Tuesday, September 16, 2014

In Memory of Graceland Too


Paul MacLeod, owner of Graceland Too, in Holly Springs, Mississippi, was the world’s most passionate Elvis fan. He owned and operated Graceland Too, a museum people could tour of his vast Elvis memorabilia since the early 90s. Paul was a fascinating character and when news came of his passing many people (young and old) grieved his loss. As theClarion Ledger reported, Paul had an unfortunate altercation at his home July 15th in which he killed a trespasser. Days later Paul was found dead at his home. Nothing has been confirmed about his death, but it’s believed that he passed from natural causes.

On August 12th, an all day memorial was held for Paul and his Graceland Too residence. People came from all over the country to honor Paul and help pay for his funeral expenses. There were dozens of volunteers, friends, and family that gave tours and told stories of the beloved Paul.

I had been to Graceland Too five times before. But when I entered his home this time around, it was completely different. I still expected to be greeted by Paul and see his lopsided dentures flopping around in his mouth. I imagined him shouting excitedly at me. “YO YO YO!!!” he used to yell when telling his Elvis stories. He’d jab my arm in the way your mom used to when you weren’t paying attention. That certainly got my attention the first visit (even though there was no way NOT to pay attention). I marveled at his enthusiasm and his expertise in Elvis knowledge (however accurate it might have been). After being at Graceland Too about five minutes, one would realize it wasn’t at all about Elvis anymore.

Mary Hinds, a friend of Paul’s, was starting out the tour and as I caught up with the group I heard her explain Graceland Too as an art installation in which Paul was the main event. “They should pick up this entire house and put it in the Smithsonian,” Mary said. There are many items in Pauls house that only someone who actually knew Elvis would know. The Tiger head in the living room (where Paul would sleep) was important to Paul because Elvis’s boxing nickname was Tiger. Didn’t know Elvis was a boxer? Yeah, me either. Graceland Too is littered with knick knacks like this—each monumentally important to Paul because of some personal relationship to Elvis (even if the relationship was only in Paul’s mind).

As I passed through the house avoiding the guided tour, I found myself near his refrigerator and without anyone noticing me I opened it. It was important to me to know what such an interesting man kept in there. Pizza, water, butter, and beer. Nice.

Not only was Paul crazy for Elvis, but he also loved his Graceland Too Lifetime Members (after you go three times, it’s free forever). He would take your photo in front of the Elvis shrine with a leather jacket and pink guitar—all with a disposable camera and print the images to hang on his wall. He always printed doubles and when members came he would find their photo and give them a copy.

It’s uncertain what the future of Graceland Too will be. I spoke with one of his daughters who I approached because of her striking resemblance to Paul. She mentioned her sadness at learning about all the events over the internet. “We have to get the estate out of debt and my sister and I have to take care of all of that,” Sherry said. She said they will have to start selling stuff out of the museum if need be and that will likely upset people. “You can’t have a basket full of eggs and not break one,” she said.

My last stop in the house was the record room where Paul would sing to his visitors. It was everyone’s favorite room in the house. A video of Paul entertaining guests and singing was playing and I laughed with the volunteer about how charismatic Paul was. Soon after, his other daughter, Brenda, joined us and we shared some stories about where Paul liked to eat in town. “Not many people can google their father and see dozens of photos, videos, and stories,” Brenda said.

It’s hard to explain how unique of a collector Paul MacLeod was. If he had been a boxer, he would have been Muhammad Ali. If he had been an outlaw, he would have been Jesse James. If he had been a musician, he would have BEEN Elvis. But he was a master collection artist who had a true passion for Elvis Aaron Presley and at least we have that.

RIP Paul. It’s like he used to say, “Graceland Too Where Dreams Come True.”

Editor’s note: Read and see Tennessee State Guide Lindsay Scott’s original dispatch — WHERE ELVIS NEVER SLEEPS — for more on the life and times of Paul MacLeod and Graceland Too.

