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The Journey by Mark T. Rasmussen - Book Tour + Giveaway

By 7:00 AM , , , , ,



Literary fiction (with Adventure; Family)

Date Published: 11-28-2022

Publisher: By The Pure Sea Books


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“The journey of a 1000 miles begins with a single step.” ~ Lao Tzu


Raiden, an emotionally troubled 40-something guy, is at a major turning point in his life. Rather than choose to face it head on, he undertakes an epic road trip adventure across North America, all with the aim of escaping the single most transformative event of his life – imminent fatherhood.

Searching for solutions in all the wrong places and faces, Raiden is forced to turn the mirror back on himself and shine the harsh light of reality not only on his quest, but into the very depths of his soul, in order to discover what it is he truly seeks.


While he does his best to find the answer, the impactful events he experiences along the way will reveal more about Raiden and his nature than the strange assortment of characters he meets on his overland odyssey.


Ultimately, The Journey is a story that no matter how far you run, your demons always follow.


 “Mark T. Rasmussen rewards readers with a fascinating tale of transformation. 5-stars!”K.C. Finn (Readers’ Favorite)


 
Excerpt

“Double crossing, lying sacks of shits,” Louie bellows when he finally squeezes back inside the car. “So who’s ready for Graceland?” he beams at me through a yellow, teeth-stained grin. 

Is it too late to cancel the tour, I think? 

When we’ve returned to a more comfortable speed for the car, I look over at Louie, who reminds me of an older, balder, fatter, and if possible, surlier version of Paulie from Rocky. Even his shirt is stained with God knows what. What the hell have I got myself in for, I wonder?

“Beer?” Louie chirps. 

Before I can answer no, he’s reached back around behind the seat, grabs two cans from a cooler and hurls one at me. 

“Let’s rock’n’roll,” he says as he cracks open his can and guzzles it down in almost a complete, single gulp.

It’s an inauspicious way to start a tour to say the least. I can only hope it picks up from here but when he immediately reaches for a second beer, my doubts just increase.


* * * * *


“A little hand,” he gestures.

I amble over with serious concerns about whether jumping over the fence to break into Graceland to save a few dollars, is really worth the risk. I’m convinced we’ll either get caught, cop a serious fine, or be thrown in jail. Maybe all the above? 

“Lock your hands,” Louie orders.

I cup my hands and do my best to take most of his hefty weight, while he clambers up the fence, slipping and sliding his feet against the wood with his Italian loafers that have zero grip. Somehow, he manages to get to the top where he straddles one leg on either side of the fence, but he’s huffing and puffing from the exertion. He gives me a smile from his flushed, sweaty, red face as he does his best to stay atop the fence that buckles and wobbles under his mass. But it doesn’t last because Louie loses his balance and crashes down onto the other side.

Worried, I jump up and peer over the fence. He’s not moving. I immediately hurl myself up and onto the fence with a lot more ease and dexterity than him, however, I notice the wood is badly rotted and is barely able to hold my much lighter frame. I’m about to hop off when one of the support posts snaps beneath me and before I know it, I’m sent over the fence, face first, to join him.

Thanks to the plush grass I land on, it’s a relatively soft landing. I pick myself up and dust off the leaves and dirt. I then attend to Louie, who’s just laughing that familiar smoker’s cough laugh of his, only it’s much worse in person. In person he openly hocks up the phlegm, spitting it out onto the neatly, manicured lawn.

I look back at the fence that now has a serious 45 degree lean to it, with its posts all bent at odd angles.

“Geez, Dorothy’s going to be pissed when she notices that,” Louie says with a smirk. “That’ll teach that old bird for not returning my calls,” he quips.

“Is there anyone you haven't pissed off?”

“Define pissed?” he says.

Perturbed by the answer I’ll get, I don’t press it.

We’re both back on our feet, though I don’t think it’s a good idea to stick around much longer in case we run into Graceland’s ground security or worse, Dorothy. Louie, however, is nonplussed as he trudges away from the sad looking fence and in through a large, overgrown section of trees and shrubs.

“This is the Meditation garden,” Louie asserts. “Only thing is, Elvis never meditated a day in his life,” he grumbles before snapping off some of the tree branches to clear us a path.

We creep our way slowly through the garden, well I do. Louie just tramples over the flowers or kicks and displaces the carefully laid out stones with little care for the tranquility of the place. We near what appears to be the way out, when he crouches down and stops. He raises a clenched hand in the air, military style, and gives a signal I assume is for me to kneel and stay quiet, even though all the noise is his.

