Elvis Sightings, Jan. 8, 2010

[imgbelt img=elis-closeup530.jpg]It’s a long way from East Tupelo to Germany, Hollywood, the Las Vegas Strip and Hawaii Hawaii. EP was a comet and leaves a glittering trail of images behind.

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“A country is the things it wants to see…”
Robert Pinsky, from “An Explanation of America”

And so our country is this

Elvis Presley would be 75 today if he’d survived, been born in another country, maybe. He might have gone on Broadway and taken up songwriting. He might have retired from truck-driving with a pension or never left Tupelo, where he came into America and the world 30 minutes after his stillborn twin.

Our country would like to see Elvis’s stillborn twin, but it’s too late for that. We’d like to see Elvis’s bedroom at Graceland, but you can’t. “The second floor was always his private residence,” says a voice in the headset you’re given on the tour. “It remains private today.” Which makes you want to see it more.

Our country wanted to see a poor boy from rural Mississippi become “the King.” And some people did see that, a little family moving from the country to public housing to a doctor’s “mansion” in Memphis with four Cadillacs outside and gates sprinkled with metal musical notes.

Today, you can go to Tupelo and visit the two-room shotgun house that Presley’s dad Vernon built before the twins arrived. Do you want to see that? Or the Tupelo Garment Plant where Elvis’s mother Gladys worked for $2 a day (twelve hours). Is it still there?

These days we’ll keep our seats, even squirm, seeing 23-year-old Elvis weighed on a scale and inducted. Isn’t watching “the King” swear an oath and carry an Army-issue duffle bag strange? Too much like any other young man (or woman, now) from the country. Do we want to see Elvis setting up a tent, reading his mail in a German field station and hear him talk about eating C-rations?

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