Total Perspective Vortex
What really happened to Trillian? Theories abound, but you can see what she's really been up to on this blog. If you're looking for white mice, depressed robots, or the occasional Pan Galactic Gargleblaster you might be better served here:

Otherwise, hello, and welcome.
Mail Trillian here<

Trillian McMillian
Trillian McMillian
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Women, The Internet and You: Tips for Men Who Use Online Dating Sites
Part I, Your Profile and Email

Part II, Selecting a Potential Date

Part III, Your First Date!

Part IV, After the First Date. Now What?

"50 First Dates"

Don't just sit there angry and ranting, do something constructive.
In the words of Patti Smith (all hail Sister Patti): People have the power.
Contact your elected officials.

Don't be passive = get involved = make a difference.
Find Federal Officials
Enter ZIP Code:

or Search by State

Find State Officials
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or Search by State

Contact The Media
Enter ZIP Code:

or Search by State

Words are cool.
The English language is complex, stupid, illogical, confounding, brilliant, beautiful, and fascinating.
Every now and then a word presents itself that typifies all the maddeningly gorgeousness of language. They're the words that give you pause for thought. "Who came up with that word? That's an interesting string of letters." Their beauty doesn't lie in their definition (although that can play a role). It's also not in their onomatopoeia, though that, too, can play a role. Their beauty is in the way their letters combine - the visual poetry of words - and/or the way they sound when spoken. We talk a lot about music we like to hear and art we like to see, so let's all hail the unsung heroes of communication, poetry and life: Words.
Here are some I like. (Not because of their definition.)



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11/17/13 12/1/13 - 12/8/13 12/15/13 - 12/22/13 12/29/13 - 1/5/14 6/29/14 - 7/6/14 9/14/14 - 9/21/14 9/21/14 - 9/28/14 10/12/14 - 10/19/14 11/23/14 - 11/30/14 12/7/14 - 12/14/14 12/28/14 - 1/4/15 1/25/15 - 2/1/15 2/8/15 - 2/15/15 2/22/15 - 3/1/15 3/8/15 - 3/15/15 3/15/15 - 3/22/15 3/22/15 - 3/29/15 4/12/15 - 4/19/15 4/19/15 - 4/26/15 5/3/15 - 5/10/15 5/17/15 - 5/24/15 5/24/15 - 5/31/15 6/14/15 - 6/21/15 6/28/15 - 7/5/15 7/5/15 - 7/12/15 7/19/15 - 7/26/15 8/16/15 - 8/23/15 11/6/16 - 11/13/16 6/24/18 - 7/1/18

Highlights from the Archives. Some favorite Trillian moments.

Void, Of Course: Eliminating Expectations and Emotions for a Better Way of Life

200i: iPodyssey

Macs Are from Venus, Windows is from Mars Can a relationship survive across platform barriers?
Jerking Off

Get A Job

Office Church Ladies: A Fieldguide

'Cause I'm a Blonde

True? Honestly? I think not.

A Good Day AND Funyuns?

The Easter Boy

Relationship in the Dumpster

Wedding Dress 4 Sale, Never Worn

Got Friends? Are You Sure? Take This Test

What About Class? Take This Test

A Long Time Ago, in a Galaxy Far Far Away, There Was a Really Bad Movie

May Your Alchemical Process be Complete. Rob Roy Recipe

Good Thing She's Not in a Good Mood Very Often (We Knew it Wouldn't Last)

What Do I Have to Do to Put You in this Car Today?

Of Mice and Me (Killer Cat Strikes in Local Woman's Apartment)

Trillian: The Musical (The Holiday Special)

LA Woman (I Love (Hate) LA)

It is my Cultureth
...and it would suit-eth me kindly to speak-eth in such mannered tongue


It's a Little Bit Me, It's a Little Bit You
Blogging a Legacy for Future Generations

Parents Visiting? Use Trillian's Mantra!

Ghosts of Christmas Past: Mod Hair Ken

Caught Blogging by Mom, Boss or Other

2003 Holiday Sho-Lo/Mullet Awards

Crullers, The Beer Store and Other Saintly Places

Come on Out of that Doghouse! It's a Sunshine Day!

"...I had no idea our CEO is actually Paula Abdul in disguise."

Lap Dance of the Cripple

Of Muppets and American Idols
"I said happier place, not crappier place!"

Finally Off Crutches, Trillian is Emancipated

Payless? Trillian? Shoe Confessions

Reality Wednesday: Extremely Local Pub

Reality Wednesday: Backstage Staging Zone (The Sweater Blog)

The Night Secret Agent Man Shot My Dad

To Dream the Impossible Dream: The Office Karaoke Party

Trillian Flies Economy Class (Prisoner, Cell Block H)

Trillian Visits the Village of the Damned, Takes Drugs, Becomes Delusional and Blogs Her Brains Out

Trillian's Parents are Powerless

Striptease for Spiders: A PETA Charity Event (People for the Ethical Treatment of Arachnids)

What's Up with Trillian and the Richard Branson Worship?

"Screw the French and their politics, give me their cheese!"

Mail Trillian here

Trillian's Guide to the Galaxy gives 5 stars to these places in the Universe:
So much more than fun with fonts, this is a daily dose of visual poetry set against a backdrop of historical trivia. (C'mon, how can you not love a site that notes Wolfman Jack's birthday?!)


Alliance for the Great Lakes

Hot, so cool, so cool we're hot.

Ig Nobel Awards

And you think YOU have the worst bridesmaid dress?

