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Sing With Me If It's Just For Today...
If I should fall behind, Guyster, wait for me.
About once every other week, I will venture into a drawer that has not been opened for a long time or open a box that has been left undisturbed. Often the results are a hot cup of pain followed by the warm relief of memory. Today I found something in one of those tentative searches that was an instant cry-and-smile. Inside a box marked "Stuff" in Billy's scrawl was the wooden base of the snowglobe we bought at Graceland. Only a tiny clay Elvis flanked by the gates of his home are left. Some years ago, Bob's happy tail had gone out of control and swept our precious souvenir off the table shattering the thin glass and spilling the water that held its glitter snow.

When we moved from New York, we packed a U-Haul truck filled with all we owned and headed back to California, our true home. We decided to take our time and amble across the country, visiting family and seeing sights we knew would never be destinations. A week into the trip, we pulled into Memphis. Our single goal - Graceland.

What the travel brochures or AAA Trip Tic don't explain is that Graceland is in the harshest ghetto of Memphis. Elvis' mansion sits on a very busy street that has now become the home of crack whores and all their attendant fun. The motels rent by the hour. Our first clue should have been the bullet proof glass of our motel's reception desk.

The outside of the motel looked grim but I said, "Hey, how bad can it be?" We were there for only one night and planned on taking the Graceland tour the following morning. It was late when we arrived in the city and this motel was right down the street. Convenience and a reasonable price were running through our minds when we made the choice. We checked into the dark, stinky room with its wafer thin pillows. We opted for a first floor room so we could keep an eye on the truck.

Then it sunk in. "What if they break into the truck and steal our stuff?" Billy asked with his face clouded in concern.

I pondered this new wrinkle for a minute then came up with a worse case scenario, "Honey, they aren't going to bother breaking into the truck. They're gonna steal the whole fucking thing."

The thought of someone stealing everything we owned was daunting. We had to think of a plan.

"We could sleep in the truck," Billy offered. Not a bad idea considering the truck looked far more comforting than the room we just paid for.

"OK but let's turn the truck around so the back of it is facing our door. Then maybe we could sleep in the truck in shifts," we both sat on the edge of the bed pondering the schedule.

We ultimately settled on turning the truck around with our cargo inches away from the motel room's window. We opened the blinds and window, turned off our lights except for the TV and drifted into semi-sleep. The next morning we woke with a start and quickly looked to see our truck was there undisturbed. After a quick breakfast at the neighboring coffee shop, we headed down the street to Graceland.

We knew we were in for a fun ride as soon as we loaded onto the bus. Our tour guide was a woman with complicated white hair atop a well-worn face. She explained, in an accent straight out of Central Casting, of the home's history. It started off as a second home for Elvis but he found solitude there he couldn't find anywhere else in the world. Billy and I looked at each other and started the church giggles. She went on to explain the complexity of its masonry and as we looked at the tacky red bricked house, we laughed harder.

The bus finally arrived at the top of the hill to its front door. Inside the upstairs was cordoned off. Elvis' bedroom would not be seen today or any other day according to our guide. "Some things are better left private," she coyly told the group, "and no flash photography!" It was an admonishment we took seriously.

Each room was more unbelievably garish than the next. The ceilings were unnaturally low for a house of this size. I would almost touch them. The downstairs "play room" where Elvis spent many a narcotic night was the highlight. Decorated in a Denny's color scheme, it was all carpeted. Floors, walls, ceiling. I suppose in the 70s, it was considered plush. Now it was just claustrophobic.

The tour was over and we hurried to the souvenir shop for the things you can't buy anywhere else. We walked out with a pen that had a little Elvis moving back and forth in front of the house, a set of plastic cups with "Graceland" emboldened on them and our snowglobe. It wasn't a cheap plastic globe either. It had a nice large glass globe on a wooden base with the statue of Elvis in front of his gates. There was a lot of glitter in it and Billy loved that part.

Off to "Taking Car Of Business," the on-site restaurant where they serve Elvis' favorite meals. We opted not to have the fried peanut butter and bacon sandwich and ordered the more conventional "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" cheeseburger combo platter. After we were done, we had one more thing to accomplish. While we had taken several pictures of the backyard, Lisa Marie's swing set and the graves of Elvis and his parents, we wanted to explore the outside wall.

