Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Three Kings: My Trip to Memphis

A few weeks ago I traveled with my family to Memphis, Tennessee. I had mixed feelings about the trip. I wanted to go to the place where rock and roll was born, but the trip was right after Christmas and I always get stressed out around the holidays. I wanted to go, but I did not want to go. I was conflicted. However, I was committed and so we went. Ultimately I had a great time. And I had a good time because of the three "kings" of Memphis.

Memphis is the home of Elvis, and so we had to go to Graceland. Graceland was the home of Elvis and the site of his death. It is billed as a mansion, but it did not strike me as such. It is a good-sized home with a quirky 70's decor, but there was nothing exceptional about the home or even the grounds. We also visited the Sun Recording Studio. It was at Sun that Rock and Roll was born. Elvis recorded there. Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins were all discovered there. Roy Orbison and Ike Turner recorded there. I felt like I was in a very special place when I stood where Elvis sang "That's Alright" and Johnny Cash sang "Folsom Prison Blues." 

But I was quickly reminded of how people are always looking for idols, for 'kings.' Rock and Roll has become a religion for many people. People like Elvis serve as gods in this secular religion. I was struck by how great it is to love rock and roll music, but to not need it as a source of meaning. I have a different King.

While in Memphis we spent some time on Beale Street. They say that Beale Street is the top tourist destination in Tennessee. I was surprised by this. It is just a few blocks long and lined with night clubs, bars and gift shops. On one end of the street is the home W.C. Handy, on the other there is a statue of Elvis across the street from BB King's Blues Club. BB King serves as the patriarch of Beale Street, the blues scene and all of Memphis. 

BB King, the second "king" of Memphis made me think of the blues. Often people look to other people, to music, to substances for help in solving their problems. Good news for me is that I do not need any of these solutions. There is help. There is an answer.

I did not get to see the third "king." The Lorraine Motel in Memphis was the site of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. I didn't get to see Martin Luther King, but I saw where he gave his life for his cause. There is a museum at that site now. There is also a shrine to Dr. King.

That site gave me courage. I was encouraged to stand for my convictions. To make a difference in the world. To be willing to sacrifice. 

What a trip. I enjoyed it, completely. I may have to go again.

1 comment:

FEC said...

I spent three days in Memphis in 1997, touring Graceland, visiting Beale Street, etc. and saw the traveling Titanic exhibit at the Pyramid downtown. A couple of things struck me during that visit:

1. Graceland was a sad experience, sad to see what Elvis' life had come to mean. It just served as a reminder of what the music world has lost ... such a waste.

2. Going around Memphis which is something like 70 percent African-American, it gave me some insight on what it must feel like to be the minority. Was I scared at any point? Not really but I have a better appreciation for how people must feel being outnumbered. That's why I always tried to look at the individual.

Keep up the good work on the blog, btw.