Archive for August 31, 2001

Lake City, Florida (So Much to Say So I’ll probably call this part one)

August 31, 2001 Leave a comment

I assume there is a lake somewhere here in Lake City, but I do not know where it is. Nor do I care. I drove about 480 miles today and I am downright pooped! Who would think that sitting could cause so much stress? So here I am in Lake City, a town that exists solely because it happens to be where Interstates 10 and 75 cross. It has all the things you’d expect at an interstate crossing – gas stations, fast food, Red Lobster, Cracker Barrel, and of course motels including the Knights Inn in which I am currently located. The motels in this town are packed full tonight as tomorrow there is a Florida Gators football game about 55 miles down the road. I just found out that University of Central Florida (former home to Daunte Culpepper) also plays tomorrow, although I have no idea where that is located. I suppose I could look it up, but I am too darned lazy!

So now are you ready for a lot of reading? Because I believe I have a lot of writing to do!

We’ll start on the morning of two days ago. Checking my watch I see that is a Wednesday. I left Nashville fairly early – I think it was 8:30 AM as there were a few things I wanted to get done in Memphis. First stop was the mall. Yes, the mall. I had to return something I had bought in Louisville – I bought a PC game that was supposed to run on my computer, but it could not, so I brought it back to Babbage’s. But this was not the only purpose of this mall visit. This mall also had a Chick-Fil-A in it! So I finally got my yummy chicken sandwich, best in America, along with my waffle fries and fresh squeezed lemonade! Conveniently, this mall was near enough to Graceland where I did not need to get back on the highway. So twenty minutes later, at around one o’clock in the afternoon . . .

I went to Graceland, Graceland, Memphis Tennessee, I went to Graceland
I have a reason to believe that I will be received at Graceland . . .

The reason I think I would be received is because I paid the admission! They have a tiered admission program there. They charge $16 for just the mansion tour, then they add on $7 to see some cars, $6 to see a couple of planes and $5 to see something called “Sincerely Elvis,” an intimate look at the king and his family or some such hullabaloo. You can get the whole shebang for $25, the “platinum” package! I went for the mansion only, flashed my AAA card and got 10% off the admission price (that’s $1.60 off or $14.40 for admission for those of you who may be mathematically challenged). They said I could upgrade to platinum later if I so desired.

The ticket office and parking are across Elvis Presley Boulevard (probably not named that when he built the house and also probably a nicer and quieter street) from the actual home. You get handed a little audio tour thingamabob and get loaded into a shuttle bus which brings you across the street. When you get to the actual house (a lot smaller than I had expected – it is very much house size) you pile out of the little bus and start trying to take pictures but then they yell at you and tell you to take pictures of the front of the house at the end of the tour. OK. I’m not sure why, but OK. Of course I was snapping away with my snazzy digital camera when one of the security guards told me I couldn’t use a digital camera inside the house.

“But the signs clearly said no flashes, no video – this doesn’t do video and I can turn off the flash.”

“Well you can’t use it,” he declared, at which point another guard piped up.

“Sure he can – just no video.”

“No he can’t – no digital cameras.”

Now was this the first day for these people? Because right then and there started a big discussion amongst the security guards as to whether or not I could use my camera. What was I, the first person to bring a digital camera to Graceland? Sure seemed that way. Anyway, in the end they decided that I could have the digital camera. This seemed all for nothing when the camera ran out of battery power, but like a good prepared former Boy Scout of America, I had extra batteries with me! So I was able to get all sorts of great pictures of Graceland which may become available online soon.

So what about the house? It looks like the ultimate in tacky 70s for a person who could afford the ULTIMATE in tacky 70s. You get to see the living room, which looks like a normal living room except for the stained glass windows. And although they have said the rooms are furnished like Elvis himself had done in the 70s, the place is full of Elvis busts. Did he really decorate his home with busts of himself? If he didn’t, find me the curator of this place so I can whack him up side the head! If he did, wow. What an ego!

Next room is the dining room – again looks like a normal fancy dining room. Nothing spectacular. They then explain on the audio tour how we can’t go upstairs because that is Elvis’s private area. I think they probably don’t want anyone going upstairs because he died up there and to me that seems pretty morbid. Although I know there are some people who are into that.