Coolest Jewelry in the Universe here (trust Trillian, she knows)

Red Tango

If your boss is an idiot, click here.

Evil Cat Full of Loathing.

Wildlife Works

Detroit Cobras

The Beachwood Reporter is better than not all, but most sex.

Hey! Why not check out some great art and illustration while you're here? Please? It won't hurt and it's free.


Kii Arens

Tim Biskup

Jeff Soto


Get Fuzzy Now!
If you're not getting fuzzy, you should be. All hail Darby Conley. Yes, he's part of the Syndicate. But he's cool.

Who or what is HWNMNBS: (He Whose Name Must Not Be Spoken) Trillian's ex-fiancé. "Issues? What issues?"

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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Reading blogs at work? Click to escape to a suitable site!

Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Smart Girls
(A Trillian de-composition, to the tune of Mamas, Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys)

Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
Don’t let them do puzzles and read lots of books
Make ‘em be strippers and dancers and such
Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
They’ll never find men and they’re always alone
Even though men claim they want brains

Smart girls ain’t easy to love and they’re above playing games
And they’d rather read a book than subvert themselves
Kafka, Beethoven and foreign movies
And each night alone with her cat
And they won’t understand her and she won’t die young
She’ll probably just wither away

Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
Don’t let them do puzzles and read lots of books
Make ‘em be strippers and dancers and such
Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
They’ll never find men and they’re always alone
Even though men claim they want brains

A smart girl loves creaky old libraries and lively debates
Exploring the world and art and witty reparteé
Men who don’t know her won’t like her and those who do
Sometimes won’t know how to take her
She’s rarely wrong but in desperation will play dumb
Because men hate that she’s always right

Mama don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
Don’t let them do puzzles and read lots of books
Make ‘em be strippers and dancers and such
Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be smart girls
They’ll never find men and they’re always alone
Even though men claim they want brains

Life(?) of Trillian

Thursday, September 20, 2007  
C'est la Viva Las Vegas

Goin' to Graceland
It's gonna be great!
I'm so happy I just can't wait!

I am now another statistic. 1 of ~600,000 per year. I knew it would happen one day. It was only a matter of time.

I did it. I finally did it. I’ve been musing, threatening, and sometimes (mildly) yearning, to go to Graceland for a lot of years. And now the deed is done.

I had no expectations other than a laugh and the right to say I’ve done it.

But in true form I came away from the experience with something I didn’t predict. Nothing profound or original, but something unexpected. Especially from Graceland.

Before I share my Graceland experience, let me state loudly and clearly for the record: I like early Elvis®. I respect and admire what he did, the ground he broke and the way he did it. King? I don’t agree with that. Any kind of monarchy in rock and roll is wrong. But. I’ll go with original innovator, perhaps even father of rock and roll. What he did with and for music in those early years is indisputable. 50 years after the initial recording, That’s All Right still scratches an itch like no other song can. And if you’re not weepy mid-way through Love Me Tender there’s something emotionally missing in your life.

But. Then success happened. The spoils of victory and an apparent lack of self respect combined with an addictive personality and questionable management. The mighty fell. Hard. And became a joke. And took a lot of pills. And died.

Apart from getting misty eyed listening to Love Me Tender my emotional attachments to Elvis® are minimal. And they have little to do with Elvis® and more to do with my dad. No, no, my dad is far from an Elvis® “fan.” But, throughout my life (to this day) there have been peaceful suburban Saturday afternoons jolted into raucous spontaneous dance parties by my father dropping the needle on an Elvis® record signaling the beginning of Saturday night. Sometimes my dad just gets the urge to shake it up a la Elvis®. And really, who doesn’t? My emotional Elvis® attachments are of my dad picking me up and twirling me around the living room to the beat of Don’t Be Cruel. As far as I’m concerned it has nothing to do with Elvis®. What I feel is all about my dad goofing around and dancing with me. Elvis® just happens to be the catalyst. I don’t hold Elvis® aloft at a higher status than the rest of us mere mortals and I attach no emotional significance to him personally.

Consequently when I found out business was taking me to Memphis Graceland wasn’t exactly the first thing on my mind. I was so wrapped up in the details of my business trip that I forgot about the significance of Memphis for reasons other than my work. It wasn’t until a client suggested we go to Graceland that it all clicked in my mind. “Oh yeah, Graceland. Oh! Graceland! I’m gonna go to Graceland!”

And that’s where it all began, my trip to Graceland.

For reasons I cannot explain there’s some part of me that wants to see Graceland.

Like most non-Elvis® fans I have a mocking interest in Graceland. You gotta go, right? You have to go for the pure mockery of the whole thing. You just have to go. It’s on many “before I die I want to see...” lists and has been the goal of many road trips where the destination bears little significance to the journey. To wit, the night prior to my departure a friend toasted me with: “The journey of thousand laughs on a Graceland tour begins with one shot (of vodka).” Also like most non-Elvis® fans, I have just enough respect for his early work to shell out the money for the tour. I don’t feel quite so bad about spending the money touring the place if I justify it with, “hey, Love Me Tender is a great song...” I’ve never bought an Elvis® recording. I didn’t have to - along with the myriad other musicians, albums, singles, tapes which were always around the house, my parents, my older siblings, cousins, geeze, I think even my grandmother had an Elvis® Christmas album - Elvis recordings were available to me. After listening to them all these years paying for tour Graceland seems like the right thing to do. I should contribute something to Elvis®, right? Some tithe for all the times I’ve heard and enjoyed an Elvis® song seems fair. Okay, well, you’re right about the estate not needing any more money, and right about me not being much of a fan and consequently getting minimal enjoyment from Elvis® recordings, but at the very least I owe Elvis® a little financial compensation for all the times I’ve laughed along with the Dead Milkmen shouting Going to Graceland at the top of my lungs.

