Tuesday, May 22, 2012

someday i'll be undignified.

Listening To: Breath of Life by Florence + The Machine
Love Obsession: "It was a Monday and they walked on a tightrope to the sun." - from The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Hey sweet people! I feel like we haven't chatted in a while. How you been? Is school almost over? Papers all turned in? Classes all scheduled for next year? Awesome summer plans emerging? (You're looking adorable, by the way.)

I have so much I want to tell you, but I should probably wait until I can unpack my heart a little bit better.

So. For today, if it's cool by you, I'd like to talk about Elvis.

Ever so often, especially when I get tangled up in something I'm writing, I got a hankering for a Blizzard. Not the snowy sort (though that would be awesome since the weather here hovers at boiling 364 days a year), but the ice cream kind. And when it comes to ice cream and my quest to find and consume it, my Dad is always my most dependable ally. 

So one day I called him up and said, "Dad! How about tonight, we run out to The Derek Wayne and get a blizzard?"

And Dad was all, "Brillllliant!"

So off we went.
With my favorite ice cream ally.
Necessary Backstory #1: A few years ago, a girl in my Bible Study said that her cousin's husband wanted to name their baby Derek Wayne. But her cousin said no, because that's how people in East Texas pronounced "Dairy Queen." That quote still delights me to no end, so when I speak of Dairy Queen I usually refer to it as The Derek Wayne. Which is probably how I've always referred to it anyway, as my drawl is much thicker than any East Texan I've ever met. So. 

The fact that I get ice cream from The Derek Wayne makes the trip is worthwhile, always. Menchies just moved into my city so I'll probably cheat on The Derek Wayne this summer, but still. Ice cream quests always end in victory.

What I could not have anticipated about this particular trip - not in my wildest dreams - is who I would see.

While at Dairy Queen, I came face-to-face with The King himself.

Necessary Backstory#2: Getting stuck in traffic is not uncommon in my city. While my city is not some huge, sprawling metropolis, it gets congested. Most eateries and stores are located on a couple of streets that border the mall. On those streets, the traffic lights are all jacked up to the tenth degree of crazy.

So I have lots of time to ponder life, love, and other mysteries while I wait for the traffic lights to change. I've listened to entire podcasts. I've had long phone conversations with long-lost friends. Once, someone dressed as Captain America ran past my car holding an election sign. I've seen many unusual sights.

And yet. There is one sight I always hope to behold while stuck in traffic, one sign from the universe that spins my heart and delights my eyes like none other. 

The first time I saw it was just a few weeks after I moved here. An ordinary-looking (old) blue pick-up truck was waiting in front of me. Thankfully, I took the time to read the advertisement on the back glass:

Elvis Impersonator!
Weddings! Reunions! Birthday Parties!
{Phone Number}

On the back-glass of a truck. I call it The King's Pick-Up.

I don't know why it makes me happy, but it does. For me, The King's Pick-Up is better than a four leaf clover. When I see it, I know I'm going to have a good day. How could the day be bad after that? I'm not sure why The King's Pick-Up makes me so happy, but I have some theories.

Theory #1: There's always a little part of me that thrills at the idea of someone having a job they love, especially if that job is completely out of the norm.

Theory #2: If you work as a paid impersonator ... I'm guessing you know how to have fun. My guess is that impersonators love the thrill of being in front of an audience, that making people happy is what makes them happiest about performing.

Theory #3: I don't think there's any snobby pretension associated with impersonating. If your talent - regardless of what it is - has the ability to bring a little bit of joy into somebody's life, then it's a very savvy gift you've been entrusted with. I could even get very deep and philosophical about how impersonating is pretty much what we all do. Is there any originality in art? Or even in the world? Or are we all impersonators? Why am I suddenly trying to get all deep and Yoda-like with this post? Anyway.

Sadly, despite being in traffic behind The King's Pick-Up on many, many occasions I've never actually seen The King. The windows of the truck are tinted. The King remained a mystery.

Until now.

Because when Dad and I pulled into the parking lot of The Derek Wayne, I got out of the car, glanced about ... and nearly fell over and flailed about in joy.

Because the pickup was in the parking lot.

I grabbed my dad's arm and said (you can probably see this coming...):

"Dad. Elvis is in the building." 

I was speechless for maybe a whole second. Frozen in a state of pure delight. This phase passed quickly, because I started thinking about frozen delights and Blizzards and Dip Cones and what do I want?!?! And The King is inside!

