The River Wall in Nashville speaks of the rebellious Tennessee River, and the Tellico Dam that tamed it, and the Lake of Tears that flooded the 18th century Cherokee towns of Tanasi, Mialoquo, and Tuskegee, giving the Cherokee ancestors and even the fish cause to weep.
The tears give way to laughter as we squeeze into the hot pink Nash Trash bus for a two-hour tour. The bus promises warmth on this 20°F winter day, but it’s slow to deliver. We shiver in our cramped seats. The Jugg Sisters, Sheri Lynn and Brenda Kay, one wearing a pink headband and cat-eye glasses, the other a baseball hat over a curly ponytail, test the microphone: “1 testicle, 2 testicle.”
After all characters on board introduce themselves and tell where they’re from, we admit we’re from outside of Washington, D.C. “You have a shit show going on over there,” says Sheri Lynn. Yes, we certainly do, I tell her.
They poke fun at a tall man, “Why didn’t you sit in the back? Nobody can see around your big ass cranium. How’d your mother ever get you out of her birth canal?” Mike and I crack up laughing as I, though not tall, have the super-sized head dilemma.
The bus finally gets warmed up and moving, and the Jugg sisters tell us that at New Year’s Eve in Nashville, they’ll drop a big musical note. “In Mobile, Alabama, they drop a moon pie. Then they do a mullet toss.” We all laugh, and continue laughing for the entire tour until our faces are sore. 🙂
The sisters pass around a tray of Ritz crackers accompanied by a can of Cheez Whiz, which of course I sample. They point out random people walking on the street as we drive through town: “Oh, there’s Blake Shelton. Hey honey!” Or. “Look there, it’s Carrie Underwood!” “Look over yonder, there goes Kenny Chesney.”
The bus goes on, inching its way through traffic in downtown Nashville, past the Eastside Murals, the Nashville Piranhas, the Ryman and Broadway. We make a quick stop at the Country Music Hall of Fame, and drive down Music Row, street of the famous recording studios.
Later, back at the Farmer’s Market, we breathe in aromas of Philly cheesesteak and Nutella chocolate crepes, Butter Cake a la Mode, coffee beans, Nooley’s gumbo and po’ boys. Ice cream containers stand at attention: Boozy Eggnog, Pistachio & Honey, Brambleberry Crisp. So many choices, but I scarf down chili rellenos with queso sauce, corn, and cabbage washed down with lemonade, while Mike eats Asian chicken.
We walk uphill to the Tennessee State Capitol, then ease our way downhill past the Library & Archives, the Tennessee Supreme Court and the Tennessee War Memorial, where “Occupy Nashville” protestors gathered in 2011 to show support for “Occupy Wall Street.”
We take ourselves on a self-guided tour of the Ryman Auditorium, THE most famous venue for country music stars, known as “The Mother Church of Country Music.” It looks uncomfortable for the audience, with its semi-circular array of wooden bench seats around the stage. The stained glass windows hint at the building’s original function as a gospel church.
We snake our way through boisterous crowds on Broadway, a.k.a. Honky Tonk Central, under retro signs such as Tin Roof, Whiskey Bent Saloon, Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, Crazy Town Live Music, Joe’s Crab Shack, and Boot Country. Electric guitar notes pulse out of the open doors of the Honky Tonks. A Trump look-alike with an orange wig waves like our so-called president does at his ego-boosting rallies. A hard rock band plays on a grandstand at the end of Broadway, too loud for me, and the lead singer says it’s a song for our servicemen and all the people who keep us safe. There’s no doubt we’re in Trump country.
As this smoky afternoon bends into winter, we make our way halfway across the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge for views of the city and Nissan Stadium, home to the Tennessee Titans, across the river.
It’s one hour before closing by the time we arrive at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, so we get discounted tickets. In too little time to do it justice, we rush through the history of country music from its earliest days to the present. Here, we find special exhibits on Loretta Lynn, Shania Twain, Faith Hill & Tim McGraw and other stars. These are people who tell their truth however they choose and do it all for the sake of the song.
Too much to take in during our short visit, the glamor of the singers and the genre is shown in displays of western fringe, cowboy hats and boots, glitzy costumes, guitars, banjos, Gold records, Bill Monroe’s mandolin, a car from Smoky & The Bandit II, and Elvis’s gold Cadillac. At private listening booths, we listen to rock-country mixes from Leonard Cohen, Joan Baez, and Steve Miller Band.
At Hatch Show Print, where the owners specialize in letterpress printing for music show handbills, I buy a cool poster: Nashville: Music City. I love how the posters capture the magic of country music, as well as African-American jazz and blues. To fill in the gaps, the company has done small runs for filling stations, laundries, grocery stores, and movie theaters. This place and the Hatch Show posters are an unusual surprise because of the nostalgia evoked. I realize how much I’m attracted to graphic design and lettering.
We share the free city bus back to the Farmer’s Market with two homeless people loaded down with their belongings: a large African-American man whose pants are falling down and a white woman with a dog. They are talking up a storm.
In our Hillsboro neighborhood, we have dinner at Kay Bob’s to Amy Winehouse singing R&B. Beer taps hang overhead, and growlers and signs hang over the counter. A sign on the wall says “BEER: Helping White Guys Dance since 1842.”
“Very superstitious / writing on the wall.”
Nashville Farmer’s Market:
Walking to Broadway through official Nashville:
The Ryman Auditorium:
Walking down Broadway:
Walk across the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge:
Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum:
Hatch Show Print:
“PROSE” INVITATION: I invite you to write a 700 to 1,000-word (or less) post on your own blog about a recently visited particular destination (not journeys in general). Concentrate on any intention you set for your prose. In this case I described my experience with close attention to using all five senses, incorporating a line from a country song and a poem, and noting one unusual thing and why I found it interesting.
You can either set your own writing intentions, or use one of the prompts I’ve listed on this page: writing prompts: prose & poetry. (This page is a work in process.) You can also include photos, of course.
If you don’t have a blog, I invite you to write in the comments.
Include the link in the comments below by Monday, April 23 at 1:00 p.m. EST. When I write my post in response to this challenge on Tuesday, April 24, I’ll include your links in that post. My next post will be about our second day in Nashville, and, again, I’ll be using the same intentions. 🙂
This will be an ongoing invitation. Feel free to jump in at any time. 🙂
I hope you’ll join in our community. I look forward to reading your posts!