It’s All About the Details

Green shag carpet on the walls leading up the stairs to the Jungle Room

Diagram of a football play written by Elvis for his touch football team, with notes at the bottom

Elvis’ desk. Biography of Churchill, Gods From Outer Space (a book Elvis loved) and the Warren Report smack-dab in the center. Piles of karate books along the sides of the desk, as well as the Guinness Book of World Records. If you have read/seen my play, you will know why I texted my cousin Mike FROM RIGHT THERE to tell him Elvis had a copy of the Warren Report.

Cabinet in the kitchen. I loved the kitchen.

Downstairs hallway, next to the pool room. Nautical picture on the wall. Wooden paneling. Totally 70s. That hallway looks like every basement hallway in every house I grew up in, and my childhood friends’ houses. Of course you walk through the door into the pool room and you know you are not in Kansas anymore, but that prosaic hallway could have been anywhere.

Glass ashtray stand in the Jungle Room

Elvis’ marginalia. I cannot tell you how much I wanted to look through that entire book reading his notes. Boy marked up books like I do.

The trip was incredible with many different phases, not just Elvis-related. I love Memphis. I met so many nice people. I am exhausted. Life is good. We had a great time.

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20 Responses to It’s All About the Details

  1. Matt Blankman says:

    Don’t forget Elvis’ porcelain monkey.

    So glad you dug Memphis. I was there so long ago and was too damn young to think to do some of the stuff I should have. I shall return.

  2. sheila says:

    It was the museum of his automobiles that really blew the top of my head off – but there was so much else I saw that I loved. Items of clothing of his that I love – the canceled check for the round bed he bought “Miss Ann Margret” – the gold suit – his Christmas ornaments – all his books – It’s a nice house. Homey. Ridiculously over-the-top but still: a recognizable home, not alienating at all. I loved the barn with the horses.

    Memphis was great. We had a ton of time to just hang out, we heard some live music, had some food and beers, met a bunch of nice people.

    Still processing. It was a long drive home.

  3. Matt Blankman says:

    That’s the thing about Graceland – it’s really not particularly huge. Yes, its on a nice piece of land, and there are a couple other buildings, but the house itself is somewhat modest. The house of your rich friend from school, but not some giant palace. It’s human-scale.

  4. sheila says:

    And it felt so homey that I wouldn’t have been surprised to see someone stroll in from the other room who actually lived there. That KITCHEN. The ghosts of the people in that kitchen are still there. TOTALLY normal kitchen. Like the one I grew up with.

    Of course the TV room is OUT OF CONTROL, as is the pool room with the fabric, etc.

    But yeah: normal sized rooms. Very homey, actually. Not intimidating.

  5. sheila says:

    And the hall of gold records as well as the racquet ball court, which is now a shrine to his accomplishments – brought me to tears. Completely and utterly overwhelming to see all of those accolades in the same place. Overwhelming.

  6. Matt Blankman says:

    Yes! If I recall correctly, the kitchen wasn’t particularly big and it had that look like every 1970s kitchen we all grew up in. The cabinets, the floor…yes, you are expecting someone to pull a sheet of cookies out of the oven. Or make you a peanut butter & bacon sandwich.

  7. ted says:

    The Warren Report, that’s fantastic. Sounds like you had an amazing trip.

    • sheila says:

      Isn’t that great? I was all about his books, Ted, as you can imagine. He was a voracious reader, and his books were EVERYWHERE. I was trying to download them all into my memory. Bibles of course – one huge one that had to have weighed 30 pounds – but novels, and karate books and history books and biographies and blah blah – all of them marked up by his underlinings and his notes within an inch of their lives. I want to get my hands on those damn books! When he went on tour, he would bring a huge crate of books with him. I saw the crate – it was really just an enormous steamer trunk.

      I had to be told to stop leaning over the railing but … I couldn’t help myself. HIS BOOKS! His dog-eared copy of Siddhartha. You know. I wanted to touch it.

      • sheila says:

        It reminds me of when the big Alexander hamilton exhibit was at the NY Historical Society. I love to see things that these people I admired touched – like Hamilton’s desk. I had to walk away from it because I was this close to leaping over the railing and sitting down at it, running my hands over its surface like a crazy person.

        It’s the tactile reality of objects: pens held by so and so, his handkerchief, Elvis’ favorite drinking glass, all that stuff. I love objects. Graceland is so full of them that it took an act of superhuman strength to not reach out and touch everything.

        • ted says:

          I know what you mean. When I visited Vanessa Bell’s home (w/ both Clive and Duncan) I wanted to touch everything. They had so many of the paintings and the needlepoint cushions designed by the Omega workshop people but I didn’t see any of Virginia’s books on the shelves for which Vanessa had designed the covers. I was indignant.

          • sheila says:

            I wonder where they were? Loaned out to a special collection or something?

            It’s just awe-inspiring to see the stuff that these people actually touched – in a casual every-day way in their lives when they lived them – but because of who they ended up becoming, the things are now artifacts. Wild.

          • sheila says:

            This could be related to our sense-memory background!!

          • sheila says:

            And I so want to know what Elvis was calculating on the top of that last picture. Woman, Man, numbers adding up to something. I know he was slightly OCD with numbers, into numerology at the end – and also obsessed with language, and how different words incorporated other words (“woman” being a classic example – it incorporates “man” in it – he loved to talk about why that was, etc.) So I was squinting at that book trying to figure out what he was trying to figure out up there.

  8. Donna says:

    if those green shag carpets could talk…

    • sheila says:

      He recorded a lot of stuff in The Jungle Room in his later years. I still felt like that music lived in that room – it has a memory of it. That was the best part about Graceland and how they have done it: it still feels like a lived-in home. Eerie, actually. But wonderful.

      • Donna says:

        I remember listening to Dr Angelou talk one time on the Oprah show and she was talking about how words and feelings can become embedded into ones furniture and walls. It was one of the reasons why she did not allow trash talking in her home. I too can feel the energy left behind, especially if the emotion was strong as I am sure Graceland embodies I can not wait to go to Graceland. I think a Memphis stop followed by Dollyland could be sublime.

        • sheila says:

          Donna – If we had had one more day, we would have gone to Dollywood! We drove by it, blasting Dolly Parton as we went.

          I also wish I had had time to drive to Tupelo to see Elvis’ birthplace but that’ll have to wait for next time. Because there will be a next time. I loved Memphis!

  9. tracey says:

    What a fantastic experience, Sheila. I’m so glad you got a chance to go. I’ve loved reading these posts and seeing it all through your eyes!

  10. bethann says:

    On my trip to Graceland, I was more struck by the outlandishness of The Jungle Room and although I am more than aware of those last recording sessions held there, The Music Room was the room that filled me with wonder because it was a room he spent much time alone at the piano singing his heart out with those sounds very much a part of the ebb and flow of the day at Graceland. I was truly disappointed that I wasn’t allowed closer access of his Music Room. I imagined many poignant memories there for him as well as for those that resided or worked there throughout the years. If you listened hard enough, maybe you could hear his voice….but we were in July and unlike your trip, ours had lots of tourists. LOTS!!!!

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