See what I mean? Graceland is so woven into the tapestry of our Western lives that it’s not just the epitome of our zeitgeist, it defines it. The Dead Milkmen and Paul Simon wrote popular songs specifically about road trips to Graceland. Alice Cooper, Merle Haggard, Richard Thompson have songs about Graceland.**

It’s Elvis® but it’s also beyond Elvis®. It’s a marketing business model. It’s a global cultural cosm of sociological behavioral study. It’s just, well, it just is Graceland.

And I was going. I was going to Graceland.

It is sad that for all his early greatness, for all he did for modern music, that he is reduced to a megamillion dollar marketing scheme. But hey, when in America, live like an American. Market, spend, get bored, throw away, rinse, lather, repeat.

Yes. I am jaded and cynical. Yes. When I learned I was going to Graceland there was a permanent sardonic smirk affixed to my face. Every time I said, “I’m going to Graceland” the smirk would turn to a wince, then I’d guffaw, laugh and the sardonicism would return to a smirk. I was taking the whole thing seriously, very seriously. I don’t mess around with mockery, I take my mockery very seriously.

And now I know that’s the problem with Graceland. For us non-Elvis® fans it’s difficult, if not impossible, to take Graceland seriously as anything other than a really good joke. And Elvis®, the man, gets lost in that joke.

And I mean really, in fairness to us non-Elvis® fans, it’s very, very difficult to take any man who wears a jumpsuit seriously. We might have been able to get past the horrendous movies, it was the ‘60s, after all, and we might have been able to get past the mutton chops, it was the ‘70s, after all, but a jumpsuit? I mean c’mon, that’s asking a lot.

But in the end the joke’s on us. We’re the ones who pay the money for the tour. We’re the ones who are willing to fork over hard earned money for the right to gawk and mock and say, “yep, I went, I saw Graceland and oh my goodness what a riot.” And Robert Sillerman is $10 - $68 per visitor wealthier. Better Graceland than American Idol, but I'd feel better if Lisa Marie were getting the tourist dollars instead of the bazillion dollar corporation behind American Idol. Oh well. C'est la viva Las Vegas.

Who’s laughing now?

Well, for one, me. I’m laughing. Still. At Graceland and at myself.

I got off “easy.” I had clients who wanted to go to Graceland. So I procured advance V.I.P. tour passes on my company’s dime. Hey, if you’re gonna go, go big, go all the way. Especially if you can legitimately pass it off as a business expense. (And here’s where I have to say: This perk almost makes up for some of the crap I’ve endured at work in the past year. Almost.)

I know the clients quite well so I was comfortable with their level of enthusiasm and mockery of the whole thing. So when I got to Memphis I headed straight for the first Elvis® shop I could find (like shooting fish in a barrel in Memphis) and bought Elvis® t-shirts.

Hey, hey, rock and roll.

We planned to go in the afternoon, after our meetings concluded. We were going to leave the meetings, change into our Going to Graceland outfits and, well, go to Graceland.

Unfortunately our last meeting went into double overtime. A few issues arose. There was a long winded question and answer session. All the while us Graceland goers were shifting uncomfortably in our chairs, passing furtive concerned glances at each other, checking our watches, fidgeting, and in one case (who shall remain nameless, ahem), doodling caricatures of Elvis® and peanut butter and banana sandwiches.

When the meeting finally wrapped up we were like children released early on the last day of school. Business schmusiness, we’re going to Graceland!!!

Going to Graceland, going to Graceland, going to Graceland!

We'll get to make some cheap jokes
And buy cheaper souvenirs
If this were Disneyworld
I'd buy a pair of Elvis ears

We donned our Elvis® shirts, comfortable walking shoes and made sure we had spare batteries for the cameras. I secured directions to Graceland from the concierge. One of my clients acted as navigator. “Right on Third! Watch out for the school kids! Left on Winchester! Right! Right! Elvis® Presley Boulevard! Turn right here! We’re here! We’re here! Get in front of that tour bus! Cut him off! We don’t want to get stuck behind those senior citizens!”

Okay, so, like all good tourist traps, you don’t actually just drive through the gates and up to Graceland. You have to navigate a mammoth parking lot with car, truck and tour bus parking areas, then make your way through a bunch of gift shops, an ice cream parlor, vendors hawking commemorative photos, caricature drawings (hey! maybe a new career!), and your name and Elvis’® spelled out in real gold before you even get to the visitor center. If The Amazing Race people really want to give the contestants a real challenge they should just drop them at the Memphis airport and challenge them to get to the actual front door of Graceland before closing time.

And yes, yes, of course the gift shops are important. Heck, really, in terms of Graceland that’s as important as the site itself. Marketing, baby. Like a Turkish bizarre they flock from all over the world to be teased and tempted by goods found nowhere else on earth. But when you’re running late and you just want to see the Jungle Room, snow globes, shot glasses and Love Me Tender underpants can wait.

And then there are the teaming throngs of tourists. The masses of gawkers, mockers and loyal fans on their pilgrimage. Thousands of them. Every age, color, nationality, language, religion, political inclination, social and cultural status is represented. Young leather clad and scarily pierced hardcore punks mingle with double-knit pant suited middle aged church ladies. Japanese teenagers in über cool garb rub shoulders with Pakistani Elvis® impersonators. French businessmen in really nice suits make way for young entwined cooing smitten couples. Senior citizens, pre-schoolers, high school bands, and the day I was there, a Russian rugby team.

