Monday, March 29, 2004


When I was a little girl and had never heard of Elvis Presley, I thought that Graceland was surely another name for heaven. My parents were not religious, but I knew about heaven and while I didn't necessarily believe in it personally, I had a fairly decent idea what believers thought heaven was like.

My father is a classical musician. He plays timpani for American Ballet Theater, and my favorite music growing up was Tchaikovsky. The Nutcracker, of course, but also Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty, and plenty of music by other composers too, mostly music that was written for or turned into ballets. The only rock and roll I remember hearing early on was The Beatles' White Album and Paul Simon's Graceland. I have memories of Bonnie Raitt's Nick Of Time as well, but I think that came later.

My favorite Beatles song was "Buffalo" Bill*, as I pronounced it at that age, and my favorite Paul Simon was Graceland. It wasn't until recently that I remembered my early assumption that Graceland was heaven, and even as an adult it makes perfect sense to me. "I have reason to believe we all will be received in Graceland." What a lovely image that evokes - heaven as a place that you get to on a train (always my favorite mode of transportation), where everyone is welcome.

My mother may or may not have met Paul Simon once. She moved to New York City sometime after high school and she once played frisbee in Central Park with someone who looked just like him. She asked if he was Paul Simon and he claimed to be his younger brother. I believe Simon & Garfunkle were still together at that point, so of course Central Park seems like the only place either of them could be. But I suppose it might really have been the younger Simon, or perhaps even just a look-alike.

I haven't made my mind up about heaven, but I'd like to go to Graceland. In the 20 or so years since I first remember hearing Graceland, I found out who Elvis Presley was. I have several records of his music, and I've heard countless covers at assorted rockabilly shows. I have Fit For A King, the Elvis Presley cookbook, and someday when my cholesterol is too low I might even try a few of the recipes. I love his rock and roll songs, but I really love his gospel music. I've never been to Tennessee.

But I'm afraid I might be disappointed if it turns out to be a real place.

*I didn't find out what a bungalow was until a few years later when I began devouring the Nancy Drew mystery stories. Interestingly, at that time I had never heard of Buffalo Bill either.