Some people remember where they were the day Kennedy was shot. Me? I know exactly where I was the day that Elvis died. It’s odd because I was never a big Elvis fan. I mean, in the shiny white suit and cape he looked like Batman’s negative. If I had known about Daniel Craig back then, I wouldn’t even be aware there was an Elvis.
But there are things in life that should never change. Gravy goes on biscuits. Elvis goes in Graceland. He’s as much a part of the South as kudzu or socks that leave red mud footprints on the lineoleum. Start messing with the natural order of things and before you know it you have LabraDoodles on every corner.
I was driving across crown to the junior college I would be attending in the fall. Just as I crossed the railroad tracks, which somehow seems appropriate even now, the local radio personality blurted out the news as if it were groundbreaking research concerning self-salting french fries.
“The King is Dead!”
I thought Queen Elizabeth’s mustache waxing had gone poorly. But no. The King had left the building. Somewhere in Tennessee was a pink Cadillac that would never be driven by hands sporting more rings that a store full of Olympic souvenirs.
And thus would begin an era of ghostly sightings in places that Elvis would boldly go where he had never gone before.
Last Saturday marked the anniversary of the day the King found a spot in the great juke box in the sky. And as sure as every summer weekend there’s a vegetable festival somewhere in the South crowning a Squash Queen and a Court of Gourds, there was a midnight vigil in Memphis held by a group of aging debutants humming Love Me Tender and straining to see through the mists of time for a peek of the ghost of He Whose Hips Swivel Like a Twist and Turn Barbie on Speed.
I read that for $27 you could attend an Elvis Gospel breakfast. They also had some book signings. The day I pay to eat breakfast with a man who’s been dead for 32 years, I hope I’m also game enough to hang around for an autograph.
They say there were more Elvis impersonators than stoplights in Memphis last weekend. But there’s only one guy whose loss makes us feel like we’ve checked into permanent rooms at the Heartbreak Hotel.
The King is dead. But we'll see his influence in our lives for many years to come. And that's no ghost story.