<![CDATA[Art Wheeler Music - Blog]]>Thu, 19 Oct 2017 17:15:06 -0700Weebly<![CDATA[Why Laurel and Hardy Scare Me]]>Thu, 19 Oct 2017 07:00:00 GMThttp://artwheelermusic.net/blog/why-laurel-and-hardy-scare-me
​The best horror films also make us laugh.  Any time you go see a horror film that has a moment where the audience screams, it is always followed with laughs.  Many comedians have made horror/comedy films. Laurel and Hardy went into this territory with their film Oliver the Eighth.
In Oliver the Eighth, Oliver Hardy responds to a newspaper ad from a wealthy widow in search of a husband.  Oliver visits her with Stan Laurel tagging along.  It quickly becomes evident that the widow intends to marry and murder Oliver just like she did to all her previous husbands, who all were named Oliver.  Stan and Ollie end up spending the night at the house but try to stay awake so that the widow doesn’t kill Ollie.  Comedy and tension build as their attempts to stay awake either fail or injure the boys.  Just as the widow is about to kill Ollie, he wakes up from the dream he was having all along. 
 
This is one of the most memorable Laurel and Hardy shorts for me because Mae Busch is truly a scary woman. She shows up in several other Laurel and Hardy shorts but it was years before I saw any of those.  When I first saw those other shorts, I didn’t like here very much because of this film.  She plays a convincing homicidal maniac.  I have finally warmed up to her in those other roles but this one features her at her most frightening.
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<![CDATA[Why Pamelyn Ferdin Scares Me]]>Thu, 12 Oct 2017 07:00:00 GMThttp://artwheelermusic.net/blog/why-pamelyn-ferdin-scares-me
I doubt if very many of you recognize the name Pamelyn Ferdin.  But if you grew up in the 1960’s and 1970’s, you would have seen her in countless television shows.  Younger kids would know her face if they ever watch Brady Bunch reruns.  She was the voice of Lucy Van Pelt in many of the Peanuts movies and specials although she didn’t do the Charlie Brown Christmas Special. She also played a dead girl in a TV movie called Daughter of the Mind.  At the time, this was the scariest movie I had ever seen. 
Early in the film Ray Milland is driving down the road and he comes up on an image of his daughter.  He stops and talks to the ghostly image.  He is convinced it is the ghost of his dead daughter.  One of the freakiest things she says to him is “Oh daddy, I hate being dead!” 
 
There are scenes where he sees her in the bedroom of his house.  There is also a dollhouse in this room. I have a lifelong aversion to dollhouses because of those scenes in this movie.  I’ve also been creeped out by Pamelyn Ferdin because she played the dead girl. 
 
Today when I watch the film, it doesn’t pack the same punch. I think of Ray Milland with Rosey Grier in The Thing With Two Heads and with the frog in Frogs and I laugh.  Seeing Ed Asner, who plays a cop in the movie, takes me out of the story too. Pamelyn Ferdin still gives me chills when she delivers her lines.  When I found out that she did the voice of Lucy in the Peanuts specials, it made those seem a bit scary too.
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<![CDATA[Why Dana Andrews Scares Me]]>Thu, 05 Oct 2017 07:00:00 GMThttp://artwheelermusic.net/blog/why-dana-andrews-scares-me
​A few weeks ago, I saw the film noir classic, Laura for the first time. It is probably the film that Dana Andrews is best known for but I know him better for a handful of science fiction and horror films he made in the 1960’s.  My favorite of these is a British film called The Frozen Dead
The Frozen Dead is, in my opinion, the greatest severed head movie ever made.  Yes, it has Nazis and a mad scientist but the severed head is the real reason to watch this movie.  I was in high school when I saw it for the first time. A local channel ran a Creature Feature late on Friday nights and this was one of the films in their collection.  I saw it for the first time and was hooked.  It tells the story of a German scientist who has frozen Nazis with the intent of bringing them back to life.  His niece and a female friend from school come to visit.  The scientist’s mad assistant chops of the friend’s head because they need a brain for their experiments. They keep the whole head alive in a box on a table in the lab. The head on the table is the whole reason to watch this movie.  The brain of the head is exposed and there are tubes with liquid connected to the head. In most of the scenes where they show the head, it is dimly lit giving each scene an eerie feel.  The head communicates telepathically with the niece but it also speaks the words in a near whisper. The laboratory also has a wall of severed arms that the head can control.  Of course, the Nazis get beat at the end and the niece hooks up with the young scientist who saves the day. The film ends with the couple trying to figure out what to do with the head as it speaks the most memorable line, “Bury me!”
 
