So there I was at the local fair. Some nice ladies had a table in the home show building and asked if I wanted to sell my books there. Sure why not? It was all very last minute, I just grabbed some books and taped up some flyers and started shouting ‘support your local author’.
The scheduled entertainment that day was an Elvis tribute performer. Not an impersonator, but a tribute performer. The stage is about 75 yards away from the home show building, and my spot was right by the big doors. That meant I could see this guy setting up and doing his sound check. I was a little underwhelmed at first. It was just some dude in Dockers with a receding hair line and one of those carpal tunnel wrist braces. He did have on those Elvisy sunglasses though.
There’s a few folks in the seats for his sound check, but most people are ignoring him at this point. A few people where I’m at seem a little upset because he doesn’t look like Elvis. After a bit he comes into the building and he’s got a big leather bag over one shoulder, the kind you put a suit in and fold in half.
I see him talk to somebody in the office. He’s soft spoken so I can’t hear him, but I figure he’s looking for a place to change. I know he has to have an Elvis suit in that bag. The people in the office can’t really help him so he ducks into the men’s room right behind us.
I turn to the other people at the table and say, “That’s like seeing Clark Kent duck into a phone booth.” It gets a bit of a laugh.
Am I making fun of this guy? Maybe a little, but it’s not mean spirited. Country fairs are already kind of weird, and adding Elvis to anything will make it a bit surreal. But hey, I live for the surreal.
He’s in there for quite a while. I’ve never worn a jumpsuit and I wonder if they’re hard to get into. Those stalls aren’t very roomy in there, so yeah, probably a little tricky. Finally he comes out and he’s in a black jumpsuit. It’s got brass and turquoise studs all over it. I try not to stare but I can’t help it. He walks by, slow and calm, in fact he’s serene. He doesn’t really look at anyone, just strolls down the grass to disappear backstage.
I sit back down and keep doing my thing. At least a half hour goes by, maybe more. Then I hear it. Also sprach Zarathustra! I stand up and go to the door so I can see. Is this dude making his entrance to the same music they used in Space Odyssey? You bet your ass he is.
He runs up the stairs and starts belting it out. There’s no band, it’s more like karaoke, but he is singing himself and doing all the Elvis stuff: hip shakes, arm rolls, thank-you-thank-you-very-muches. He’s not calm now. He’s going buck wild down there.
One of the nice ladies comes up and watches for a few moments. She shakes her head and says something like, “Oh, that poor man.”
I turn to her and realize, even though we are at the exact same event, we are having completely different experiences. Maybe she just doesn’t like Elvis. She seems to feel sorry for the guy. It’s a very small town and a small fair, it’s raining off and on so the crowd’s not great, a couple dozen, maybe more. She might even be embarrassed for him and this small fair and maybe for herself for being there. I’m not any of those things.
“You kiddin’ me?” I say. “That guy’s down there doin’ what he loves!”
Did he look like Elvis? Not really. Did he sound like Elvis? Yeah, quite a bit actually. But who cares? He was having a hell of time singing and gyrating. The crowd loved him. He went down in the audience and passed out scarves to the women. He did Elvis doing “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond! Tell me that’s not awesome!
I got my ass down to the stage for a couple of songs and even sang along with “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling”. When he was passing out scarves on that one, an old guy in the back pointed to the gazebo. The old guy’s wife was in the gazebo and wanted a scarf. Elvis kept singing while he walked through the rain, draped the scarf around her neck, and sang a few bars on one knee before he sang his way back through the rain. That’s awesome.
I suppose it was easier for me to see it that way. After all, wasn’t I doing the same thing? I have a passion for stories. I followed that and decided to become a writer, and here I was hawking books off a table at the local fair. What’s wrong with that? Nothing’s wrong with it. It’s awesome.
You know what else is awesome. Most people are behind you, or at least glad for you. It’s a positive feeling to see someone having fun and doing what they love. There might be a few mutters of ‘oh, that poor man’, but they’re easy to ignore and usually drowned out by cries of ‘right on’. One of the great things about following your passion is sharing it. Ol’ Elvis was sharing it with everybody in earshot. But I got to share it a bit too.
One lady asked me how I managed to get these books published. She and her husband had about forty pages done on a book about how to be Santa. They play Santa and Mrs. Claus every year and they’re very passionate about it. I told her I was self-published and I would definitely get together with them and tell them what it took. Yet more awesomeness.
So, when Elvis (who’s real name is Jim Felix and usually does bigger venues) came back into the home show building, he was calm and soft-spoken again. He was also dripping with sweat from his performance. I asked if I could get a picture, but he had to get changed because he was gonna go back on and do another show. But once he came back out in a fresh Elvis jumpsuit, he graciously let my wife take our picture. The new suit was blue and he started the late show with “Blue Suede Shoes”.
It was awesome.