You know… I always liked that song. I grew up 100 miles from Memphis and yet there is so much of the city I have not yet seen. I tried to rectify that, at least, in part yesterday for my birthday weekend celebration. Growing up within 100 miles of Graceland generally means you take it for granted and being that I was still pretty young when the world lost Elvis, I never truly understood his impact. As I grew older and got involved with the music industry myself, however, that impact became more and more clear to me. Elvis was the king of rock and roll because he more or less defined it.
So yesterday, my cousin and I, made a road trip to Memphis. It’s a long, boring drive from Hayti, MO. But it always goes a lot better when you’ve got someone in the car with you, and so the trip, fortunately, didn’t seem as long as usual.
We stopped at Trolley Stop Market for lunch upon arriving in Memphis because I had only heard really good things about it. Apparently, it’s a restaurant owned by local farmers and everything you get there to eat is fresh. It also serves as a local arts and crafts shop, as well as a farmers market. My cousin ordered the Spinny-wich, which is a spinach, tomato, cheese and mushroom sandwich, with potato salad and I ordered the pimento cheese. Because I love a good pimento cheese. And this was by far the best pimento cheese sandwich I have ever eaten. The cheese reminded me of that wonderful fresh cheese I ate in Europe. Because here in America, we forget what truly fresh food really tastes like. And in many places, it’s impossible to get. I would also like to say that the service at Trolley Stop was as good as the food. Great dining experience in a very laid back environment (I previously posted a photo of the interior).
We wandered around the market after eating and then it was time to head to Graceland.
We parked for $10 (and later found free parking right next to that parking lot… dur!), got our map (that we forgot we had during the course of the trip) and then made our way to the complex across the street from Graceland to buy our tickets. Once our tickets were bought, we took a shuttle to the house (for some odd reason, they won’t let you just walk across the street and up the driveway, even if you have a ticket – yes, we tried). The shuttle drops you off in front of the house and although we tried to get a good photo of the exterior (I snapped a quick one of the entrance), we were rushed to begin the tour. They have the audio guides, but I absolutely hate those things and I didn’t use it. I feel like people are so busy pushing whatever number they’re supposed to push on those things that they might just actually miss out on really SEEING what it is they’re looking at.
We were hurried into the house’s foyer where we saw a sitting area and dining room and I was amazed at how homey everything seemed. It is not one of those mansions where every room looks like a museum. It looks like one of those houses where people actually live their lives, have children, etc. Once we saw the kitchen and the jungle room, I half expected Elvis to walk through a hallway with baby Lisa Marie in tow in his pajamas and robe.
The house itself isn’t as tacky as you would expect, although the billiards room was quite loud with its very busy printed walls, furniture and ceiling.
Unfortunately, the only access to the house that tourists get is to the first floor, so we really didn’t get to see much of it before we were ushered to Vernon’s Office. The truly remarkable thing about Vernon’s Office is the carpet. Because it is the exact same carpet I have in my office that my Mom and I both hate. That truly told me how old that carpet in my office really is! But now that this carpet in my office has the Elvis connection, I think I might be more fond of it. No… nevermind, it truly is hideous!
The most impressive part of the tour, to me, someone who works occasionally in the music industry, were the rooms that housed Elvis’ awards, gold records and platinum records. That’s ROOMS, not just one room. And these rooms are covered in gold and platinum, from floor to ceiling. And that’s when the true impact of who and what Elvis really was hit me. There is no single artist living today who will ever have that kind of success. One, because there isn’t anyone who is talented enough to pull that off, and two, because the record labels no longer are willing to support such artists. And it saddened me that we’ll never have anyone like that. My generation had Michael Jackson, true, and we got lucky. But after that? There will be no one.
We walked through costumes and awards and more costumes and more albums and finally came out at the meditation garden, where Elvis and his family are buried. I was going to recreate the scene from “This Is Spinal Tap,” but I somehow felt that would be disrespectful. In all actuality, I felt sad looking upon his grave and remembering at how young an age he died. And I couldn’t help but to wonder how the music industry might have been different had he lived.
We actually walked around the meditation garden twice to get some good photos, but also to pay our respects. Elvis was the King.
At that point, I remarked upon the fact that there were a large variety of people visiting Graceland (and it was starting to get crowded in the afternoon). Young and old, from all walks of life, rich and poor, from every country in the world. Just wow. It was quite a sobering experience.
And yet, it was also amazingly fun to take that step back in time and see life through his eyes. And as always, a day out with my cousin is always an adventure, to begin with.
After perusing what felt like a million gift shops and grabbing our souvenirs to take home (she got a keychain and I found a hoodie I really liked), we decided to make the drive to Gigi’s Cupcakes. A friend of mine had recommended Gigi’s to me a few months ago and after one cupcake, I was hooked. But by the time I got my cupcake (to go, since there really isn’t a place to dine within their store), we had decided we were actually ready for dinner. All that walking at Graceland had made us hungry.
We drove across the street and ended up at Swanky’s Tacos. I noticed that some of my friends check in there fairly regularly on Foursquare, so we thought we’d try it out.
Best tacos I have ever had, hands down, I have to say. And the waitress was really sweet and told me Happy Birthday (which in all actuality is today) and told me I had pretty eyes. No one has ever told me I had pretty eyes, so I was taken aback, but I really needed that nice ego boost. We had cheese dip and salsa (both were excellent) and chips. The thing about Swanky’s is that you basically build your own meal. You choose if you want a salad, burrito, burrito bowl or taco. Then you choose what you want on it – what meat, sauce, cheese, beans, etc. Very cool. I got three tacos with shredded beef (they don’t skimp on the meat), cheese, salsa, sour cream, lettuce, tomato and red onions. My cousin got a burrito that probably weighed a good pound.
We ate and I made a note to eat my cupcake when I got home. I was loaded up on caffeine from all the Diet Coke I had just drank so we were ready for the ride home. It went quickly, thanks to the company, and I was home and in my jammies before I knew it. I dug into the cupcake at about 8 p.m. and it was AMAZING. I got the cupcake called “Kentucky Bourbon” – it was a pecan bourbon cake with a cream cheese icing. Divine. Of course, eating at 8 p.m. meant I had a sugar buzz the rest of the night and even though I felt tired when I went to bed, I didn’t get much sleep. But that’s okay. I’m doing absolutely nothing today but uploading photos and reminiscing about yesterday’s trip.
As always, Memphis did not disappoint.