Memphis Blues


Bette Davis must have been in Memphis when she uttered those famous words:  “What a dump.”  There is no way to sugar coat the neglect and decay that surprised me last month during my first visit to Memphis to see Graceland, Elvis Presley’s estate.  It was on my Bucket List.  There is ONE street in Memphis that is lit up with blues and bars.  That’s it.  Today, bordering the Graceland estate, there are rotting appliance and lotto storefronts with faded “out of business” signs within view of Elvis’ dining room window.  Most of the businesses sport wood where glass used to be.  It reminded me of Clio & Pierson Roads in the Flint, Michigan ghetto.  Yes, “In the Ghetto.”

The business district with its public transportation and it’s unemployed, stumbling with their 40′s clutched in crinkled paper, has assaulted what was once the King of Pop’s safe harbor:   his escape, his peaceful home.

 Since the visit, I’m left with only a before and after. 

BEFORE, Graceland had evoked images to me of an American pastoral with 100 year old sycamore trees, flower gardens, and room to run.  The AFTER leaves me scratching my head.  Graceland’s perimeter stone wall is her only defense against a city that long ago tried to capitalize on her fame.

People still shuffle in from around the world to visit Graceland.  The set up for visitor parking, restrooms, and ticket sales has been mismanaged into a hodgepodge of side show attractions and awkwardness.  There is a collection of misfit souvenir shops stuccoed together to create a discordant strip mall.  Within that mall is a mix of cliche southern BBQ  restaurants.


The Mansion is purposefully dated and preserved just the way Elvis left it in 1977.  It sits on 36 acres with a shooting range, horse corrals and barns, and a pool.  Sadly, the acreage is surrounded by cascades of drooping telephone wires and a forgotten subdivision with 1950′s atomic ranch homes, most in disrepair.  Directly across the five lane busy street from Graceland’s noisy  front gate is Elvis’ auto museum and Elvis’ two jets:  The Lisa Marie and HoundDog 2.  The jets have not weathered well for the past 40 years in the intense, southern sun.   Within walking distance is the Heartbreak Hotel.  It all screams Wisconsin Dells or Gatlinburg, TN main street carnival–after a heartbreak.

One of the things that Priscilla and Lisa Marie excelled at was displaying Elvis’ private collections, gold records, and awards.  His Aloha from Hawaii concert was the first time in television history that a program was seen around the world via satellite.  Many of his recognizable jumpsuits were nicely displayed as well as his wedding tuxedo and Priscilla’s gown. 








He and his parents are buried there and I made sure I sent my thanks skyward for Elvis, his music, and for the opportunity to tour his home.  This writer has been hard on the town of Memphis, but the actual trip to Graceland has redeeming qualities.  It is a small “big home” by today’s standards, but it is beautiful.


My favorite Elvis song you ask?  Hands down, Such a Night.





Borrowed Underwear


I’m curious to find out if he comes home with whitey-tighties or silky boxers.  Just what do our friends in the great north wear under their Mackinaws?  My destitute husband is living in borrowed underwear and outerwear ever since his spike camp burned to the ground in Canada while he was hunting a Lynx.  In a very Theodore Roosevelt kind of way, he has soldiered on.

He and his guide were five hours north of Vancouver, off grid, in the bush, spotting cats and killing time.  Then all hell broke loose.  Over the ridge, in a valley, blue smoke belched skyward.  Their horses spooked.  Nervous energy filled their lungs.  The two men split up.  John stayed in the mountains, glassing sheep and cat hunting, while the guide circled back to camp.  An hour later, the truth came riding back with just a sad look.   Up in smoke went the tales:  his worn Pendleton merino-wool shirt with the shoulder repair after a near miss with a wolverine, the spare boots that saved his life in the arctic circle after he went all Chuck Norris on a polar bear with a roundhouse kick to the jaw, and gone, sadly, is his lucky rabbit’s foot whose luck, obviously, ran out.

So far, as he tells it, he is getting by by the skin of his teeth.  They are trapping their meals and doing everything short of going all “Brokeback Mountain” to stay warm.   He has a smart horse this time, which is about the only good thing that has happened.

There will be no more word from him until Monday, January 4, 2015.



Sugar Momma

Last time he went out, he slept in a cave. So a simple fire should be a piece of cake.

