Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Beej Weir's Guide to Graceland: Chapter 4: Working On The Building

Hey, folks! Welcome to the fourth and final chapter of my Guide To Graceland! In this installment, we'll examine the spiritual side of Elvis.

But, before we do that- I'd like to welcome George Clooney to my army of anonymous readers! How do I know he's reading my blog? Well, a week or so after I posted the previous chapter about Elvis' fixation on guns and badges, George announces he's producing a cable TV show about an Elvis impersonator cop in Memphis!

Coincidence? Maybe. But, ah- maybe NOT!

So, welcome, George! It's cool if you don't leave a comment or become a "follower". Sure, I've only got 2 followers (and one of them is my wife- and she's probably only doing it to be nice)- but I don't let it bother me. I'm like Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard: "You see, this is my life! It always will be! Nothing else! Just us, the cameras, and those wonderful people out there in the dark!..."

I'm just glad I can help. And please note all similarities to me and Norma Desmond end there. It's not like I've got dead screenwriters floating in my swimming pool.

Let's get back to Elvis.

As many of you already know, Elvis recorded a lot of gospel music. In fact, all 3 of the Grammys he won were for gospel music. But, Elvis' quest for spiritual enlightenment wasn't limited to Christian beliefs. Elvis was "working on the building" of his soul- and using lots of different tools to do it.

("Working On The Building" was also a gospel tune Elvis recorded, by the way- I didn't just pull that out of my butt)

On the Graceland tour, we saw all kinds of stuff Elvis had around the house- including books (please click the pic for a better view)...
Graceland, Memphis, TN 1/18/08

As you can see, there's Herman Hesse's Siddhartha and Khalil Gibran's The Prophet, which indicates his reading material extended beyond Captain Marvel Jr comic books- or The Bible, for that matter. But, what really caught my eye was this (click for the full view)...
Graceland, Memphis, TN 1/18/08

This is a book called Cheiro's (Book of) World Predictions by, well, a guy named Cheiro (aka William John Warner).

More interesting than the book itself is what Elvis wrote in the margins. I'm not sure what the "7, 8 & 9" means. The "wo-man" & "man" stuff makes sense given the subject matter of the chapter. I can't quite make out what's on the bottom of page 164. He's obviously written "Enlightenment" on the top of the next page. It's also interesting to see what he's underlined as well.

But, what intrigues me the most is the "Karate" he wrote next to "... great changes have already taken place in the mental outlook of humanity at large, and more particularly so in the position of women."

Why karate? I mean, I know Elvis studied karate... Graceland, Memphis, TN 1/18/08

but what does that have to do with the "emancipation of women"? Did Elvis think karate would free women from male oppression? Forget the ERA- just kick & chop your way to equality? I guess we'll never know for sure.

Another bit of Elvis marginalia was on display in the 'Elvis After Dark' museum (click for full view)...
Graceland, Memphis, TN 1/18/08

This is Nicholas Roerich's Leaves of Morya's Garden Book Two: Illumination 1925

As you can see- there's a lot going on here. Everything from Bible passages ("lion shall lie down with the lamb") to modern technology ("computers").

Speaking of the 'Elvis After Dark' museum, this quote greets you when you first walk in to that section of the Graceland tour...
Graceland, Memphis, TN 1/18/08

If you want to read more about the spiritual side of Elvis, check out this list of books on Amazon that someone put together on the subject.

And that's it for my Guide To Graceland, my friends. Future posts won't be Elvis-centric. But, I'm glad I had a chance to share these photos and my thoughts with you. If you want to see more photos, please check out my flickr page.

I'll never forget my visit to Graceland- just as the whole world will never forget Elvis. He was a true American original. He had charisma and talent to spare. But, he also had his faults. He had a big heart and big appetites. He was only human. But, I think that's what makes him so likable. At least it does for me. Also, he could sing like a motherfucker.

Thanks for reading!

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3


  1. Great post, bb. Marginalia is fascinating. (By the way, did you know the term "marginalia" was coined by one of my all-time favorite Romantics, Samuel Taylor Coleridge? ) You're right; we'll probably never know what was going through Elvis's head when he wrote in his books. But what we do know is that he was an active reader, which, in and of itself, is pretty telling.

  2. Thanks, bb! And indeed, I share your fascination with marginalia (and thanks for the fun fact re the origin of the term!). I'm all for writing in books- as long as you own them!

    But what we do know is that he was an active reader, which, in and of itself, is pretty telling.

    Exactly! We hear so much about Elvis & the pills, the guns and the peanutbutterjelly banana/bacon sandwiches that there's things that get overlooked. I had no idea he was interested in Eastern religions & philosophy.

    I can't thank you enough for going to Graceland with me, bb!

  3. I wrote this comment on FB, but it also seems appropriate here since we're talking about writing in books.

    Reading your blog and thinking about being taught not to write in books reminds me of a funny moment when Terry Gross interviewed Maurice Sendak: Some parent was making a very reluctant child hand over his book for Sendak to autograph. The kid looks at Sendak and warns, "Don't crap up my book!"