It is a small world, after all.

Fortunately the advance V.I.P. passes carry some clout. If you’re going to Graceland to be a tourist but can’t stand being with other tourists, I highly recommend procuring advance V.I.P. passes. I was told this is how all the rock stars see Graceland. I’m not sure I believe Bono doesn’t get a private tour, but hey, the first thing I learned about Graceland is that they take V.I.P. status seriously.

While the minions throng and wait in line for their tickets, us V.I.P.s go straight to a special, calm check-in desk. There we were given special fancy tickets and even more special fancy V.I.P. “backstage pass” type badges to dangle around our necks. You know, like V.I.P.s at concerts. Rock on. Despite the silliness of the badge, especially hanging against our Elvis® t-shirts, we dutifully donned our passes. We all wore them, like a badge of honor, throughout our stay at Graceland.

Hey, when in Rome. And you know, really, if you’re going to go to Graceland, why not just throw yourself into the spirit of the whole thing? It’s an all or nothing adventure. If you’re going to do it, do it right, do it all, embrace the experience.

We were escorted to a special V.I.P. coach, a large van, a cushy comfy transport vehicle to take us across the street and through the gates and into the promised land of Graceland. Unfortunately because we were so pressed for time we didn’t get to stop at the gates for photo ops.

We were on a mission. Jungle Room or bust.

That’s when it hit me: The tour guides, at least the tour guides on the V.I.P. tour, are really, really nice. They’re proud of Graceland and thankful and respectful of the visitors and it shows. They’re just really nice. As in almost weirdly nice. I know, I know, Southern hospitality and all that. But still, really, really nice. Maybe it was our Elvis® t-shirts. Maybe they assumed we were huge fans and they were being extra nice to us.

Which made me feel bad. Because I wasn’t there for the “right” reasons. I assumed they assumed that because we paid the money for the V.I.P. tour and wore Elvis shirts we were all respectful, adoring, reverent fans on a pilgrimage worthy of their warm hospitality. But I, we, weren’t there as loyal, caring fans. We were there in our ironic t-shirts to mock the place, see how bad it really is, and cross off an item from my “before I die...” list.

I was: Disingenuous. And the super nice guides made me feel ashamed and bad about my intentions. I don’t deserve this tour, I don’t deserve to be here, I don’t deserve to be treated so well by the tour guides. In short, I don’t deserve their respect. With so many true, respectful fans in the world who would love to be in my place, I felt bad. Really bad. I began to regret the whole thing. I had to either conjure up some respect and reverence for Elvis®, pronto, or at least get my mind in a place to fake it really well because these people are sincere and nice and it’s just wrong to mock that which they hold dear. (And in the case of the tour guides, that which pays their salary.)

Heretofore I thought most people who go to Graceland are going for the same reasons I wanted to go: Mockery. Curiosity. A quest. I mean, do you know anyone who wants to go to Graceland to pay respect to Elvis®? Even the Elvis® fans I know don’t take Graceland seriously - they’re all about the music, not the weirdness or merchandising. In my defense, I couldn’t have known there are so many people who take Graceland, and Elvis®, so reverently. And there I was in a cushy comfy V.I.P. tour van driving up to Graceland with two very enthused and nice tour guides pointing out all sorts of insider Elvis® trivia. As if we cared. I pretended to be in rapt attention out of respect for the super nice tour guide.

Life is funny.

Lessons in humility are taught when and where you least expect it.

One for the money, two for the show...

As we glided up the driveway Graceland came into view. There, looming in front of us, perched on the crest of a hill flanked by large trees, was a nice but modest sized home. I’ve seen photos, of course, but somehow I never grasped the scale of the place. It’s small. I wasn’t disappointed, but I was surprised. Kind of like going to the Alamo. And like the Alamo, my first reaction was, “That’s it?” I’m not kidding, it reminded me of the houses in my hometown. Nice but modest suburban homes of the ‘50s and ‘60s. Nice, pleasant, but nothing special and nothing huge, certainly nothing ostentatious.

Because we were V.I.P.s we had a special window of opportunity to view the front of the house on our own, in privacy, for a few minutes before the next tour started. Again - no lines, no one else but us. Just us taking in the modest size of Graceland.

The tour guide lined us up, placed us on the perfect Kodak picture spot, and snapped photos for us on our cameras. As a group and as individuals.

After the photoshoot I made a disturbing discovery. I’m not a Graceland scholar. I read the news releases when Lisa Marie sold most of her shares of the place because I was interested in the business and marketing aspects, but beyond that I haven’t kept up with Graceland news. So I was more than a little surprised to learn that, along with the Alamo, the White House, Mt. Vernon and Monticello, Graceland is a National Historic Landmark. The honor was bestowed in 2006.

Erm. Seriously. You know I rarely, if ever, use this, but if ever anything deserved it, it’s this: WTF???

Are we that hard up for historic landmarks that we’re scraping the murky bottom of the barrel? A pop-culture phenomenon? Yes. A merchandising mecca? Yes. A megamillion dollar licensed trademark business model? Yes. But a National Historic Landmark? Huh? What’s next for the historic landmark crew, the Mystery Spot?

