Here's how you know you're in the South:
Our first top was to this famous Memphis Street where the Peabody Hotel is located.
Sometime in the 1930s, some hunters came over from England and stayed in this elegant hotel. They were apparently a little (or a lot) inebriated and let loose some ducks in the lobby, then went to their room to sleep it off. When they got up in the morning, the ducks were still swimming in the lobby's fountain. Ever since then, ducks have resided at the Peabody Hotel. Every morning promptly at 11:00 a.m., they descend down the elevator and cross a red carpet while a John Philip Sousa march plays. They climb into the ornate Italian fountain and swim until 5:00 p.m., when their personal doorman comes to escort them back over the red carpet and up the elevator to their penthouse suite.
We got there for their 11:00 a.m. arrival. It's a pretty big deal, people.
Then we headed out to catch some downtown photos. We went to Beale Street, the well-known music row of Memphis. It is filled with clubs and bars where live music plays at night. If you're a blues fan (uh, who isn't? You better believe anyone from Chicago is), this is where you can hear it live. Here's BB King's place...
We headed back to Union to Sun Studio where Elvis recorded his first four albums.
Also on this street is the original Heartbreak Hotel, which looks abandoned and is for sale. I got a picture of it, which I meant to put here, but in adding all of these I forgot. And Blogger hates me and won't let me rearrange photos once I add them, so...just pretend you're seeing a derelict old brick building with a stencil of Elvis and "Heartbreak Hotel" on it here.
Then we moved on to the real thing. Darren leaned out of the window (while driving) and took this picture. I didn't notice until I was uploading it the sign for the medical center in back of it that says, "Heart Attack?" which is totally hilarious, because you better believe if there's any place you're likely to have a heart attack, it's Tennessee or Mississippi.
Here we are at the gates of Graceland (and yes, I was playing the Marc Cohn album the entire time)...
In front of Graceland is a long, low stone wall on which all the visitors have graffiti'd. I thought this one below was totally crazy. Check it out. If you can't really see, it says, "Elvis, how sad. The only time I was able to be close to you was in your garden. Still missing you. June from Okla." OK, that's a little bit odd, but here's the kicker--she adds the dates she has been there: 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 2000, June 2001, Oct 2001, June 2002, Oct 2002, June 2003, Oct 2003, April 2004, June 2004, Oct 2004, July 2005, July 2006, Oct 2006, Mar 2007, Oct 2007, Oct 2008, July 2009. Yeah. So June has been to Graceland twenty-two times in 14 years.
Here's another one...
This is Elvis's private plane, the Lisa Marie, which is parked across the street.
And here's the mansion. This is as close as Darren could get to it. We didn't go on the tour because we had the girls with us, and it costs $30 a pop, to which Darren's aunt Madge said, "And honey, I didn't think much of it the one time I went through. It was real run-down."
The girls kept asking why we were here and what we were doing. Actually, just Lucy was because Elaine's main goals in life are to go swimming and eat popsicles so she was just wondering why we weren't doing that.
I tried to explain to Lucy who Elvis was, since other than his Christmas album I don't think we have any of his music. Then she asked, "Does he still live in that house?" When I said he was dead, she wanted to know how he died. For crying in a bucket, how do I always get myself into these situations? I'm usually quite honest with her, but I wasn't up to go into the whole prescription drug and dying at 42 explanation, so I just said he got kind of old and sick. She seemed satisfied with that loose handling of history, and we were able to move on, or rather back here, to Aunt Madge's house where we stayed.
She has a lovely house, but all my girls were interested in was this:
They spent 3 1/2 to 4 hours a day in the pool. Elaine wouldn't even come out to eat lunch or dinner, which on Saturday night was Memphis's famous Coleman's BBQ.
And speaking of more dinner, Sunday was the big family party, also held at Madge's. I have no idea how many people were there, but there was lots of hugging and everybody's name is "Honey," or for a little variety, "Sugar" or "Dollface."
(Oh, wait! We visited a fantastic church on Sunday morning. Here was one of the announcements in the bulletin though--it was for a church get-together. You were supposed to bring your best wild game recipe and your biggest trophy mount. Awesome!)
Here I am with my friend Jeana (who is Darren's cousin). She has three little kids, Hallie, Jessie, and Noah, whom Lucy and Elaine love. Next to her is my sister-in-law, Denise, who has three boys--my nephews--whom Lucy and Elaine also adore. And next to her is Jeana's husband, Scott. We're all sitting at the dessert table. Please note the two big pitchers of sweet tea with us.
Here is the kids' table. Lucy took time out from swimming to eat a hamburger, but Elaine is still in the pool. Next to Lucy is her best buddy, our nephew Ryne. In the middle is his baby brother, Joseph, and then his oldest brother, Drew. I call them, "Major Nelson, Major Healy, and Bazooka Joe." The little boys with their backs to the camera are Darren's cousin Farrah's sons (three boys also. Lots of boys in this family...)
You know I had to have some pictures of the food--here's the hamburger/hotdog table.
Here's the farm-fresh fried catfish...
Here are the french fries and hush puppies (w/ white bread of course)...
In addition, there were salads, coleslaw, baked beans, and chips. On the dessert table was cheesecake, Texas sheet cake, 5 different kinds of cookies, apple cake, and chocolate truffle cake (that would be why we sat there).
It was a fantastic weekend of family and friends and food and sightseeing. We rolled home today, and the girls are already talking about going back next year. They're also asking me what's for dinner. I think they've been spoiled for the real world here in the North.