I'M a little reluctant to admit this, but I saw Elvis Presley on a street corner in Boston recently. I know most people think he's really in hiding in Detroit or Montreal, but I know Elvis when I see him. It was lunch hour and he was selling whole-wheat bagels and Turkish ginger ale from a pushcart just like any Tom, Dick, or Harry. But there was something about the way he put mustard on the bagel when I bought it, those chunky, swift hands and lazy, friendly eyes.
And there was something about the mustard. And the fake beard, red as Dan Quayle's hair, with the hooks over his ears; sure it was Elvis, always the clown.
``Elvis?'' I said, nailing him. ``A pushcart? Stale bagels and imported ginger ale? You could have fooled me except for the Grey Poupon mustard.''
``I ain't Elvis,'' he said, pulling down the bill of the L.L. Bean cap and wiping his hands on his Izod shirt. He was wearing white deck shoes and tried to be humble.
``Ed's the name, and I used to repair Weed-eaters in Baltimore for a living,'' he mumbled. ``Besides, y'all ever had a whole-wheat bagel before?''
``Elvis,'' I persisted, ``I'm a journalist, trained to uncover the covered. You can't hide. You're a big story.''
``I ain't Elvis,'' he said, shaking his head, those burning eyes too playful, too down-home Memphis to be from Baltimore.
``Y'all want a bagel or not?'' he said.
``Sure,'' I said, ``with mustard and ginger ale.''
The bagel was huge and hard as a doorknob even with the mustard.
``People think they see you everywhere,'' I said. ``They say you come to them and help them with their taxes and social inadequacies.''
He tilted his head to one side and popped open a bottle of ginger ale. He winked at me and looked from side to side, hoping no one else was listening.
``Y'all ever met John Philip Sousa?'' he asked.
I laughed, a chunk of bagel in my mouth. ``Nofff,'' I said.
``That's him,'' said Elvis, pointing to a white-haired man down the street in a ``Save The Whales'' sweat shirt selling snowcones from a refrigerated red, white, and blue striped cart.
``Always whistling,'' said Elvis, ``always wanting to arrange `Don't Be Cruel' into a march.''
``So, you are Elvis...''
``Well,'' he murmured, ``Let's just say I had my share of taxes and social inadequacies in my day.''
I tested him. ``How can I overcome shyness?'' I asked.
He smiled, wiped a drop of mustard off his knuckle, and said wisely, ``My Daddy used to say, `In your heart you know it's wrong'...''
``That sounds very Republican to me. Wasn't that a Goldwater slogan?'' I said, wondering what political party he belonged to.
``Maybe,'' Elvis said, ``but I've always been a registered Democrat.'' He leaned forward. ``Listen, I heard Jesse Jackson is in town. Y'all wouldn't know what hotel he's staying in?''
A Jackson-Presley ticket? I thought. Bush and Quayle would be political history. Was I the first journalist to know? Was this a story bigger than Elvis?
``Why Jackson?'' I asked, excitedly.
``The man loves bagels,'' Elvis said. ``I'm looking for help in getting started in Beverly Hills. Somewhere along Rodeo Drive, maybe.'' He pointed at the pushcart. ``Y'all think this'll look good in designer colors?''
``Blue, maybe,'' I said. ``Suede, maybe.''
``Just the shoes,'' he grinned, ``but I ain't Elvis. I told you that.''
Just then a bushy-headed man walked by in a Ralph Lauren shirt trying to sell designer watches attached to a board.
``Guess who?'' whispered Elvis.
``Who?'' I whispered back.
``Edgar Allan Poe.''