Thursday, February 26, 2009

New Orleans!

Sigh -


another huge sigh (of longing - once again)!

I kept a journal - beware!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


When we woke in the morning I was more than happy that we had decided to bring our winter coats on this trip. Memphis was cold – really cold. Even with sweaters and a winter coat, the wind was what did you in.

Driving back to Graceland I was shocked at how seedy the area was that surrounded Elvis’ home. The night before, in the lights and the neon, everything sparkled - but reality was a whole different ball game. What I had envisioned was nothing like what I was seeing. Trailer parks and lower income houses and tenement buildings lined Elvis Presley Boulevard. While I gawped at the surroundings, The Man was rechecking his GPS and then suddenly we were turning into the parking lot for Graceland.

The lady that took our money for the parking smiled broadly at us. She was the only person in the whole place that did. Everyone else was sullen. They stood there freezing in their huge winter jackets that were part of their uniform – unsmiling – almost unfriendly. Now I know that almost 1 million people visit Graceland a year and I bet you get tired of seeing that amount of people coming to ooh and ah over Elvis. Still – a little friendliness would have made a big difference to me.

I’m not a big Elvis fan and neither is The Man. But Elvis is such a huge part of (musical) history that it is just something that you have to do if you’re ever near Memphis. And we did it for my Mom (another story another time).

The parking lot for Graceland (Elvis’ home) is across the street from the house, along with the jets that Elvis owned and the ‘museums’ – car, clothing, Elvis in the army. Once you decide on what tour you’ll be taking – just the mansion, or the museums as well – you are given headphones and you get on a shuttle that will take you across the streets and through the gates and up to the mansion. Before you board the shuttle they force you to have your picture taken so they can try to sell it to you later. (Everyone knows I hate having my picture taken).

Putting on those headphones isolates you in your own little world. It forces you to have a private experience as you tour the mansion. Sure they provide you with history that you might not hear if you were in a tour group and that you would definitely miss if you were on your own. But the headphones keep you from experiencing the Elvis mystique with whoever you are with.

Graceland is not what you think it’s going to be. It is small compared to what you think a giant in musical history would live in. It might be an ‘outbuilding’ if it was located on Britney Spear’s estate. And it’s stuck in the 70’s. They’ve kept Graceland just the way it was when Elvis died at his piano. With those garish yellows and greens that defy description and yet were so popular during that time and that Elvis loved! Then there’s the room that’s completely decorated with material – walls – ceiling. And let’s not forget the famous Jungle Room!

What kept going through my head were not any Elvis songs but a song written by Marc Cohn called ‘Walking in Memphis’. It played like a loop in my head as we wandered through the ‘mansion’.

Walls and walls of gold and platinum records were mindboggling. The long hallway with the wall completely filled with canceled checks that Elvis had written to charities – that impressed me. Yet when I got to the gravesite I felt nothing but the bitter wind biting at my ears. The tributes his father had written were sweet and the everlasting flame was lovely - but wandering the site listening to those headphones and trying to imagine what it was like to live at Graceland with ‘The King’? I couldn’t. I think Elvis would have bought more property if he had known that his precious Graceland was going to be surrounded by such dingy dreariness.

Once we caught our shuttle back across the street we toured the rest of the museums. There was the car museum with that famous pink Cadillac that led directly into the store where you could buy anything and everything with an Elvis on it. Then there was the clothing museum that housed all of his jumpsuits that led directly into a store where you could buy clothing with Elvis on it. Then there was the museum that housed the war years for Private Presley that led directly into the store where you could buy anything and everything with Elvis on it. Then of course there were just Elvis stores in case you weren’t taking the museum tours – they too had everything and anything you wanted with an Elvis on it. No wonder the guy is still raking in more than any other artist! It’s merchandising taken to the extreme!

The tours of the two jets that Elvis owned were more impressive than the mansion for me. To see the gold plated seat belts and sink and faucet – on a jet! The queensize bed with the gold plated seat belt and the telephone that could call anywhere in the world – like a president! (remember this is the 60’s and 70’s) Then there’s the conference table on the jet and Elvis’ private bathroom in purple (and gold). That jet was the Lisa Marie. The little jet – The Hound Dog Two - was almost as impressive – you could just imagine how fast it was. It was in Elvis’ favourite colors as well – lime green and yellow.

It took us almost five hours to see everything there was to see. In the mansion you only listened to a few clips of Elvis singing, but an Elvis radio station played Elvis nonstop while you toured around the museums. Still – Marc Cohn sang on and on as we drove out of Memphis and headed farther south to New Orleans – six hours away.