Our tour guide proudly pointed out the designation. She was beaming like a soccer mom over her child scoring a winning goal. There was no hiding my surprise and concern over the state of the nation. Graceland is a National Historic Landmark? What does this say about us as a country, as a society? Speak for yourself, Historic Landmark voting committee, Graceland's cool and everything, but historic? Hardly. I should have known I was in for it, this should have been my first clue that what I was about to witness was more than the mirth and mockery I thought was the whole point of going to Graceland.

Then we were ushered to the front door. The front door of Graceland.

Upon entering the house I was once again surprised at the scale of the place. It really is very much like houses in my hometown. Formal living room on the right, formal dining room on the left, both “normal” suburban house sized. And, even more surprisingly to me, tastefully appointed. I mean, considering it was the ‘70s and assuming it’s decorated the same or similar to how Elvis® had it done, it’s, you know, nice. A little showy, a little mirrory, a little tacky, but what did your parents’ house look like in the ‘70s?

Yes. I’m defending Elvis®. I’m defending Graceland. The front rooms are not at all what I expected. Apart from a blue and yellow stained glass peacock room divider, they’re normal. Formal in a Leave it to Beaver house kind of way. Which made me wonder if Elvis® watched Leave it to Beaver. My clients, my co-V.I.P.s and I mused about that. 2 votes yes, 1 vote no. The nice tour guide laughed but said, “You know, I just don’t know if Elvis® watched Beaver.” I had to hide my giggles at her innocent naughty double entendre. One of my co-V.I.P.s leaned over and whispered, “Oh, I’m quite sure Elvis® saw a Beaver or two.” Which made me laugh out loud. The tour guide seemed unaware. (I hope she was because I don’t want her to think we were laughing at her.)

From there we traipsed down the hall to the back of the house. There is a small, yes, small suite where Elvis’® parents stayed. Their bathroom has the cutest poodle wallpaper you ever did see. But the bathroom is small. The bathroom in my condo is tiny. Teeeeeeeny tiny. Elvis’® parents bathroom appears to be smaller than mine.

I know I’m going on about the diminutive size of Graceland a bit, but really, this is Graceland. This is Elvis®. I mean, if I were suddenly as wealthy as Elvis® I don’t think I’d go for a huge sprawling estate, either. And props to him for staying humble in that regard, but, I can say without a doubt I’d give my parents a comfortable sized bathroom.

And now for Moment of Enlightenment #1. The kitchen. Holy peanut butter and banana sandwiches. It is almost an exact replica of my parents’ kitchen circa ‘78. I had chills. Shivers up my spine. I was immediately transported back to my youth, back to my parents’ kitchen. I fully expected my mother to come around the corner and ask if I wanted to help her make cupcakes. I just stood there lost in a moment of memories of my youth and my mother. Seriously freaky weird. I mean, of all the places to slide back in time and lose yourself in memories the kitchen in Graceland is not exactly the most obvious location. I was pulled out of my memories by my co-V.I.P.s who were nudging me along on the tour. Lots to see, schedule, gotta move along... As I walked away I felt like each step was a year of my life, walking from youth to adulthood with each step away from that kitchen. It felt like I was walking back into my body, that I hadn’t quite been in myself for a few minutes. Thanks Elvis®, thank you very much for that trip back in time. Very, very odd feeling. I’ve never experienced anything like that. But, apart from my personal experience, the kitchen is, well, unimpressive. Modest.

Then we shuffled downstairs. And that’s where the fun begins.

First we gathered in the billiard room. Again, nothing too unusual or grandiose. It looks like a lot of the basements in my friend’s houses when I was growing up in the suburbs. Okay, a little overdone with the fabric tufted ceiling, but my friend’s mother did that to pretty up their basement rec room, too.

And then, oh my goodness then, the TV room. Oh boy. Now this is why you go to Graceland. This is more like it. This is what you expect. A yellow bar with mirrored walls lined with glass shelves full of, well, tacky stuff. Some of those gawdawful blown glass clowns. It’s overwhelming. Glass, mirrors, bright yellow and blue walls and furniture and...the huge lightening bolt mural painted on the wall. I was disappointed there wasn’t a TCB with the lightening bolt, but hey, at least there was a lightening bolt. And, better still, the mural appears to be painted on paneling. You know how really awful old apartments have paneled walls the landlord tried to long ago pretty up by painting but it ends up looking worse than the horrible paneling? Yeah, well, welcome to Graceland.

And this is where the infamous three televisions lined up in a row reside. Those were the days before picture in picture technology. And cable. There were only three networks - well, three which mattered to Elvis®. I’m going to make the presumption that Elvis® wasn’t into PBS. And wasn't Betamax still the new big thing in technology in 1977? This is the first room which I could imagine Elvis. I could almost see him lounging in there, sprawled out on the big blue velveteen sectional couch watching three televisions with drinks and snacks within easy reach on the mirrored cocktail table. If he haunts Graceland this is where he hangs out. TCB, Elvis®, TCB.

Back upstairs and into the mecca, the promised land, the divine purpose of the pilgrimage: The Jungle Room. I can’t fully explain it, and really, it’s all been said thousands of times. I’ll leave it at: It doesn’t disappoint. The Jungle Room delivers the Graceland goods. It’s more than I could have ever imagined. From the green shag carpeted ceiling to the alligator furniture, it’s glorious. Wise men say only fools rush in. But I can’t help falling in love with this room. Elvis® gave us some great records, true, but, he also gave us the Jungle Room. And for that we owe him.

