Elvis Presley lives next door.
I have never been to America but my son has been many times and he loves the New England States. When he got the chance of a job at MIT is was sad to see him leaving England, but as we both agreed, it would be good for his future and once he got settled I could go out and visit him. Me and his mother are separated but we are close friends still. When the day came I drove him to Heathrow airport and watched his 747 take off for America. I decided that the best thing to do was to show you the letter he sent me a week or so later, without any changes or long winded explanations, and so if you come across the mention of a relative and you wonder who they are, just ignore that bit until the end. My lad promised he would write and in this day and age of email and mobile phones, I suppose I am lucky that he did. Here is his letter.
What an amazing start! I hardly noticed the flight over and when we reached Logan, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. Now you know I have always told you that no matter how often I fly to Boston I get lost at the airport, but not this time. I picked up a rental car and found my way out with no trouble at all, and I thought I would drive on up to Maine to visit those friends of mine up there, you remember me telling you about them after my last trip ?
It was really strange because at this time of year the fall colours (sorry Dad but that’s what they say here, I think ‘autumn’ is too long a word for them), were out in all their glory, just as I always imagine them to be. So the drive up North was truly beautiful, for May. Anyway, I no sooner blinked my eyes than there I was, in Maine and I thought I would take the coast road as usual, up around Camden. I must have driven that route a dozen times but I never noticed the turn off I saw this time, so I gave it a go. The signpost read ‘Coastal scenic route and Peaceful, Maine’.
I drove down into Peaceful and that was a great name for a town. Now you tell an American that we have places like ‘Chipping Sodbury’ or ‘Stow-in-the-wold’ and they think those names are funny so I suppose its each to their own. All the houses in Peaceful are the New England types that you see on TV and when I went to get a room for a few nights I ended up with a whole house, right on the edge of the beach, and it is fantastic. I got myself sorted out and then I heard loud music from the house next door which was odd since this is such a quiet place. Anyway, I opened a beer and sat on my step and then there it goes again, my favourite Elvis track of all time. Yes Dad, you know I am not an Elvis fan but everybody likes something he did and for me its ‘In the ghetto’, and there I was sitting on the step when I hear “...and his mama cried...”. To tell you the truth I thought it was the TV but then, and you will never believe this, I looked over and there he was; the man next door in full (and I mean full) Elvis stage costume, singing my song. He was pretty good so I just sat and listened. I was hoping he might try ‘The Impossible Dream’, but he went back inside.
I slept really well which was nice because I had no jet-lag at all, so the next day I decided to take a drive around the place, but I only got as far as the town limits sign when the car conked out. I had to walk all the way back to town for a tow truck, and then this kid comes by in a classic Porsche - it was amazing, around 1955 I think, but to look at it you would think that it was new. The kid asked me if I would like a ride to I sad ‘yes’ and off we went. He took off along the freeway (its what they call the roads over here Dad) like a bat out of hell, I mean it was as if the other cars weren’t there. Jimmy (that was the kid’s name) dropped me back at my place and when I got there a man called from the garage. I tried not to laugh but I think he had drunk a few beers and he was the dead spit image of Lee Marvin – he had the same old white whiskers and rheumy bloodshot eyes. Anyway I asked him how much for the repair and he sort of mumbled to forget it, which was kind.
The next day I decided to go on up to Bar Harbour as I planned. I drove as far as the other city limit and the damned car stalled again. I was walking back to town and I was going to call Avis to complain when an original Ford Mustang drew up. The guy asked me if I needed a ride and of course I did. Well Peaceful Maine, is a small coastal town but this guy made a left here and a right there and before I knew it we were under some kind of a flyover. I suppose he had a short cut to the Inter-state ( that’s a motorway here dad). Steve was his name and he as every bit as good as young Jimmy; excuse my French dad but he scared me shitless. We got back in one piece okay and I left him chatting with Jimmy while I got a beer and sat on the step again. I was hoping I might hear my neighbour sing again but he was quiet that time. I was just dozing off when I heard something unbelievable, and the man across the road, a coloured gentleman came outside and he was singing. You know I like Soul music but that man sang “Dock of the bay”, and you would never tell it from the real thing. Funny thing, his name was Otis too.
