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Finally Memphis, Finally Elvis
Olga Susana Gabriel, August 2002

  Arranjo floral pelo 25º Aniversário

Before going any further, I want to apologize to all Elvis 100%’s members, and especially to the Board of Directors, for not having written a single article on Elvis. However, a year and half from now, my mother is very ill and she occupies most of my free time. I work from 8 a.m. till 5 p.m., arrive home tired and, to be honest, my will to write is practically non-existent. My mom’s illness has also prevented me from attending the Fan Club’s events. But I promise that, from now on, I’ll make every effort to be more active in Elvis 100%. I have much to tell because I love Elvis since I was 13 and I’m 54 now. This article has per goal talking about the trip I did to Memphis with my greatest friend, Célia Carvalho.

Since I was a little a girl that I have this fixation for America. Those of you in this Fan Club who have more or less my age should remember a TV series called Bonanza, which was pretty successful at the time it was televised over here. I loved it and, from then onwards, I fell in love with America. Then, when I was 13, Elvis came along. It was love at first sight and still is until today. I felt every more strongly about visiting the US one day. I dreamed about seeing him live. Unfortunately, that wasn’t to be. Meanwhile Elvis passed away and the wish of one day going to America kept going strong, in my head and in my heart. Now I wanted to visit his gravesite. I knew it was going to be difficult, almost impossible, but hope is the last thing to die and it happened. I went to America, I went to Tupelo, I went to Memphis.

Eu, finalmente em Graceland! At the Meditations Garden

I can safely say that I owe that happiness to Célia. Five years ago, when she visited America for her first time, I know Célia’s heart was sad because I couldn’t go along, too. Every day, practically every hour, I thought about her and where she might be on that moment. And even from afar, I felt the happiness that Cé lia should be experiencing in that same instant. When she returned, she was marvelled, delighted, happy, and she told me: "Olga, if I’ll go back, it will be with you." And it was!...

I can’t say that it wasn’t easy to make this trip. Life isn’t easier for anyone financially speaking. Besides, I have a serious disability, I knew it was going to be tiring, but it was worth it. I still ask myself today if I really did this trip. While I was there, I asked Célia: "Am I really here?" It’s not possible to explain what one feels. Everything’s so beautiful, so magical, so fascinating. Thousands of people, every one of them or practically everyone of them feeling the same: "A great love for Elvis." People who keep going there for 25 years!... How wonderful! God bless them so they can keep on visiting. A friend of mine told me one of these days: "Olga, how many people wish to go to Memphis and just can’t?" It’s true! Therefore, I thank God every day for having had this chance.

And now I ask myself: What did I enjoy best? To be quite honest, I don’t know. The fact that I touched American soil was, for starters, a thrill. Then, on the second day, it was very touching to visit the little house where Elvis was born. We all wonder: how could he possibly have lived in there? I loved the surroundings of the little house, I was quite impressed with the statue close by, where Elvis is 13, and which was unveiled this year but a symbolic second unveiling was done on August 9, for the thousands of fans that were present. There was an official welcoming to the fans, the American flag was pulled up, there were speeches, it was shocking, it was beautiful! I cried when, at Lawhon Elementery School, that Elvis attended when he was a child, I met two of his coleagues, and I cried when I stepped inside Graceland. The emotion is impossible to describe. It was like I could feel Elvis’ presence around the whole house. The silence is impressive; people really respect him. Then, it was the gravesite. I had a strange reaction; I didn’t cry. Before doing this trip I thought that this would be the place where I would feel more emotional, but this wasn’t so. One feels like staying there forever, at the Meditation Garden.

Eu, ao lado da estátua de Elvis com 13 anos. At the Tourist Center in Memphis.