(here's a little Cher for you doing Walking in Memphis)

Back to Memphis

We drove into Memphis after the sun had set – our GPS taking us down Elvis Presley Boulevard. In the lights it was all glitter and neon and we weren’t sure what we were looking at. The Man had programmed in the nearest Walmart to Elvisland and we pulled into the huge parking lot and sat in the car for a while – tired.

When we travel with our trailer we head for any Walmart we can find along our route. Not to shop – but to sleep overnight in their parking lots. Most of them allow overnight (camping) as long as you stay around the edges (of the parking lot). They know that more than likely you will be spending money in their store. If it’s not allowed – and in some places it’s against city bylaws – there are signs posted that say no overnight parking (camping). Why would we camp in a Walmart parking lot you ask? There are many reasons people do it – but the first one people say is – it’s free camping. But it’s also a safe and known place to stop overnight as you make your way to your final destination. Most of the stores are open 24hours and have groceries as well as everything you might need along the way. Of course we don’t put out the awning or the camp chairs and only once have we heard someone start up their generator (we were appalled!)

We have our routine down pat after all the trips we’ve taken with our little trailer and car. We pull into the parking lot and we look around for a spot that won’t be in anyone’s way and where we won’t be bothered by cars coming in and out. More often than not - Walmart has security traveling around their lots to ensure the safety of everyone. The yellow lights atop the vehicle can be seen circling the lot throughout the night. Only once have we been told we couldn’t camp and we were asked to leave – but that’s another story for another time.

So we sat for a while – tired – silent – and watched the lights of the security vehicle. The truck circled and circled – coming closer each time and we wondered if we were going to be asked to leave. The Man got out and went into the trailer and I sat in the car and listened to music blaring from somewhere behind us. In a few minutes The Man was back in the car and pulling out our Walmart atlas - it has the addresses of every Walmart in it as well as being an atlas. In a minute he was programming something into the GPS and starting the vehicle.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

“I think we should go somewhere else. You heard the music blaring? The security guard – and this one is a woman – pulled up behind the trailer and got out of her truck and started dancing.”

I know my mouth fell open and I was of course fascinated. While The Man worked on the GPS I watched the security guard as she drove past singing and bobbing her head. Obviously she was having a great time. Obviously it wasn’t going to be a restful night for us.

In a few minutes we were on our way again and the GPS took us 20 minutes across town and into another Walmart parking lot. This one didn’t have any dancing security guards and we quickly unhooked the trailer and set up. In no time we were fast asleep and oblivious to any sounds around us.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

I Blog - Therefore I Am

I have just come from reading Dangers Online as referred by Daryl via Fat and Frumpy via The Don Mills Diva.

I am – to say the least – insulted. Add a touch of angry and perhaps a bit of furious to that.

I am not writing this blog to titillate you with my failings and anguish in life. I am not writing this blog to make you feel sorry for me. Nor am I writing this blog to attract more readers.

I don’t write about suicide and depression and abuse in an effort to get more hits and comments.

So why do I write it? For myself? Partly yes.

But more for others who have or are going through what I have experienced and have nowhere to turn and feel isolated in their pain. For those people who don’t want to tell anyone ‘face to face’ that they were beaten and humiliated by an abuser. That they took all the pills in their house and had to have charcoal pumped into their stomach and then puked black all over the attendants. That they stood at the tub with razor in hand or tried to tie a noose that would be effective.

Who wants to say these things out loud? And who do you tell? Someone who is going to run screaming down the lane or who whips out a wooden cross and backs away from you?

No. You hide – alone – scared – defeated.

You secretly search online for anything that might talk about how you are feeling.

And here I am. Writing about it. Admitting it. Telling everyone that these things are real – that people go through this.

It’s not shameful. It’s not evil. I’m not someone who should be in a straightjacket.

And I’m willing to blog about it.

If people think I’m doing this for the accolades – they are wrong.

There aren’t any accolades. There aren’t any book deals.

What there is comes pouring down the line in words that make you want to cry – to reach out and try and hug others who have suffered in the same or similar ways.

What there is is an abundance of pain and anguish locked behind silent lips that only open when they think they are invisible.

There is nothing wrong with this. We need to speak out. To reach out. To say we hurt just like everyone else. To try and offer advice or acknowledge that you have gone through exactly the same thing and come out the other side.

If we can only do this via a keyboard and an internet connection – so be it. At least we are saying it – revealing it. At least we are not alone anymore.

I blog. I am human.