Thirty Seconds Over Tupelo
By John Saleeby
May 15, 2001
Young Elvis Presley "All I want for want for Christmas is the Black Man's Music."
Driving north on the Natchez Trace to Tupelo, Mississippi - the birthplace of Elvis Presley, The King Of Rock And Roll - and after two and a half hours of listening to rock and roll on my car radio I was so disgusted I damn near kept going all the way to Memphis to spit on his grave. I heard some good stuff - "Good Vibrations" by The Beach Boys, "Autumn Almanac" by The Kinks, and "Soul Deep" by my boyhood favorites The Box Tops - but then the "Oldies" station faded out and I was stuck with a "Classic" station which had me thinking "Classic Rock" radio is an electronics industry conspiracy to force us all to have CD players put into our cars. About the only good thing I heard on that station was an apartment complex commercial that mentioned "French Doors" so I could think "Aren't you worried about em slammin' shut on your tongue? Haw haw haw!!" At one point I actually passed three little black kids singing and dancing on the side of the road but I couldn't hear em cause my dumb ass was trapped inside my car with freakin' Nazareth screaming at me about how "Ya'll don't mess wit' a son of a bitch!!!" It wasn't right! It just wasn't right!
But then I got to Tupelo and was startled to read this sign - "TUPELO - NEXT FIVE EXITS". Five exits!? Tupelo had turned out to be one hell of a lot bigger than I thought it would be. Another surprise - Tupelo isn't at all as Tourist Trappy as you would think it would be. No "Elvis Pizza", "Elvis Video Rentals", "Elvis Shoes", "Elvis Ear, Nose, And Throat MD" - I didn't see a single "Elvis This" or "Elvis That" the whole time I was in town. Hhhmmm, are the locals ashamed of their Native Son? I would have asked but I was afraid they'd say something like "Eh, everybody knows Rock And Roll was invented by the Oppressed Black Man and it wasn't a legitimate art form until The Beatles recorded 'Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band anyway! Elvis was BOURGEOIS!!" and then I would have to kill everybody.
Did you know that when The Sex Pistols came to America they did a show in Tupelo in honor of Elvis? Of course, being The Sex Pistols and all, they screwed up and did it in Tupelo, Tennessee instead of Tupelo, Mississippi. But, hey, at least they were cool enough not to play in New York or L.A.!
So's I check into Room 115 at The Travel Inn on North Gloster. Why did I pick the Travel Inn? Cause it's right next door to The Waffle House! What's so important about The Waffle House? Well, maybe Mister Hollywood Big Shot Aaron Sorkin needs hallucinojetpack mushrooms and crack to write "The West Wing", but all I need to write Acid Logic stuff is that Waffle House Coffee and a Waffle House Waffle with enough of that Waffle House Syrup on it to have me seeing Little Cartoon Faces on my knuckles telling me what to write for the next three hours. I do all my writing at The Waffle House, at this moment I am sitting at the counter of The Waffle House in Tupelo obeying The Little Cartoon Face's command to write something about how they must make that Waffle House Syrup out of them hallusorkingenius mushrooms or something. Yes, Little Cartoon Faces, I will do as you command . . . You guys probably aren't aware of this, but The Waffle House is quite the literary salon. And with all those signs all over the place like "SHIRTS AND SHOES MUST BE WORN TO BE SERVED", "SORRY-WE CANNOT CASH ANY CHECKS", "AMERICA'S BEST CHICKEN", "YOU HAD A CHOICE AND YOU CHOSE US-THANK YOU!", "CHEESE N' EGGS-A WAFFLE HOUSE SPECIALTY", "BILL MAHER EATS SHIT", and "BERT'S EXCLUSIVE CHILI" it takes longer to read the place than "War And Peace".