I look over his shoulder and there, just ahead of us, is the big, white mansion of Graceland. Several people mill out front posing for photos, while a couple of attendants check the wrist bands of others. There’s also a security guard patrolling the grounds, with one mean looking German Shepherd ready to savage would be intruders.

Louie seems not to care, which offers little consolation given his tour approach so far. He turns to face me.

“So this is how it’s gonna be,” Louie pants at me. “We’ll wait until a tour group strolls the grounds. Then when no one’s looking, we walk out of here as casual as can be and wait for them at the bottom of steps, like we’re leading the group. They’ll never suspect a thing. Now do your best to act cool and fit in,” Louie lectures me.

I want to point out all the holes in this theory–the attendants checking wrist bands, the security guard, the savage looking watchdog–but just as I am about to speak, sure enough, a large group walks up the driveway nearing the steps to the entrance. 

“Go!” 

Without warning, Louie steps out from behind the covers of the trees and half jogs, half clomps his way towards them. It’s now or never, I say to myself. The irony of that being an Elvis song is not lost on me when I exit and follow him.

We get to the bottom of the steps and watch as a large group of Korean tourists saunter up the drive.

“Right this way,” he calls out.

“What was that about fitting in?” I joke.

Louie ignores my dig and waits for his moment. When most of the group have gathered around in a big congregation, some snapping photos excitedly, he grabs my sleeve and drags me along. Before I know it, we’re in the middle of the group and rather than be inconspicuous like I thought we would be, Louie then offers to take photos of four Korean ladies nearby who are using one of those selfie sticks. Without a chance to say anything, he proceeds to grab the stick, mangles at the phone attached until he somehow figures out the right way to take their picture. Once they get over their confusion and hesitancy, the women all giggle and pose for the camera.

He continues to take photos of the other group members, even though the four original women want their phone and selfie stick back. The group begins to lurch forward en masse, Louie holding the selfie stick aloft for them to follow. While one of the mansion’s ticket attendants gives us a puzzled look, we amble past, until just like that, we’re inside Graceland.

While he may not have the most conventional of methods, I’ve got to hand it to Louie, what he lacks in careful planning and organisation of any kind, he more than makes up for with spontaneity, determination, and desperation.

He leads us through into the main entrance hall and it’s every bit as opulent and ostentatious as you can imagine, capturing the late seventies in all its vibrant glory. The place has become both a shrine and a time capsule, representing everything from that period when Elvis was still alive. In short, a place for people to never let go. It’s almost morbid. I don’t get to dwell on those thoughts too long when a Graceland attendant and guide starts the official tour for “our” group.

“Graceland was once part of a 500 acre farm that was owned by the S.E. Toof family. The land had been part of the family for generations and was named after one of their female relatives, Grace. According to Graceland history, in 1939, Grace's niece, Ruth Brown Moore and her husband, Dr. Thomas Moore, built the mansion. The Moore's daughter, Ruth Marie, was musically accomplished and became a harpist with the Memphis Symphony Orchestra. Classical recitals in the front formal rooms were common, just as rock 'n' roll and gospel jam sessions would be after the next owner moved in,” the guide says, in that flat, monotone voice they speak. It’s enough to bore even the most avid fan.

“In the spring of 1957, at just 22, Elvis Presley purchased the home and grounds for just over $100,000, after he reached super stardom the year prior,” the unanimated guide drones on as my eyelids begin to feel heavy.

A team leader of the group then repeats what the guide just said, but in Korean. This is when Louie seizes the moment to shuffle me through a side door, out of view and ear shot, from the tour guide and group. For the first time since joining his unofficial tour, I’m actually thankful.

“You can have that boring, lifeless tour or you can have the real tour,” he says with a sly smirk. 

Louie then turns his jacket inside out before putting it on again. It takes me a minute to recognise what I’m looking at, but then it dawns on me. It’s a replica jacket. One that looks exactly like the official Graceland tour guide’s, only Louie’s jacket is more stained and frayed. 

I long ago gave up on any “official” tour, so nothing surprises me anymore with Louie and his antics. Rather than protest, though I doubt he’d listen anyway, I decide to go with the flow, especially given the alternative, which would only bore the bloody pants off me. I have to trust that I don’t come to rue my decision.

Once I decide to embrace it, however, I feel this rapid change almost violently grab hold of me and sweep through my mind and body. That former, fun and carefree guy that I used to be (long before life subdued and beat me down), appears to roar back to life. It cajoles and goads me, telling me to let go, run wild, and enjoy myself for a change. So that’s exactly what I plan to do. 

