Tuesday, February 22, 2005

The decision has been made to visit The King. Elvis, that is. Several days ago, I came to the realization that I had not visited my hometown of Memphis, Tennessee, in 15 years. So after careful consideration (and more than one Diet Wild Cherry Pepsi with dark rum), I decided to make a go of it. And I won't be traveling alone -- Hannah is joining me in this adventure.

I believe there is something to be said for going home. As all the pundits say, you "can't really go home" and live there without some adjustments, but it certainly should be fun just to drop in from a different perspective. Atlanta, my current place of residence, and Memphis are quite different cities, even though they belong to the same geographical region. There are parallels, I'm sure...an Alpharetta here is probably a Germantown there, complete with the requisite boutiques, pack-and-ship stores, and nail salons. But I'm certain (through long-term dietary experimentation) that barbecue, for example, is not the same animal there that it is here. It is this kind of drive for advanced knowledge that leads me onward.

And then there is The King. When I left Memphis in 1978, Graceland either was not open to the public or had been open only a short time; but regardless, I have never visited the mansion. I cannot with a clear conscience raise a child who has not witnessed the sheer beauty, grace, and splendor of The Jungle Room, and it is partly for this reason that both Hannah and I are embarking a pilgrimage of this magnitude.

Barbecue is a big factor, and there is perhaps nowhere better on Earth to sample good 'cue than in Memphis. The proper place to eat barbecue is in an establishment which has been open for at least 40 years, boasts gray formica tables with aluminum edges, and smells like a smoky, cleaned-once-in-a-blue-moon pit. If you do not emerge from the restaurant smelling like a pork shoulder yourself, something is wrong. In the days I lived in Memphis, our favorites were Tops Bar-B-Q or the more refined Leonard's. Anyway, if a place looks too clean, we probably won't stop there.

Lastly, there is the river. I remember biking down to the bluff of the Mississippi as the summer days drew to a close, watching old men fishing as the sun went down, and wondering where all those barges and tugs were headed. Even though the Mississippi River is the color of mud, there is nothing quite like it anywhere else in America.

So the planning is underway. When we return, we'll post pictures of some of the places we've seen on the Whole Bean web site. It should be fun, to say the least.