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Elvis at Graceland
by Tony Bonyata
It was during this trip that I received a text message from our friend Mike, whose then-girlfriend, now-wife Wendy is an avid, if not rabid, Elvis Presley fan. Mike has always been one of my more thoughtful friends; so, not surprisingly, he asked in his message that if we were going to Graceland could we please "steal something nice for Wendy?"
Nan & I had already been to Graceland six or seven years prior and, to be honest, as much as I've come to appreciate The King's musical oeuvre, not to mention his latter-period sequined jumpsuits & chicken-fried steak sideburns, one trip to Graceland in this lifetime would most certainly suffice. That said, I could possibly be persuaded to queue up to the ticket booth one more time if they featured a mini-tour of just the Jungle Room in all its gauchely green and gloriously tacky shellacked splendor.
But no, we weren't going in this time. That didn't stop us, however, from pulling up in front of the famous large gates anyway, compete with various giant musical notes flanked by two larger-than-life metal filigree images of Elvis in flared pants, strumming his six-string. All of this welded on the gates, no doubt, for those who might otherwise mistake this for another famous Memphian's home - rapper Juicy J. (I still have yet to find the proper metals-craftsman to solder an alloy image in my likeness - sitting behind a computer, pecking away at the keyboard - to my front gate, of which I also still need. But then this is Southeast Wisconsin, so I realize it may take a bit longer than, say, walking to the corner bar to get a cold Blatz on tap.)
Anyway, Nan and I were taking a few pictures of the place to send to Wendy, when a tour bus slowly pulled up to the gate to gain admittance from the grounds security located in a booth just inside the gate to the right. Now I have to admit, I'm not the "steal something nice" for anyone kind of guy, that is, if you don't count when I shoved a box of Royal Shake-A-Pudd'n inside my jacket when I was just seven to score the free Dr. Doolittle plastic figure inside (for the record it was the two-headed llama named Push-Me - Pull-You). I got my comeuppance for that crime, but that's another story.
Seeing the bus slowly roll in I decided to shadow to the left of it to get through the gates undetected. Now I wasn't planning on belly-crawling my way in military fashion to the house to 'jacket' another item, although, with his two-year tenure in the U.S. Army in the late '50s, I suspect Elvis' neighbors had surely seen him use this same tactical maneuver through the irises and purple passionflowers in the front lawn. No, I was merely going to grab some type of natural object from the ground as a souvenir, such as a stick, a rock or petrified peanut butter & banana sandwich. As I was bending over to pick up two rather ordinary looking rocks, I heard a loud, abrupt voice from behind me, "HEY, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! YOU CAN'T BE IN HERE!" As I discretely pocketed the two rocks in my pants, I turned around and muttered, "Oh, I'm sorry," and nervously walked out through the gates as if I had that entire box of Royal Shake-A-Pudd'n secretly crammed down my crotch... Push-Me - Pull-You 'n' all.
Knowing my mission was accomplished, I jumped back in our car - even if Mike had probably meant for me to swipe something of more significant value, like The King's gold record of "Big Hunk o' Love" or DNA-soaked stage scarf that he could clone a tiny Elvis from. I pulled both of these brown stones from my pockets and inspected them to make sure one would make a sufficient gift for Wendy. As I was turning one of them around in my hand, I noticed a strange and miraculous thing - one that, no doubt, only occurs when nicking something from the front yard of somebody ridiculously famous. "Holy shit!," I flummoxed. "This rock looks just like Elvis!" I held it up for my wife as if showing her the Hope Diamond or, at the very least, the blessed image of the Virgin Mother on a piece of toast, and, sure enough, there it was - the profile of The King. Elvis Aaron Presley circa 1972, just before the TCB tour-bus full of carbohydrates and Carbrital kicked in.
Of course, when we presented Wendy with this archaeological find from Memphis - surely as valuable as any found in the ancient Egyptian city that bore the same name - she seemed giddy with excitement. So much, apparently, that when we recently visited their house she had it proudly displayed on the mantelpiece [photo below], alongside a random empty bottle of wine, which, I suspect was probably either consumed in celebration of receiving this rare gift... or perhaps in order to try and swallow much of this story.
Left to right: Elvis rocks, Elvis rock
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