Dana Andrews plays the German scientist. He is about a scary as any mad scientist in most movies with mad scientists.  Now the head in the box is scary. Don’t confuse it with the head on the table in The Brain That Wouldn’t Die. That’s another fun scary film but the head isn’t nearly as scary.
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<![CDATA[Our Experience with Epilepsy – The Later Years]]>Thu, 21 Sep 2017 07:00:00 GMThttp://artwheelermusic.net/blog/our-experience-with-epilepsy-the-later-years​I’ve talked about our early experiences with epilepsy in my previous two posts. My wife had no seizures during the time she was pregnant with our three children or any of the time between the pregnancies. About two years after our third child was born, my wife had another seizure. Almost a year later, she had another one. Like every other seizure she has had in her life, these occurred at night. 
I was more prepared for these seizures that the ones before. During both seizures, she screamed before she started convulsing. She also fell out of the bed. My response both times was the same.  I got out of the bed and looked at the clock. I made a mental note of the time because I knew that the doctor would ask how long it lasted. Next, I went over to check on her to make sure that she wasn’t hurting herself. Both times, she knocked over a flimsy table we were using as a night stand. The tables always fell out of the way and luckily the lamp on the table didn’t break. One of the times she fell with her head close enough to the wall that it was hitting as she convulsed so I pulled her away from the wall. Other than that, I left her alone. The first time, I left the room and went to the kitchen. I found our insurance book and started looking for the names of neurologists who were in our insurance network. I also wrote down the start time of the seizure both times and waited for it to stop before I helped her back into bed.  They put her back on medication for several years after the last seizure.
 
She has been off medication and seizure free for several years now. I was more prepared for these seizures that the ones before. During both seizures, she screamed before she started convulsing. She also fell out of the bed. My response both times was the same.  I got out of the bed and looked at the clock. I made a mental note of the time because I knew that the doctor would ask how long it lasted. Next, I went over to check on her to make sure that she wasn’t hurting herself. Both times, she knocked over a flimsy table we were using as a night stand. The tables always fell out of the way and luckily the lamp on the table didn’t break. One of the times she fell with her head close enough to the wall that it was hitting as she convulsed so I pulled her away from the wall. Other than that, I left her alone. The first time, I left the room and went to the kitchen. I found our insurance book and started looking for the names of neurologists who were in our insurance network. I also wrote down the start time of the seizure both times and waited for it to stop before I helped her back into bed.  They put her back on medication for several years after the last seizure.

​She has been off medication and seizure free for several years now.  
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<![CDATA[Our Experience with Epilepsy – The San Antonio Trip]]>Thu, 14 Sep 2017 07:00:00 GMThttp://artwheelermusic.net/blog/our-experience-with-epilepsy-the-san-antonio-trip​I talked my first experience with my wife having seizures in my previous post. She didn’t have any issues until the end of that year as we prepared to visit my mother-in-law in San Antonio.  My wife and I had planned to travel with her brother and his wife to Little Rock, Arkansas on New Year’s Eve. We had booked a flight from there to San Antonio early on New Year’s Day. 
​Our bags were packed before we went to bed the last night we spent at home before the trip. We went to bed relatively early so we would be well rested for the road trip the next day.  That night, my wife had seizures twice. They were not as bad as the first time but they were bad enough to wake me up.  The previous seizure gave me enough experience that I didn’t freak out. At some point between the two seizures, she woke up again and went to the bathroom and I woke up then too. When she came back, she saw our luggage in the floor. She asked me what it was doing there. I told her we were going to visit her mother. She asked me if she lives in San Antonio and I replied yes. I noticed that she was about to get upset. I told her that she had a seizure that night and that whenever that happened, she had trouble remembering things for a short time. I encouraged her to go back to sleep and if she was having any trouble remembering anything the next morning, we would deal with it then.  That seemed to satisfy her.
 
