I don’t know about you, but it’s a rare occasion indeed when I get to fulfill a lifelong dream. There was that time in 1994 when I accidentally got free cable TV for two whole days, but other than that, most of the other monumental aspirations of my youth have gone unrealized. Please don’t pity me. I accepted long ago, for example, that I’ll probably never develop super powers, open my own jazz dance studio, or read an entire book, and you know what? I’m okay with that, and never more so than now, because I’m about to check off the only item on my bucket list that matters: I’m going to Graceland, Graceland, in Memphis, Tennessee, I’m going to Graceland.
The Mrs. and I always try to celebrate the anniversary of our first date with a just-the-two-of-us getaway. Now, I realize a lot of you fellows take a nostalgic approach, rekindling those old fires by taking your wife back to that same quaint bistro and romantic ballroom where you first charmed her, but I can’t do that anymore. There’s not a Mr. Quick’s within miles of here, and good luck finding any cockfights in this day and age. (Way to ruin it for everybody, PETA!) Besides, if I genuinely want to relive the most memorable part of our first date, we don’t have to go out – she can slap my face right here in the comfort of our home.
But I digress. This year my bride, who has endured 16 years of my Graceland hard sell, finally caved. This has long been a sticking-point in our otherwise loving and healthy relationship. You see, the Mrs. has actually toured Graceland (that’s the main reason I married her) and – get this – she “didn’t find it all that impressive; in fact, it’s awfully tacky.” She actually said that! I ask you, would the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll hold court in some gaudy dump appointed in a cheesy 1970’s Home Interiors motif with avocado-colored deep-plush shag carpeting? This is Elvis Presley we’re talking about. Be serious.
As a kid, I couldn’t even hold one end of a jump rope for the neighbor girls without singing “In the Ghetto” into the handle. During my teens and twenties, I seldom left my makeshift basement laboratory where I spent every waking hour working on a number of Elvis-related inventions: The ill-fated “Rogaine for Sideburns” and a pair of plus-size motorized chinos which would have allowed the wearer to perfectly simulate the King’s trademark gyrations. And my thirties were devoted to recreating the diet and exercise regimen of Elvis’ later years with results that are nothing short of startling.
Yet here she is: She has walked through the Hall of Gold in person! She has stood next to his rhinestone-covered jumpsuits and capes. (CAPES, I say!) She has seen the Lisa Marie, the flying Graceland, and acts as if it’s no big deal! But that’s alright, mama. When you handed me those Memphis-bound train tickets, I was overwhelmed with delight.
So now I’ve got less than a month to prepare. I’ve begun writing my souvenir shopping list (I hear there’s a gift shop or two in the Graceland area). The ’68 Comeback snow globe with a small, black leather-clad Elvis immersed in a sphere of clear fluid is a must: A few good shakes and you’ve got yourself one tiny, chilly King of Rock ‘n’ Roll; The Colonel Tom Parker action figure with Kung-Fu grip (useful for yoinking 50 to 80 percent of Elvis Presley’s gross earnings. Ethics not included); and there’s no way I’m coming home without the Gladys Love Presley low-cal, low-fat, whole food cookbook. I am so going to learn how to make a proper peanut butter and banana sandwich.
I know what you’re thinking: “Jim, why on earth is a middle-aged country preacher so enthusiastic about all this Elvis nonsense? 50 years ago, wouldn’t you have been one of those fire-and-brimstone types who staged a big bonfire of all of his records?”
First of all, it’s not Elvis himself I’m concerned about. I don’t even own any of his music or movies. It’s the enduring spectacle that surrounds him that fascinates me. But secondly, yes, I probably would have been among those preachers 50 years ago who were calling for all those records to be incinerated. I’m just that cranky and ornery. But it’s irrelevant, really: This is 2009, not 1959. Today, there’s no need to burn up copies of Elvis Presley’s records.
That’s what the collected works of Michael Bublé are for.