Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Day I Caught a Glimpse of Little Elvis

In Southwest Virginia, the big city is Roanoke. This, of course, is a little odd, as Roanoke has a population of just over 300,000 people. Still, it has an international airport, two ballet companies, four malls, a few hospitals, some museums, and a couple of interesting tourist attractions, so I guess that it could be worse. I mean, it's not Muncie.

One of my favorite hobbies is playing tourist in my own hometown. I buy a travel guide, list all the interesting things to see, and seek them out. When I started doing this a few years ago, the first thing on my list was Miniature Graceland. I read about it in Moon Guides' Virginia Handbook, by Juilan Smith. He wrote: "Miniature Graceland is [...] the product of hours of loving work. Don and Kim Epperly have filled their modest backyard with doll-sized replicas of major buildings in Elvis' life, topped by Graceland itself, complete with car museum."

Clearly, I couldn't resist. However, a place like Miniature Graceland deserves special treatment, so I saved it for the very end of the milennium. On December 31, 1999, accompanied by my sister Ella, my friend John, and John's creepy friend, whose name I've (mercilessly) forgotten, I traveled the hour down 81 to Roanoke. We started our pilgrimage at the Roanoke Star, which is the largest neon star in the world. Supposedly, Elvis also visited the star on a trip to Roanoke. Regardless, the star gave us an opportunity to take lots of Soviet-style pictures of ourselves and marvel at what, truly, is a huge eyesore. While up there, we also noticed what we thought was a group of Amish driving a compact car. On closer observation, though, we realized that they were only Mennonites.

On the way back down Mill Mountain, we stopped in on Graceland. I think we drove past the place a few times, as it is, essentially, the side yard of a non-descript house in a very non-descript neighborhood. Finally, though, we found the place, parked, and silently piled out of the car. Reverently, we approached the shrine. The first thing we saw was the statue of Elvis. The Epperly's had, apparently, decided that any shrine to Elvis needs an idol. There's was a full-sized gold replica of the man himself. However, when we got nearer we realized that the statue appeared to be a mannequin of an asian man with a huge pompadour and a lot of gold paint. Unwilling to let reality get in the way of style, however, we acknowledged that this was a true stroke of genius, dropped a dollar or two in the little gold-painted collection box, and went on our merry way.

Miniature Graceland was, to be honest, kind of a disappointment. While we enjoyed taking pictures of ourselves from forced-perspectives, the joy of impersonating Godzilla in Memphis quickly dissipated, particularly as we noticed that Miniature Graceland was...well, a little seedy. The grounds were overgrown, the house needed a paintjob, and the Barbie dolls that the Epperlys had put in the little buildings were somewhat threadbare. On further reflection, however, we realized that the Epperlys had, actually, captured the true spirit of Graceland: seedy, overgrown, a little tacky, and in need of a fresh coat of paint.

Happy once again, we went to a Vietnamese restaurant, where we had our last official meal of the milennium.

I've since returned to Miniature Graceland, and found it to be even more overgrown and seedy. However, on the bright side, Don Epperly's son Mike has taken control of Miniature Graceland and is in the process of rebuilding and refinishing the houses. So there's hope for mini-Elvis after all.

Labels: , , , , ,


  • I thought I was the only person who did all the tourist things in the city that I live in.

    By Blogger mist1, At November 16, 2006 at 8:45 PM  

  • That is too weird. Do the Epperly's claim to have ghosts as well? (Miniature ones, of course.) I believe the real Graceland has a few.

    We do tourist stuff, too. How could we resist the cable cars and other attractions SF offers to mere strangers when WE are family? Hello. We live here. What about US? HEY!!

    By Blogger heartinsanfrancisco, At November 16, 2006 at 10:25 PM  

  • a mini-Graceland? One of my friends is moving to Balti in January (after I leave of course...) She's a huge Elvis fan...I'll have to tell her about it!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At November 16, 2006 at 11:13 PM  

  • Pe5rhaps you have heard of Washington DC before. I go into the City every week. By definition I am doing something touristy if I can find a parking place since the Hilton is a block from the Capitol.

    We have our seedy miniatures too. In the White House and the Senate, and the House of Representatives......

    I just can't match the Vietnamese meal to end the Century. That was a great touch!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At November 16, 2006 at 11:58 PM  

  • Mist-
    There's nothing better than playing tourist in your home town. Particularly if your home town has a really weird attraction or two!

    I don't think miniature Graceland has any ghosts yet, but they're working on it.

    If I lived in SF, I think I'd have to just get a season pass to the Exploratorium and Alcatraz.

    Unfortunately, there isn't much else to bring her to Roanoke. We have a few other museums, but nothing to match Baltimore's bounty.

    The Washington area has tons of cheesy stuff to offer--Haynes Point, the NRA museum, all the cool monuments, the museums. How I miss it!

    By Blogger Crankster, At November 17, 2006 at 12:29 AM  

  • How could you not include the picture of me in front of the Big Star? Seriously, that's the most flattering picture I've ever had taken. Also, you neglected to mention the feral cats, roaming like Sci-Fi predators throughout the entire "memorial." And the sad, sad recreation of Graceland's garage. With the Barbicars, if memory serves. Ahem. Tis all.

    By Anonymous John, At November 17, 2006 at 2:52 AM  

  • I tell you not even going to graceland would hold a candle to me personally asking Elvis what he drank (see my hen party post) LOL

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At November 17, 2006 at 6:37 AM  

  • Ah, but the drive up/down 81 is magnificent! she might want to wait till the weather gets warmer though..

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At November 17, 2006 at 10:12 AM  

  • John-
    I did include the picture of you with the unknown wackjob. Unfortunately, you have the only surviving copy of the star picture, Printing out another one would involve digging through negatives and finding someone who works with 24mm film. Perhaps when the movie comes out...

    I forgot about the cats and the Barbie cars. I was just proud because I remembered the Amish wannabes. So many details...

    She probably wants to do it before they start charging tolls. It won't be long...

    By Blogger Crankster, At November 17, 2006 at 3:27 PM  

  • Common courtesy... not so common. *shakes head in disbelief* I saw a lady yell at a guy at WalMart for holding the door for her, "I'm perfectly capable of opening the door for myself!" What a bitch. I held the next door for the guy and gave him a wink and a nod.

    By Blogger WanderingGirl, At November 18, 2006 at 10:07 AM  

  • Wandering Girl-
    I know! What kind of person is so insecure that she has to freak out about a common courtesy?!?

    By Blogger Crankster, At November 18, 2006 at 1:46 PM  

  • It is a little known fact that I was born in Roanoke. I try not to publicize it too much since it just sort of seals the deal on my Second Coming: born December 26th (Jesus was a day early) under a star. And I leave doors open a lot so people ask if I was born in a barn. And I have long brown hair. It's uncanny, really, the similarities. My picture would probably have had too much of a glow around it had I been by the star again...

    By Blogger GalliganRising, At November 19, 2006 at 11:36 AM  

  • Galligan-
    The next thing you'll tell me is that three professors visited Roanoke Memorial bearing exotic fragrances and gold.

    That's where you were going with this, wasn't it?

    By Blogger Crankster, At November 19, 2006 at 11:22 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home