He was a kind man who worshipped Elvis. At the time, he lived in a small rural village in the northern parts of our country where he worked for the postal services. Every morning he left his home to walk to work. The walk was a mere ten minutes and he was never late.
There was not much to do for a single young man in this small little town. Maybe a game of tennis, maybe a beer after work with friends at the only hotel.
But mostly he would listen to records of Elvis. He probably had them all and the excitement of shaking a new, shiny black vinyl disk from its sleeve was surpassed only by the arrival of the King’s latest movie.
These would show on Friday and Saturday nights at the movie theatre in the larger neighbouring town some 60 kilometers away. Starting in 1956 Elvis made 31 movies. I doubt he’d seen them all but I know he’d seen some of his favourites several times. “Love me Tender”, “Jailhouse Rock”, “Blue Hawaii” were among them, but the ultimate favourite was always “GI Blues”.
Released in 1960 this was Elvis’s first film after two years of military service. The anticipation for its screening must have been unbearable in the small northern town.
I know, because our young man ordered a pair of blue suede shoes from the far away land in which Elvis lived. Back then, something as unique and exotic as blue suede shoes had to be ordered from a mail-order catalogue and it would have been months before the items would arrive.
He loved his blue suede shoes – perhaps more than most of his meager possessions. For working at the postal service, he was not a rich man.
He’d take good care of them, avoiding close contact situations where someone might step on his blue suede shoes.
And every night he’d clean them carefully and store them under his bed in a brown paper bag. For he’d read somewhere that Carl Perkins wrote the song on a brown paper bag one night when he could not sleep.
Despite being born with dark hair, the young man also decided to dye his hair. The same rich, deep dark, almost blue-black as Elvis.
From the local pharmacy he bought the dye and one night behind closed doors read the instructions. Mashed the tablets just as the inscription said, and used the back of his toothbrush to mix in a little water.
Filling the bathtub with water, the young man applied the greyish paste to his hair, and settled in the lukewarm water reading a book. For the manufacturers recommended a waiting period of 45 minutes for the dye to be most effective.
In no time the bathwater had gone cold and the young man started to shiver. The dye-paste began streaking down the side of his face and body. Where it began mixing with the water, it formed a grey circle the size and shape of a leather belt around his midriff.
Yet the young man persisted, displacing his growing worry and discomfort with images from Elvis’s last movie. Most likely, he sung a few Elvis songs just to keep him in the right frame of mind.
At the end of the tribulation, the now freezing young man rinsed his hair, and shook his way over to the small shaving mirror against the wall.
How great his disappointment must have been. For his hair was washed-out, blue-grey and nowhere near resembling the shiny, blue-black colour of Elvis!
No matter how much he scrubbed and washed his face, the grey streaks remained. Like mud-stained tears from a grieving widow, the dye lines trickled across his cheeks, down his neck and onto his chest.
Around his midriff was the shiny new belt he never wanted but could not remove.
When the unsympathetic postmaster rejected his application for leave to recover, the young man left work with the stinging sound of laughter still ringing in his angry, grey-streaked ears.
How was he to know there was a rainstorm on the way? And how was he to know that suede shoes do not take well to water and mud?
The next morning when the refuse man found a pair of mud-covered, curled-up blue suede shoes and an empty packet of blue-black hair dye by the refuse bin, he must have been perplexed. Confused even, for how was he to know that he found true love for Elvis?