As I stood there trying to take it all in, trying not to miss any detail, I had Moment of Enlightenment #2. It’s a fun room. Tacky, sure, odd, yes, over the top, of course. But, it’s fun. There’s a strong sense of “oh what the heck, why not?! Let’s just go for it!” And as I stood there going over the details it occurred to me that for all his fame and fortune there were obviously problems (look no further than his early and lifestyle related death) and clearly Elvis® had some dark days. Maybe this room, this bizarre ode to wild and crazy kitschy exoticism, was fun for him. Maybe, hopefully, it was a place where he, like the rest of us, would walk in and smile. It’s difficult to remember that before he was an overmerchandised joke he was just a kid from Tupelo. Oddly enough, it was the Jungle Room which reminded me of that. Get past the songs, the tours, the women, the exploits, the jumpsuits, (I know, it’s a lot to get past) he was actually a human being. Okay, a human being with questionable taste, but a person like the rest of us. Money doesn’t buy taste. Or happiness. But money does buy a Jungle Room and I hope the sense of mirth it exudes reflects a spot of happiness in Elvis’® life.

Gone are the Halcyon Days of Youth
Moment of Enlightenment #3 After we got our fill of the Jungle Room we headed out back for the trophy room and racquetball room. On the way we passed by Lisa Marie’s swingset. Which is an exact duplicate of a swingset I had when I was a kid. Okay. Now this is getting a little weird. First the kitchen now this? I mean, c’mon. This is Elvis®. Lisa Marie should have had some really amazing jungle gym and play area. Not a swingset like mine. I mean, nothing wrong with my swingset, I logged a lot of good hours on that thing, but this is Lisa Marie. The King’s daughter. You’d think she’d have a whole carnival in the back yard. I wonder if she attempted to swing so high she would try to defy physics and swing all the way over the top. I wonder if she habitually ran up the slide instead of sliding down it. I wonder if she climbed on top above the swings and flipped off it. I wonder if she broke her nose on the glider. I wonder if Lisa Marie was ever just a normal kid playing on a swingset. I mean, she probably was, but, it’s weird to think she and I share the very same swingset experience.

Onto the Racquetball and Trophy Rooms. By this time we were running short on time. We had to high tail it through the rest of the tour. Lots of gold and platinum records, costumes, guns, bullets, and Elvis’ Army uniform. These buildings are smallish and crammed with memorabilia. And tourists. No V.I.P. status here - everyone’s equal. So into the throng of tourists with self guided tour headsets we went. We stopped only at items of special interest or where there was a break in the crowd. There were several large tour groups clustered around the displays. This made getting through the rooms even more difficult. We were growing impatient with the crowds and wanted to leave. (because we’d become spoiled, pampered V.I.P.s, it went to our heads really quickly)

One of the groups was a group of about 15 mentally disabled adults, many of them appeared to be moderate to severly autistic. They were gazing at different items and wandering around, frequently re-corralled by their two caregivers. They weren’t any more in the way than any other tourists, but some of the meaner tourists, obviously also trying to take it all in in a very short amount of time, were impatient and rude to them. I have a problem with this kind of attitude toward people with disabilities. A big problem.

So I had to fight to keep my temper in check and my mouth shut when a jerk made a rude comment about one of the disabled tourists. I can get real lippy real quickly in that kind of situation even though I know there's no sense trying to embarrass or talk reason to anyone who is rude to disabled people. Letting them make fools of themselves and dig their own graves is a lesson I'm trying to learn, but it's really difficult for me to not rush to the defense of disabled people.

Fortunately one of the caregivers obviously used to dealing with that kind of atrocity responded by trying to herd the group together and into the next room. Which was difficult because the people in the group didn’t have the best communication skills. They weren’t “bad” they were just overwhelmed and having difficulty navigating the room full of shiny stuff and music. Some of them were enthralled with particular items and didn’t want to leave. This caused mini-tantrums which only added to their caregivers’ urgency to get the group moving along to the next room. It’s cramped quarters so under the best of circumstances there will be congestion issues.

We backtracked to get out of the way and make room for the caregivers and other tourists who were rude and annoying and in more of a hurry than we were.

Once we were able to get into the next room what I saw humbled me and made tears well in my eyes.

Moment of Enlightenment #4. There standing in the middle of the walkway, next to a display of early Elvis memorabilia, was one of the mentally disabled guys with his self guided tour headset on, bopping up and down and trying to snap his crippled fingers singing, at the top of his lungs, “hound dog...hound dog...hound dog” He was blissfully oblivious to everything around him. Completely lost in the music, clearly enjoying every beat of it and utterly lost in “his” song, “his” Graceland moment.

I dare you to be touched when you conjure that image. It transcends Elvis®. It’s about music. The pure joy of hearing a favorite song. Singing and dancing along no matter how off key or off tempo, just giving in, letting go and enjoying music. Bliss. Pure heartfelt bliss. Music got through to this guy who is in many ways unreachable. His disability prevents him from communicating at a “normal” level. But music, music got through to him. Music touched his soul.

Behind all the merchandising, all the hype, the glitter, the rumors, the trivia, the jumpsuits, the pills, the ridiculousness of it all, Elvis® was at one time about the music. The bopping around stage, swiveling hips, the snarly lip - he used to feel the music, too. No. I don’t have newfound deeper respect for Elvis®.

But I am grateful for the timing of my visit to Graceland. That guy bopping and singing hound dog reminded me to let go and sing and dance more than I have lately. Sure, I sing and dance horribly. Embarrassingly bad. But so what? Who cares? I love music. I feel music. It’s my one unwavering source of joy and entertainment. If I let myself, if I take the time, I can let go and be swept far, far away in the first few notes of a favorite song. I cut loose and belt out off key renditions of my favorite songs and I’ve been known to dance around in my pajamas. Why don’t I do this more often? I dunno. Work. Bills. Doctor appointments. Errands. Life, I guess.