I tried to be very casual as I scoped out the restaurant. Nobody fit the profile of what I assumed The King would look like. Was The King disguised so well? Does he have a civilian-self that looks so normal, so different from the Hunka-Hunka-Burning-Love-self I'd imagined? I began to lose hope.

And then.

As I waited in line for my Reese Cup Blizzard, someone brushed past me and said: "S'cuse me, Darlin."

... I'm totally kidding, he didn't say that. 

But I did see him. I saw the King. He walked around me and grabbed his own Blizzard - a King-Sized one. Obviously. He thanked the guy who made it. (Just "thanks" not "Thank ya' very much"). And then he walked away.

He wasn't in character. He had the right look though - dark black hair, fuzzy sideburns and that whole shtick. But he was just wearing jeans and a t-shirt. He seemed really normal.

So now, when I see The King's Pick-Up, there's the slightest tinge of sadness that washes over me.  Now I know he's just a normal guy who eats Blizzards, not a super hero out to be my good luck charm. It's the same kind of sadness as when you're a kid and you see a mall Santa out on a smoke break. Or when you realize The Dukes of Hazzard aren't real; they're just a TV show. We all have to grow up someday, I guess.

Note: As I type this, I'm thinking about how funny it would be  if the guy I thought was the King ... was not The King. What if some guy in a white jumpsuit and glasses was sitting at the booth watching a baseball game and I missed it? I hope that happened. That would be awesome.

Speaking of Elvis.

Are you a fan of the real Elvis? I never really understood the Elvis-crazy until I saw Black Leather Elvis. It's not that I didn't see Elvis's talent; that was obvious. I like his music. And I remember liking some of his movies when I was a kid. He intrigues me for sure. But I didn't understand why people were so obsessed with him. Black Leather Elvis helped me understand. (Or maybe I understand because I'm older?) Some people are just naturally enigmatic. He was like that, I think.

I'm not sure head-to-toe black leather is a good look for 99% of the population, but oh mylanta. He wears it like it's jeans and a t-shirt, like it's nothing. Like he's totally comfortable walking around in leather. Maybe Elvis wasn't a confident man, but he looked so confident on a stage, the way he sang and snarled and growled. And his voice was seriously beautiful. Sometimes he coos like he's singing a love song and sometimes he rasps like he's about to preach. (Maybe he was doing a little bit of both?) And the way he glances up every now and then with those sky-blue eyes like he's looking right at you and then he does that confident little smirk like ... gah. No wonder women went crazy.

But this is my favorite thing about Elvis: I love musicians who are brave enough let the music move them around. That kind of moving that isn't always pretty; it's not choreographed.

You remember in the Bible, when David danced before The Lord and his wife got embarrassed and David said, "I'll become even more undignified than this?" I think that's a similar kind of dancing; that raw, unhinged, primal desire just to move. To physically respond to the moment. That's how Elvis looks in clips I see; not vulgar, but gloriously undignified. And so darn handsome. It's like the music was connected to his bones and wired to his heart and, at best, he was trying to control it. And then he stopped controlling it and let it move him every which way. I think his music gave lots of people permission to move the same way. And I'm sure he was inspired by loads of musicians, but he blended all that into something that came off very original (ironic maybe, considering how much he's impersonated).

So maybe we're not all impersonators. Maybe we're just borrowers. Or maybe we're all just dying to dance. Thank goodness for the dreamers and believers who remind us that it's okay to be undignified.  

(PS: This Elvis song will always be my favorite.) 

I would love to hear your big summer plans! Or your favorite Elvis song. Or your favorite Blizzard mix ... ;) 


  1. I love this story so much! I'm going to have to refer to Dairy Queen as The Derek Wayne from now on.

    Also? Completely agree about Black Leather Elvis. Hello, gorgeous!

    My summer plans involve sending out query letters (hold me), starting book #2, and returning to my hometown for 4th of July, the Family Reunion, a White Sox game, and as many friends and babies as I can see.

    1. Yay for YOU!!!! I'm so happy you're querying! I just ended that epic journey. I'm sure you'll find an agent in no time. Also so happy that you're starting book 2 already. Woo Hoo!! :) Sounds like your summer will be the sweetest. I love to see friends and babies too. I don't like to hold babies, but I like to look at them. From very, very far off ...

