Lawd Almighty, I Feel My Temperature Risin’…
The middle of August sucks in Tupelo, MS. As does the beginning of January. And this is due to one singular reason.
Now, I’m not knocking the guy’s music. In fact, when I was just a wee little man, I used to dig the King all kinds of ways. I would listen to my mom’s albums over and over again–knowing the words to not just Elvis’s greatest hits (Love Me Tender, Teddy Bear, etc) but super obscure ones as well (Fever, Moody Blue, etc).
Still, appreciation for his singing aside, Tupelo really sucks during those times because it is during those times when Tupelo becomes something it should never, ever, ever, never, ever, ever become. A tourist town.
Being the birthplace of Elvis, and about an hour away from Memphis, we get a large flow of fans from all across the globe of Elvis fanatics who love nothing more than to pontificate for hours on end the true meaning of the King and how many lives he touched. They will jibber and jabber about the first time they saw “Blue Hawaii” and jaw about how their prized possession is a potato chip that, in the right light, looks like Elvis from his 68 Comeback Special. And then, when you think they are finally through with their Elvi-cation, then they love nothing more than to ask you the most insane question they can imagine.
For me, it took place in my friendly neighborhood Wendy’s. Two over-enthused Elvis fans (who had BIKED from Wisconsin–really, who does that), stood there, waiting in line behind me. After finding out that I was a native, they squealed. Really. squealed. Then the wife, without a bit of irony, looked at me and asked a question I’d never forget.
“How has it impacted your life, being from the city Elvis was born in?”
“Elvis Costello was born here?” was my reply. She was less than amused.
I have shared that story a million times with about a million people, and laughed about it even more. I mean–c’mon. How has it impacted my life? A dude that was dead 16 days before I was born?
Funny thing, time is. I passed by the birthplace recently. A little two room shack. Smaller than most gas stations. I looked at it for a second. Suddenly, there was something a little more there, something that the younger, wide-eyed me had always missed.
There was hope of something more.
I saw the place of birth for someone who, for all intents and purposes, helped changed the musical landscape of the world FOREVER. I saw the nothingness that he came from, the down-trodden nature of it all, and wasn’t just reminded of the only claim to fame my city has. It was a reminder that, despite the situation you are presently in, you can always persevere. You can always overcome. You can always become more than what you are.
You can become royalty.
I got back into my car and drove off, looking more towards the future than I had in a while. And I started to sing, “Seven lonely days, and a dozen towns ago, I reached out one night and you were gone…”
Till next time,