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The Dashing Life and Exuberant Times of Brian Harrison....And Other Rare Anecdotes

Monday, April 23, 2007

Elvis has Entered the Building and has Apparently Never Left it Either

If one is to travel down Hwy 78 from Memphis for about 40 miles or so one will come upon a small town straight across the Mississippi line called Holly Springs, it is there that if one is into curious misadventures, or drawn to eccentricity, or just plain into the King of Rock and Roll, that person will find a sort of Vegas glittered gem among the rest of the docile community. For within this town, and within a small neighborhood sits an old antebellum house with a pair of statue lions, and a number of other rare decorations that gives way the hint to something out of the norm inside. -And within this house lives a man, a strange eccentric man. Probably the craziest man I’ve ever met, that can still take care of himself. This man lives in this house with millions of dollars worth of stuff, where he spends his days and nights entranced in a steady vigil to his own true idol. This man is Paul McLeod. This house is called Graceland Too. This idol is none other than Elvis Aaron Presley. You could call it an obsession, but it has far exceeded any obsession that I’ve known. You could call it devotion, but devotion is usually a mark of sanity. Paul McLeod is Elvis’ #1 fan and he can back that title up with unfaltering evidence.

I don’t even know where to begin. I could mention his record room where every single album Elvis has ever made hangs on the walls. I could mention his attempt at making his house a smaller version of Graceland, but I will start with my story.

I arrived last Tuesday night knocking at his door, ringing his bell. He keeps odd hours. They say he never sleeps. That he is willing to give tours at any hour or day. Only $5 admission fee. So at 8:30p.m. I stood ringing his bell, wondering if walking into a crazy man’s house all alone at night was a very bright thing to do. He eventually opened up, and there before me stood a stout, old man with slick back gray hair with a button-up shirt, unbuttoned at the top -Elvis style. I gave my 5 bucks and the tour commenced. He rambled on like an audio recording describing entire stories in one sentence, stories that I wanted him to dwell on more for they are the sort of strange stories that prick the eyebrows and make the timid want to change the subject to something less fantastical. -But to me, he was rushing over vital details. I caught here and there snippets of the man’s life and his shrine to Elvis.

Supposedly ever since 1954, when Paul first heard Elvis, his mania stuck and he began collecting everything and anything of Elvis. In one room, he keeps 8 televisions or so, with VCRs recording everything on TV...that way if anyone even mentions Elvis, he collects it and stores it away with every other thing. He has stacks and stacks of magazine clippings, anytime that Elvis is mentioned, Paul cuts it out and stores it away. He has big black trunks everywhere loaded with these offhanded mentionings. He owns the most priceless record in the world that Bill Clinton offered him $500,000 to part with, in which he turned Mr. Clinton down. He has rolls and rolls of carpet straight from the jungle room of Graceland in which he’ll sale you for a pretty penny. Celebrities from all over have visited Graceland Too and he has his photo albums to prove it, (from Steven Seagal to Tom Cruise’s dog.)

Paul had or has a family. His wife got fed up with the entire craze. It was too much for her who was also a pretty loyal fan of the King’s. And so Paul, gave her a million dollars and she left never to be seen again. Paul related to me, how on Halloween he wants to dress up....-you guessed it....like Elvis...die his hair black and everything. And then sneak in her bedroom in the dark and like he is the ghost of Elvis and then when she looks up and sees the Blue Suede Shoed Phantom hovering over her bed, he would quote...”Honey, you lied when you said you loved me.....”(a straight verse from Elvis’ song “Are You Lonesome Tonight” which I quoted more of the line with him...to impress him.)

Paul has a son probably a decade older than me. And his name, none other than Elvis Aaron Presley McLeod. But this son is a mystery to everyone that’s ever been here. He’s been gone for years.. Supposedly he’s “away”. There are creepy photographs of this son years and years ago all over the place. But nothing recent.

Paul went and showed me his backyard in which he designed it like the move, Jailhouse Rock. He had a fake electric chair and everything. He also told me that the spirit of Elvis, he believes, lurks about the house. He showed me eerie pictures in which a smoke like white haze drifted in the background of several photographs. The upstairs of this old house is off limits. Rumor has it that he hasn’t been up those stairs in more than a decade. Its dark and Paul’s mother is said to have heard footsteps and voices coming from up there.

