Under a Memphis Moon

In 2001, I found myself obliterated on Elvis Presley Boulevard in front of Graceland. It was August 16th, Elvis’s death day. Cheap whiskey coursed through me and I staggered through the crowd. Elvis was everywhere. He spoke German. He spoke French. He was young. He was old. He was Asian. Artists drew his likeness with heavy chalk into the street. Candles were lit—glowing orbs floated over thousands of hands. 

In 2007, I was in front of Graceland again, this time older and sober. My friend bought a TCB necklace, lightning bolt and all. We ate potato logs from the gas station with a Honduran Elvis. I thought of River Phoenix’s last movie, The Thing Called Love, and the scene that was supposed to be in Memphis at a liquor store in front of Graceland, the one where he proposes to Samantha Mathis. The movie took its name from the Queen song, “Crazy Little Thing Called Love,” written by Freddie Mercury in 1979 in tribute to the late great Elvis. 

During my first visit to Denton, before I moved, “Green Onions” by Booker T & the MGs played inside a basement bar. The other day at a Denton Kroger, a young man rolled through the parking lot blasting 8 Ball and MJG. When I first moved to Denton, there was a record store on the downtown square and inside, high up on a wall, was a poster of Memphis’s own, the late Jay Reatard. The owner’s former band once played a showed with him. That day, I bought a record by the NOTS, a band from Memphis on the Goner label. People hear I’m from Memphis and ask me questions about Graceland, and instead I tell them about playing the jukebox at Earnestine and Hazel’s, about wandering around upstairs, a former brothel, with its peeling blue paint and exposed brick, searching for the ghosts. 

All those years ago, I wanted to leave, and now that I’m gone again Memphis still finds me. Still moves me. Here I am writing my love letter to Memphis. Or maybe, it’s a love letter to a certain time in the river city. To myself, so young and awkward, a truly Memphis weirdo, to the places of guitar reverb, static, and drums that felt like my own heartbeat, to Elvis, and to all the people I was happy to just be near, even if it was only in their periphery.  

Elvis once rented out an entire movie theater for a date night with Priscilla. My aunt had two kids by then and was married to her first husband. My mother was nine years younger than both Elvis and my aunt. My mother was slim and tall, her hair tinted red, a cigarette in between her long fingers, like Twiggy, but prettier. She went to Elvis’s movie night. It was a double feature, Hombre with Paul Newman, and another one my mom can’t remember. I like to tell people that my mother went on a double date with Elvis and Priscilla, though her date was my grandmother. A night of mother daughter bonding. I imagine my mother in the glow of celluloid, the smoke wafting through the air, her hair scooped upward. She is a row behind Elvis and Priscilla. My grandma is next to her, smiling, and laughing, and everyone in the theater is thrilled to be there in the tender light with the Memphis King. 

Kat Moore

Kat Moore is a native Memphian, living in Texas. Her work has appeared in various journals such as Brevity, Creative Nonfiction (Sunday Short Reads), Diagram, Image, Passages North, HippocampusThe Rumpus, Salt Hill, Whiskey Island, and Hotel Amerika. Her work in progress is a punk rock collection of memoir-in-essays. She is represented by PJ Mark at Janklow & Nesbit.

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