Alaska-bound and visiting Elvis

The Chugach mountains in Alaska.

The Chugach mountains in Alaska.

I’ve been dropping hints in recent weeks that I had a job offer. Yes, we are moving to Alaska in less than a month’s time. This past winter, I applied for numerous academic jobs and finally by the beginning of March, started getting called for interviews. Then it got crazy. By the end of April, I was on the short list at three places. One of them even flew me in for an interview, but hired an inside candidate instead. Another decided I was too much into journalism for them (odd, I know). But the third is what I got.
Along with full-time positions, I also applied for some guest lectureships. One was in Ann Arbor (never heard back from them); one was in Montana (I was told I was a strong candidate but didn’t win) and the third was the Snedden Chair, a guest lectureship at the University of Alaska/Fairbanks. It’s an endowed chair by Helen Snedden, widow of Bill Snedden, once the owner of the Fairbanks News-Miner. I knew there was a lot of competition for it and they were very late at deciding who’d get it but on May 29, I got the offer and just this past week I signed the contract, so it’s off to Fairbanks we go. Wouldn’t you know it, another university contacted me even more recently to say I was a finalist with them as well but…I was already taken for this year.

We'll be living in the purple area in the center.

We’ll be living in the violet area in the center of the state.

Of course this means my house is now up for sale (I’ve been prepping it for many weeks and now all sorts of people are walking through it) even though the local market is not great right now. It was lovely when I bought it two years ago and I’m hoping that other folks will find it lovely now. And I’m planning a drive across country to Seattle where we’ll rest for about a week before the final drive to Alaska up the AlCan. That will be 5,000+ miles. So I’m doing all sorts of doctors’ appointments and car check-ups and ordering of maps and assembling of things to ship to Fairbanks ahead of us. I’m also taking a graduate course at UMemphis this summer plus needing to plan the syllabus for my fall course so sometimes it’s hard to sleep with all I have to do. Most of my things will go into storage for a year, so I’ve had to locate a place in the Seattle area for that, plus get moving estimates – the list goes on.
So with all that going on, what did we choose to do today? Visit Elvis Presley’s Graceland in Memphis. I felt I could not leave west Tennessee without seeing this place, which is located near the airport in a pretty scuzzy area of town. So off we drove for 90 some miles. You’d think for all the money they charge for parking ($10) and the steep admission fees that the venue would be a bit better kept up, but I found the gift shop area kind of shabby. The mansion was in a 1960s-70s time warp and it was fascinating to look at all the bejeweled pantsuits that he wore. I had no idea that Graceland was the second-most-visited house in the U.S. after the White House. I also didn’t know that he had a twin brother who was delivered still-born 35 minutes before he was born. His grave, those of his parents and his brother are all at Graceland.

Elvis's living room

Elvis’s living room

It was fascinating to tour his private plane and gaze at the furniture he had that seemed so exotic at the time but looks ordinary now. There was a museum just devoted to his cars. We enjoyed the pink Cadillac, so of course Veeka had to have a little one for herself. You only live once. I was dumbstruck by all the videos and movies. I had not really followed him when he was alive; he was really before my time and I was still in college when he died. By the time I was aware of pop music, the Beatles, Mamas and Papas, Moody Blues and other groups more to my liking were on my radar – Elvis appealed to folks born a decade before I was. But watching him today, I had no idea how amazing a dancer he was and how good a showman he could be nor of the punishing performance schedule he kept up year after year.

3 thoughts on “Alaska-bound and visiting Elvis

  1. Julie Dunks

    Wow, Alaska! Wow! That sounds fabulous, such a dramatic and wild place! Congratulations!

  2. Jim Keys

    Julia,
    Have you considered taking the Alaska Marine Highway [ferry system]? It would save miles on your car and you get a beautiful view of the inside passage. The Toyota-Subaru dealer in FB can winterize your car.

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