Paul McLeod has big plans for the future. He has ambitions to buy out his entire neighborhood in Holly Springs, Mississippi and design it just like the real Graceland up in Memphis. With all the visitors he has, I think he told me there has been 310,000 people to his Graceland Too, this will not be that hard to do.

As I was leaving, we began talking about my work and he became excited when I told him that I was in the touristy T-shirt business. He got my phone number and was supposed to call me Thursday. He kept repeating that with all the people that come there from all over the place, that he and I would be millionaires. So Thursday, after I ran the idea by my boss and okayed everything, I was expecting a call. But no call came in. That night in my hotel in Memphis, I left my phone on, as I slept, when a call came in. I was tired and didn’t feel like talking business then. So I cut off the phone. The next morning I called the number back and got someone that I didn’t know. It was this guy who was visiting Graceland Too the night before and Paul had asked him to borrow his phone to talk to me. He has everything in that house, except a phone! I plan on writing him a letter and visiting Paul once again before I go back to Alabama. So who knows...you may be able to get your very own Graceland Too T-shirt.

So I write all this to say, you must go to Graceland Too. I highly recommend it. Check out this documentary....www.gracelandtoothemovie.com/trailer.html

And if you want some advice from Paul himself go to www.gracelandtoothemovie.com/featuredclips/main.html

Monday, April 16, 2007

A Stream's Song

Golden dream and sacred song, where they glisten,
Sparkling in the bright, cheery-throated day,
Where all falls to stop and pause and listen,
At what the chanting river has to say.

The surge has kissed the river's heart,
And now she sings in gushing joy,
Rolling in laughter's flowing art,
Happy, but still running; loud, but coy.

How all of nature is silent in poise,
Waiting to hear her spirit's giggling tune,
Emptied out from the earth's cavernous joys,
Charging all with life on this glorious afternoon.

The frolic and the foam, her bubbling breath,
Has charmed me and charmed the dark earth,
Her song dancing in the glance of death,
A perpetual dalliance of undying mirth.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Notes From the Road...New Mexico and Texas.

I’ve had a hard time getting in. I wandered around like a tossed-about storm cloud through New Mexico. Up through Farmington, Shiprock (a plateau that resembles a ship) and down to Gallup, through Navajo country where one can still hear echoes of the medicine men chants carried with the winds. Oftentimes we’d cross by the famous Route 66, where small Casinos glisten in the desert sun and Native American craft stores sell dream-catchers and tell old tales. Then through Albuquerque down down into the strange town called Roswell where weird people sit around drinking beer and seeing massive spinning objects with bright lights whirling through the air. My companion was this fellow from L.A. We rented a VW Jetta and hit the road going to Walgreen’s stores, correcting our company’s racks. We finished earlier than expected and intended on flying out early. But no planes were available for me until Saturday. So sitting in a hotel lobby looking for other options, maybe renting a car to Lubbock, Texas (a very special place to me) or taking a beloved Greyhound bus there, in walks this Texan and noticing that I was diligently trying to seek a way to Lubbock, said that he was driving there early in the morning and that I could ride with him. Prudence taught me not to just jump at an opportunity like that, to contemplate it for a bit. So he left me with the option, if I wanted a ride to meet him down in the lobby at the brisk hour of 5 am. After a moment’s reflection, I ended up that night setting my alarm for 4:30 am.
The next morning, I was awake and sitting in the lobby when he appeared and we took off. He was a building contractor from Dallas and was in a rush to get to the airport in Lubbock. The 3 hour ride passed by quickly. He was very talkative and was glad that he had someone there to keep him awake. A person driving anywhere near Lubbock, Texas needs as much help to stay awake as he can get. Its a flat, treeless land. Miles and miles of nothing but fields. I arrived in Lubbock and ended up on the front door step of one of my friends, Randy Kerrigan, who is currently doing the AIM program much like I did.(I like surprising people like that.) I’m staying with another friend of mine, Jonathan Towell, who was in my AIM class many years ago. As I enter the city, I seem to swim through a fog of nostalgia. It’s been 4 years...since I last stepped my foot down in this town. 6 years since I lived here. I seemed to have blown into this town alongside this April chill. Memories stream by as I walk about the place. I have met with many faces that are here and many faces that are no longer here, but live on in the memory. I can never really get away from the past nor return to it. Instead, I’m caught somewhere between the two...eyes on the future but heart thumping to the beats of the foggy past...and completely bombarded with the bittersweetness of this thing we call life.