I made an effort to provide ambient mood music but neither Robert or mama were enthusiastic about cds 2 through 5 of a collecor set of Elvis master tapes from the 1960's. Ten years ago during the week it opened I noticed Heartbreak Hotel while passing through Memphis to see Graceland. Today was a disappointment. Nothing matched my description on the way there. Parking used to be free but now a guard at the gate charges admission. When it was new the lobby was an expanse of leopard print carpet with burgundy runners. It is now a third of that size. The gift shop no longer carries materials referencing the Pink Ranch, a hideaway 5 miles from town, first anniverary gift from Elvis to Priscilla where they went to get away from it all. Neither does it stock items from the Nixon White House that Elvis liked such as bath salts & closet sachets. The hotel still has a guitar shaped swimming pool, futuristic 60's furniture with lava lamps on the end tables, console televisions playing Elvis movies & fried peanut butter banana sandwiches in the restaurant.
Souvenir of the day was worn by a short haired tourist sporting tattoos on his right arm: fake black hairy sideburns attached to movie star sunglasses. I walked across the street to photograph things fans had written/ drawn on the brick wall surrounding the perimeter of Graceland.
Last time there was this poem: "Your hair was dyed black, your shoes were blue suede. I liked to pertinear died when you went away."
"Elvis, your music wasn't that good but your house is nice"
Robert maintains that Elvis & Graceland will be popular about 10 more years until all the people who were alive when he was a star are dead, that afterwards the public will lose interest. I don't know about that. I think his music is timeless, especially the gospel songs.
I thought the front room & dining room were pretty. I liked the shirred fabric coverd walls by the pool table. I was surprised to see how many outbuildings were on the property. Some had basements underneath containing a museum of trophies & costumes. There was a scale model of Elvis's Tupelo, Mississippi birthplace.
Elvis & Priscilla's wedding clothes were on display as well as their clothes for the night Elvis was presented 1967 Memphis Jaycee Young Man of the Year. I didn't realize Priscilla was so petite.
It was interesting to see all Elvis' costumes, his many awards, not just one award but a dozen of each kind. RCA even gave him a console television in recognition of his contribution to their bottom line.
When Elvis had a platinum record that was due to cassette plus recored sales the tape plus the record was on display on the trophy.
The country music entertainer award was a small gold cowboy boot on a plaque; the national asssociation of record manufacturers was a 3D musical note.
Robert checked Hotels.com on the internet using his cell phone, noticing a deal for Marriott. He sneaked away, called them on his own and got a good rate for that night. Hotels.com got their revenge later when we used them to book a room at the Millenium hotel in St. Louis. The service charged his credit card right away but when he checked with the Millennium 4 hours later as we got closer to St. Louis the place still hadn't received our reservation. Upon arrival we learned his name and address had been misspelled in spite of spelling out each letter when he secured the booking, i.e. 'R' as in rat, 'O' as in other, 'B' as in bat & so on for his entire name/ address. As a result he couldn't use internet hookup in our room nor a printer in the hotel business center due to the misspelled name which was totally the error of Hotels.com. We needed to use the printer when getting tickets for the arch & had to have the printout when we showed up the next morning to get times assigned for our selections. Expedia.com arranged for the payment. This indicates it is all the same company, probably an afffiliate of Travelocity as well.
After Graceland we headed toward the river because of a promo on the local morning news about a world championship barbeque cook off.
We parked as close as we could to the festival site in a temporary lot manned by a Dixie Parking attendant charging vehicles $20. We got there before 2 pm with 15 minutes to spare or we would be also had to pay an $8 per person gate fee.
The cook off was for serious competitors. There were 258 booths with corporate sponsors arranged in a figure 8 on 33 acres along the river bank. Booths were landscaped with gardens, resembling hospitality suites. They were equipped with premium liquor wet bars, dining tables & fine linens, but there was no admission without an invitation from either the teams or the sponsors.
We talked to one group of competitors who were coworkers at a Birmingham, Alabama steel mill. They created a barbeque pit out of an air compressor cylinder, had several big trophies from previous wins to attest to the success of their innovations.
