Monday, December 24, 2012

DAY 120, 121- Memphis…

Memphis has been called the Home of the Blues and the Birthplace of Rock’n’Roll.  But I knew of two places there that I wanted to visit; one of course, was Graceland and the other was Lorraine Motel.  Past that I really had no plans and I would play it by ear.

DAY 120- Lorraine Motel, Belz AND Popeye’s…
Photo- Lorraine Motel

Lorraine Motel-
Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King Jr. was shot was first on my list.  I went to the Lorraine Motel only to find it blocked off and renovations being done.  The whole place was on lock down.  I guess they found black mold and needed to take care of it before it did some real damage.  Unfortunately, all I could do was take pictures from the outside of the Motel.  There’s a Civil Rights Museum that is attached to it but it also was not open.  I guess during this time of year it is only open during the weekends.  But I got a picture and walked as close as I could to the railing area where Martin Luther King Jr. had been shot.  There were several others there taking pictures.  I talked with a black lady from that had come all the way from North Carolina only to discover it was closed.  She was very disappointed and also complained that they had been here for two days and there wasn’t anything to do.  I’m not sure what she was looking to do but I had a whole list of possibilities and knew I couldn’t see it all.  I guess it just all dependent upon your point of view.
Photo- The balcony where Martin Luther King Jr. was shot.

Belz Museum of Asian and Judaic Art-
Photo- Inside the front hallway of the Belz Museum.

I had found this museum on-line the night before and it got very good reviews.  Since I couldn’t do much with the Lorraine Motel/Civil Rights Museum and Graceland was closed for the day, I figured it would be a good place to spend some time.  It was a bit of a maze to find this gem of a museum in the heart of downtown Memphis but well worth the effort.  The Belz Museum contains a great deal of artifacts and art from the Quing Chinese Dynasty.  It was amazing just to look at all of the level of intricate jade sculptural art alone.  This museum also features Jewish, Judaic, and natural history specimens from several time periods.  I had only put 90 minutes into the parking meter and before I knew it I went out to put more change in the meter.  It was until I was leaving the museum that I found out I could have gotten validated parking at the nearby hotel parking ramp.  Live and learn!

Lunch at Ernest and Hazel’s-
Photo- Inside Ernest and Hazel's.

I had driven by this place while I was trying to find the Lorraine Motel earlier and I decided I would swing by possibly for a late lunch.  After the Belz Museum, I went by.  I had seen this place in part of a movie called Elizabethtown.  This corner restaurant had been several places in the past; at one point it had even been a brothel.  But probably the most famous part of its history occurred in the 1950’s when it was Ernest and Hazel’s restaurant.  Hazel was the well-known mistress of a blues musician and this place had served as a meeting place for quite a few of blues greats in the area.  There’s currently quite a bit of records and photo memorabilia up on the walls of this place which I have to say is a bit of a dive.  But the seafood chowder was pretty good and I talked with Dave who’s a chef for the establishment.  It was interesting talking with him and learning about the Memphis area.  Meanwhile, we talked the “possessed” juke box up front would pop on with music every now and then.  Dave said it was supposed to auto-play every half hour but it played a couple times where it was only 5 minutes and then 10 minutes the next time.  He go over, turn the volume down, and then it would play again just as loud the next time it started to play.  He said that it was possessed and that the whole place was probably full of ghosts.  It looked like it definitely needed a remodel and like the place was falling apart.

My Popeye’s Experience-
I had never been to a Popeye’s before and yes, I knew it was a southern fast food chain but I figured that it was time to give it a try.  I went through the drive through figuring I would take it back to the hotel for a night in and catch a movie on TV.  I drove up and proceeded to attempt to order a “Holiday Platter”.  I couldn’t understand what the girl was saying here accent was a heavy southern drawl and she talked fast.  I said pardon a couple of times.  Then, figured she was asking if I wanted it hot or mild.  I said hot.  Then I think that she asked if I wanted light or dark meat for the chicken I had ordered.  I told her white.  So the next thing I know is there’s a guy talking to me over the intercom asking me in much clearing English what side I wanted and what beverage too.  I got to a window and was getting a terribly awful glaring look from a large black girl.  Ooopps!  I said hot and white.  I think she was just a bit pissed off with me.  Meanwhile, the guy who had talked to me arrived at the window.  He was a black clean cut man and he apologized looking at the black girl like she should know better.  Oh my!  I think I may have started an inter-racial incident and here I was just a Yankee trying to order dinner through drive through.

DAY 121- Graceland to Little Rock…
Photo- See! I was actually there!

Graceland is the famous home of Elvis Presley, the King, and is one of the most visited sites in the US.  I was visiting it during the slow season.  I could just walk up to the window and purchase a ticket but this is not always the case.   Shortly after Graceland opened at 10am, I pulled my car into the parking lot across the street.  I paid the $10 parking lot fee and then went to a booth to pay another $28 for a tour of the Mansion.  There’s a VIP tour that’s more and takes you through the mansion and all of the museums from cars to planes to extra museums but I figured that the mansion was enough for me.  We were given audio tour devices as almost 25 of us walked onto the bus that took us across the street to the mansion. 
Photo- Elvis' Livingroom.

The bus left us off right at the front door.  As you went into Graceland, they directed you to input a number in the audio device and the tour of the house began.  It was the height of luxury when Elvis lived in it and was very like stepping into the mid-1960’s home.  It was rather fun because they had all of the Christmas decorations up; most of which were original from Elvis’ time at Graceland.  We went around the first floor in a carpeted roped off area and listened and looked as directed by the audio device.  We went down the stairs, through a “jungle” room and out to the back carport.  Then, it was off through some of the other buildings on the property.  There was an office building, a trophy hall, and a racquetball building.  All around the buildings you could see horse pastures where horses were grazing on grass.  I could imagine that it would have been a relaxing environment for someone of Elvis’ caliber.  I was really amazed at all of the gold records he had in the Hall of Gold.  It just made you realize how much of a talent he was.  Then, you went out to the back area where there’s a garden like area where Elvis’ grave is.  He is laid to rest next to the graves of his mom and dad.  There are flowers and other items near his grave and that of his parents.  This is the most visited grave site of anywhere in the US.
Photo- The room with 3 TV's in Elvis' House.

After the mansion tour, you got back on a bus to cross the street where you are directed to a place where you can look at your souvenir photos that were taken before you got loaded on the bus.  I skipped this all together but I still was directed into a gift shop.  I had a ticket for an additional museum visit which was at the north end of a row of gift shops.  Every little museum or area that you could visit on Elvis led you through a gift shop right afterwards.  There was definitely some marketing going on here.  But I will say this was an amazing experience in all because it was all about Elvis.  After Graceland, I found myself driving on my way to Little Rock, Arkansas.

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