With no time to catch my breath with this new assertion taking hold of me, Lou whisks me off to the kitchen, which is not far from where we stand, and opens up the fridge to help himself to whatever is inside it. I’m amazed at his careless attitude. He opens up one of the drawers, grabs what I am sure is a genuine knife Elvis used in the 1970s, and proceeds to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for himself.

“If it’s good enough for the King, it’s good enough for Uncle Louie,” he exclaims between mouthfuls of sandwich which he spits out in globules while he talks.

Whatever Louie has in store for me, from here on out, I’m all in. One thing I can almost be certain of after seeing his rudimentary actions and questionable behaviour firsthand, it shapes to be an unpredictable ride, that’s for sure. I have to wonder whether I haven’t unleashed my own former immature and irresponsible demons, long buried from my past, to now run amok in the process. I grit my teeth knowing only time will tell.

Lou ushers me into another room, which is equally as garish as the last. It’s honestly like a bad LSD nightmare, one where you never get to wake up from 1977! We keep moving through the home, past another group dying of boredom, who all watch on in amazement when we walk behind roped off sections, seemingly afforded privileges they didn’t know existed or could pay for. If only they knew, I think to myself.

Louie leads me to the game room, which is stacked with classic 1970s memorabilia, key among them, a couple of old-school pinball machines. Despite my hushed protests, and the gasps of several onlookers, he reaches around the back and flicks the switch on one of the machines. It takes a few moments to flicker to life, possibly because it’s been decades since it was last played. But soon enough, that familiar sound of a classic pinball game comes to life.

The ding and clink of the old metal ball bearing hitting the bumpers and other zappers is music to my ears, while I watch as the score ticks over. But it soon fades when Louie isn’t able to save the ball from disappearing back behind the flippers. In frustration, he bangs the glass top before he gives the machine a kick.

“That game’s always had it in for me,” he bemoans. 

I look at previous high scores and see the initials EAP. I assume they stand for Elvis Aaron Presley.

“Elvis really was the king in more ways than one,” Lou confirms with a certain fondness. 

During the game, I spot the group from last night. A few of the faces recognise me and look over in bewilderment and wonder why I am getting preferential treatment. I just smile and wave at them as another tour guide enters the room behind them and notices Louie by the pinball machine.

“Sir, no one is allowed up there,” he says, almost freaking out that someone dare break house rules.

“It’s okay, I’m with the Elvis Aaron Presley estate service team,” Louie mumbles, before he reaches into a pocket of his jacket and holds out what I can only presume is a fake ID. 

He doesn’t wait for a reply, instead, chaperones me away into another room, shoving other patrons out of his way as he goes, before closing the door behind us.

“Such a stuffy bunch,” he groans.

But I don’t hear him. Instead, I stand incredulous before a floor to ceiling wall of all the gold and platinum records Elvis secured during his reign at the top of the charts. To say it’s immense in size, scope, and achievement, is an understatement. Presley had over 20 number one hits on both sides of the Atlantic. Even after he had ceased living, one or two remixed versions of his songs, still managed to hit the coveted number one spot! A remarkable feat for a man long dead for over 30 years.

As I stand here in awe, it dawns on me that regardless of the bad taste in furniture and carpet, he was a phenomenon the likes of which we may never ever see again. It’s impossible to argue his success, even when his career and health declined. It’s fair to say, Elvis truly was the King! 

I don’t get to savour the moment too long because before I know it, Louie is trying to wrench one of the hit records from the wall with a screwdriver he’s concealed on him. There really is no shame to this man. He isn’t able to get very far though, because the gold records are screwed into the wall with a different screw head than the type he brought with him. Frustrated, he pockets a nearby ashtray instead and whisks me away before I can say anything.

I am amazed at this man’s audacity, even more amazed security hasn’t been alerted to his antics. They’re not short of CCTV cameras that’s for sure. I am certain it is just a matter of time before they notice him and his reckless abandon in the home of none other than Elvis Presley. A man during his peak, some think was more powerful than God, and is still alive.

I can only hazard that maybe the security cameras are more for show than being fully functional. Either that or perhaps the monitor guard slipped out to get a coffee so the cameras aren’t being monitored. I don’t concern myself with it as we tag onto the tail end of another group, who follow one another into a room off to the side like sheep. 

We now stand right at the bottom of the big marble staircase, with its steps that lead upstairs. A sign in front of them reads in big, bold letters, ‘No Entry’. Louie brushes the sign aside like it’s not even there, and the next thing I know, he heads upstairs without a care in the world. I furtively follow behind but rather than risk any wrath, I play my part and turn the sign around. Little do I know though, that on the other side it says, ‘Open’.

I scamper up the stairs to catch up to Louie, who now stands on the top of the landing and waves down for me to join him.