A barn-sized People's Choice tent in the middle of it all charged $4 a plate for random competitor samples. Diners got to vote on favorites. We opted instead to sample barbeque from McCormick's booth, "Bring It Tong". We later purchased a Corky's pulled pork sandwich ,roasted ears of corn & lemonade. Other vendors were Cowboy's and Leo's Fried Chicken.
Memphis is honoring the country of Turkey this month. There were Turkish themes in booth decorating. Belly dancers lounged about the midway. Top 3 teams in each of the 3 categories win $3,000 each; grand champion takes home $22,000. 4th place winners are guaranteed a spot on next year's roster along with the other 9 from today.
Top competitors included It's 5 O'Clock Somewhere, Curly Tail Smokers, Sweet Swine O'Mind, Barnyard Roasters, Whirling Pigishes, Killer Hogs, Red Hot Smokers, Notorious P.I.G., Pork Fiction, Pork Illustrated, the Good the Bad & the Piggly, Spider Pig, VooDoo Barbeque.
There were bags of corporate sponsor giveaways; toothpaste, dental floss, Tums, Greased Lightning cleaner, can wraps, sipper cups.
Winners were announced from the sound stage where there were concerts in the evening.
Peabody Hotel and Beale Street
We left in time to see the ducks swim in the fountain of the Peabody Hotel at 5 pm. They also do this daily at 11 am. Mama & I watched it from the 2nd floor balcony with a good view. We counted a crowd of 450 people waiting to see the show. The hotel rolls out a red carpet for the ducks to march to the fountain in the center of the lobby. At least a dozen ducks live up on the hotel roof in a room-sized cage with a wading pool in the back of a blonde brick mini penthouse.
The fountain is huge, ornately carved with requisite animal figures. After half an hour the duck wrangler, a bald employee wearing a black suit with grey vest looking not unlike Uncle Ben on a box of rice, waves a black cane topped by an elegant told duck head handle over the fountain. This is the signal for the ducks to hop out, proceed to the elevator &d return to their quarters upstairs. On this day two lucky cousins around 10 years of age assisted him. They boys received a certificate to mark the occaision before reminding the ducks it was time to go.
The Peabody is elegant, built in 1937. Mama & I tagged along with a tour group being shown the premises. We saw what is referred to as the 'junior' ballroom. It had a massive chandelier & was 5,000 square feet. The other ballroom was 16,000 square feet.
Robert took us up on the roof to see the duck pen. The roof is open 24 hours. It had cocktail tables, floor length linen table cloths set up with candles & flowers. There was an elegant supper club behind a blue curtain between the elevator & the roof. There was a droppped circular dance floor, a raised dais for the band. It was being prepared for a wedding reception later that evening. What a great place to see the sun set slowly in the west!
We were able to purchase souvenirs from Memphis Music next door. It was open late to accommodate crowds in town for the barbeque party. The store was blessed with a friendly, polite man in white 3 piece suit singing from his heart, perhaps something he himself composed, helping people find selections in the impressive music department. I couldn't decide if he was an inebriated passerby, wandering in with the crowd or if he was an employee. Memphis Music is the grandfather of all good record stores; an old fashioned purveyor of music memorabelia, music themed clothing, home furnishings, art, expensive harmonicas, accessories such as blown glass guitar slides, recordings by all the greats of the Memphis sound in gospel & blues.
Situated between two buildings across from Big Jerry inside the entrance to that park at the end of the street was a four and a half piece combo, the Juke Joint Boys performing on a small stage. An appreciative crowd draped themselves on park benches or against the marble courtyard fountain, some couples dancing to the music, some women dancing in tandem like Dianah Ross and the Supremes, only with laryngitis.
After we left the park you could still hear them at the end of the block. Mama said the farther away we got the better they sounded. We left before dark. Although the mood was festive increased police presence & growing crowds plus hangers on watching the crowds made us wary.
They are able to accommodate a huge crowd of diners even if they show up as a group or just a crowd of them individually but nearly simultaneously.