Three women contemplate the viewer from the cover of the current issue of American Vogue magazine: Priscilla Presley, her daughter Lisa Marie, and Lisa Marie's daughter Riley, who at 15 years of age is beginning a modelling career. Lordy, Lordy, not only is Elvis a grandpa, his grandkids are teenagers. It's hard to get my brain around that one. His music is played often enough that it seems Elvis never really 'left the building' 27 years ago.
If Elvis's life was strange, his afterlife is stranger still. Lots of people refuse to admit he's dead. Just recently I read Year Zero by Brian Stableford. The novel kicks off with the heroine talking to Elvis at the local Sainsbury's singles night. Elvis claims he faked his death and dropped out of sight to undergo immortality treatments. (The story gets even weirder after that, with space aliens, Men in Black, and demons from Hell featured prominently. It's a fun read.) The idea of Elvis faking his death is behind all of the Elvis sightings that many find so fascinating. Elvis apparently is fond of hiding out in the middle of nowhere, judging from the number of sightings in small, dusty hamlets. In fact, in one such hamlet you can find the Elvis is Alive Museum.
This is quintessential Americana. Out here in the heartland, there are many ways to go into showbiz. If the movies don't suit, just start your own religion or become an entertainer. Elvis did it all, and it's no wonder folks don't want to let him go. If an enterprising fellow (or lady) looks the part and can sing, he can have a fine career as an Elvis impersonator (warning: slow-loading page). Concerts, parties, and weddings all beg for a bit of 'the King's' magic. Those who can't sing can still get into the act, as demonstrated by The Flying Elvi, a skydiving team that, oddly enough, is officially licensed by Elvis Presley Enterprises.
[A bit of pedantry: technically, the plural of Elvis is Elves, not Elvi. In general1, Latin nouns ending in '-us' form their plural by replacing the last two letters with '-i', as in avus (grandfather)/avi (grandfathers). However, nouns ending in '-is' form their plural by changing the 'i' to an 'e', as in avis (bird)/aves (birds). Assuming the words are the subjects of their respective sentences, that is. Oddly enough, the word 'octopi' isn't really correct, either, even though the (American) Webster's dictionary says it's acceptable. 'Octopus' isn't Latin; it comes from the Greek oktopous, plural of which is oktopodes. Or you could just use the English version 'octopuses' which, despite what your teachers may have told you, is perfectly acceptable and indeed preferred according to the Oxford English Dictionary.]
Fascinating, no? Anyway, as far as the Elvi are concerning, I figure anybody who's brave enough to dress up as Las Vegas Elvis and jump out of airplanes can call himself whatever he wants.
So here we are in the middle of August. The hot summer nights are alive with the sound of oldies concerts, and the Elvi are flying the friendly skies. Who knows, maybe Elvis really is watching the show from the shadows of a tent in a small, dusty town in the middle of nowhere. I wonder what he makes of it all.
Life goes on and takes us with it. Most of us won't have to worry about people dressing up as us after we're dead, and this is probably a good thing. Some of us (naming no names, of course) make a point of lacking any fashion sense and think one of us is plenty for an unsuspecting planet to handle. Still, some of us (naming no names, of course) are vain enough to be eyeing the cosmetics counter and the various potions that promise to remove wrinkles along with large portions of our savings (and taking care not to squint too much, lest that hint of crows' feet turn into the real thing). All of which leads us to our point, which is that International Youth Day has our unfashionable knickers in a twist.
Actually, I was a bit puzzled by the announcement, which says that today's society is the youngest ever but it's also aging. What's really depressing is the theme of this year's celebration, which emphasises the interdependence of the generations -- an idea that is so obvious to many 'Third World' cultures that it points out just how badly the 'First World' societies have gone astray. We worship youth to the point where we spend billions of dollars on potions, injectible toxins and painful procedures, all in an effort to delay the inevitable. And along with this comes fear of aging and all that it means.
Fortunately there are plenty of people who are too busy having a good time to worry about getting older. One female relative of mine took up skydiving when she was in her 60s and another is doing aerobics in her 80s. In photographs you see them mugging for the camera and grinning from ear to ear, happily accumulating wrinkles and crows' feet and lives filled with interesting experiences. They've found the real fountain of youth, which is the conviction that something neat is just around the corner, so look sharp and keep your eyes open. If you're lucky, you may just stumble across Elvis serving up burgers and fries at the diner down the road, and wouldn't that be something to write home about?
- Want to be an Elvis impersonator? You can join the Elvis Association and meet like-minded individuals.
- If you can't be in Memphis, Tennessee for the Elvis Week festivities, UK residents can find a celebration closer to home -- and it's not until September!
It's dead as dead can be.
First it killed the Romans,
And now it's killing me.
-- student ditty