And then it hit me: That’s what happened to Elvis®, too. Life. Okay, sure, his life was tainted by success whereas mine is tainted by failure, but still, yikes, I don’t want to end up like Elvis®. One day singing and dancing, enjoying the music for the sake of music, the next a washed up joke in a jumpsuit keeled over the toilet dead.

It wasn’t just me. My clients were touched by the hound dogging guy, too. A path cleared and we went on our way. Once we were out in the bright late afternoon sun we snapped out of our sentimentality and forged on to conclude our tour. We made Elvis® jokes and mused about what we’d like to buy in the gift shop. And tried to find a restroom. If you’re going to Graceland be sure to use the restroom at the visitor’s center before you head across the street to Graceland. That’s all I’m going to say about that.

There was a huge line. HUGE line wrapping around the side of the house. Our V.I.P. tour guide led us past the line and behind the crowd. I wasn’t exactly sure what we were going to see.

I forgot, in the moment, that Elvis® is buried at Graceland.

Ahhh. So that explains the somber crowd of mournful fans lined up across the lawn. Again, I felt unworthy of the special treatment. I’m not sorrowful like them. I don’t miss Elvis®. I don’t feel much of anything about or for Elvis®. So I don’t deserve to be whisked to the head of the line and placed in front of his grave.

He ate his weight in country ham
Killed on pills and woke in disgraceland

I’ve lost heroes. I’ve lost my share of poets and musicians who touched me deeply with their lyrics and/or music. Sure, they weren’t Elvis. They were just Joe Strummer. Kurt Cobain. Ian Curtis. James Honeyman-Scott. Three of the Ramones. But they’re not exactly lightweights.* And they’re as important to me and “my” generation as Elvis was to his - and, more to the point, they were important to music, rock and roll. Carriers of the torch, leaders of the pack, saviors of faithful, icons of talent and defenders of the genre. But. If their homes were to be opened for tours I don’t think I’d feel compelled to shell out the cash to have a look at where Kurt pulled the trigger or Joe’s heart stopped. I could be wrong, but somehow I just can’t see it happening. There are lots of reasons why.

1) The idea of cashing on their names and death would go against the grain of everything Kurt and Joe wrote and sang about: The dumbing down of society, the spoon forced pabulum of pop-culture. Selling out. Most of their fans would feel that way and would boycott out of respect.
2) They didn’t desperately sell-out their legacy before they tragically died too young.
3) They didn’t make really bad low budget movies.
4) They inspired dozens of legit musicians and left behind legions of fans - not impersonators.
5) They didn’t wear tight rhinestone jumpsuits. Or jumpsuits of any type, for that matter.

But Elvis’® people are different. They are compelled to Graceland. They love Elvis®. They love Graceland. The mourners, the pilgrims, the fans feeling such deep and raw emotion while at Graceland is, well, curious to me. I’m not disrespecting them. Feelings are feelings and I respect their sorrow. People on their knees in reverent prayer. Men with eyes welled with tears. Women with mascara runny tears steaming down their faces. A few choked sobs the only sound in the somber silence in the queue of people lined up toward and around the grave. It’s been 30 years and yet, still, visiting Graceland dredges up all their sorrow and mourning and puts them in a state of grief as if Elvis® died yesterday. I’m hoping it’s cathartic for them, I’m hoping a visit to Graceland will give them closure. But somehow I suspect it won’t. These are diehard fans, loyal fans faithful to their feelings about Elvis®.

I was sad when Kurt died, surprised when Joe Strummer died, I had some bouts of melancholy for a few days but tears were not shed, work did not cease. Life went on. I listened to some of their music in remembrance and that was pretty much the extent of my grief and mourning. I don't mark the passing of their birthdays or deathdays, I don't shed tears when I listen to their music. I don't send flowers to their graves.

Am I a bad fan? Insensitive? Not as loyal and devoted to them and their music as I should be? No.

Jaded? Well, yes.

The average life expectancy of a rock star in the US is 42 years old. European rock stars fare worse with a life expectancy of 35 years old. I suspect the chasm between American and European rock stars can be explained by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards obviously defying odds, living to be senior citizens and skewing the data. The average life expectancy for us non-rock stars is 78 or 79 depending on your gender and lifestyle. This is easy, easy math. Even I can do it. The odds of us outliving our rock star heroes are very good. Unless you’re a post-Brian Jones Rolling Stones fan, you will most likely go through the loss of a musician who touched you, moved you, and entertained you. This is an accepted, expected fact of life.

Basically: We’ve learned to expect the death of rock stars. It’s sad when it happens, but not shocking. Elvis didn’t pave the way with this. Buddy Holly, Brian Jones, Keith Moon, Lynyrd Skynyrd, John Bonham…and so on…by the time Elvis® died we (society) were all used to hearing about “tragic” overdoses, suicides, questionable circumstances and plane crashes.

I will admit that John Lennon was an innovator in rock star death, being shot by a delusional disillusioned fan was beyond what anyone could have predicted or expected. That one was a surprise.

