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VOL. 127 | NO. 157 | Monday, August 13, 2012

Embrace Spectacle of Our Most Famous Star

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This may be the best place to talk about something rarely written about at this time of the year – the barrier between those who live in the city of Elvis and those who come to the city of Elvis every August.

We suspect Memphians aren’t that different from others who live in cities that are tourism destinations. They don’t go to the tourist attractions in their own city – such as Graceland – unless they are taking visitors to see the sights.

And it seems few visitors here to see what Memphis has to offer come without at least some curiosity about where Elvis Presley lived.

But let’s talk about the curiosity many Memphians have about the central event of Elvis week – the candlelight vigil. Go ahead, give the idea the public guffaw for the consumption of those around you. Whether you are into the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll or not, you need to experience the vigil at least once.

This is a city that loves a party. The entire month of May is a festival here.

Part of our problem is this is a vigil on the anniversary of someone’s untimely death.

And the first vigils were indeed very somber affairs complete with Elvis fanatics who carried velvet paintings of the entertainer wearing a crown of thorns.

So the vigil isn’t ever going to be as rowdy as say the old St. Patrick’s Day pub crawls on Madison Avenue that peaked in the 1980s.

But don’t some of us complain regularly that Memphis has only one speed when its time to party in public – too much, too soon.

Here is the opportunity to bring it down a notch while sitting in your lawn chair in the middle of a state highway named Elvis Presley Boulevard, light your candle, sing along to “I Can’t Help Falling In Love” and either call it a night, check out the Elvis fans who are checking you out or go up the hill to the Meditation Garden.

Graceland is a kind of Elvis bubble apart from everything around it. Those who come here specifically for Graceland have certainly noticed the contrast.

City leaders have noticed, thus the plan now about to begin at last to fix the streetscape and pull it out of the time warp when the boulevard was still called Bellevue and was a country highway to the city.

The idea is to improve the streetscape for us as well as the visitors, to attract retail for the considerable consumer base that lives in Whitehaven but now has to go elsewhere to spend much of that disposable income.

With that in mind, we think it is time to bring more of Memphis – and Memphians – into the Elvis bubble.

So, the candlelight vigil is the evening of August 15. You will probably get asked if you ever met or knew Elvis. If you want to make like you are a visitor, we won’t tell if you won’t.

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