Shhhh.... you'll wake the trolley mean, asleep in the shade behind the abandoned lot, hand gripping tight to the shopping trolley full of life's detritus. Memphis went for a nap and not even Elvis Presley week can wake it up. Sultry air hangs thick like velvet, closeting your breath and body, surrounding in a misty embrace. Graceland pulls in nostalgia tourists to the south suburbs. The boundary wall is scrawled with adoration masking proclamations of the self and marks that say "Frank was here in 1997". There are no respects to pay. He is not our hero. Bloated addled gun obsessive wanders mansion bemoaning the rhinestone adorned stage clothes he'll never fit in before dying an icon, an iconic death, an icon, forever. The city centre is a snooze. The intersections are slow and car less. Cars cruise slow, petrol station visits with curlers all in place. Gas pumps and forecourts are all I know. The click of the nozzle and the flush of the gasoline. Juiced prehistoric seashells fresh crisp cut in the air.
The Memphis pyramid is empty. Whose body lies in the centre? The doors are locked, the signs behind the ticket office still advertising Bob Seger, years on. Extra seating rots beneath our feet. They won't let me into the exhibition. Where's my urbex badge? The monorail trickles out to Mud Island, with its museum, amphitheatre, and scale model of the Mississippi. Inside, steamboat replicas and a timeline teach us the history of this little area- gun battles and industry and shipping. Man beats nature, dredges channel and builds.
These faces shall haunt my nightmares tonight. Preened and bouffant hair piled up in curls, faces smoothed to a satin finish with a layer of foundation and false eyelashes. The teeth shine white, and it's nice and wide- but it's false. Grinning automatons drilled by vicarious parents. They've been sent here to destroy us. Foreheads are bulbous premature. Mothers recreating their childhood, or erasing their childhood with a new one, playing with dolls. One day they will leave you, they will all say goodbye. Child beauty queens are not made of porcelain.
"Are you looking for anything in particular?"
"No, we're just having a look around."
Were you looking for a summary? A handy recap in two sentences. Cape Genevieve is the small town. It's fete is packing up, stalls stripped bare down to poles and planks. The tombola ready to come out again next year, cakes tupperwared for later. The fayre hasn't changed for years. It will never change. Mrs Reynolds needs something to keep her out the house. Illinois is just across the Mississippi there, but the ferry is down for repairs. We park by the rusted rolling rail stock on red brown tracks; it doesn't skitterscreech out of here anymore. The white part is being colonised by iron oxide, gradually. Huck Finn passed through here, stopped on the sandy shelf of sand amongst the trees. Now barges glide down, pushed by straining tugs past industrial vats and red brick slow paced St Genevieve, green leafed suburbs leading out to barns and tobacco fields, red white pointed barns a picture postcard. We're just having a look around.
The greaser from the 50s is a walking memorial- Buddy Holly inked onto exposed arms, white wife beater underneath a jet black (dyed) quiff. The face isn't youthful anymore, callused from carousing; now he's sedentary, sedimentary. He fits in here, at Sun Studios, where the tiles fall down around the photos of the Millionaire Quartet and all the other fading glories/legends/whatnot. Does Elvis bestow his magic on the objects he touches? I'm not getting any feelings from this microphone.
These anti-abortion signs are getting me down- the pro choice groups are quiet round here- shouted down by phlegmatic preachers strapping crooked morals to their breastplate like golden coins to buy their way to an absent heaven- they buy billboards to manipulate the simplehearted- clouding complex issues into innocent/evil/murder trichotomy. The road is spooling up behind us, 10,000 miles long. It sprawls out, in front of us, endlessly rolling and twisting until a gravestone blocks the path, 100 feet granite wall with chiselled letters 10 feet high- R.I.P.
Missouri homes are more welcoming, piles of snacks and jesting from the off. An evening of nothing but TV and conversation in the dry St Louis night. The dogs flop around and yowl and beg and entwine us all and we are done and we sleep under a fan forever.