  2. You are my hero for pretty much summing up everything I love about Elvis in this one post. :)

    I started taking piano lessons when I was in first grade. When I was in 2nd or 3rd grade, my teacher moved so I started taking from someone else. The first time I went to her house, I saw this guy everywhere. Seriously, she owned just about anything you could imagine with Elvis' face plastered on it. And before I knew it, I loved him, too. :) I've been collecting Elvis stuff for years and I used to be quite obsessed with him. He's not my absolute favorite singer anymore (that would be Sinatra), but Elvis will always be special! When I was in 8th grade my parents took me to Memphis...I was in heaven. :)

    I've never been too fond of Elvis impersonators, though. :) Mostly because no matter how they try, they can never really get it down. We saw them everywhere in Memphis. When we were checking in the hotel, we saw two Hispanic guys dressed up in the whole deal: white jumpsuits, sunglasses, and wigs (or either really great hair).

    The 68' TV special (aka Elvis in black leather) is incredible. I don't know how anyone could watch it and not be smitten. I love to watch him move, especially in TV clips from the 50s. :) One of my favorite things is watching people do what they obviously love, like Elvis singing or Gene Kelly dancing (oh my- his dancing makes me so happy).

    His movies on the other hand...sheesh. :) Even Elvis being like he was couldn't save them from being (mostly) plotless disasters in which he plays a slight variation on the same character thirty-some times. But there are a few that I like: Blue Hawaii and GI Blues come to mind.

    One of my favorite Elvis songs is "A Mess of Blues." But I love so many...have you ever heard "Trouble"? It cracks me up, especially seeing him singing it live. Elvis trying to keep a straight face singing words like these: "If you're looking for trouble, you came to the right place. If you're looking for trouble, just look right in my face...Because I'm evil, my middle name is misery...etc." Hilarious. :)

    P.S. My favorite blizzard is the classic Oreo. :) Although I also loved the Key Lime Pie one they had for a limited time a couple of summers ago.


    1. P.S. So sorry for the massive comment! That's what happens when someone mentions Elvis. :)

  3. Bethany and I were thinking about you tonight as we had an adventure while on family vaca in Hilton Head. Then we read this post and it made us smile. We were talking about you because we took a drive to Savannah today and toured Flannery O'Connor's childhood home. It. Was. Amazing. My heart is still soaring, even from just talking to the tour guide. He was great and I'm not sure why yet but it always means so much to me when I get to talk to someone who is as love in literature and appreciative of those who write it as I am.

    Anyway, I have done nothing but eat junk food and yet this post still makes my stomach crave me some Derek Wayne. ;)

  4. Santa on a smoke break. Sigh ~
    It did my heart good to see the pic of you and Papa Lloyd. So, I'm hoping part of my summer involves me + you = a trip to the Derek Wayne. Yes? :)

  5. Oh, I loved this post. A perfect way to start off summer. I'm not the biggest Elvis fan but I do respect him and admire all he did for music. I've been done with school for awhile but my offical graduation ceremony is not until next weekend, and the next is my graduation party. Today is my dress rehearsal for my last dance "recital" and the shows start tomorrow. I'll be going to DC this summer and planning/working my church's VBS, and maybe making a dumb movie with friends. I love summertime.

  6. Love this! I adore Elvis...he is in some of my earliest childhood memories. I can remember when I was about 7, I think, Daddy took me to his office and pulled a red record album off the top shelf that seemed SO HIGH UP...it was an Elvis record! I was so thrilled -- it introduced me to his song "Burning Love." ;) Have you heard "Long Black Limosine"? That is one of my fav Memphis-era tracks.

  7. I love your quote at the top...I just started reading that book today!

    I love that you call it Derek Wayne! I had to think about it for a second, but I can definitely hear how the two phrases would sound the same with an accent :) Your reference to David was so cool. I love that story in the Bible, but often forget about it. I wish more people (myself included) would live a life so full of joy that they could dance like that.

    Thursday of next week is my last day of school, but because of exam exemptions, today was really my last day, work wise. It feels so amazing to be finished! I have completed my first year of American public school and am still alive :)

  8. Ahh, the Book Thief quote made me happy :) Pretty sure that's my most favorite book ever. Although some of Donald Miller's have been getting pretty close lately.
    My summer plans include 4.5 weeks of counseling at my camp, a family vacation to Toronto, a class trip to a beach on Lake Erie, and a week of service projects with my church.
    I really appreciate how joyful you are all the time, and how you stop to look at life and realize how awesome it is. :)

  9. As soon as I read you were going to the Derek Wayne, I knew there was a story. That made me laugh. And, yes, I had to say it out loud. Multiple times. Derek Wayne! Derek Wayne!