The wall is marked with thousands of pieces of graffiti, scraped and penned by fervent fans from around the world. Lyrics, love notes and tiny stories about the meaning of Elvis covered every inch of the ten foot wall. We found one, near the ground that had a simple yet provocative statement. When Billy read it, he made his face that meant he didn't particularly like what he was reading. It was the same face he made when he found an unwelcome piece of onion in his food or a bad smell that entered the room.

"Come on, lean down and look at it," I said directing him with the camera to my eye.

"No," he playfully answered.

"Come on," this came more as a sing-song whine than a demand from me.

He kneeled down and pointed to a Sharpied note that said "I gave Elvis a rim job in 1960."

I look at the globe now and all of those details rush back into my brain, making me feel the history and fun we had, all at once. I look at the picture I took of that moment and I see that face of Billy's, that cute scrunched look, and damned if I don't get horny.

Do the chairs in your parlor seem empty and bare?
Do you gaze at your doorstep and picture me there?
Is your heart filled with pain, shall I come back again?
Tell me dear, are you lonesome tonight?


Current Mood: nostalgic nostalgic
Current Music: Are You Lonesome Tonight? - Elvis

9 comments or Leave a comment
ruralrob From: ruralrob Date: April 5th, 2003 06:30 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh boy! I love the way you've blended travalogue, a heartfelt personal story and wry humour here - plus a lovely pic of your honey. This is quite an amazing post, you know. You just seem to be getting better all the time, particluarly in your ability to introduce us all to Billy in quite a remarkable and moving way.

He would be so proud of you, I'm sure of that.

guysterrules From: guysterrules Date: April 6th, 2003 11:21 am (UTC) (Link)
I have two goals: one is to set up the foundation and the other is to publish a collection of short stories called "Guyster." The more I write these stories of Billy and have you read them, the more confident I get on the latter becoming a reality. There are so many fascinating aspects of Billy's life, I have only begun to scratch the surface.

Thank you for being a guinea pig in reading them and for your continued support. I'm certain there's a book titled "Nanookville" in you. There certainly is in these pages. Your arc of leaving the city behind under those horrible circumstances and moving to the deep country to set up an idyllic life with Meirion is a story of courage and hope.
ruralrob From: ruralrob Date: April 6th, 2003 12:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think you may be on to something with your guyster collection of stories. I have no idea how easy it would be to interest a publisher - or you might even publish it just for yourself or in a very limited edition, if you run in to problems there. For my part, though, I think it would be eminently readable and the quality of writing is definitely there.

Tales of Nanookville? Well I've always thought of doing a Canadian version of Deliverance. You know - four townies come to vist Nanookville, get lost, meet two crazy rural types in the woods (played by Meirion and myself - with banjo, of course) and get unspeakable things done to them. Waddya think?

guysterrules From: guysterrules Date: April 6th, 2003 12:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thank you for your encouragement for "Guyster." It is a long way from happening. I'm a long way from reaching the bar of Sedaris or drood. But for now I am happy to keep writing the stories, re-living the memories and sharing them with you.

While your "Deliverance" take on Nanookville may be commercial, I would prefer to read the story of your trajectory from lawyer to homesteader. That is where the heart lives.

By the way, I had an odd and vague dream last night that I stumbled into a town in America called Nanookville. I don't remember much else about it other than someone was playing banjo the whole time. I woke up in a wet spot.
From: pit6steve Date: April 6th, 2003 04:47 am (UTC) (Link)
If there was ever a story of stories...then this will qualify as that story. I love learning more about Billy as I do about you. Billy is such a handsome man...thank you for sharing him with the rest of us.
guysterrules From: guysterrules Date: April 6th, 2003 11:10 am (UTC) (Link)
Thank you Steve. I used to call him my trophy and he'd get all embarrassed and say "Stop it!" He truly had no idea how handsome he was and he really was the least vain man I have ever met.
cricketshay From: cricketshay Date: October 5th, 2004 10:07 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm going back and reading some of your earlier entries. I can't imagine what it must feel like to lose someone you love so dearly.
guysterrules From: guysterrules Date: October 5th, 2004 10:13 am (UTC) (Link)
Shay, I really appreciate you taking the time. Honestly, I can't imagine what it feels like either because the last two and one half years didn't really happen, did they? I pray every night I'll wake up and find Billy with me, pink and beautiful and healthy as he always was. I pray for that.
cricketshay From: cricketshay Date: October 5th, 2004 11:27 am (UTC) (Link)
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