Thursday, August 14, 2014


When someone asked me if I wanted to try a slugburger, I thought they were joking. When I found out it wasn’t a joke, I thought it was a burger made out of slugs. When I found out it wasn’t made out of slugs, I still wasn’t interested in trying something coined a “slugburger” because you can never be too sure what people in the South use in their special recipes.

But as it turns out, the slugburger (first known as the “Weeksburger”) is pretty dang tasty.

This infamous burger can only be found in the southeast, near its birthplace of popularity—Corinth, Mississippi. John Weeks brought his Weeksburger recipe down from Chicago in 1917. He made these burgers from hamburger meat (ground to order by his butcher), potato flakes, and flour. “Extenders” of potato or soy helped fill out the burgers when meat was a more expensive commodity and they remain ingredients in the modern slugburger. The mixture is deep fried and served with mustard, onion, and pickle.

Although there are several possibilities for the slugburger’s etymological origins, a popular belief is that the name arose from the slang term for a nickel—a “slug”—which was likely the asking price.

In July, Corinth, Mississippi hosts the annual Slugburger Festival. This event has been named #2 on TripAdvisor’s Wackiest Summer Events and with activities like the “Miss Slugburger Pageant” and the slugburger eating contest, it’s easy to see why. The event runs from Thursday through Saturday with carnival rides, funnel cakes, live music, and of course, slugburgers being slung for $2.00 each.

But you don’t need to wait for the festival. Anyone can enjoy a slugburger when traveling through Corinth. The White Trolley Cafe sells them for 85 cents each all year round. Take that, Dollar Menu!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014


I’ve known Robert and Walter Scott my entire life (33 years). My grandparents lived down County Road 222 in Walnut, Mississippi, and Robert would walk up the road to visit every day. I would see the brothers sparingly in the years my grandparents were there—only when my parents and I would visit a couple times a year. Usually, Robert would bring the mail or help my grandmother unload groceries.

Now my parents own the house and Robert still visits every day just to check in. At night he goes to his brother Walter’s house to keep him company. I try to visit home at least once a month to see family and I always go with Robert to Walter’s house to sit and talk.

"The Story of Robert and Walter" is an on-going photojournalism project. I’ve been documenting the brothers for 15 years through images, interviews and audio recordings. My goal is to capture a dying culture in a rural Southern setting and to document the Scott brothers’ experience of growing up poor and black in a predominantly white Southern atmosphere.

Robert and Walter’s father was a successful cotton farmer and well-respected in a community emerging from the years of slavery. They are the most interesting people, with a knowledge and intelligence about life sharpened by their experience of poverty. Robert says, “Money sure does make a fool outta people.” And he is right. Walter told me one day when the moon was a thin crescent hanging low in the sky that “that moon’s holdin’ water,” and sure enough, rain came the next day.

Robert just turned 83 and Walter is 87. They still go to the grocery store and keep an elaborate garden. Although it’s seemingly certain that somewhere down the line their ancestors were slaves, we’ve never spoken about it. Instead, we talk about the weather over warm Milwaukee’s Best beer and count how many cats are living under Walter’s house.

Robert and Walter have taught me so much about life and happiness. They are the most joyful people I’ve ever known. It just so happens (yes, randomly), we have the same last name. And I do consider them family.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

