May 12, 2014
It baffles me why I enjoy having company so much. It wears me out. My feet swell. The utility bill goes up. The food supply goes down. Something gets broken. The cat throws up on the rug. The laundry builds up. Loved ones invite themselves to meals. The refrigerator overflows with good food. The air fills with laughter. Bad jokes happen. Good deeds are done.
Something that wears me out, but that I like to do with company, is take them on a tour of our town that I call “The Three Kings of Memphis.”
A lot of my company prefers daytime entertainment. Most of us, me in particular, have reached the age where nine o’clock is bedtime. B.B. King’s place on Beale Street may not be the greatest food in town but, oh my! it has some GOOD live blues bands on some afternoons. There is a lot of shakin’ happening there with a Hammond organ, guitars, fiddles, horns and, sometimes, bouncing anatomy accompanying a heartfelt rendition of “I Feel Like Breakin’ Up Somebody’s Home.” Add some barbecue and some cold beer or sweet tea and boogie a bit, and you have an afternoon to remember.
Then for a change of pace, there is an opportunity to smile, cry and get mad at the Martin Luther King Civil Rights Museum. I don’t even like to go there anymore, but I do. It is an emotional kick in the butt, reminding me of living in Jackson, Mississippi, in the 1960s. Medger Evers was shot dead. My friend, Donald Thompson, the Unitarian minister, was shot at the back door of the apartment building where his family and my family lived. He had welcomed blacks into his church. He survived, barely. I was offered a job as managing editor of the Jackson Advocate, the black newspaper. I really wanted that job. My friends talked me out of it because I had two small daughters. Folks said I had a fifty-fifty chance of living for the next six months if I took the job. They said my daughters needed me more. We are called “civil rights activists” now. Then, we didn’t have that definition, we just did what we did.
The most anticipated and exhausting of the Three Kings of Memphis tour is pushing and shoving your way through Elvis “the King” Presley’s Graceland home. For anyone over sixty (which is most of my friends) seeing Graceland takes all day. Half a day to wait in line and then be thrilled, amazed and saddened while some celebrity narrates into your ear through headphones and gets nicely interrupted by Elvis singing one of his toe-tappin’ hits. There is the handsomely done hall of gold and platinum records, the jungle room with the tasteless rough wood and jungle patterned upholstered furniture, and of course, an indoor waterfall on one wall. Elvis said he decorated that room himself. Then there is the basement room with three television sets, mirrored walls and a mirrored ceiling. “The King” referred to that as “the passion pit,” I am told. After all that and a look at the totally furnished airplanes and the rather nice automobile collection, it is time for a lunch of Elvis’ favorite grilled peanut butter and banana sandwich. Then the other half of the day is needed for sharing a bottle of Tums and sleeping off a slice of Americana that is unique and is on the “bucket list” of thousands, right up there with the Grand Canyon. In the last thirty-five years, I have been to Graceland more than anyone I know.
I still don’t know why I enjoy having company so much. But I do. The Three Kings of Memphis continue to fascinate me. I have to say that, as the years go by, it is getting nicer and nicer to have house guests who have already had their fill of the Three Kings and enjoy sitting on my back porch and looking off into the woods over a glass of sweet tea. –The End.