The next morning, she seemed to be doing fine. I thought she might want to go see a doctor before we went on the trip. She thought that they wouldn’t find anything different from the first time and she could just as easily go to the doctor when we got back from the trip. She wanted to see her mom so our travel plans did not change.
 
We drove to Little Rock that day and celebrated New Year’s Eve very early that evening. We needed to get to the airport early because of an early departure time. It didn’t bother me to get in bed early because I really had not gotten much sleep the night before. I got in the bed and was face-up, staring at the ceiling of our hotel room. I closed my eyes after a few seconds but was still awake because I don’t usually sleep on my back.  It seems like it was just a couple of minutes when my wife said, “I don’t feel so good.”  I’m afraid this will be a repeat of the night before.  I asked if she is alright.  She says “Yes, I’ve got some spaghetti and power tools.”  To try and help me remember exactly what she said, I repeated her words to her asking, “Spaghetti and power tools?” She replied confidently, “Yes!” Soon I rolled over and went to sleep. We spent a week in San Antonio and my wife remembers very little about that trip. On our next visit to San Antonio, she would say things like, “We need to go to the Alamo because we’ve never been there before!” or “We need to visit the Riverwalk because we’ve never been there before!” when we did all of that on the first trip.
 
Her doctor put her on medication to control the seizures. She took this medicine until she got pregnant with our first child. They took her off the medication at this point because the effects of the drugs on the child were potentially more dangerous that the effects of a seizure. She remained seizure free until after our third child was just about 2 years old.
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<![CDATA[Johnny and Gina]]>Sat, 09 Sep 2017 14:00:26 GMThttp://artwheelermusic.net/blog/johnny-and-gina
​When I was around 3 and 4 years old, there weren’t very many kids my age in the neighborhood that I could play with without crossing the street.  When I would go outside and play, I had imaginary friends that I told my parents that I was playing with. Johnny and Gina were their names.  My parents have told me that there was another friend that I talked about named Pokel.  I don’t remember Pokel, but I suspect that he was some sort of horse character like Pokey on the Gumby show. I think the only time that Pokel made an appearance in my play was probably once when I had watched Gumby.  When my parents would ask me who I was playing with, I would respond, “My imaginary playmates, Johnny and Gina.”
 
I have memories of doing this but I have no memory of what we exactly did. It seems like one time I went to visit their “house” and knocked on their door, which was actually just the backside of my Aunt Francis’ house which was next to our house.  All our family and friends that lived in the neighborhood knew about Johnny and Gina.  My sister was born when I was 4 and a half years old and she is named Gina.  She is named after my imaginary friend.
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<![CDATA[Our Experience with Epilepsy – Round One]]>Mon, 04 Sep 2017 14:24:36 GMThttp://artwheelermusic.net/blog/our-experience-with-epilepsy-round-one​Let me start out by saying that epilepsy is no laughing matter. It is a serious condition that is hard on the people who live with it and the people that live with them. I don’t share this story because epilepsy is funny. I share it because my reaction to it is funny.
​My wife had seizures as a child up until about 6 or 7.  She outgrew them and didn't have any until sometime in the late 1980s after we were married.  She woke me up in the middle of the night and she was convulsing.  I had been through 1st aid training a few months before this and had been trained on how to deal with someone having a seizure. I did everything wrong.  They train you to roll them on their side to prevent them from choking if they throw up.  I rolled her on her back.  They train you not to try to put anything between their teeth to keep them from biting their tongue. They will usually bite their tongue anyway and you might lose a finger.  I was trying to pry her mouth open.  I got up and called the ambulance service.  We lived in just a few blocks from the ambulance station so I thought they would be able to respond quickly. All the ambulances were out on call.  I told the dispatcher to send someone as soon as they could. She continued to convulse for what seemed like hours but I’m sure it was just a few minutes. Then she stopped and she tensed up. She started breathing heavily and was snorting when she inhaled. Her eyes occasionally opened and they rolled back in her head. This is the point where started thinking that she was possessed by the devil. I have seen too many demon possession movies to be cool while something like this was happening. The lights had been out in our bedroom up to this point. I turned them on at that point to keep any evil spirits lurking around in our bedroom from jumping into my body. At least I would be able to see it when it did happen.
 
