Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Egyptomania: Memphis, U.S.

New York Times (Dan Barry)

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In a city whose name conjures young Elvis but evokes ancient Egypt, an expedition set out with a road map and some trail mix to find the world’s sixth-largest pyramid, said to have been all but abandoned by the civilization that built it. Legend or fact?

With only bottled water and a rental car’s coolness to ward against temperatures in the oppressive low 70s, the team soon despaired. It found houses and churches and rib joints, but no polyhedral structures of note. Then, just when membership in the Explorers Club was about to be risked for some pulled pork and coleslaw, the team noticed a shimmering, triangle-shaped mirage on the western horizon that grew larger upon approach.

Holy Moses! The Great American Pyramid of Memphis.

A glorious structure of poured concrete and shiny stainless steel, of form if not function, it rose 321 feet from the sedimentary banks of the Mississippi River, just an ibis’s glide from Interstate 40 and the Hernando de Soto Bridge. Nothing quite like this existed anywhere else on the continent, save the exotic metropolis of Vegas.

Forgetting all recent privations and postponing all plans for barbecue, the expedition drove past the empty, glass-encased guard booths; odd, that. It also had no difficulty finding a parking space in an otherwise empty lot. Hmmm.

Suddenly realizing the import of its discovery, the most colorful imprecations escaped the team’s collective lips. The Great American Pyramid was empty! Hollow! A pointy-headed tomb without occupant!

The legend was true, then; the legend passed on in scores of news accounts over two decades, and now stored in electronic databases for which access requires that a secret password — “Help, please!” — be whispered to a research librarian.

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