But other than Lennon, it’s reasonable to anticipate the death of our rock heroes. Especially when they’re obviously having issues, problems, in decline. Did Elvis’® fans really not see what was happening to him? Did they really not see all the warning signs? If not they were kidding themselves. By ’77 everyone knew the indicators of substance abuse and destructive behavior. It simply could not have been surprising to anyone who’d observed Elvis® in his last years. Clearly something was very, very wrong in his life, clearly he was having problems. At 42 he looked more like 62. He looked tired, old, washed up and sickly. Which is sad, of course, even tragic, but could anyone really have been surprised by his death? Why the tears? Why the 30 years of mourning? Statistics show, experience teaches us, our rock star heroes are not long term fixtures in our lives.

I don’t understand mourning and crying over Elvis® but I want to understand it. I want to understand what it is about Elvis® that touches them so deeply. But that’s part of the point: I don’t get it so I can’t get it.

And unfortunately the absurdity of the whole thing hit me at the worst possible time. A woman in her ‘60s crossed herself and started counting her rosary, tears streaming down her face. At the same time the man next to me, in his late ‘50s dressed in jeans and a leather jacket and sporting an impressive slicked back salt and pepper pompadour haircut picked up a young child, pointed at the grave and whispered, “Honey, that’s the king, take a good look, it all begins and ends with him.” The little girl blew a kiss to the grave. (Or maybe to her mother waiting on the other side of the fountain.) The praying woman and the graying rocker got to me. But in the wrong way. At least the wrong way in that moment. The ridiculousness of the whole thing got to me and got a fit of giggles.

Well. Not so much giggles as guffaws.

The last thing I want to do is offend anyone, especially people in reverence and grief. Just because I feel little or nothing about Elvis®, just because I see the whole overmerchandised Disney-esque joke side of Graceland doesn't mean I don't respect other peoples' feelings. I wasn't laughing at them, I was laughing at the situation, at the juxtaposition of personalities, feelings and Elvis'® grave. It's a unique kind of weirdness you have to experience to understand. The whole thing is absurd - the Jungle Room is just right over there, mere yards from the Presley "cemetery" for crying out loud. Of course this is a situation where the harder you try to not laugh, the harder your inclination is to laugh. All I could think about was getting out of there, fast, because I didn¹t want to offend the people in mourning, and, more to the point, ridiculous situation or not, I don't want to laugh at someone's grave, even Elvis'®.

Unfortunately there was a huge crowd around the grave and getting away from there, beating a hasty retreat, was next to impossible. I tried to pass off my badly stifled guffaws and choked sobs. I looked at one of my clients who apparently also was on the verge of busting out in laughter because the second they looked at me trying not to laugh they let out a laugh. The dutiful pilgrims looked at us with the "you should be ashamed of yourself" looks. My focus, my mission, was to get the heck out of there ASAP. TCB.

We shouldered and excused ourselves through the crowd and finally, finally got away from the gravesite. After we stopped laughing we returned to the front of the house and waited for our V.I.P. coach. They drove us around back, pointed out more buildings, told more Elvis stories, told us we could get married at Graceland for as little as $550.

And then it was over. The infamous gates swung open and our special air conditioned V.I.P. cushy shuttle bus passed through the gates and back into the real world of gift shops, vending machines, souvenir stamp-a-penny machines, food courts and more gift shops. We're caught in a trap. A tourist trap. I can't walk out because I love you too much. Baby.

My clients dropped a good chunk of money and came away loaded down with Elvis® merchandise. I escaped with tins of mints for some friends, a couple postcards and an Elvis® dashboard statue. No. I do not own a car. My Graceland memories are the only souvinirs I need. My parents' kitchen just like Elvis'® kitchen. Lisa Marie and I sharing the same swingset experience. The happy karma in the Jungle Room. The guy dancing and singing hound dog lost in the joy and delight of hearing a favorite song.

I'd like to think Elvis® would want it that way, that he wouldn't approve of the overmerchanised licensing of his likeness, that he'd want it to be about the music.*** But since I'm not a fan I can't speculate. I can only take the memories of my personal Graceland experience and cross Graceland off my list of places to go before I die.

*As an interesting aside, when I was musing about this, thinking about dead rock stars who mean something to me, Sid Vicious came to mind as the ironic sole "Yeah, I could see the Elvis thing happening" member of the club. Sid's very marketable. A rebel and an icon. Yet in the end a sad but stereotypical joke who, if he could have, probably would have sold out his persona, home and whatever else he could to make some cash for drugs. We can feel mad at Sid for not getting help and kicking the habit, and we can feel "superior" to Sid because we're not junkies too strung out of control to save ourselves. Therefore we can justify mocking him.(Pete Doherty are you listening?) I'd pay $5 for a Sid Vicious snow globe or "Cuz tourists are money" fridge magnet. But $5 for a Clash shot glass or squirt gun with "Come as you Are" stamped on the barrel? I couldn't do it. I couldn't let it happen. (however, you can get a $20 replica of Kurt Cobain here. Don't say I didn't warn you.)

**Alice Cooper's Disgraceland and the Milkmen's Going to Graceland are my personal favorites, depending on my mood it's a toss up to which I'll listen. I like Paul Simon's Graceland, too. I find it an interesting coincidence that three of my favorite artists have songs about the absurdity of a trip to Graceland. I'd like to think there are lots of people who like Paul Simon, Alice Cooper and the Dead Milkmen. It would be super cool if they had a triple billed show in Memphis and all us fans could go to Graceland for the concert and it could be like SXSW and we'd all hang out in Elvis shirts and talk in silly Elvis voices.

***Bubba Ho Tep is a great movie which delves into this very issue. I highly recommend it, cannot say enough good about it.

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