Dead Elvis and Live Partying in Memphis (07/26/03)

Last updated 8/4/03                                                                                                                                                     Russian translation here

Hanging with the Raghows

Before describing the actual sights and sounds of Memphis, I would like to thank the Raghow family (old family friends) for their wonderful hospitality and generosity in letting us stay at their place and to Sandeep and Rajeev for showing us around Memphis. I've learned during these travels that it's very nice to occasionally stop and recharge before surging on to the next adventure, and the Raghows made us feel at home in their wonderful house and gave us a chance to recover from our recent travels through Texas. So a big thank you to Raj uncle, Sharan auntie, Sandeep and Rajeev for a great time in Memphis. Now onto the stuff we saw in Memphis...

Graceland -- A memorial to Elvis and Bad Taste

Disclaimer: I am not an Elvis fan. I do not own any Elvis CDs (though I don't think his music is bad or anything), and I am certainly not one of those who think that he was the be all and end all of rock and roll music. So, all accounts that follow should be taken with this bias in mind, and to any Elvis fans out there who are offended by the following account of Graceland: my apologies.

Graceland was Elvis's home from the time he was about 22 years old (he supposedly bought it for $100,000 when he had just started making it big internationally) until his death, and his body (along with those of his parents) are buried in a cemetary on the property (you can go look at the graves -- Daria isn't into that, so we did not). While Elvis certainly had musical abilities and managed to produce many enduring hits, the same cannot be said for his abilities in interior design and decoration. Although certain portions of the home were okay to look at and made sense (all of his Gold/Platinum records in a corridor), others were quite bizzarre (the jungle room) and in seemingly bad taste (the decor in the sitting room, the TV room, ...). Bottom line: given the amount of money the guy had, I think he could've shelled out a couple of bucks for a good interior decorator and given that place some class -- but I guess he was happy with the way it was and all. The bad taste extended to his personal jet (The Lisa Marie shown below), which was outfitted in some of the gaudiest colors I've seen (very ugly shade of purple among others).

Daria got a great kick of my fervent desire to see Graceland and my claims that we should get the whole package tour (Graceland, the planes, the car collection, and "Simply Elvis" - a tribute to The King that was pretty scary since it showcased just how, um, "excited" his fans were about him -- girls fainting and crying about having "touched" the King...). The house itself got pretty boring, but the cars and the Simply Elvis portion of our visit were pretty interesting. I guess if I was a die-hard Elvis fan, seeing the place where he lived would've had more impact and been more interesting. Since I'm not, the museum-like ambience of the car collection and the tribute to Elvis held more interesting tidbits for me. Anyhow, that's enough on Graceland. I guess if you're in Memphis, may as well check it out, and maybe it'll be a bigger event for you than for me.

Partying on Beale Street

Ok, so maybe we didn't really get to "party" on Beale Street, but we got to see a bunch of people who did... Beale Street is to Memphis and Blues what Bourbon Street is to New Orleans and Jazz -- it has historic significance and is now the scene of massive alcohol consumption and street performers. In a little 2x2 block (or thereabouts) region only accessible to pedestrians every other shop was either a Blues bar or a food joint, and there were plenty of smaller stands selling "Big Ass Beers" in oversized plastic cups. A very strong police presence ensured that any rowdy party-goers would be appropriately dealt with, so the area is safe despite (in someway actually due to) the coupious booze and crowds that lined the streets. We didn't hang around Beale Street too long since we were hungry for dinner, and instead headed over to The Rendezvous -- prominently located at the corner of General Washburn Escape Alley and Maggie H. Isabel Street (Daria told me that Microsoft Streets & Trips was unable to find this cross-section, go figure). This is a local dive which, according to Sandeep and Rajeev,  serves up some of the best dry ribs in the area. In an obscure alley next to some hotel, past the dumpsters, one comes across an unassuming sign announcing the place, and upon entering, one would see a wide variety of guns on display behind a glass case on one of the side walls. They have a bar near the entrance, so that those waiting for a table can get some beer (they had wine too!) to whet their appetites for some meat. The ribs were tasty and made even better by the tangy BBQ sauce they had, and the beans and coleslaw served with the ribs were top-notch as well (none of your KFC quality sides at this place). We ended the night by going to a party at Larry's place, where I embarassed myself at a foozeball table before calling it a night.

Mini-Mississippi on Mud Island

  They have a mini mockup of the Mississippi at Mud Island near Memphis. For $5 a carload you too can see a smaller scale version of the entire river from its source (don't remember exactly where this is, Colorado??), to its outlet in the gulf at New Orleans (in the model it empties into a swimming pool complete with little paddle boats and stuff). Pretty nice, but we were there on a hot, humid day (I think Memphis has plenty of these -- the heat I can deal with, but the humidity makes it feel at least 15-20 degrees hotter), which made walking around a little less pleasant.


Graceland in Memphis is The King's (Elvis for the unfamiliar) home and final resting place. It's a testament to the fact that money and a lack of taste (in my opinion) can be a dangerous combination.


Just some general pictures w/ Elvis stuff... the plane was a pretty big one, and he had a little jet too..


Just 2 minor examples of the bad taste I was referring to... I can't believe someone would outfit their home like this, but I guess people have different tastes.


We had the pleasure of staying with the Raghow family shown above (Raj uncle is missing since he was attending a conference on the day of the pic). We also
got to meet some of their friends including Arjun shown above. Once again, we thank the Raghow family for their generous hospitality which was a wonderful blend of traditional Indian and Southern (US) hospitality. We felt completely at ease in their home due to their efforts and we wanted to also thank Rajeev and Sandeep for showing us a good time around Memphis (next time y'all are in the bay area, be sure to look us up -- hopefully we'll get to see Rajeev in Florence this winter).


A 2x2 block area of Beale Street is to Memphis and Blues what Bourbon Street is to New Orleans and Jazz -- places of live music and much partying.... though I think the cop/area ratio of Beale Street is much higher (one was kind enough to take the pictures above, thanks officer)


"The Rendezvous", a local BBQ dive that Rajeev and Sandeep took us to... (the place was pretty nice inside, but on the outside it definitely had the dive thing going in full force)... It was located on the corner of General Washburn Escape Alley and Maggie H. Isabel street (I think if you're located on the corner of an "escape alley" you get automatic dive status) -- for fun, tell your friends to meet you there and see if they ever show up... the last picture was about 5 feet from the door, it was kinda cool that we had to walk past a bunch of dumpsters (from some nearby ritzy hotel) to get to this place ... the directions to get here would be something like: "So you go up main street till you get to the Hilton, then you go to the alley next to the Hilton, past the drunk guy on the left and the dumpsters on the right till you get to the escape alley, and you're pretty much there..." You wouldn't think this place would serve wines by the looks of the outside, or that it would have some *very* tasty dry ribs, but that's why I love going to dives instead of "nice" restaurants... good food, good prices, and "character".


Mud Island has a mini-replica of the Mississippi river that follows it from its source all the way to its sink (don't know the proper terms here) in New Orleans. It is all done to a much smaller scale (I think 1/8 inch is 3 miles or something like that), and is really pretty neat.