From now onwards I have to be very brief because this web sites’ space can’t be all to myself, so I will only tell you that all the places I visited for the first time, I felt touched, more in some than in others, of course! I loved to meet the actresses that co-starred with Elvis, the lucky ones who slept with him... On August 11, on a guided tour, we drove by St. Jude’s Hospital, the one that dedicates itself to children who suffer from cancer and to which Elvis always gave large donations, and I felt tears in my eyes. When many times people talk about Elvis to tell nasty things, they should know how much he helped and cared, and how much he still helps many institutions, since when Célia and I attend the worldwide Fan Club’s Presidents event on August 13 at Libertyland amusement park, we could witness to many dozens of cheques coming from those very same fan clubs and handed over to EPE to pass them along to those institutions. It’s a pity that people can only mention the bad. But still on my trip, I enjoyed Memphis, I loved Tupelo, I missed it a lot when we left because Tupelo is a very quiet place, it seems that when we’re over there people know one another for many years already. Besides, I have to say that I loved the American, at least in that Tennessee and Mississippi areas. From the airport aides to the hotel managers, not forgetting the shops and restaurants employees, etc. I will give you just two examples: at the hotel in Tupelo, once they saw my difficulties, they put some special rubber rugs on the steps to prevent me from slipping. And when the last step of one of the buses was broken, making it very difficult for me to climb up, the driver fixed it in no time, to make life easier for me. Those people are fantastic.

So, what else can I briefly say? The two most emotional nights of the trip, for me, were:

— The candlelight vigil, where 35,000 people stood there, under the rain. No one can explain, not even ourselves, who love Elvis, all that happens during that week in Tupelo and Memphis. It goes beyond anything that’s natural. Everything I saw and felt will forever be imprinted in my mind (I even want to write a book about this trip), but that night, dear God!... People under the rain, singing, some were crying, disabled people like myself, many in wheelchairs... I’m writing and a lump is coming up to my throat, my eyes are filled with tears, I’m reliving that night all over again... disabled people standing in line, under the rain, to get inside Graceland... you have to see it, there are no words to describe it... (I was lucky because EPE’s manager, Patsy Andersen, saw me and let me go first. She knew me because Célia and I had been at her office that same morning). She was a darling. I’ll be grateful for the rest of my life.

— The second wonderful night was the Concert at the Pyramid. It was spectacular, beautiful, grandiose and exciting. I was only sadden for seeing every Elvis friend up there on stage, some his own age, others younger, some others even older, but still going, they were all there... except him! Célia and I were almost at the top of the Pyramid, with a magnificent view of the whole room, it was almost like we were suspended in the air, it was great. People vibrated with Elvis’ performances, as if he was really there, live. It was beautiful!

In short, because the space I have to write is ending, I still want to say that we visited the Times And Things To Remember Musuem, by Janelle McComb, which I really enjoyed; we visited the Chapel that stands near the little house where Elvis was born. I loved the stained glasses. Célia and I stood there for quite a while, in silence, listening to Elvis singing gospel music; I loved the plane Elvis bought and named after Lisa Marie; I loved the Elvis statue at the touristic visiting center, near the Mississippi river. I think it’s lovely. Well, he was lovely, and even his behind looks great!...

During the guided tour, on August 11, we saw the cemetery where Elvis was laid to rest for the first time, the Forrest Hill Cemetery; we saw the hospital where Lisa Marie was born and where Elvis was hospitalized so many times, the Baptist Memorial; we saw the condemned houses of the Lauderdale Courts project, where the Presleys lived for some

years; we went to one of the 200+ parks in Memphis, where we saw the Overton Park Shell, where Elvis performed professionally for the first time and we stopped in Audubon Drive, the house Elvis owned before having bought Graceland. There is a lot more to tell, but I’ll sign off for now.

I only ask all Elvis fans: if you can, please, go to Memphis. You’ll only understand what people who went there are trying to say or talking about by going there. Every day I reminisce, I miss everything a lot, it’s almost like a part of me stayed there. Thank you, Cé lia, for the happiness you gave me. I’d really love to do this trip again, since everyone who goes there, wants to return. It won’t be soon, but God’s willing, I’ll be back. Greetings to all the members of our fan club.

Célia and I, minutes before our tour in Graceland.

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