This is how you get to Elvis' Birthplace from The Traveler's Inn - I had to drive around for ten or fifteen minutes to find this out for you people, so listen up and it'll save you a lot of trouble - Go north on Gloster and take a right on Main and then take a left on Veterans and then take a right on Reese. ZIP! ZONK! ZING! And there it is - THE BIRTHPLACE OF THE BOY KING, a tiny little white house dwarfed by The Elvis Presley Museum right behind it ( I don't think the museum was back there when Elvis was a kid ). I parked The Saleebymobile and circled the house - Hell, I coulda hopped right over it like a box of donuts. For two dollars you can go inside and look around, but an older couple went inside while I was coming up and I didn't think they'd have room for me. But more than that, there is such a palpable aura of LONELINESS around the place I'm glad they built the St. Marks United Methodist Church right across the street to give it someone nice to talk to. That place is HAUNTED, I'm tellin' ya! Shaggy and Scooby wouldn't go in there! And anyplace Shaggy and Scooby won't go, Saleeby won't go! So I walked around taking note of the pretty red flowers ( I was on vacation, I had time ) and the sign on the back door reading "PLEASE ENTER THROUGH FRONT". "My old girlfriend had that tattooed on her ass! Haw haw haw!!" I thought, using humor to conceal my fear - A little something I picked up from the Oppressed Jewish Man. But after forty years of living inside this lumpy lil' skull I know when I'm close to getting depressed and wandered into the gift shop of the Elvis Museum to pick up some souvenirs. I still felt low so I went over to The St. Mark's United Methodist Church. I didn't go inside, but I wandered into the gift shop of The St. Mark's United Methodist Church Museum to pick up some souvenirs.
Elvis had a very unhappy childhood - His twin brother died , his Mother was . . . uh, a wee bit off, his father was in prison - and being where he had experienced such misery took me right back to those days. Mississippi was not an exciting place back then. Aside from the birth of Elvis the only really cool thing to happen there was when hubba hubba sex babe Jayne Mansfield had an auto crash on Highway 90 between Biloxi and New Orleans in which the international beauty queen was DECAPITATED ( Personal Note to Pamela Anderson: Try Interstate I-10 ). Elvis' hometown didn't look much different from any other small Southern town. If you are in a small town right now you can open your window and see pretty much what Elvis saw from his window. If you are in a big city right now you can open your window and jump for all we care what you do. But seriously, Folks, I've loved Elvis Presley my whole life and if I got this bummed out visiting the place he was born, no way am I going to where he died. Or made all those shitty movies. Jumped into The Saleebymobile and had a nice leisurely drive around Tupelo just to get the feel of the town. And let me tell you, it felt good! Damn good! Tupelo has got one hell of a lot more going for it than being the place where Elvis Presley was born. It's got houses and trees and stores and dogs and . . . Hey! You know what I saw while driving around Tupelo? A traffic sign reading "DEAF CHILD IN AREA"! My God, if Jerry Seinfeld were to see such a thing he'd be screaming and yelling about it for the next fifty years. I just rolled down my window, stuck my head out, and yelled "Shit! Shit! Son of a bitch! Shit! Shit! Son of a bitch! Shit! Shit! Sonofabitch BASTARD!!!" I really enjoyed that but then a Bruce Springsteen record came on the radio just to dampen my triumph. "Well, if there was ever a place for a Bruce Springsteen record it's a Deaf Child Area!" I said and it felt good! Damn good!
A Troubling Note - All the barbeque places in Tupelo seem to have recently gone out of business and there are really new looking Chinese restaurants all over the place. Don't tell me eight years of Bill Clinton hasn't been bad for this country, comrade! Don't you tell me a thing! And hurry up with those egg rolls! Well, that's everything about my trip to Tupelo, Mississippi, everybody! It's a real nice town and if you're looking for a new place to settle down and start all over again Tupelo could be just the place for you. They're hiring at Kentucky Fried Chicken! Tell em the good looking white guy in the white Prism who ordered the two piece dinner with mashed potatoes and cole slaw sent you.
The first thing I heard on the radio on my way out of town was something about a rumor sweeping the internet that Tom Petty was dead. "Tom Petty dead?! Where was he born?" I wondered with the Wide Open Highway before me and almost a week to kill. But then I remembered - Tom Petty was born in Florida. Screw Tom Petty. I'll wait until someone cool from the French Riviera dies. There are rock stars from the French Riviera, aren't there? No? Well, no wonder the whole thing has gone to shit.
John Saleeby wrote for The National Lampoon while he was in high school, was a stand up comic in New York, and has contributed to the net humor zines Schmuck.com, Campaign Central, and the legendary American Jerk. He's on medication now so he's probably a little nicer now than he was when you met him earlier.
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