Ever since his wallet filled with identification, cash, and pictures of his wife burned to the ground in an outpost cabin in Canada along with his U.S. Passport, I’ve been making calls to the United States Consulate in Vancouver to figure out how to get my husband back into the States.  I’m kind of thinking about leaving him there, but someone has to take out the garbage on Wednesdays.

What I learned from the agents is that I am married to a man who is technically destitute.  They have a label for people overseas who have lost their passports and money and now John has been labeled destitute.  He doesn’t know this yet.  When he gets out of the bush and heads to the U.S. Consulate in the rental car that (I hope!) is full of gas, he will learn the ugly truth.  He will have to stand in the “destitute” line:  I can’t get enough of that word –and he will figure out real quick who his Sugar Momma is.

Yes, I’m laughing.   In hindsight, he probably should have paid more attention to the American Express slogan, “Never leave home without it.”  Hopefully the outfitter he is with is still feeding him and will probably fill up his car with gas and give him lunch money and tell him not to talk to strangers.   Sugar Momma is working the deal on this end, and somehow, this big swamp buck hunter will get home in one piece.  No fear.

All That Glitters Isn’t Gold

When my husband goes on a hunting trip, we have a deal.  Don’t call home from the bush unless something is wrong.  I’m confident that when my man is dressed in camouflage with pockets full of bullets and his tootsies are flanked in Sorel Conquest boots, that something is going to die.

He left Michigan two days ago.  Today my phone rang, his ID popped up, and my heart sunk.  I answered the phone with one question, “What’s wrong?”

He was out on the mountain range in British Columbia, about five hour’s drive north of Vancouver, hunting a lynx.  His guide noticed blue smoke on the horizon and left John to “go check it out.”  It was a warmer day and he was dressed lightly:  no need for the heavy parkas, the Kelty backpacking frame, or things like money and identification.  They were off grid, catching cats.  In the meantime, John spotted several sheep, a bobcat, and some wild horses.

When the guide returned, his face was ashen.  The entire outpost cabin had burned to the ground.  All they had left were the clothes on their backs and nightfall was coming.  Both men made it back somehow to the outfitter’s homestead in Lilliooet, where they lit a fire and started making calls.

My husband is very resourceful.

He will find clean underwear.

He will find or make all necessary outerwear.   He will come home with a lynx.

As long as he has a firearm and no broken bones, I’m good with it.

Tomorrow I will start calling his not-so-favorite entity: the federal government, to find out how to get him back into the country without a passport, any money, a driver’s license, or a credit card.    I sure hope they don’t look at his Facebook posts or this could be a very long process!



A flood in our basement ruined everything down there because it went undetected for months. (Sadly, having watched too many horror flicks, I made it a point to NEVER EVER go down there or to be THAT chick.)  As a result, all of our Christmas ornaments, my wedding dress, a library filled with children’s books, and lots of toys and clothes in storage smelled like a lumberjack camp with rows of soggy, feet cheesed stockings hanging on a clothesline draped over a hot stove pipe to dry.  No, actually, everything in the basement smelled like a lumberjack’s underbritches, after he strained just a little too hard, hung over a hot stove pipe to dry.

What was salvageable in 2011 was hauled upstairs and chucked into the garage stalls to dry out.  Over time, this created a convenient place to pitch all the stuff that dared to get in our way. 

After closing a couple of businesses and tossing the bones into the second and third garage stalls, we couldn’t park a car in there anymore and, worse, I couldn’t find anything anymore.  The aha moment came in 2014 after watching an episode of Hoarders.  It was just like  looking into a crystal ball.  The woman on TV was me!  She, too, had to wind up like a discus thrower in the Olympics just to put away the hedge trimmers.   We were doomed unless I could find a superhero.     1-800-College Hunks.

When was the last time two men called

you on their way over

to ask if they could stop and bring you

a coffee or some hot breakfast?


It was 20 degrees outside with blowing winds out of the north–and just like the postman’s lore about sleet and snow, my hunks delivered.  They tossed out trash, carted off furniture and furnishings for donation, and filled our black trailer to the top with items to be auctioned.

Tonight, our neighbors in Buffalo, NY got five feet of snow in 24 hours with another three feet expected.  I’m feeling so lucky to have dodged that bullet.  We’ve got about six inches of snow and now our cars are sleeping in the garage, side-by-side, snug as a bug in a rug.  The fact that I won’t need an icebreaker to pry open the driver’s door in the morning…PRICELESS.

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