After a few minutes of this, her body went limp. I thought she was dead.  I was over her in the bed and screamed her name at her face.  She opened her eyes and stared at me with a look of terror in her face. Her mouth opened and it looked like she was about to scream when suddenly her eyes would close and she went limp again. I screamed at her again and I got the same reaction. Later she told me she remembered this and didn't know who I was.  For some reason, I assumed she was back to normal and that she didn’t need medical attention.  I called the ambulance service and told them not to come.  This probably wasn’t what needed to happen and she did go to the doctor later that day.  I blame my bad decision making on the fact that I had never dealt with this before and was totally exhausted. I got back in bed and about 5 minutes later my alarm clock went off.  It was time to get up and go to work.
 
The fact that I got up with the intention of going to work like nothing had happened that night shows that my thinking was not that clear that morning. At that time, my morning routine was to go to our kitchen and eat breakfast, then shower and get dressed for work. I was at the kitchen table eating a bowl of cereal when my wife came into the kitchen and said, "The bed is just like supper".  I said "What?!?"  She replied, "It's all wet; it's just like supper".  I went and checked the bed and it was wet.  She wet the bed at some point during the seizure. It is not unusual for this to happen when people having seizures.  I was still confused by what she said.  My first thought was that it was some kind in inside joke with her family that she had never told me about before. Although we had dated for a long time and had been married a couple of years, I thought it was possible that there were still some family stories that I had not been told about. 
I went to take my morning shower.  Because we lived in an older house that didn’t have an air vent in the bathroom, I cracked open the bathroom door after my shower to help the room un-fog. While I was drying off, thought about what my wife had said while I was eating breakfast and I yelled into the other room "Hey, I'm just like supper!".  She came in and said "What?!?"  She had no idea what I was talking about.  Obviously when she came into the kitchen earlier, her brain still wasn't firing on all cylinders correctly.  It was working better now and good enough that we could make good decisions like going to see a doctor later that day.  The doctors ran several tests but found nothing that could be treated. She remained seizure-free until several months later as we prepared to go on a trip to visit her mother in San Antonio.
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<![CDATA[Where Were You When Elvis Died?]]>Sat, 26 Aug 2017 14:37:18 GMThttp://artwheelermusic.net/blog/where-were-you-when-elvis-died
​I’ve had many people share with me their story about where they were when they found out that Elvis died.  I’m sure that my story isn’t that much different from a lot of people who live relatively close to Memphis.  Here’s my story.
​My sister and I were in the living room of our house.  I was 15 and my sister was 10. I don’t remember if school had started yet for us that year. I was sitting on the couch and my sister was sitting in the floor in front of the television.  I was reading a book and my sister was watching “The Brady Bunch” on WMC-TV, channel 5 from Memphis. It was mid-afternoon.  They interrupted the show with a story from a local reporter standing in front of Baptist Memorial Hospital in Memphis saying that Elvis had been rushed there earlier in the day.  The report was brief and they went back to showing “The Brady Bunch.” That show was still on when they interrupted it again to report that Elvis was dead. Again, the report was brief.
 
