Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Birthday to Me, Part 2

Wednesday night, Barb and I had dinner and then saw a play. She, of course, forgot my gift at home. She's done this in the past. I suspect that she hasn't chosen my gift yet, but never mind. I'm seeing her again in a couple weeks. At least this year she was on time. Barb is usually late ... very late. So that was a good sign.

We went to 312. I had the calamari/shrimp appetizer and lasagna for dinner. It was delicious. It was great to catch up, even though much of what she had to say left me sad.

Gooey and certain to not be part of the Thanksgiving menu.
 Her husband is suffering from Stage 3 lung cancer and is going through chemo. She teared up when she told me how one of the doctors warned him that only 25% of patients with his condition make it 5 years, that he can only count on "8 months to 2 years." And that was two months ago.

"He's not even an oncologist!" Barb raged. I asked her what the oncologists did say, and she replied that "they don't talk in those terms." Barb is aware that her husband is not going to be cured, but she says his medical team is devoted to "managing it."

Then she showed me the photos of her new home in Hilton Head. It's still under construction, but will be done early next year. She referred to the guest bedroom as my room, which was sweet of her, and made a point of showing me where my private bathroom will be.

I want to be happy for her. I mean to be happy for her. But as we went through her photos, two thoughts kept running through my mind:

1) I'm so bad with money! She's building a house and furnishing it to order -- complete with a private office,  a gallery room for her paintings and an area for a built-in wine rack -- and I can't afford to finish my own little tiny bathroom.

2) Her husband may not live to move to Hilton Head. He's already unable to fly down there with her to supervise the construction, and she's adding an elevator to the plans because he probably will never again be able to negotiate stairs without being left breathless. The man is dying, and she knows it. Will she really want to live there by herself? It's all unutterably sad.

The play we saw, Finding Neverland, was very appropriate for the night. A very glossy retelling of how Barrie came to write Peter Pan, there was little in it to make us sad. It made it nice that there were so many kids in the theater. Seeing children all duded up for a night out of live performance is always uplifting.

So it was a bittersweet birthday celebration. But I think every encounter with Barb from now on is going to be bittersweet, so I better get used to it.

Random Observations from Graceland

The Cubs don't just belong to me. Naturally I traveled with my wardrobe of Cubs Championship tshirts. I was surprised and happy by how many times I was greeted with, "Cubbies!" I stopped to talk about Game 7 a few times, too. One of the Graceland employees asked for a closer look at one of my shirts and said, "Lemme see. I haven't seen that one before." I admit this surprised me. Everyone seems to love my guys!

Graceland employees love Priscilla. I heard over and over -- from the front desk to the gift shops to the restaurants to the airport shuttle -- how she comes by every few months to make sure they're being "treated right." Everyone who works there seems rather happy, too. I find this fascinating. After all, the woman in charge of Elvis' legacy is not his widow, she's his ex.

Sir Paul is a gentleman. I heard the story the same way three times from three different people: When Paul McCartney played Memphis in 2013, he requested a private tour. He was very respectful and polite, and left a guitar pick on The King's grave so he could "jam in Heaven." OK, so Paul's nice. But, I asked, which celebrity wasn't nice? The woman at the Lisa Marie (Elvis' plane) told me she couldn't divulge, but said darkly, "You'd be surprised."

So, in case you'd like to play, "Guess the Douchebag," here's the official list of celebrities who visited Graceland.

Lord Almighty! I really do love The King.

I sang almost every moment I was in Memphis. No shit. I sing badly, so it was done softly. And in public, it was mostly absent minded, crooning along with the Elvis songs that are piped in everywhere. Really, even at the airport.

Because here's the thing ... yes, it's easy to make fun of the jumpsuits and massive, rhinestone belt buckles. And the peanut butter and banana sandwiches. And the creepy monkeys I just discovered. But he was extravagantly talented and cast a huge shadow over American culture. I was moved by how much he did in his 42 years, and how good he could be (when he wasn't phoning it in).

Official Gold Record for one of my faves.
As a movie lover, I appreciate three of Elvis' early, pre-Army movies. His favorite, I learned, was King Creole. But mine remains Jailhouse Rock. So I was completely tickled to see Elvis' own well-worn copy of the shooting script.

Jailhouse Rock was originally called "Untitled Presley Film"

More of my visit with The King

Last Sunday I ran away to Memphis and stayed at the Guesthouse at Graceland. The hotel was awesome. But it was only the appetizer. Graceland itself is the main course. Here are my favorite shots.

I was fortunate to be there after the Christmas decorations went up. According to Lisa Marie and Priscilla, this reflects how Elvis holidayed up the joint when he was still alive. As soon as you come in, you see the main staircase festooned in poinsettias. 

The yellow rope? No one gets to go upstairs. Not even dignitaries and celebrities that tour Graceland.  Lisa Marie tells us that in life, guests were not welcome upstairs and she's just maintaining that. I suspect it's because The King died upstairs.

How did I know he'd have a white flocked tree?
The TV room

I especially like the creepy monkey dressed as Santa

Santa Creepy Monkey has a Creepy Monkey friend in the Elvis archives. I'd love to ask him about his fascination with these porcelain primates.

This says it all