“Hurry up, I’ve got to take a dump,” he says as he rushes off towards a room out of view.

With some caution and much trepidation, I follow behind. Is he really about to take a shit on the King’s throne? Now there’s a vision I could have done without. I can only pray I’ll be spared that indignity.

“Oh crap, no toilet paper,” I hear from the nearby bathroom.

Please tell me he hasn’t, I mumble to myself.

When I walk in to what is a truly gargantuan bathroom fit for a king, Louie’s in the middle of zipping up his fly. There’s no flush and I’m not game to peer into the toilet bowl, but the smell. Holy mother of God! It’s so pungent, my legs buckle momentarily and I’m forced to grab a nearby towel rail to keep from keeling over. Overcome by the strong, obnoxious odour, I beat a hasty retreat from the room, all the while questioning Lou’s level of morality and sanity. I mean, how low one man can go?

When I make my way back out into some much needed fresh air, I just shake my head at this man’s impudent conduct. Not even during my wildest, impetuous worst, was I ever this disrespectful, especially in a place as revered as this. Yet as much I am shocked and disgusted by his behaviour, I am also completely captivated by it. I have to profess; I actually admire his nonchalance. While it won’t win him many friends, if any, Lou is a man who plays by nobody’s rules. You have to give kudos to a man who lives like that in this day and age.

“You just exited the bathroom Elvis died in,” Louie says to me on my way out. 

If Louie was anywhere near the vicinity when he passed away, I’d wager the toxic fumes emanating from the bathroom were what did the King in, not all those deep fried sandwiches Elvis was rumoured to love.

“Want to see where the King slept and conquered his women?” Louie asks me, before hastily adding, “After Priscilla left him of course. Have to admire a man who on any given night could have had his pick from an endless stream of adoring, beautiful female fans who would throw themselves at him. Of course, that’s not to say a handful of us boys didn’t take advantage of all those hyper horny women flinging themselves about the place. I mean, how could we resist? Ah, the fun we had.”

When I look over at him, he’s wearing a smug grin that would put a Cheshire cat to shame. I want to quiz what Lou did or was to Elvis, but because I don’t want to interrupt his tale, I hold off on asking him until later.

“But not Elvis, he really loved his wife, and was always faithful. He was devastated when she asked for a divorce. It was the reason he recorded ‘Always On My Mind’ so soon after the separation. He was crushed. He needed an outlet, that song was it. Its lyrics spoke to him on a deep, personal level. Elvis once told me in private, that despite that song going on to become a worldwide hit, he’d have given it all up if he’d been able to convince Priscilla from leaving him.” 

The reflective thought from Lou hits its own resonant note with me. Despite his questionable antics and disgraceful behaviour, I am impressed by Louie’s knowledge of the layout of the house. For someone who was no doubt banned from here many years ago, he still knows his way around. But it is his personal anecdotes, that make me wonder whether Louie had indeed been much closer to Elvis than I ever gave him credit for.

“Lou? How did you come to know Elvis?”

“You got your question wrong way round, kiddo. The better question is, how did Elvis come to know me?”

Before I can rephrase it, he’s already answering for me.

“He was the loner kid at school, a real mollycoddled momma’s boy. No joke! I was the popular up and coming guitar wiz. Everybody loved me. Somehow, we both ended up at this country fair music contest. Neither of us won. They awarded it to some Mary-Sue type with curls like Shirley Temple, who sang Good Ship Lollipop. She only won because she was the mayor’s daughter. But one thing led to another, and we became good friends, exchanging records, guitar chords, and song ideas as we grew up. Then Elvis got a lucky break when I was laid up in hospital with rickets. While performing at another contest, some bloke who called himself a Colonel despite never fighting in a war, offered to manage him. I thought Elvis was crazy for agreeing to a deal that gave this guy fifty percent of earnings from his first recordings. I offered to shepherd his recording with plans to impress people with my much better talent and secure my own record deal, because let’s be honest, I was the better muso, Elvis even said so, you know?”

I give Lou a dubious sideways glance.

“Truth to god, he did. Anyway, Sam ‘Shyster’ Phillips, the owner of Sun Studios, took one look at me and my bow legs, and locked me out of the session, thinking I was some juvenile delinquent out to steal something. Elvis didn’t realise until it was over. Next thing you know, he’s an overnight sensation on the back of those recordings, and I’m treated like some no good bozo busking in the street. Elvis felt bad after that, he told me that. So he kept me on as his personal roadie to haul his guitars and bags about the place. I taught him his signature ‘rubber legs’ dance move, on account of my bowed legs, but when no one would take me seriously, I sank into depression and alcoholism. I was no good to anyone, but Elvis kept me on his team. He used to get a lot of flack for that, but we were buddies. He confided in me so many times when everyone else was out to take, take, take from him because he trusted me. It’s crazy to think I was propping him up while I was at my lowest,” Lou laments.   