It was the main story on the local news for the next few days.  The Memphis channels had coverage of the crowds at the gates of Graceland.  They also had live coverage of the funeral procession from Graceland to Forrest Hill Cemetery.  I remember watching that as it happened.  I was not a big Elvis fan and no one in my family was upset because he had died.  It was big local news, everyone was giving it a lot of coverage and we only had about 3 channels to watch. It was hard not to watch.
 
Where were you when Elvis died?
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<![CDATA[Elvis Week 2017 - Chaos and Confusion at Graceland]]>Sun, 20 Aug 2017 18:32:25 GMThttp://artwheelermusic.net/blog/elvis-week-2017-chaos-and-confusion-at-graceland
​I was walking back to the entertainment tent at Graceland when I saw 4 people from Brazil.  I was in my Elvis Week element when I started talking to them and asking them about their visit. Only one of them had ever been to Graceland before.  One of the men did most of the talking.  He grabbed at the blue wristband on his arm and said, “I don’t like this.”  I said I didn’t like it either.  The wristband was a “Graceland Property Pass” that gave you access to various areas during Elvis Week.  It was also the only way you could get to the Candlelight Vigil this year. The only way to get this pass was to purchase one of the tour packages. The minimum cost of one of these packages was nearly $30.  This was a significant change for an event that has always been free. It didn’t affect us because we were already planning to tour the house and the new visitor’s center exhibits.  But it was affecting our Brazilian friends because they were spending the week in Memphis for Elvis Week.  They had done the tours and exhibits earlier in the week and had no reason to revisit them.  Each of them purchased an additional $30 ticket just to do the candlelight vigil and they didn’t like it.  These changes came up early in our conversations with most people and without me asking. Change has come to Graceland and the fans don’t like it. 
​My friend Tina was returning with me this year for her fifth consecutive Elvis Week.  Our friend Kay was joining us for her first trip ever to Graceland.  Tina is an avid Elvis fan while Kay was checking of an item from her bucket list.  I had given Kay a rundown of our normal agenda for Elvis Week and she was good with whatever we wanted to do.  She was just along for the show.  Our first stop after getting our Property Passes was at the gift shop.  While I was purchasing a cap and shirt, I saw a guy trying on shirts in the middle of the shop.  This was something I had never seen at Graceland before.  It was new to see someone trying on shirts over their other clothes. Later in the day, I saw someone else doing the same thing in another gift shop.  Both guys appeared to be visitors from foreign countries where I assume doing this would be more commonplace. 
 
It seemed like there were more people international visitors this year than regular.  There were times when it seemed like we were surrounded by non-Americans.  They all had thick accents and many spoke only a minimal amount of English.  We ran into a group from the Netherlands that included 40 people.  There was a group of over 100 Australians that were all dressed in red, white and blue polo shirts.  I think the number of foreigners in the crowd added to the confusion of the day.  In the past, the success of the relied on the fans knowing how things worked and helping new visitors and foreigners. Things have changed enough that the fans don’t know how things are supposed to work.  The employees didn’t know how they were supposed to work either. 
​A great example was when we went to eat at Glady’s Diner.  This restaurant is one of only two at Elvis Presley’s Memphis, the new visitor’s center and museum complex. These two restaurants were not enough to accommodate the number of visitors during Elvis Week.  It took us about an hour to get through the line at the Diner.  An employee tried to direct the crowd into three distinct lines based on what we were going to order.  The lines all merged and the people behind the counter were taking orders for anything and everything.  Chaos was the order of the day.  There was not a good flow for the people through the ordering area. Even the ventilation wasn’t adequate in the cooking area.  Because of this and the crowd, the room was extremely hot as you picked up your food.  There was a constant, greasy cloud in the grill area and the dining area. The dining area didn’t have enough seats to accommodate an Elvis Week crowd. Later in the evening, we heard someone suggest that they could improve the new visitor’s center by dropping a bomb on that new diner.
 
