he drove really cool cars really fast. What more could a girl want?

The mansion is a lot smaller than I thought it would be. Elvis bought this place for just over $100k when he was just 22 years old. He’d only cut his record at Sun Studios 4 years earlier.

Elvis’ taste in interior decorating sent a shudder down my spine and made me squeal with delight all at once. Offensive color combinations, faux animal fur and green carpeted ceilings, animal skulls and stained glass windows, awful paintings, interior waterfalls, indigenous artifacts. Clash clash clash! Loved!

The rest of the grounds is dotted with exhibits, such as the car museum – my favorite was the purple convertible cadillac with fins. But what nearly pushed me over the edge were the ELEVEN gift stores. I was in Elvia merchandising heaven! Thongs, oven mits, shoe shaped handbags, a Mr Potato Head version of Elvis (why?), and pretty much anything you could think of, they had it. I had wanted to get a wobbly figurine for my dashboard, and was stoked to find a suitable alternative. Dangly legs swinging from an Elvis torso, complete with suction cup for my car’s rear window. Perfect.

Later that afternoon, I poked around the hallowed grounds of Sun Studios and heard original recordings of everyone from Roy Orbison through to a very young and handsome Johnny Cash *sighs*. I was most definitely born 25 years too late.

I bought an album from a cool lil record store on Beale Street. I cooled off with a beer inside BB Kings House of Blues and listened to a cool local band doing their bit to keep the dream alive. I flicked through a local rag, diggin on the names of the acts who would play lat that week…King Beez, Blind Mississippi Morris, Juke Joint All Stars and my favorite- The Black Dahlia Murder with Beast in the Field. How could they not be good?

So here i was in a seminal place where country and rockabilly and blues and soul all came together to give birth to rock.

I loved it.

3 June

Viva las Vegas

We agreed they should have this song playing full belt as you walk through the airport. Which is the only airport I’ve ever seen with slot machines in the arrivals area. And that’s just the beginning of the crazy.

I met Martin at our hotel which was Bright. Gold. And right by a large pyramid. For aesthetics. I think.

There was a television in our bathroom. And a phone in the ‘restroom’. Perhaps for emergencies. Or ordering room service.

We caught up over lunch, the first of many meals ranging from really fucking ordinary to completely inedible. Then we lazed about by the pool, where they pack ’em in on those sun lounges like sardines. Well, Martin lazed. I fidgeted.

A walk down The Strip proved more stimulating. Each casino seeing the next one’s ridiculous, and raising them one. Each one had their own distinct feel, and in the case of the Excalibur – its own distinct smell (a combination of old pee, cheap perfume and airport antiseptic).

The Bellagio by comparison seemed beautiful. But i can’t be sure, as I do fear I was starting to lose my sense of perspective.

We threw a little money at the roulette table and I played a couple of hands of blackjack. We lost, but that’s to be expected. We had a late shitty dinner and then watched the spectacle that is the fountains out the front of the hotel. Picture this: fountains move like Chinese ribbon dancers, in a choreographed piece to the painful cries of that godawful Celine Dion tune from that godawful film, the Titanic. The fountains spurt, gushing, and explode… growing more & more animated as the song reaches its crescendo.

The next day we hired a car and took off for the Grand Canyon. Martin and I played the old married couple game of “You’re a shit navigator. Well, you’re a dumb driver.” Which is always fun. Especially when driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road in a place you have no knowledge of. We got through it, and it was well worth it in the end.

There are many words you could use to describe the Grand Canyon but “breathtaking” does the job for me. Because there were several moments when i literally gasped.

We spent a little bit of time walking around a very small part of the South Rim, and a lot of time wishing we could stay overnight.

I’d been hankering after a helicopter ride (thanks for the heads up Brad George) and Martin had spotted the aerodrome on the way in. We dropped in, not favoring the odds of us getting on board. We completely lucked out, with 2 spots on a chopper in 20mins time. I’ve been fortunate to see a lot of amazing things in my life but this was absolutely incredible.

The view from above, had us both nearly in tears. The sheer scale and beauty of this place has to be seen. I could bang on and on – pulling out all sorts of appropriate adjectives and suitable superlatives but, you know what? I just wouldn’t do it justice. I will say this: go.

Quick travel tip: I would highly recommend organizing yourself, as opposed to taking the tours they offer you at all the hotels – we had more ground time, did it all at our own pace and for a lot less money.

Many hours later (it’s at least a 4.5 hour drive each way), we went into the old part of Vegas, which is a lot more down and dirty… The 50s style flat roofed hotels with their mult-colored doors, and old school bulb lit billboards… We passed a lot of quicky-marriage chapels, including the drive-through that Elizabeth Taylor once took advantage of. It made me wonder, are people who get married multiple times, the eternal optimists?

In our own optimistic search for a green vegetable, we stumbled into a very unlovely piano bar with a bunch of youngns who were getting happy and singing for their supper. They were good, so we stayed for a drink.

Don’t even ask about the disaster that was dinner at 2am. It should be noted we had consumed exactly 2.5 alcoholic beverages between us by this point.

Next morning we visited some of the other casinos, including one called the Venetian which featured gondoliers serenading overweight tourists in a man made internal canal, against a Truman Show sky. Yes, seriously.

I was starting to trip out. This version of Fear and Loathing was a lot less fun than Thompson’s. I don’t think I could have handled any LSD. Although maybe it would have resulted in everything looking normal. While it had been a fun, whacky ride- I was glad to be getting off.

I fell asleep on the flight for San Fran even before take-off, having vivid dreams of broccoli falling out of slot machines in a major pay-out.

26 May