My mama, Margaret Ruth is from Buford, GA and my daddy, OC Miller is from Avery County, North Carolina, so I was looking forward to gallivanting around the glorious south where they first drew breath. My dearest angelwoman, Patti D’Arbanville’s sweet mom left her a lovely home in Tryon, NC, and I’d been wanting to pop in on My Lady for a long time. Why not visit Patti, see Jake La Botz play the devil in Atlanta and round up a passel of creative dolls in Asheville , Memphis (GRACELAND!) and Nashville to bare their creative shimmering souls while I was at it?
One of the great joys in teaching my women’s writing workshops is being able to travel around and meet so many like-minded, like-hearted women, ready to cut loose! I adore just being able to dip into a situation, a town, a home, arrive smack dab in the midst of people living their lives, give ‘em a little zingy creative zap, exchange lovey energies and move on!
Patti greeted me at the airport with her beloved eensy-pooch, Bizou, wearing a floaty, strapless mini-dress, so great to see her! Her lovely home is deep into the woods about an hour outside Asheville, and we had a blast blabbing it up. (If you want to know more about our pal-ship, read my second book “Take Another Little Piece of My Heart”) She rounded up an intellectual group of Southern belles who seemed to get a whole lot from the writing exercises. Class is usually a lot different from what they imagine. Lots of interaction, discussion, tears, laughter and yummy foodstuffs. Many of my assignments are memoir related so can be pretty darn cathartic and mind-blowing.
My next stop was good ol’ Nashville where I had the pleasure of staying with pals Dawn (Mink) and Dave Gleason. Dawn is hairstylist to Nashville’s finest and Dave is a master dweedle-dweedle guitarist/singer-songwriter. Dawn set up a mighty groovy bunch of gals for class, and afterwards we went to see the astounding Greg Garing (He is featured in my most recent book, “Let’s Spend the Night Together” in the Amanda chapter! Haha!) We stayed for both sets, as Mr. Garing is a madman zany version of the granddaddy greatness that is Hank Williams. He even sang “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” for me. The next afternoon I caught up with my dear darling Todd Snider at his local E. Nashville haunt. I took Dave along and we all gabbed about musical interests and the meaning of life until dusk.
Aaahhhh, glory be ~ on the way to Memphis I took a little side trip to rock and roll Mecca, Tupelo Mississippi, the birthplace of the King. I’ve tried to imagine that little white shotgun shack most of my life, but actually walking right up to it, not even a fence around it, a gate, nada, the manger of rock just sitting out in the open air, was a breathtaking moment for me. A swoony, woozy, yet brilliantly alive and pulsing experience, seeing that little, unassuming white clapboard house.
I was almost afraid to enter, and luckily it was a weekday and not too many Elvis fiends were on hand. As I stepped through the original Presley door, suddenly I was standing in the very room Elvis was born. A bespectacled white-haired woman welcomed the handful of us into the stunningly tiny space and began her practiced ramble. Jesse Garon was born first, stillborn, how tragic! The grief for Vernon and Gladys must have been unbearable, and 20 minutes later, here came Elvis. The mind just boggles, truly. This shining baby beacon lifting up, saving, and defining their world. I stood there, gazing at the space where this miracle took place, then slowly wandered through the itty bitty kitchen ~ that’s all there was, a bedroom and a kitchen ~ and back out into the sunny Tupelo afternoon.
And now off to Memphis! I had been to Graceland once before with my wonderful ex, Mike Stinson, and we had a crazy Kingly ball, buying up every trinket possible, staying directly across from Graceland with 24 hour Elvis TV and a guitar-shaped pool. This time, I was crashing with one of my writer dolls, Jan, where class was being held. Such great Tennessee angels came to write up a storm! Not only did I get my butt back to Graceland, but I got to see the Rev Al Green preach on Easter Sunday! It was a heady experience, wasn’t sure what to expect, but the reverend praised the Lord and burst into song when the spirit hit him, which was every few minutes! What a treat! Packed house, lots of music and a perfectly glorious way to spend Easter morning. From church I went directly to the King’s pad, again marveling at the time-travel aspect of stepping smack dab into the 70s. High-end kitsch. Olive green shag rugs on the ceilings, mirrored TV room with 3 vintage televisions, oddball paisley fabric adorning the walls in the game room, perfectly preserved 1974 moderne kitchen (E redecorated in ’74) and the Jungle Room! Lord have mercy!
But I have to say, I felt sadness this time around, not sure I want to go back anymore. Because after the tour, checking out all of E’s actual belongings, imagining him enjoying life, singing, smiling, and laughing within those carpeted walls, you wind up at his grave.
I sure love Elvis and honor the imperative contribution he made to us all by just doing what came naturally. He was fearless. And he wore blue eye-shadow to high school in the early fifties! Talk about waaaay ahead!
I had no idea how massive Atlanta was! HUGE! Like L.A. or Houston, but I somehow navigated myself around with my trusty iPhone. I wish I’d had time to take a sidetrack to Buford, where my sweet mom was born, but one of my writers came all the way in from Buford! I certainly enjoyed my Atlanta dolls and their heartfelt stories in class. I always appreciate how deeply my writers delve into their psyches, yanking out all kinds of intriguing tales! It’s no wonder I call it ‘Groupie Therapy!’ And I got to go to the premiere of Stephen King’s new musical, starring my dear pal, Jake La Botz as the sexiest satan ever ! I’ve already written all about that, so give it a read…
I cherished every moment of my trip down South, just like I treasure every moment that I’m drawing breath, dipping in and out of fascinating human dramas, weaving my own energy hither and yon…Hopefully we can commingle sometime! Lovelovelove, Miss P