This was the point in the day when I saw my favorite shirts.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture.  An older lady was wearing a red shirt that said, “I Love Elvis”.  It also had a picture of Elvis.  Her husband had a shirt that said, “My wife might love Elvis but she's stuck with me.”

We stopped by the restrooms before we went to get in line for the tour.  There were lines in the new restrooms too.  This had never been an issue in the old facilities.  As I exited the restroom, I struck up a conversation with a guy from New Jersey. He had been to Graceland several times.  He was wearing gold sunglasses, a black Elvis t-shirt and a big, white Elvis Jumpsuit belt.  You rarely see anyone with a full jumpsuit anymore during the candlelight vigil.  There might be some kids and they are usually trying to get money for pictures.  When I told the guy from New Jersey where I was from, he said he would be moving here in six months. When I asked him about it, he said, “Because of the second amendment. You we’ve got to all this stuff that’s so political.  You have to be concerned for your kids”. 
This would be the first brush with politics during the day but wouldn’t be the last.  Last year, they had increased security because of threats from “Black Lives Matter” protesters.  While I hadn’t heard about any threats of protests this year, I understood that part of the reason for charging for the vigil was to make it easier to keep protesters away.  My first real sign that there might be protests was seeing that my Facebook event for the Candlelight Vigil had been shared by a group called “Showing Up for Racial Justice Memphis”. When they shared it, they included this comment:
Such spectacle for a dead cult icon while the surrounding neighborhood continues to be systematically dismantled and shoved down the school-to-prison pipeline! SO GROSS!!!! Show up tonight to support our community partners, leaders of color and fellow Memphians of South Memphis. We need to be there not just in spirit. Our city government needs to get it through their heads that #BlackLivesMatter more than dead pop stars. For realz…
I do what I can to keep away from political hot button topics on my website and in my music related Facebook page.  I didn’t really like my post being co-opted for political purposes. I don’t know enough about this group to know if I support their cause or not.  From what little I’ve heard about them, it seems like they don’t have any issues with Graceland other than the fact that it’s a successful white owned business in a poor black neighborhood.  It seems like the main reason they are protesting at Graceland is because of the added attention it can get their group and not because of anything they’ve done. I felt compelled to respond in the most positive way that I could.  Here’s what I said:
You might consider coming and supporting this business that employees many people in the community around Graceland. Employment is a great way to break the school to prison pipeline. The lives of the black employees of Graceland matter too.  Come show them some support.
​Politics was making its unwelcome way into this event to add to the chaos of the day.  I had plenty of time to brood over this during our wait in line for the tour, which was over an hour.  I was quickly distracted by a group of women wearing matching shirts.  I took a couple of pictures of them and asked where they were from.  They were related and from all over the country.  They were the only group of people in matching shirts that we talked to this year that were from the U.S.
​During the tour, it seemed like there were more people jammed into the house.  In past years, I have snapped pictures of the rooms.  Years later, I decided that the best pictures were selfies with the rooms in the background.  I was overwhelmed by the number of people in the rooms.  I felt that this experience was completely different from what it would have been like when Elvis was alive.  It felt more like I was standing in a queue line for a ride at an amusement park than standing in a historic home. I started taking pictures more pictures of the crowd than the rooms.  I did take time to snap a selfie with one of the tour guides.
​One of the criticisms of the changes has been the transformation of the racketball court back to a racketball court.  Many of the people that I talked to with complaints about the changes focused on this area. Previously, this room was decorated with gold records and jumpsuits.  The items on display ran all the way to the tall ceiling of this room and was awe-inspiring.  It was one of the stops on the tour where you felt compelled to stop and take it in for a while. Now the walls are empty. I understand that it is now truer to the way it was when Elvis used it but they had done such a good job of creating an interesting exhibit previously, it’s hard to get used to it this way. The new areas where they have moved these records and jumpsuits are still impressive but don’t have quite the impact of the racketball court exhibit. 
​I usually try to get in line for the vigil about 2 hours before the ceremony starts.  On the 5 and 10-year anniversary years, like this year, the crowds are larger and an earlier arrival can help.  We arrived later because I got caught up talking to some people from Kansas City because the lady had Charlie Brown related Elvis shirt. We weren’t sure about the best way to get to the line queue next to the gates. In addition to the concrete barriers to block the road they had used for the first time last year, they had also set up fences across the road with guards to do scanning.  We took a path that most people didn’t take to this area and bypassed the security people with wands. We got to our place in line which was further back than where I usually like to start.  As usual, I struck up a conversation with the people in line around us.  The people behind us were from the Australian group. After a while, some other Australians invited them to join them in a position closer to the front of the line.  A large group of Australians relocated at that point.  Now we were left with Belgians who didn’t speak very good English behind us and Scots in front of us who of course spoke English but were nearly impossible to understand.  Some ladies were setting up one of the tributes in the road near us and I went over to talk to them. There were 6 ladies from Illinois. One of the ladies was the artist of the group had been to Graceland over 65 times and had been regularly to the Candlelight Vigil but she said this would be her last one.  She didn’t like the changes. She specifically mentioned the racketball court and the charge for the vigil.  She echoed the sentiment that Tina has expressed by saying that the event had less of a family reunion feel than in years past.  More control was being exerted by Elvis Presley Enterprises. As sad as it is to see the changes come, I feel like most of the changes help establish Graceland as a viable tourist attraction long after this generation of fans passes away. 
​When I returned to the line with Tina and Kay, the mood of the crowd had changed. People in line were angry at others because the queue line was not moving.  There were gaps were people had moved but others had not followed them.  The people that did not move were at the end of a place in the queue that was near where they perform the ceremony.  People were trying to take charge by yelling at the people that would not move but it made no difference.  I don’t know if they didn’t understand how the line was supposed to work or if they had been told something by the workers who didn’t know how it worked either.  The gap was left open long enough that people in our line decided to move over and fill the gap. We joined them.  We were now closer to where we would normally start.  But lines had been crossed. The ropes defining the lines were down in some places. People that weren’t angry before where angry now. The chaos and confusion grew.  It was a typical hot August night in Memphis.  Another first for Elvis Week was a man removing his shirt to cool off.  
​We had made it to our spot in the line, the ceremony was minutes away and we had no candles.  Most of the people around us didn’t have candles.  Most years, you could pick them up at the Guest Services area but we were told they would give them to us at the vigil.  We found out later that we needed to go to the front of the line to get candles.  The crowd was so thick now that it was impossible to get to where they were giving the candles. We would have to wait until after the service. Pricilla opened the event.  Later, Lisa Marie arrived with her children and made some comments.  She also spent about 20 minutes at the entrance holding the torch where people were lighting their candles.  During this time, we noticed that even though people were going up to the meditation gardens, the queue line was not moving at all.  After about an hour, one of the workers came up and told us that we were in the wrong place.  That we needed to move to the back of the line.  This made no sense to us. We were wondering what line we needed to be in.  We had gone exactly where we were told when we arrived.  I had gotten discouraged.  Our line had not moved and I had no idea where we needed to be.  I had visions of us standing in the same place a 5 AM the next morning.  When the guy came up and told us that we were in the wrong place, I decided that no one was in charge or knew what was going on.  There could be no mutiny because there was no one to take charge from.  I stepped out of line not knowing where to go or what to do.  I was ready to give up.  Tina was determined that this was the place we needed to be and told the worker we had done what we were told.  He backed off, I rejoined the line and soon the line was moving. 
 
