St Kilda foreshore 1994; Memphis 2012
If you ask me, the St Kilda foreshore affords the best view of Melbourne. Most days (when I’m not melancholic) I pull on my Dunlop volleys, and let the sea salt lick at my face. Walking is akin to a best friend – unconditional and accepting of any shape or mood I might be in. Music is the soul mate of walking. When I first moved to St Kilda, I experimented with different paths along the foreshore. I finally claimed the St Kilda Pier to Station Pier stretch as my very own. Okay, so did most of the local area walkers! Even though the other walkers share my path, I don’t see them. I’ve a knack for shutting down my senses when I’ve a need to.
My family worried when I moved to St Kilda from Endeavour Hills. It wasn’t the drug addicts and prostitutes, the cultural shift, that worried them. For some reason they got it into their heads that I’d fall apart after the end of my marriage. I kept telling them I’m fine, and not to worry as I have a new vow. I made the vow sound like a secret weapon. They didn’t ask what the vow was. It surprised me they didn’t ask any questions, but I was thankful. I mean, there’s no way they’d understand. After all, I may be the only person that’s ever made a vow to a song.
The first time I heard the song, I felt a discernible touch down in my veins. It was the year my marriage started to unravel. Everything and everyone at the time seemed to be fading away behind an impenetrable plastic film. I remember thinking, What a sexy voice, and this singer sure knows a thing or two about being blue. I was overwhelmed with a sense of familiarity, and a desire as real as the goosebumps that pricked at my skin. For the second time in my life, I made a vow: on a day in the early 1990s, as my marriage and first vow died.
I solemnly vowed to make it onto a plane to Memphis. Marc Cohn, I don’t know you, but I want to be your friend. I want to walk with you in the pouring rain, in the sticky humidity, and I promise I’ll always listen to you.
I’d been sitting a long time on a church pew in Endeavour Hills and the worst part was there was no gospel in the air. Visiting Beale Street and Graceland was a dream my Dad shared with me. He talked about Elvis and B.B. King until music was air, and air was life.
My marriage ended. I moved to St Kilda with a few belongings piled into the back of my red Ford Laser. It wasn’t long before I was thumbing the foreshore like Sissy Hankshaw – always with music in my ears and ghosts egging me along.
I’ve walked the St Kilda foreshore all the way to Memphis.
I’m walking down into the Jungle Room at Graceland with my best friend Bell. The walls are covered in green shagpile. Bell and I share a cheeky look. We’re tempted to run our fingers along the wall, but we know there are cameras watching our every move. Instead we stand in awe holding onto each other. Our love of Elvis was born from different experiences, but it is as true for both of us, as autumn leaves change colour.
I made it. I’d kept my second vow, Dad.
I put on my big girl air
And boarded the plane
I touched down with you and Bell
And it’s true, Marc Cohn,
Every avenue has its ghosts
And every heart its tomb
Muriel played her piano
As I walked every inch of Graceland
In my very own blue suede shoes
It’s said that some vows are meant to be broken. I always respond: equally, some vows are keepers.