Pickles, Planes and a Special Someone: Memphis, TN

Today we’re in Memphis, Tennessee, named after the Chuck Berry song. It has a rich musical heritage: Beale Street was an early home for legends like B.B. King, Muddy Waters and Louis Armstrong; Graceland is the world-famous home of—Oh My God, Pandas

Giant Panda

 

 

Giant Panda Giant Panda Giant PandaNot just Giant Pandas, but red pandas too:

Red Panda

Red Panda

Okay. Okay, I’m calm now. So, one of Memphis’ attractions is the Memphis Zoo, which takes the “named after an Egyptian city” idea kind of seriously:

Memphis Zoo

The day I’m visiting it’s pretty brisk, just a couple of degrees above freezing. This means there’s more or less no-one else in the zoo except the animals, which makes me one of the vaguely interesting things the animals have today. There’s a particular sensation you get when every tiger in the area stops to look at you.

Tiger BaitWell, except this guy, but it was pretty early for him:

Sleepy TigerBefore the assorted menagerie, I have to draw your attention to this sinister creature. It is some form of mini-cow. Now I know some of you out there don’t know that cows are, through to their soulless cores, sinister and evil creatures. You’re probably thinking “Mini-cow? How adorable?” Behold:

Bite-sized DevilTell me that isn’t a face that wouldn’t happily gnaw your corpse? Look at their hooves, even their feet have horns, so in line with the devil are they.

Ahem.

Well, here’s some nicer guys and one Pokemon:

10-birdie 12-axolotl 11-lizard13-baldeagle 14-wolves 15-gorilla

Enough zoology, we’re here to visit the home of someone very special, but I can’t remember who. Let’s look for hints in the hotel I’m staying in:

Guitar PoolThey can’t build straight pools.

Vegas WallThey don’t have an appreciation of geography.

Elvis WallAnd they’re a bit obsessed with this guy. The TV had not one, but three separate channels dedicated to Elvis films. All Elvis, all the time. Even Harum Scarum. Elvis Presley also dabbled in music, for which he gained a modicum of popularity.

Across the road from the hotel is the surprisingly not-as-ostentatious-as-expected Graceland, Elvis’ home for most of his life:

Graceland and Bertie Now, at last, complete with Bertie.

(Before going to Graceland you have to through a quick security check. When Bertie isn’t posing like a fly mofo, he stays in my bag with my camera. The lady who was checking my bag jumped back in fright because she thought I had a dead dog in there. Two questions: (1) do I look like a guy who would carry a dead dog with him? (2) What the hell kind of people come to Graceland?)

And a living room that’s actually pretty nice—though is that a bust of Elvis between the two armchairs?

Graceland Living RoomAs I tour Elvis’ house it strikes me how it is, comparatively, quite simple. Like most of us, he has a den with three TVs, record players, mirrored ceiling and soulless albino monkey statue:

Graceland DenAlthough perhaps not everyone has a pool room. Elvis had his decorated in the style of… he had his decorated.

Graceland Pool RoomThere are carpeted walls because, y’know, the ‘70s.

Carpet WallsAnd perhaps most famously, the Jungle Room, named after Edward Jungle, Elvis’ childhood friend. (I didn’t take notes, okay?)

Jungle RoomWith some pocket change, he also managed to pick up a plane, named after his daughter, Lisa Marie:

Lisa Marie the PlaneApparently one year, upon hearing that Lisa Marie (the daughter) had never seen snow, he took Lisa Marie (the plane) to Colorado so that Lisa Marie (… the plane?) could play in the snow for a few minutes, then they came home.

This, frankly, is what’s wrong with celebrities nowadays. Good old Elvis buys a plane and uses it for snow days. Celebrities today can only spend their time singing about doing things like a Gulfstream (I couldn’t bear to link to the actual song), which, as AMT’s Martin points out, is “unutterably lame”.

But back to Elvis. Now that the King has left the building, portions of it have been modified to give more a museum feel, including showing us the tiny shack where Elvis was born:

Elvis Birth PlaceNothing compared to where he went to school.

After his death, they turned his squash court (also, he had his own personal squash court) into a place to store some of his many, many accolades:

Squash CourtHe had a vast collection of cars too, which I feel can only be summed up by this number that fell out of an episode of Thunderbirds:

Pink CadillacWe leave Elvis’ estate and head into downtown Memphis, passing the Pyramid Arena (because, once again, Memphis is a city in Egypt. And pyramids are primarily known as an Egyptian thing. Do you get it?), and arriving on Beale Street for a quick lunch at the first of B.B. King’s blues clubs.

Beale StreetThe lunch introduces me to the finest deep fried thing so far: deep fried pickle chips. So crunchy, so pickle-y, so deep fried, and since it’s a cucumber, so good for you (I assume).

It’s time to head on south into Mississippi. Is there anything that can succinctly summarise all the wonderful things I’ve seen in Memphis?

Panda ElvisThank you, Internet.

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