Well as you can see, this really is a nice place and it looks like I may be here for a while. Everyday I meet a new face. There was a band in one of the old barns the other day, like the stuff you listen too dad, and I poked my head around the door to see what they were doing. They played all the tracks I remember you playing dad and the one I like too, ‘In the Mood’. This letter seems to be turning into a diary, but so much is happening that the days just seem to fly by. I met a girl the other day and we sort of just clicked. At first glance you would thing she was just a leggy big bosomed blonde bimbo, but when you get to know here a bit she is really nice. Marylyn (that’s her name) and I have spent a few days together now and she is so nice; I think you’ll like her. She does get mixed up though – not because she’s stupid but because she can be a bit scatter-brained. She was telling me how she met The President once, John F Kennedy and I pointed out that she was too young for that, and she just laughed it off.
There are some woods at the back of my place and I went walking in them and way on the other side I found some more houses just like mine. Talk about small world! I was chatting to a couple from Yorkshire who were planning to tour New England, when we were waiting to board at Heathrow. They have taken one of the places over there. I stayed and had a Lobster meal with them which was nice and one of their new neighbours called around. Nice bloke, Welsh. He said he was an actor but everybody in America thinks they are a star, anyway his name was Mr Burton and we all sat on the sun deck and sank a few beers. I think I had a few too many because I fell asleep and when I woke up Richard (the Welsh bloke) had gone.
I was still having trouble with my rental car and I spent forever waiting for Avis to answer, but in the end I gave up. Steve called by and said I could borrow his Mustang because he wanted to do some work on his motor cycle. I was expecting some fancy chrome Harley but when I went to pick up the car he was tinkering with some old world war two thing, so I left him to it. It was great driving that car and I thought it would draw crowds up in Camden but nobody took any notice of it, almost as if I wasn’t there. Funny though, over here the people are always friendly and the shops always smile and welcome you but this trip everybody ignored me, which was rude I thought. Still, it was a nice day out with Marylyn.
My new friends at the back of the woods called by and told me something silly. They asked if I had been down to the General Store yet and I said I hadn’t found the time yet. They told me I really must because the store keeper was the double of Burt Lancaster. When I have a minute I must go and see but I think they are pulling my leg. I went back to their place and Marylyn came too and we sat around talking. Some guy started playing a guitar and singing “A boy named Sue”. I don’t know who he was but he had a fantastic gravely voice and we all joined in with the killer line, “my name is Sue, how do you do ?” It was great.
I seem to be meeting new people every day here and I am always being asked around. I keep trying to reach MIT because I need to get to work soon but I can’t get through. My money seems to last forever, its so cheap here. Every time I think I am going to run out there always seems to be enough left. Jimmy, Steve, Marylyn and me are going to take a boat out tomorrow which will be fun and I will write you about that sometime. I am going to finish this off now dad or I will be writing home forever. I just put the kettle on to make a pot of tea (they stock English tea in the shop and the owner really does look like Burt Lancaster). I have to go now because I can hear the guy next door singing “The Impossible dream”, and he does a fantastic version of it. This place is like heaven and Elvis lives next door !
Love you lots,
PS Say hello to mum for me the next time you see her.
So there it is. My son is a very thoughtful lad and he enclosed an air plane ticket, business class no less, with the letter so that I could visit him. That might have to wait a week or two. I didn’t tell him before he left about the minor bit of surgery I need to have done because I knew he would worry about me and I didn’t want to spoil things for him. My doctor says its only a tiny murmur on my heart and its easy to put right – I should be in and out in a couple of days. I am going to get it done next week and then, if the Doc says its okay, I can go and visit my son. It will be my first visit to America.
What I forgot to tell you was that he was on BA213 out of Heathrow. If you have been watching the TV news you will probably have seen the footage that they got of it going down into Boston Harbour. When it blew up in the air over Logan I suppose it was lucky that none of the wreckage landed on the city. If he writes again before I see him I will be sure to pass his news on, but if not I will try to drop you all a line myself.
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