Wednesday, September 3, 2008

I'm going to Graceland...isn't that ducky?

The world famous Peabody ducks

Well, you didn't think I'd not take advantage of the lag time I had in Memphis, did you? Those of you who have known me for long know that there is little chance of my getting into Memphis and not checking out Graceland, the home of the King of Rock and Roll. I have never had an opportunity to visit this national landmark, but there is an odd coincidence. I was in Tennessee when the funeral for Elvis Presley was held back on August 18, 1977. Elvis died on August 16 that year and I was in Virginia enjoying a wonderful day out on Smith Mountain Lake near Lynchburg. I was driving back that weekend when I thought long and hard about making it to the memorial service. As it turned out, I decided against going there even though my mother was certain that I was making a beeline for Graceland. When I showed up in New Orleans on time and without a detour to Memphis, I do believe my mother said a prayer and thanked divine providence. There are many things to do in Memphis. Obviously, there are the tours at Graceland and then there is Beale Street, the home most associated with the blues movement in America. But beyond that hoary tradition -- and remember we do have Bourbon Street in New Orleans -- there is also a very engaging practice that takes place every day at 11:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m every day. That's the March of the Ducks at the Peabody Hotel. Many of you are uninformed, but the historic Peabody Hotel has been featuring its twin daily marches for most of the last 73 years. The marches are orchestrated by a "Duckmaster" or "Assistant Duckmaster" and the four mallards and one drake march to the music of John Phillip Sousa's "King Cotton March" during the morning and evening marches to or from the lobby's fountain area where the ducks hang out during the day. The ducks work for three months before another set of ducks are introduced to this strange, but very popular tradition. They begin their march on the roof of the historic Peabody Hotel and return to their "duck palace" by evening. For those of you who have not experienced this delightful tradition, I recommend a trip to Memphis to enjoy this free show.

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