Graceland, Foulsom, and Cracker Barrel's Daddy (It's a long one)
Wow. Today was really something special. You know those times when you are having so much fun by yourself that you keep giggling and wanting to high five your own hand? I seriously wish Pony had hands, because I needed to high five her!
I checked out of my hotel room around 7am and was greeted by a wonderfully, warm southern woman who looked at my info and very sweetly said, "I just want to thank you for being an Organ Donor. That is wonderful." I was sort of taken aback and said thank you. She went on to tell me about the death of her infant son and how his heart and kidneys were donated to two other little children. Her son would have been 4, but instead she was able to track the healthy lives of the other children who carried his little organs. I thanked her for sharing her story with me. It brought tears to my eyes.
I jumped in the car - ready to go. Decided it was time for a little disguise and put on a wig of long black hair, just for shits and giggles. I decided it would be my June Carter day and I should listen to Johnny Cash's Live at Folsum Prison. Best idea ever. The music seemed to coincide perfectly with the countryside and as I made my trek to Graceland, I could feel the pulse of Tennessee - the soulful country and gospel music that came out of the land. Elvis isn't Johnny - but they are both damn sexy soulful singers! Two of my favs from this album - The Long Black Veil and Greystone Chapel
I stopped for lunch at a place called The Old Country Store in Jackson, TN - a part of the larger Casey Jones Village - an old timey replica type touristy trap. It wasn't too crowded and I was amused by the similarities to Cracker - so I decided to give it a shot. HOLY COUNTRY AWESOME. I'm sad to report that Cracker Barrel is the poor man's Old Country Store. This place is genuine - it is the real deal. It's a little dusty and full of antiques and creepy dolls and candy and bits of Tennessee history. Then there is the buffet. Ok so I guess I've never eaten biscuits before today - because these people must have invented them. I watched as the woman spooned out the batter on a large griddle and grabbed the freshest looking one from the batch. Delicious and crunchy and buttery - along with collard greens, beans, mac n cheese, and mashed potatoes. Sorry Cracker - you've been trumped. I still have a soft spot for the ole CB in my heart, but I think you all might be amused to learn that the original CB was opened in 1969 in Lebanon, TN just a few miles away from the original Old Country Store in Jackson, which opened in 1965. I believe I found the grandaddy of all Cracker Barrels. I could not be more pleased about this!
I drove quickly through Nashville - excited to get to Memphis and Graceland, tapping my feet along to the local bluegrass stations. Seriously, what are radio stations doing in New England? Cuz in the south they are lifting spirits and playing quality, home-grown, awesome music!
So just FYI, I'm not a huge Elvis fan. I always believed you either liked Elvis or the Beatles, and obviously, I was a fan of the latter. But then I got to Graceland. No wonder Paul Simon wrote a song about it. It is a crazy tourist trap, of course. But for some reason, the spirit of Elvis and the beautiful, soulful, and playful nature that permeates his home and his music make Graceland a truly wonderful place to visit - and would turn the most apathetic visitor into an adoring fan. Each room is sort of gaudy and 60s or 70s, based on the period he decorated in. It is obvious that Elvis liked to show off - but even more obvious that he liked to have fun and hang out with his friends and family. Graceland is a playground for a superstar who ended up dying too young. And it is so touching to walk through the walls that he should have grown old in. One of the adjacent buildings has been turned into the 'Trophy Room." It houses all his awards, memorabilia, old costumes, grammies, etc. I was astounded by the "Hall of Gold." All of his gold records filled up a long hallway that shimmered with his success. My audio tour talked about how although Elvis was not a songwriter, he was his own producer and always picked songs he truly loved, that moved him, or that he knew his fans would enjoy. He stayed true to himself and his roots and his faith and became one of the biggest music stars of our time. Even in the crazy gold lame and tiger crusted suits! I dare say it may not have been possible without them.
Seriously, going to Graceland gave me a sense of peace. Elvis never knew he was going to be ELVIS. He just walked into Sun Records one day, paid $4 to record a song and ended up a superstar. All he wanted to do was sing. Ok he wanted to be a star too. But I have a feeling Elvis believed God gave him a gift and he believed it was his duty to share it. What came next was completely freaky and random and totally weird. Why him? Why not any other guy? Was it the gyrating? Or the good looks? Who knows. But he sang gospel and blues and rock n roll and whatever he loved - and it made an entire nation happy. Good for Elvis. I really hope that I never end up in a bell-bottomed shimmering white jumpsuit with stars n stripes bedazzled on the front and back. But if that is where God wants my career to go - I will do as Elvis did. I will TCB - TAKE CARE OF BUSINESS - his moto for life. I will TCB all over LA - jumpsuit or no jumpsuit.
Thank you Mr. Presley.