We set out today on the path of Kings. We saw Graceland, of course, and we also spent a couple hours at the National Civil Rights Museum, which is located in the Lorraine Motel, where the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot on April 4, 1968, the day before my sister Colleen was born. I was 18 months old.
I am always surprised to see how much the history has happened within my lifetime. As a child, I was mostly unaware of being born during such a tumultuous time in American history, but I do remember my aunts wearing MIA bracelets for soldiers during the Vietnam War and seeing “colored” bathrooms at worn-down gas stations in the south during family trips.
The Civil Rights Museum gave a detailed look at an important and tumultuous time. The exhibits are extremely text-heavy, however, so come prepared to read…a lot. The room where King died is also preserved here so you can pay your respects, but no photos are allowed anywhere in the building. We did grab a few shots outside however.
We also took a few photos at Tom Lee Park on the Mississippi River. The story of Tom Lee shed a bit of light on the history of race relations. A memorial erected in his honor at the park in 1954 describes him as “a very worthy Negro,” which seems faint praise considering the man risked his own life working singlehandedly through the night to rescue 32 white passengers on a steamship H.D Norman in 1925. A new bronze sculpture installed in 2006 tells the story of his heroism on much more personal terms.
While there, we “enjoyed” a picnic lunch…in 95 degree heat and humidity, all with the view of a pyramid, which we still don’t know the significance of. It was all part of the experience.
By the way, there is no breeze off the mighty Mississippi.
My sister-in-law Cheryl, who has much better taste than me found the décor wanting for the most part, particularly that in the “jungle room.” I found it all charming, and surprisingly comfortable, but perhaps 5 days in a cluttered car are playing tricks on my mind.
What I found rather remarkable is that for a “mansion,” in spite of the decorating style, Graceland was relatively modest. It has 23 rooms, but they were relatively small and include a refinished basement, garage and office space. I didn’t get the square footage, but it didn’t seem bigger than some suburban houses nowadays. Elvis bought the house and its 13 acres of property at 22 years old for just over $100,000. We had fun learning about his life, and I for one left the property with a greater appreciation of the King of Rock and Roll.
We had ribs for dinner on Beale Street at the Blues City Café, where the walls are graced with signed photos of famous patrons, including former President Bill Clinton, Molly Ringwald, Jimmy Kimmel, Cuba Gooding Junior, Bo Diddly, Big Daddy and Lynyrd Skynyrd. On the wall above our table was a Pink Cadillac. On our plates were delicious ribs—falling off the bone. Emmett scarfed them down in ten minutes. We didn’t get a chance to try dry ribs at Rendezvous, since it is closed on Monday.
The kids had also wanted to see Mud Island Park, with its splash-inviting scale model of the Mississippi, but it, too, is closed on Mondays.
We took walk down Beale Street, instead, and enjoyed some live music. But we couldn’t get into Silky O’Sullivans to see his famous beer-drinking goats, as it was Monday and a private party was going on there. We pressed our faces against the wrought iron gates and took a photo anyway.
On our way out, we stopped to see Big Jerry and his blues band play on the street. We bought a CD, and headed back to our cabin in the deep, deep woods. But when we popped it into the CD player, it wouldn’t play.
It was still Monday, after all…