Love Me Tinderbox

It’s Elvis Week in Memphis, or as the locals call it “Death Week,” when fans from around the world descend on the city. Activities culminate August 16, the anniversary of Presley’s death, with a candlelight vigil at Graceland.

For the most part Memphians lock themselves indoors with the air conditioning, while sunburned tourists mill about outdoors doing their Elvis thing. (Most of the uninitiated visitors survive, but EMTs stationed at Graceland for the vigil always have to treat at least a few people for heat exhaustion.)

If you enjoy people watching, snag a window seat inside an air-conditioned eatery on Beale Street during Death Week. You’ll see people of all nationalities — there’s generally a large contingent from both Japan and Germany. Even more fun, there are always a number of Elvis tribute artists, some who come for the competitions and others just making a fashion statement. One year, hubs and I had the surreal experience of standing in line on Beale Street for a Saliva concert at The New Daisy Theater, sandwiched between Goth teens and Elvis impersonators.

However, I wouldn’t personally recommend visiting in August when the average temperatures are in the mid-90s and the heat index soars over 100. If you’re an Elvis fan, I’d suggest instead a pilgrimage for his birthday (Jan. 8) when the average temperatures are 50ish. There aren’t as many special activities as there are in August, but there are usually a couple of special events. And year around you can tour Sun Studios, Graceland, the Lisa Marie, his birthplace in Tupelo, and tour — and even spend the night in — the Lauderdale Courts apartment where Elvis lived as a teenager.

If you still yearn for the unique spectacle that is Death Week, be sure to wear sunscreen and a hat, carry an umbrella for shade while you’re standing in line at Graceland, drink lots of water and take frequent rest periods indoors. The friendly EMTs will wave and say howdy, but they’d prefer not having to give you medical attention.

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