Before you toss me on to the mountainous heap of Elvis worshippers some backstory might be helpful. First, I will be more than happy to agree with Elvis’ place in American popular musical history. He was and forever will be the “king,” because he was one of those rare and brilliantly talented musicians whose career happened to co-exist at a crucial time in the development their musical genre (if you know classical music, think Ockeghem, Monteverdi, Beethoven, and Stravinsky). Elvis took a myriad of different musical styles that were prevalent at the time and used them to create something new, different, and better—and he did so with amazing talent. Enough said.
Why a bathroom filled with Elvis things? When we moved into the present house in 2002, the downstairs bathroom could only be described as deco dismal. It had last been wallpapered during the Nixon administration and the sink fixture was reminiscent of backstage community theater. Carla and I stood in the doorway and despaired, wondering what we could possibly do to give the dank narrow chamber a touch of decency. Giving it any class was far beyond reach. But in a moment of collective brilliance we, like so many resourceful and innovative Americans before us, did the not-so-obvious and embraced the tackiness. We would one-up the inherent dread of the space and make it a shrine of sorts.
About 15 years ago Ted and I started a birthday/holiday tradition of sending each other the tackiest things we could find. For a white it was Hawaiian shirts but eventually we got into an Elvis groove that never stopped. I think I topped everything with an actual velvet Elvis painting ordered online from some mysterious place in Mexico. But the polyester Elvis suit Ted sent me with its gold fringe and fake pink boa is right there.
Today is Ted’s birthday. He would have turned 55 but lost a five year battle with lung cancer at the end of January 2006, literally 30 days before my Mom passed away, also from lung cancer. It goes without saying that we miss him terribly. I guess the Elvis bathroom is my way of remembering him. Happy Birthday, Teddy. Here’s thinking of you.