Postcard From Graceland

You know how sometimes you hear stories about a thing or person for years and you begin to build it up in your head until it's pretty much larger than life? Then when you actually see it or meet the person, you suffer major disappointment. I'm afraid such was the case with me and Graceland.

I'm not a huge, go-nuts fan of Elvis; never have been. A long time ago, there was a girl I wanted to impress and since she was an Elvis fan, I bought a couple of expensive tickets for us to see the King of Rock 'n Roll in person when he came through town. He came out to the strains of Richard Strauss' "Also Sprach Zarathustra" – the theme from Stanley Kubrick's 2001 and began singing. The crowd went wild, especially the girls. I looked around confused. He sang a few songs then wiped his sweaty face with a white towel and threw it to the audience in our direction and this rather quiet, sedate young lady I was with turned into some kind of ferocious, get-in-my-way-and-you-die primeval beast! She got that towel and I became a little bit scared. She hung on to that thing for the rest of the night, guarding it like a mother bear with a cub. The concert was pretty good and my mission was accomplished as she was duly impressed. We didn't last, but I have no doubt she still has that towel.

Of course I had heard about the home of Elvis, the mansion known as Graceland; the rooms, the grounds, the parties that went on there. After his death, it became in my mind a sort of shrine, a bigger-than-life edifice. A while back, my daughter, who knows about Elvis but is not a big fan either, for some reason wanted to visit Graceland. The wife wanted to go also, so what the heck, let's do it.

Living Room
We arrived in Memphis on a Thursday evening with tickets for Graceland the next day. We drove by it on the way to our hotel and I have to say, it certainly didn't look like much from the street. Even the surrounding area was past its prime. The street in front, Elvis Presley Boulevard, was full of potholes and needed repaving. Not a good first impression.

I'm not sure exactly what I expected, but the next day, we parked in a lot & took a van across the street to the house. After waiting until our ticketed time, we were escorted inside. I guess I had expected the rooms to be large and ornate rather than the small, shag-carpeted glitzy kitsch-filled rooms most of them are. I'm sure they were cool back-in-the-day when Elvis was there and I'm also sure I had built the place up in my mind so much that anything less than spectacular was bound to be a bit disappointing for me. The house is over 17,000 square feet with 23 rooms, but throughout the tour of the rooms we were allowed to see, I just could not get over how small they were.

The TV Room. Yes, that's a strange
monkey on the table.
The 13-acre grounds were rather impressive and the Trophy Building where all of his jumpsuits, gold records, movie posters and awards were on display was very impressive. I spent more time there than I did in the mansion itself. His airplane, named Lisa Marie, was also cool to go through. The Meditation Garden, where Elvis, his parents, and grandmother, Minnie Mae Hood Presley, are buried is very nice and serene. Visitors are usually naturally quiet when visiting. Across the street is a museum of Elvis memorabilia that is certainly worth visiting. And of course, there is also a gift shop where you can purchase all sorts of Elvis-related souvenirs and mementos.

The kitchen where Elvis had his fried peanut
butter & banana sandwiches made
In spite of the disappointment over the rooms, the visit was worth the price of the ticket (at the time of this writing - $47.50 for adults, $42.75 for seniors and students, $22.50 children 7-12) if it doesn't put a strain on your budget, mostly just because it's cool to be there and tell your friends you have.

One place I would not recommend eating at is Marlowes Ribs and Restaurant on Elvis Presley Blvd. Our experience seems to be in the minority though as the place gets a number of good reviews. This is supposed to be one of Elvis' favorite places to eat, but if it was, they must have served him a lot better food than we were. My wife's plate of sliced beef was nothing but a big glob of fat and my daughter's chicken tenders were served cold. When we complained and sent them back, the waiter acted like we were being entirely unreasonable and a pain in his neck. A different waiter brought them back a while later and apologized, but the wife's brisket was still half fat and rather gross. Plus the place is in an area where we didn't feel very safe after dark. You may very well have a totally different experience than we did, but we'll never go back there.

The infamous Jungle Room
So go to Graceland, get your picture taken in front of the famous gates, and enjoy your visit, just don't go expecting it to be the Taj Mahal!


Inside Marlowes