After a week of spending too many daytime hours stuck in a lab with no natural light, no music, and little or no work satisfaction, I had the urge to drive… and to read. Fortunately, I had heard that On The Road: The Original Scroll had just been released. For the 50th anniversary of Kerouac's iconic book, an unabridged version was being celebrated. So off to the bookstore we went.
Couldn't find it. Off to bookstore #2 (where we should have gone in the first place). No luck there either. Did I read the release date wrong? Ah, no matter, because I did come upon the very interesting Evocative Objects, edited by Sherry Turkle. This is a collection of essays about how we relate to physical objects, how we give them meaning, and how we use them to think about our lives. I've only read the introduction and one or two essays (because I've gotta go back into that lab, dangit!) but it occurred to me that this phenomenon of giving life and meaning to things seems like a personalized version of social icons. That cracked coffee cup on the shelf is much more than a useless container, because it holds a part of the owner's history.
And so, coincidentally, it has been 30 years since the death of uber-icon Elvis Presley. "Elvis" — that lone word says so much, depending upon who's doing the musing. I was only fifteen when Elvis died. At that point in my life he didn't mean a whole lot to me. C'mon, why would I listen to that when I could be cranking up Bachman Turner Overdrive, Kiss, and Led Zeppelin? Besides, wasn't he the sweaty fat guy in that white suit thing?
Well, everybody has to grow up. All of these years later, that one word has so many thought vignettes crammed into it that it's certainly one of my personal experience icons.
Elvis: "Hound Dog", "Blue Christmas" (dressed in leather), "My Way" (fat, sweaty, white eagle suit), Plainville (Connecticut), cousin Dawn digs "Burnin' Love", The Sun Sessions, the cool Japanese couple in Jim Jarmusch' Mystery Train, Joe Strummer (character's name in Mystery Train? Elvis!), Elvis Costello, our family reunion (Dawn was there), Mojo Nixon, Michael J. Fox, Graceland, gospel, peanut butter and banana sandwiches, pills, pills, pills, pills, more pills!, Colonel Tom Parker, The Stamps…
I suppose I should have picked an early recording, probably something from those great Sun Sessions, but I had the urge to hear "Viva Las Vegas." Las Vegas, now there is an icon.