We rarely do anything interesting on the weekends, but this past weekend yerdad and I explored Nashville, Tennessee (not to be confused with Nashville, France, I guess).
It was an odd experience and therefore interesting, to me, anyhow. I learned that the most fun about a restricted diet may be to go completely batshit bonkers for a few days, and Nashville is an excellent place for that set of poor life choices. Lady persons can safely eat and drink anything in their path, and meanwhile they can feel confident that nice sturdy Christians will help them land safely in a padded pokey.
We did not get arrested, I bet.
The Grand Ole Opry was indeed grand. I had to admit ignorance of the fact that it has been a very, very long running radio show. I started to say, “You mean, like Prairie Home Companion?” but knew instinctively that my city humor would not be appreciated.
We created a mild ruckus in the Opry anyway, due to excesses of drink and its attendant confusion, but the staff was unfailingly gentle and helpful in the face of our shenanigans. I’m sure there were larger bouncers nearby who might have scooped us both up and deposited us gently outside the perimeter if we kept shouting. We piped down before they had to do their thing.
The customer service folks see worse than us on a daily basis. Innumerable bridal parties drink and flail and want selfies with men who just want to get this doggone manhole covered before anyone else falls into it. It’s not hard to spot the bridesmaids and would-be brides. There are sashes and veils and matching tee shirts; some have standard tiaras that announce they have license to barf.
Walking in the District, battling bands created a discordant cloud of noise in the street. Rooftop bars added amplification to all of it, so that I felt a novel connection with the needle on a old radio dial; lean right and it’s Tom Petty, step left and it’s Garth Brooks, look up and wish for Dolly Parton.
Aside from the brides, we saw a lot of conventioneers, young things on scooters, and Australian families that were far too attractive to ever have bad luck.
It all had the feel of Decadence Done by Disney.
Can people vape in Disney? If not, my congratulations to The Rat. The vape odors were confusing and occasionally upsetting. Mint and grape should not mingle any more than bubble gum and custard. What is wrong with kids today? It’s the vape agapes, I believe.
Not to be too curmudgeonly, I will say the locals were lovely. One waitress explained to us that her neck tattoo was actually done to cover up her former true love’s name. She leaned in to tell me that since he put a baby in her at sixteen, she was convinced he was her soul mate. I nodded and agreed that that is the usual case to be made by fake soul mates. As she walked away she said, “But he got it worse: he has a portrait of my face all over his whole back.”
Overall, there was a guilelessness to the folks we spoke to. But were they really genuine or Southern genuine? Some of us will never be able to make the distinction. “Is she a good person?” asked another server, when we commented that she reminded us of someone back home. Would she use that same tone to say, “Bless your heart…”?
As charming as the residents were, they eagerly and bitterly complained about the state of downtown. They hated the situation without exception. The traffic is horrendous and the decision to tear up and replant the cherry trees down by the river might have started a riot, that is, if tree fanciers were violent types. Instead there had been petitions, editorials, and a new pile of rancorous feelings.
So while they have created a safe space for drunk girls and a lot of jobs for musicians, there’s quite a cost to harmony and history. The tax haul from all the tourism is used to build bigger, newer things to further attract tourists, and all the tourists are keeping the locals away, creating a kind of glamour ghetto.
Yerdad wanted to know something about the architecture and history of the building in front of us and asked another waitress, “Are you a native?”
“No, I’m Hispanic,” she replied. We learned that not only is she accustomed to stupid questions, she is also knows nothing of architecture or the history of her hometown.
The working folks were diverse, but the tourists were remarkably homogeneous. Had there been less booze, I could have thought I was somewhere in Utah. I saw only one African American tourist in two afternoons and I was looking. If I noticed that she was a unicorn, I’m sure she did too.
It’s uncomfortable to move around in such a population when you are accustomed to more variety, but it has been much more unnerving for me to be that one odd ball. Did she have better skills for the occasion? Dunno. I did my best, no doubt as what you kids call The White Lady Trying Too Hard. I hope it helped. It’s not easy to picture her enjoying the melee.
I’d say that Nashville has something much more pressing than a tree problem.
Apparently, they have felt superior in not having the worst history. Is it because of the music and its essential mingling? Did they do a better job of covering up the worst stories? If anyone knows more about the relatively muted history of segregation in Nashville, I am all White Lady ears.
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