I've kept this blog, on and off, since 2006. In 2015 I used it to chart daily encounters, images, thoughts and feelings about volcanic basalt/bluestone in Melbourne and Victoria, especially in the first part of the year. I plan to write a book provisionally titled Bluestone: An Emotional History, about human uses of and feelings for bluestone. But I am also working on quite a few other projects and a big grant application, especially now I am on research leave. I'm working mostly from home, then, for six months, and will need online sociability for company!

Thursday, January 08, 2015

My Year with Bluestone: Elvis's Birthday

When I used to live in North Carlton, I walked through the cemetery every morning, and in the old days (the last few years) when I used to ride to work, I would sometimes cycle along its paths. It's on highish ground, surrounded by low houses and parklands, and to the east you can look right across the suburbs towards the Dandenongs.

It is of course like a little city: its own roads, avenues, grand street frontages, ghettoes and slums.

But one of the most extraordinary monuments is that which was assembled in honour of Elvis Presley in 1977.  It was opened by 'Johnny O"Keefe.'  On anniversaries of Elvis's birth (today) and death, I have often seen people laying fresh flowers or bringing tape recorders or guitars and playing soft music.

I have enlisted Paul into this project, and his hi-res photos will appear in the book, but here are my quick snaps.

The astute observer will point out that the actual monument is not bluestone at all but conventional black marble or granite (note to self: do quick course in stone identification), and as we wandered around the cemetery we realised it's only the older nineteenth-century tombs that are based on bluestone (more on this in another post). But the grotto that surrounds the monument is made of very uneven bluestone rocks, stuck together with cement, and at several points, the cement has been dribbled down to resemble limestone stalactites. 
For the first time I noticed there is another similar grotto (without memorial) on the other side of a big bluestone mausoleum (again, for another post). We took many, many photos of bluestone tombs and buildings today: I am going to have no trouble finding images to post each day this year. 

But here is indubitably a place of pilgrimage. Not many people there today, but we saw some laying fresh flowers, and placing cards. And while I don't have a photograph to prove it, as we were standing by the memorial, an old, bright red car cruised by. At the wheel, a man wearing a large plastic Elvis wig, dark glasses, and a bright orange leopard-skin shirt or jacket. Too fast to photograph. He drove around a bit but didn't stop to get out. I said "beautiful" to one woman who was laying pink and red carnations, and carefully arranging some red glittery butterflies, and a picture of Elvis in a plastic wrapper, but she didn't reply. Her husband (?) stood behind her, also without speaking, and a daughter (?) with high ponytail and white rhinestone boots sat quietly on the park bench and watched. 

There's a neat blog by Mark Holsworth on Melbourne shrines, that remarks on Melbourne's propensity for shrines to those who never visited here. Holsworth also comments that the Melbourne cemetery shrine is "the only officially approved Memorial to Elvis Presley outside Graceland in Memphis."

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