When I was a little girl… let’s say 3rd grade or so.. our classroom took a field trip to the zoo. It was my first time at the zoo (that I can remember anyway). The zoo keeper (zooologist?) or the man with the brown shirt and hat on showed us all the snakes. He took them out and held each one of them and explained their markings, etc. We even got to hold some of them. I was so confused by this. I was always taught to believe that snakes were bad bad bad! But as it turns out they are just misunderstood. I can get down with that. I’m quite often misunderstood myself, even at the tender age of 8. I learned that day that snakes are cool and you can hold them. Fast forward about a month… I’m at my grandparents house in Walnut, Mississippi. I get pissed at my parents for something (who knows what it was at that age) and I dart off down the clay dirt road in hopes of proving to them how very angry I am and that I might just run away down county road 222 never to be seen again.. They don’t care. I’m walking along and I stumble upon a large snake by the side of the road squirming. It looks in distress. I have to help this snake! Get it to the vet! I have to help the poor misunderstood snakes of the world if it’s my very last mission on earth. I pick the snake up and it’s falling over and down both of my arms. I trot up to the house where my dad is outside in the yard. I rush up to him with my squirrly serpent and plead that we need to help him. My dads eyes become very large and he yells, ‘goddamnit’.. I guess he was still mad at me from earlier?… As I’m holding the snake there realizing that my father will be of no help to me and my wounded reptile, the dogs (skeeter boy and Bob) take the snake from each end and start playing tug of war until the snake snaps in half. With blood on my shirt and my snake friend dead I look up at my father who says, “do you know what that was?”… that was a cotton mouth snake and it would have killed you in 2 seconds if it wasn’t already dead.

I decided not to play with snakes anymore but I would continue to be misunderstood in life.

Thursday, April 10, 2014


Aprons have always been a backdrop in the culture of the kitchen. Mostly worn by women, aprons have evolved to provide people all over the world with a layer of protection against mess and dirt. Aprons are used in food service, carpentry work, the medical field, hair salons, construction and even mechanical work. There is not much history known about the origin of the apron. Paintings dating back to the 1300s depict women in aprons, but we really don’t know precisely when and where the apron was invented.

Since 2006, Carolyn Terry of Iuka, Mississippi has owned and curated the world’s only apron museum. With over 3,000 aprons, she is proud to explain where some of her most prized collections have come from. Estate sales, donations, and her private collection cover the walls and racks of the right side of the store. On the left side, aprons and vintage collectables are for sale starting as low as $3.00. Each apron has it origin and date received on it for collecting purposes.

Carolyn is most proud of her Claudia McGraw aprons. Claudia, from Black Mountain, North Carolins, had a popular tea room where she hung some of her hand made aprons on the wall. Within hours of hanging them they all sold. She became one of the most popular apron makers in history providing aprons forGreta Garbo, Eleanor Roosevelt, Amy Vanderbilt and many others. (Searching online for a Claudia McGraw biography is not easy.)

What makes the mystery of the apron so interesting is how the information is found only through talking to an apron enthusiast. If you Wikipedia apron you don’t get a historical account, timeline or specifics.

Stories passed down through generations and memories are what we have as origins for this piece of clothing known as an apron.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Wizard of Malls

I try to avoid the mall. I don't go to the mall because I'm poor. Well, not super poor, but I'm not a disposable income kinda human at this point. I have a lot of what's called "consumer debt".... which basically means the pizza I ordered 5 years ago when I was broke and hungover cost me $200.00 on my credit card. Take that and multiply it by a thousand and you might have an idea about my current financial profile. I shop at The Dollar General. The last thing I googled was "free car giveaway contests"...Surprisingly I didn't find much and I think I gave my work computer a virus. I guess only Oprah gives away free cars and her damn show isn't on air anymore. Oprah, if you're reading this, can you please help me? I saw an episode where you took away all this woman's debt for her? That or a free car would do wonders for me! Thanks. I digress...... But I'm going to the Mall today with a friend. I'm excited because it feels like years since I've been in a mall. How do I act? Do they still have Auntie Anne's Pretzels? I heard someone say they offer valet parking now. That's a service that I can do without----mainly because they don't take credit cards. Oh man I wonder if they still have all those dumb kiosks in the middle? I recall this one time this guy got me for every dollar in my wallet---LITERALLY. I adamantly declined his lovely hand scrub (infused with pure gold, no doubt) but once he got his grubby little hands on mine and dipped them in the warm water and starting rubbing I was sold. I had to have that shit! Ok, so I need to stay out of the middle and walk really fast past those guys. What else? Do I have all my credit cards? Discover? Check! Bank of America? Check! Fuck yeah, let's go to the Mall! Shoes and purses and makeup, oh my! We're not in Big Lots anymore, Toto!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Check out my contribution to The Guardian for Nashville's top 10 shops and top 10 things to do on the East side. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

"Yeah it only takes about 5 hours to get there". That’s what everyone I talked to said.