The line was moving slow and the crowd around us changed.  There was no single file line going up to the grave site.  There were mobs of people.  Attitudes had changed.  The sounds of different languages were replaced by sounds of motorized scooters and wheelchairs.  They were manned by Americans with bad attitudes that were running over the feet of the few Germans left in the line.  We were in fear for our lives as these infirmed hoodlums and their nasty caretakers ran roughshod over cowering women and children.  This was no longer a time for fun and games, it was survival time.  Our bodies were in pain. We aren’t as young as the first time we came to this event.  This requires preparation and training that we didn’t do.  The mood had gotten so nasty, that when a lady tripped and fell at the grave site, no one jumped to her aid.  She laid there until one of the paid staff could get to her.  The rest of us were afraid she would pull us down with her.  And no one would help.  Instead of helping, we were trying to figure out how to push the lady in the scooter in front of us out of the way.  She had a virtual suitcase full of scarves, books, flags and flowers to lay at the grave.  It was less of a memorial service and more of a magic act.  Where was she keeping all this stuff?
​The trip back down to the street was quicker.  But it seemed like at least 50% of the crowd on their way up were in wheelchairs.  Elvis’ fan base is not well.  Many of the people in this line won’t be here next year.  They will either be dead, not well enough to make the return trip or be mad enough about the changes that they will stay at home.  They had better change this thing into a straight up amusement park while they can still afford to do it.
 