As we walk into the lavish bedroom, I can’t help but feel a little remorse, both for Elvis who had surrounded himself with so many vacuous people, most who no doubt leeched off his fame and success, but also for Louie. Despite all his obvious flaws, he really did know plenty about Elvis, which most people seemed to have discredited him for. If things had turned out very different, who knows where both might have ended up.

There’s no time to reflect, however, because just when I thought this tour couldn’t get any crazier, Louie is now jumping up and down on the bed like a child.

“Come on,” he said. “The King wouldn’t mind. This is how he used to get ladies to loosen up before he had sex with ‘em.”

I hesitate a minute, more out of respect for Elvis than anything, before further embracing my inner child. I then let go and join Louie on the bed and bounce right alongside him.

“Elvis would have liked you,” Louie says in a moment of sincerity. “You’re a risk taker, rabble-rouser, and fun-seeker.”

Whether true or not, I am touched by the genuine sentiment. Here I am, jumping on Elvis’s bed, in his home, with a guy who clearly knew him, and regardless of a sour deal or not with Sun Studios and Sam Phillips that may never have been, you can’t help but like the guy.

We’re soon interrupted by a small group of people who’ve also wandered upstairs. I stop what I’m doing but Louie doesn’t, nor does he even apologise. 

“The King wanted everyone who came here to have fun,” he broadcasts to the dumbstruck onlookers.

Somehow the “official” guide jacket seems to empower a few of the visitors, one or two of who now join us up on the bed and jump alongside us, squealing with delight. 

“You!” an angry voice says that stops us cold. 

When I turn around, standing there in the bedroom doorway and blocking our only way out, is a male authority figure who looks like the head of security, and boy is he furious.

“How many times must you be told that not only are you banned for life from here, but prohibited from being within ten miles?” he shouts, his face blowing up like an enraged baboon.

“You’ve some nerve after the last time,” he continues.

Louie knows the jig is up and true to form, rather than take the wrap, he just points at me.

“This is the asshole you want. He’s the one who forced me back here,” he says before he rips off his fake jacket and tosses it back in the face of the guard, temporarily impairing his vision, before he makes a mad dash past him and back down the flight of stairs.

The guard runs after him, which allows me to escape and make my way to the top of the landing. Down below, I can’t help but laugh as I watch this old, fat man, run around Elvis’s grand piano making sure to glide his fingers across all the untouched, dusty keys, while the guard gives chase around it. 

I’m not sure whether to make a bolt for the mansion’s exit or stay, because despite the trouble I might end up in, I’m having a blast watching Lou get chased round and round the piano, much to the delight and amusement of other onlookers, with some cheering him on. While I haven’t laughed this hard in ages, in the end I decide the punishment is not worth the risk, so I leg it out of Graceland. I almost run head first into the side of a taxi that’s waiting for someone. Rather than face the prospect of being caught, I take Louie’s courage with me and dive into the backseat.

“Mississippi River Front Motel and fast,” I yell at the driver who stares back in a state of shock at my hurried entrance.

Hesitant, the taxi driver starts to pull away as he eyes me with suspicion in his rearview mirror. I turn around just as Louie exits the building, somehow evading two security guards on the steps. Eventually, he’s encircled by five other security guards who now surround him. I watch on as most of the tourists out front hold up their phones to record the event. He may not be Elvis, but he’s about to have more hits than the King ever did, thanks to videos that go viral on social media, I chuckle to myself.

I catch the taxi driver avert his stare beyond me.

“Friend of yours?”

I take a minute to think about it, then reply, “Nah, he’s just some silly old bugger who thinks he taught Elvis a trick or two.”




About the Author

MARK T. RASMUSSEN is an Australian author born by the sea, cultivated in the city, formed via the world. Previously a professional journalist and editor, Mark now writes evocative, thought provoking subject matter for his adult novels and screenplays, and fun, captivating, thoughtful books for children. An avid adventurer, he currently lives in a remote Mexican seaside-jungle village with his beautiful & brilliant, author wife, and youngest son, finding it an idyllic piece of paradise to read, write, and love. For more info visit: MarkTRasmussen.com


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3 Comments

Please try not to spam posts with the same comments over and over again. Authors like seeing thoughtful comments about their books, not the same old, "I like the cover" or "sounds good" comments. While that is nice, putting some real thought and effort in is appreciated. Thank you.