We arrived at the ‘Harbor Something?’ 8 hours after leaving Nashville. Granted, we hit traffic. And someone had to stop and pee a lot (I swear it was NOT me). But much to our delight our cabin (aka condo made of wood) was well-equipped to handle all three colorful personalities in our camp. We had everything we needed to eat and drink which is what we are always mainly focused on doing.

But this trip was also about digging for crystals. Arkansas has the largest reserve of quartz next to Brazil (Brazil being number 1). Lake Ouachita (WAH-SHEE-TAW), the lake our place was near (I would say ON but we had a view of the tennis court) features one of the biggest crystal veins in the world. There is also a very rare jellyfish frolicking in those waters but we’ll save that research for a warmer trip. The Corp of Engineers made this lake for it’s hydro-electric power, water source, and wildlife conservation…..but another reason is the preserve the crystal underneath it. There are many uses for quartz and as we are rapidly depleting our natural resources, it’s no wonder the government wants to protect this “gem”. We use quartz in everything from watches, microphones, radios, and computers. And some people just think it’s pretty….which is why we were there.

After a lengthy search online for the best mines to dig, we found Gee and Dee’s. An old ma and pa shop where you can pay to dig your own crystals. We got up Saturday morning and had Brannon call to let them know we were heading their way soon. After about a 15 minute phone conversation Brannon hung up and said Dee told him that the mine was shut down but we could dig in their front yard. We were a bit confused but knew somehow we would get back in that mine and dig!

Again, we under estimated our travel time… but only by 12 miles this instance so we were ok. We arrived at Gee and Dee’s greeted by two sweet dogs and Dee herself. She called me Antarctica although I was certain she was talking to Renae, my friend who was sporting a faux polar bear vest ensemble (perfect for mine digging—;)) I digress…The yard was beautiful. It was like Superman’s crystal cave threw up on a yard in Story, Arkansas. But we also wanted answers. Why can’t we dig? Dee explained that back in late June of 2010 there was a flash flood that came through around 5:30am and killed at least 20 people (6 of them children) while they were camping in the Ouachiata State Park. Noted as the Albert Pike Flood, it caught national headlines and President Obama even offered federal help. The national attention shed light on the mines there as well. They came in and implemented new codes and laws for the miners making it impossible for the “working man’s miner” to adapt and conform. They don’t have the monetary resources to make huge scale changes to abide by the new regulations and stay open. Dee was even caught digging on her own land and fined. We weren’t getting back there and neither were the owners of the mine. With heavy hearts we combed through their yard collections grabbing anything that even slightly interested us. We learned from Gee about the nature of the rocks and how they form, about the history of their mine and what the future holds for them. “I will have to sell my mine to the government. That’s all I can do”. I felt a true sense of what this man was going through. Having mined for 54 years that’s all he knows to do. He said that crystals were more addictive than cigarettes (they both smoked a pack each while we were there). He has a true passion for mining you can tell by his hands. I knew when I saw the huge heart-shaped crystal he pulled and carved for Dee, that this was a gentle man in love with his life and his rocks. I felt an overwhelming amount of empathy watching his livelihood robbed of him in his twilight years and for a good while that day that is all I could think about. I digress, again.

The visit ended with Gee showing us his private collection in the back shed. We bought some sacred pieces there and learned that Gee was a bluegrass musician. He gave us two cd’s of The Ouachita Mountain Boys. And let me tell you… it was good! They were having a jam session at 5 at the Blue Bell (a small cafe in the middle of nowhere). We sorta/kinda promised to be there and we did show up but just too early. Our brains and hearts and bones were worn out. We returned to our cabin/condo on Lake Ouachita, sat in the floor staring at our crystals speechless for about an hour, and then it was time to eat and drink again.