We get to see the kitchen which has the latest in up to date 21st century security equipment in it – cameras on the grounds and emergency phones and fire extinguishers – I’m guessing that stuff is new or perhaps Elvis developed it himself!!! What an amazing guy!! I know a guy who had a theory that Elvis killed JFK. At one point he was going to write a book about it – I don’t know what happened to that idea. Come to think of it, I haven’t seen the guy in years either. Hmmmm . . .

We’re led downstairs to the television room. Now for the 70s this kicked ass, and you know if Elvis where still alive he’d have the most kick ass home theater system imaginable. Because for the time, he did. He had three 19 inch color TVs mounted into the wall so he could watch all three nightly newscasts at once because he once heard some famous newsperson (I think Cronkite, but I don’t recall exactly – this is what happens when I wait two days to write a journal and one of them is in New Orleans) did the same. The room is decorated in yellows, much like my living room back in the Longmeadow house. I told you that color was all the rage when the house was new!

Next is the pool room – the pool room is cool. The walls and ceiling are decorated with this really fancy fabric. It’s hard to describe without seeing it, and I guess I am being lazy because I’m just going to have to refer you to the photos when they come out. I also bought a post card of it which some lucky person may get in the mail, although I am more likely to find it in my bag in a month and wonder where the heck it came from.

At this point we go back upstairs and get to see The Jungle Room which has got to be the coolest room in the house. All the furniture is wacky carved wood stuff with fur upholstery. There is shag carpet on the floors and ceiling. There’s even an artificial waterfall on the wall! This is Hu Ke Lau decorating (obscure Longmeadow reference unless you are from there in which case this is a crystal clear analogy) at its finest! This is the room in which they recorded his penultimate album and most of his ultimate album.

After this room, we move on to museum style exhibits of stuff from the house – fur beds, outfits, gun collection, his karate gi – in a room that used to be a guest apartment. After this, we go over to his father’s office and we watch rare newsreel footage of a press conference Elvis game in that very room! We get to walk through his shooting range and look at a place where there used to be a Pink Cadillac (which he can see in the auto museum for an extra $7 – it doesn’t mention the price on the audio tour, but they wanted to I am sure) and horses. Then we get to go into the trophy room which is more exhibit space, this time of gold records and awards and army stuff and movie posters and anything else they could think of putting in there. After that, we go to the racquetball building. There is an area that used to be a lounge that houses the piano that Elvis played the morning he died, singing Unchained Melody and one other song (sorry, I had a Hand Grenade at the Tropical Isle). The racquetball court has been converted into an exhibit of post-death awards including this gigantic glass monolith RCA gave the Estate of Elvis Presley (all rights reserved) declaring him the Recording Artist of All-Time (which I guess means All-Time has ended?)

The final stop on the tour is the Meditation Garden. This actually was once set up for this purpose, but now houses the grave sites of Elvis, his parents, and his aunt. His twin brother, who died as a baby, has a stone there but is not actually buried there. The bodies had been moved from another cemetery because of security issues. There are poems on each of the tombstones, and the poems are copyright the Estate of Elvis Presley (all rights reserved). People leave all sorts of items there, from candles to sculpture to poems to flowers to giant wreaths. I did not take pictures of the graves – I thought that might be a little tacky, but many people were. Sigh. I did sing Heartbreak Hotel, although I did not have Derek, David and Nigel to harmonize with me. I sang it quietly as not to invite any odd looks, and besides, no one there was going to get the reference, trust me on this one.

After the tour, I was at the shuttle bus stop and I commented to the security guard there that I would like to take the pictures of the front of the house before I went back. She said:

“Sure, just pay that security guard a dollar.”

And I believed her! I mean, why not? But luckily she was just kidding so I snapped a couple of pictures before I got back on the bus. I went into the gift shops and refrained from buying a TCB hat or an Elvis t-shirt or snow globe or key chain or mug or cookie jar or collectible coin or . . . well you name it. I didn’t get the DVD of the Graceland tour (only available there or so they say) either, only because it was not mastered in widescreen.

Thus ends the Graceland portion of your Memphis tour. Please turn this journal over to part two . . .

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