Greetings from the Road: Tennessee

ElvisWall

Memphis was overcast and drizzly when we arrived. A thin crowd — much thinner than the throng I’d encountered back in 1993 — were waiting to board the minibuses for transport across Elvis Presley Blvd., through the wrought iron musical gates thrown wide open, and up the blacktop driveway to Elvis’s front door.

Back in 1993-ish, my sister and I had taken a road trip from D.C. to Memphis to visit Graceland. Suffice it to say, I have seen the inside of the house of Elvis. Seen the green shag rug and carpeted stairwell (walls, floor and ceiling) leading to The King’s pool table down in the basement.

From the paucity of tourists milling about in the parking lot, I’d venture say that Elvis may, at long last, be declared dead. Yet, Graceland lingers on…(for shame, Priscilla).

What I did want to do, though, was scan the grafitti-covered stone wall fronting the property for any ghostly remains of the missives my sister and I had inscribed there fifteen years ago.

ElvisWall4

But, alas, there was no trace at all that we had been there. However, I did see some cool newer entries:

ElvisWall2

ElivsWall3

So, we got back in the car. I scrolled down the attractions listed on the GPS and programmed our next destination: Stax Records.

Otis Redding and Carla Thomas recorded on the Stax label. I was (am) a big fan. I love the song “Tramp.”

Stax-lo-res

The next stop was Sun Records. Unfortunately, we’d just missed the start of the 40-minute studio tour. So we hung around checking out the wealth of memorabilia all over the walls — original 45 rpm pressings of Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis, Johnny Cash, and scores of other rhythm and blues artists recorded by Sam Philips.

SunStudio-lo-res

If only we could have stayed for the next tour. But, our growling stomachs were begging for food. So, we got back in the car and drove into downtown Memphis. On our way to Pa Pa Pía’s — an Italian restaurant where we would share a salad and a scrumptious Margarita pizza (“We make our own pizza dough!” said the waiter) and the songs of (who else) Frank Sinatra — we happened to drive past, to my great delight, The Cotton Museum.

If you’ve read my recent posts, you probably know how much I love cotton plants. But, a museum devoted to cotton? How great was that. See below, the fake man tabulating the trade:

CottonExchange1-lo-res

After lunch, we visited the museum. Besides learning how cotton was harvested, ginned, seeded and sold in Memphis – the cotton capital of the world — we were each issued an iPOD shuffle and ear buds so we could listen to re-enactments of cotton trading banter and the history of the cotton industry as we walked up and down Front Street visiting historic buildings.

I think I must have lived on a cotton plantation in a former lifetime…or worked at the cotton exchange or picked it or something. I’m so attracted to raw cotton.

Inside the museum, there was a great piece of folk art, painted by a local:

CottonPainting-lo-res

I loved Memphis the first time I saw it and I fell in love with it again. It’s a vibrant, cosmopolitan, elegant and laid-back city steeped in history. We promised ourselves that we would return there for a vacation and book a room in the beautiful Peabody Hotel. Check out the lobby:

PeabodyHotel-lo-res

And, also, ride the trolley cars – which actually make trips to desirable destinations, instead of just moving back and forth from Point A to Point B.

StreetCarMemphis-lo-res

But, we had so much ground to cover in too few days and didn’t have time to ride the street car. Instead, we walked down to the banks of the Mississippi River and gazed out over the water. Then, it was time to get back in the car.

Riverboat-lo-res

We wished we could have stayed longer, but we had to get to Knoxville that same night. Our projected time of arrival was 9:45 p.m.

Except that, it wasn’t until we checked into the hotel that we discovered we had crossed over into EST. It was 10:45 p.m., not 9:45. We’d been on the road so many days, I didn’t even remember what day it was, let alone the time.

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One Response to “Greetings from the Road: Tennessee”

  1. Caleb Latessa Says:

    Thanks for the post. Very informative. My family and I take a trip to Memphis every summer. We go to Graceland, Beale Street, the Sun Studio, and then to the blues clubs for the evening. Always a good time!

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