June 27, 2005
AEJ and I spent the weekend visiting her family in Memphis. I’d never been to Memphis, and Memphis has to offer… (Get ready for a whole lot of bandwidth!)
We arrived just in time for lunch, so AEJ’s mom took us to Corky’s, a famous (for good reason!) BBQ place.
Yeah, it’s a nice sign, but the food was even better than the sign. We opted for the pulled pork sandwiches. I had my slaw on the side, which is not “how it’s done,” but I’m not a slaw fan.
After that, we were stuffed — but not too stuffed for dessert! So, I ordered a slice of pecan pie. (AEJ and her mom shared a slice of quite delicious key lime pie.)
That night, we went with AEJ’s mom and aunt to a minor league baseball game — the Memphis Redbirds (farm team for the Cardinals) vs. Round Rock (farm team for Houston). It was a great ball park, and we had excellent seats on a warm but comfortable night.
What’s a ball game without a hot dog?
And funnel cake?
This seems to be an increasingly common trend: baseball cheerleaders. Weird.
The next morning, we had a delicious breakfast: sandwiches of bacon, egg, and cheese on an English muffin, courtesy of AEJ’s mom.
I’m not sure how we managed, but only a few short hours later, we had lunch: absolutely delicious burgers from Tops Bar-B-Q. These are the kind of burgers that are thin and grilled in something tasty and greasy (presumably pork fat), resulting in slightly crispy-edged patties. (My sister and I used to love similar burgers at a local chain called G.D. Ritzy’s in Columbus, but that chain long-since went out of business.) The toasted bun was something special, too — the gentle crunch adding an ingenious counterpoint to the gooey excess of cheese and mayo. I’ve tried making a similar burger at home, and I don’t think it can be done without an enormous industrial griddle that doubles as a a heating element for pulled pork.
Next up… Graceland! (The home of Elvis, in case you’re from, like, Mars.)
When you go to Graceland, you park across the street from The Home. As you wait in line for the shuttle to take you across the street, a photographer offers to take a picture of your group — which you can purchase later for $25. I’m a little cheap for that, so I took a picture of the family in front of us instead.
They look like a nice group. (If you’re in this picture and would like a copy, please email me, and I’ll make a you a great deal on a print.)
After the short shuttle ride across the street, we arrived at the home of The King.
First observation: It’s smaller than you’d think. They say that about the Mona Lisa, too, and I think the two works share a lot of similarities.
Once inside, the real fun begins. To your immediate right is the den, complete with a 15-foot sofa. From the beginning, I acknowledged that a lot of the stuff in the house was kitchy, but honestly, some of it was a lot hipper than I expected. No, not the busts of Romans , but who wouldn’t want a 15-foot sofa?
This is Elvis’s kitchen.
The best part of the kitchen was the bank of monitors, hooked up to surveillance cameras throughout the house. This, apparently, allowed Elvis to watch his guests, all in the comfort of his kitchen, where he ate grilled peanut butter and banana sandwiches.
This is my favorite room: the TV room. Elvis had three TVs in this room. I had to wonder what he’d do today, now that TVs are 60″ wide. This room was black and a vibrant, bright yellow. I think it also had mirrored ceilings, like much of the house. (Because, why not?) Say what you will about Elvis, but this room is cool, especially the monkey on the mirrored-glass coffee table.
The most famous room in the house: the Jungle Room, built as an add-on to the house in the 1970s. Unlike the TV room, with the mirrored ceiling, the Jungle Room’s ceiling was covered with green shag carpet (like the floor, and much of the wall).
Sadly, there is no access to the upstairs part of the house. (According to the excellent audio tour, Elvis considered the upstairs private, always meeting guests on the ground floor.) What we do get, though, are a few artifacts taken from upstairs, like Elvis’s completely kick-ass fur-covered bed. Nothing says pimpin’ like a white, fur-covered bed.
Lots of fans sent Elvis paintings and such over the years, and this one was my favorite.
Here’s the original poster for my favorite Elvis movie, Clambake. If you’ve not seem Clambake, do yourself a favor and rent or buy a copy.
Many of Elvis’s, um, “outfits” are on display at Graceland, including my favorite, the Tiger Suit. Elvis was a Rock Star.
We got the deluxe tour, which included tours of Elvis’s two planes, as well as the Elvis Car Museum. In addition to things you’d expect, like the famous pink Caddy, and various nice cars like a Rolls, a Ferrari Dino, and a classic Mercedes he bought for Priscilla, he had this completely sweet car:
At the car museum, I learned something (else) quirky about Elvis: he financed his purchases. There was a Jeep-like car from 1960 that Elvis bought for about $2000. Elvis put $1100 down, and paid the rest in monthly payments of about $89 a month. I don’t get it. Why make payments when you’re Elvis? Could he really not afford to buy the $2000 car flat out? Same with another car that was roughly $30,000 (in 1972!). He put $20,000 down, and took a $10,000 lease on the balance. Again, I don’t get it.
So, Graceland was a thoroughly enjoyable time. As AEJ said, it makes Elvis into a much more sympathetic character. He seemed to be a good man, and was incredibly generous (there was one display with a hundred checks for $1000 each, all written on the same day to different Memphis charities). He had some really cool stuff, too. (Did I mention the fur-lined bed?!) Definitely a talented singer with many strong qualities, and he OD’d at age 42.
Okay, so after Graceland, we ordered pizza from my ol’ fave, Pizza Hut! My personal favorite topping choice is pepperoni, banana peppers, and extra sauce, but almost nobody has banana peppers anymore. They’re not essential…
The next morning, AEJ’s mom made us monkey bread, which consists of biscuit dough covered with cinnamon
and sugar, drizzled with butter, and baked. Mmm…
Finally, before we headed to the airport, we went to the Memphis Zoo to see the pandas!
Pandas like to sit back while they eat, and they often end up with masses of food falling from their mouths to rest on their gut. We share this trait.
It was incredible how close we could get to the pandas — literally inches away from them, with nothing between us but a pane of glass. We spent a bit longer at the panda exhibit than we’d planned because while we were there, the skies opened up, and we were trapped by a torrential downpour for about 40 minutes.
The skies cleared, and before long, we were at the Memphis airport, headed home to NY. We had a wonderful visit, taking advantage of the best parts of Memphis: pandas, Graceland, BBQ, and AEJ’s warm and fun family.