The walk back to the car has become a traditional time to encounter religious fanatics passing out tracts and telling me I’m going to hell for whatever reason.  The security measures kept these people away but I noticed some protest signs on the temporary fence just past the guards. I thought they might have been from the Black Lives Matter protesters.  They were actually from Elvis fans.  They said, “Do Not Exploit E.P.”, “E.P.E.: Profiting over Elvis’s Dead Body”, “Candlelight vigil: Started by Fans, Stolen by EPE!” and “Elvis Presley Exploitation”. While the Elvis channel on XM Radio promoted a rosy picture of the events, articles in Billboard the next morning told about the fans upset by charging for the vigil.  These are tough times in Elvisland. Fans are angry at the company and scared of each other. They are no longer a tight-knit community helping each other but competitors trying to be first in line. Graceland is no longer their beloved shrine but a pale imitation of a scaled down amusement park.  A “Six Flags over Elvis” with no rides, little amusement and long lines that lead to nowhere. Several years before I went to my first Elvis Week, I wrote an outline of a story comparing a trip to Graceland to a decent into the levels of hell that Dante describes in “The Inferno”. This year’s trip might be the perfect year to complete that connection.
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<![CDATA[Travelling through Memphis on Elvis’ Birthday]]>Sun, 13 Aug 2017 19:24:11 GMThttp://artwheelermusic.net/blog/travelling-through-memphis-on-elvis-birthday
​I have made regular trips for several years to Graceland for Elvis Week in August. Graceland also has activities in January to celebrate Elvis’ birthday.  I have never visited Graceland during his birthday celebration. They don’t have anything that goes on during his birthday celebration that compares to the Candlelight Vigil experience.  It doesn’t attract as many people so it’s not an environment that seems to be as good for people watching. Still, many Elvis fans from around the world come to Memphis for his birthday.  Several years ago, I had the opportunity to travel through Memphis on a Monday after Elvis’ birthday when it fell on a weekend. 
​I was had a flight book from Memphis through Atlanta. I noticed many people that looked like Elvis fans in the airport. There were several people with hats and shirts from Graceland commemorating Elvis’ birthday. I was almost certain that some of these people would be on my flight.  This was before I had started going to the Candlelight Vigil each year. I did interact with any of the people other than watching them. The airline knew their audience and played Elvis music on plane during boarding.  I boarded relatively early and watched as the Elvis fans filed in. At some point, I found out that most of the fans were from Britain.  Many of them started singing along with the music. This was before September 11, 2001 so the rules for travel were looser than they are now. Boarding came to a grinding halt when someone came on with a huge Velvet Elvis painting in a frame.  They expected to be able to either put this under their seat or in the above head storage. The whole situation was very laid back and the flight crew was patient with the guy and his painting.  There was absolutely no way it was going to fit where the guy wanted to keep it and he couldn’t keep it in his lap.  I don’t think he wanted to let go of it but he finally let the flight crew take it.  I’m not sure where it was stored during the flight.
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