the wonderful world of veena.

19 January 2014

the joy project: week fifty-two / 2 of 52: touring graceland with my parents.

the final installment of the Joy Project series! I can't believe it, either...

Sunday: lunch at Local Taco with the Wright family before heading back from Nashville. helped my mother get some stuff ready for our family friend's visit this week.

Monday: rain rain rain. my picture from Central BBQ last Friday was included on the ILoveMemphis weekly round-up [if you know anything about Memphis, you know that's kind of a big deal]. made my mother's famous brown chicken curry without supervision.

Tuesday: tried on bridesmaids' dresses for the first time in my life, and my head didn't explode. also got to catch up with an old friend in the process. the return of Marc Gasol. Arkansas hoops overtime victory over Kentucky.

Wednesday: introduced my parents and Lalit Uncle to the ribs at Blues City Cafe. watched Philomena with all the adults.

Thursday: took the parents and Lalit Uncle to Graceland and then to Huey's Midtown for lunch.

Friday: slept in. family lunch at India Palace. very awesome Skype session that ended with me taking on a part-time gig for the coming months.

Saturday: house to myself allllll day and night! did some yoga. ate some leftover India Palace for lunch. watched some basketball and other stuffs on the television. made lasagna for dinner. finally watched The Spectacular Now.


At this point in our lives, we all know how much I love Elvis Presley. We also know how much I love visiting his home, Graceland. So we don't need to rehash either of those at this point. I also very much enjoy sharing Graceland with others. I took Bec there when she visited in 2007; my brother and I took our nieces last August; and this week I took my parents and our family friend, Lalit Uncle, who was visiting from Michigan.

[even balaji is in awe of the legend]
My mother has been to Graceland a number of times, but most of her visits were in the late '80s, and her most recent visit was nearly 10 years ago. My father had only been TWICE before, which seems ridiculous to me, and his last visit was circa 1989, so he was long overdue. Lalit Uncle, having never been to Memphis before, had obviously never been, but when I told him on Wednesday that Elvis' home is here, he said he would like to see it.

[my brother, ladies and gentlemen. pretty sure he's been practicing this pose for 35 years]
On Thursday morning we bundled up and headed over to one of my Happiest Places on Earth. Because it's the middle of January - and a week after Elvis' birthday - the parking lot was pretty empty, and the grounds were generally pretty quiet. We breezed through the purchasing of our tickets, there was no line to get our picture taken, AND there was a shuttle waiting, so before we knew it, we were standing on the front steps of Elvis' home.

[first room on the tour: Elvis' living room]
No matter how many times I've visited Graceland or how recently I've been there, there's no feeling quite like stepping through that front door. And no matter how many times I've listened to the audio tour, there's nothing that can compare with the first time I hear Elvis' voice on the recording. That house holds magic for me, and I am not at all ashamed to admit it.

[what I wouldn't give to play a round or two on that table]
My favourite part of the tour comes toward the end, after you've been through the house and Vernon's office and the trophy room. It's in the racquetball building, in the room that I think used to be the court. I love standing there, surrounded by Elvis' records on all the walls and his jumpsuits in their cases, and watching the video of the 1973 Aloha from Hawaii concert. If I am on my own - or with very understanding friends - I can stand there for ages and just watch and listen and absorb.

[it's impossible not to be in awe when you're in this room]
My father asked me at the end of our visit how many times I think I've been to Graceland. While I don't know for certain, as many of my visits happened when I was a child, I have determined that the number is probably somewhere around 25ish. And with each visit, I find some new detail that I've not seen before. On this visit, during the part where you can see into Vernon and Gladys' room, I noticed for the first time that some of Gladys' old dresses are hanging in the closet. I'm sure they've been there for years, but I guess because of where I have stood when peering into the room on past visits, I've not seen them before. I love that each visit holds a new discovery or two.

[loved getting to observe their visit and view it through their eyes]
And there's not just the house and grounds to be seen. There's also the car museum and the planes. While it still breaks my heart that they've taken the cars out of the carport - where I used to enjoy trying to climb on them when the tour guides weren't looking - I do have to admit that the car museum is pretty nice. It's fun to walk around and read all the stories behind Elvis' various cars and buggies and theorize which ones you would have liked best.

[not just talented, but generous to boot]
Now, I know that Graceland is not for everyone. Most of my friends who are either from Memphis or who have lived here a long time don't frequent it [some have never even been! unfathomable], but for me, it's one of my favourite sites in the city. I'm big on historical places in general, and to combine that with the memorabilia of the most successful singer ever - he's sold more singles than any other artist in history - who also happens to be one of my favourites, makes Graceland a super special place for me.

[elvis bought this place when he was 22. i could barely pay my credit card bill when i was 22]
If you DO happen to find yourself with an inkling to visit, here are a few things to keep in mind:
  • the mansion is closed on Tuesdays during the winter months - generally December through February - but the rest of the exhibits remain open on those days.
  • AAA members, senior citizens, students, and military personnel all receive different discount benefits on tickets. discounts cannot be combined, however, so choose which one will be most beneficial for you [for example, I cannot get a double discount for being a student and a AAA member, etc].
  • if you just want to visit the Meditation Garden and see the graves of Elvis, his parents, and his grandmother without paying for the full tour, there are free walk-ups every day between 7.30am and 8.30am.
  • photography is allowed anywhere and everywhere on the grounds, but no flash photography. follow the rules. please.
  • the mansion tour is an audio tour that generally takes between 45 minutes to 1.5 hours, depending on if you choose to listen to any of the additional features and how often you simply choose to pause the tour and take in your surroundings. I usually take about an hour and 10 minutes, depending on how long I'm allowed to hang out in the racquetball court and watch the concert.
  • all the other exhibits are self-guided and self-paced.
Check out the website for additional information.

[officially an historic place]
After all these years and all those visits, Graceland is still a special place for me, and being able to share that with my parents made it an even more special occasion.

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