I’ve been thinking a lot about my recent trip to Nashville. I didn’t do much, really. It was mainly to see my folks, as we’ve missed each other a lot, and I spent most of my time with them, which was great. But thanks to my best friend Anthony I did get a look around and did get out a tiny bit, enough to remember some things I love about my hometown and things I don’t.
I love Nashville humor. Bear with me here. I think people who come from or just live some place long enough learn that place’s character. Nashvillians tend toward a sly, sweet-toned but sometimes cutting kind of humor that’s probably lost on the average visitor. But I catch it and I love it. My dad has that kind of humor. So does my mom, sister and my friend Anthony. I don’t know how best to describe it past “knowing” and “subtle,” but it’s a vibe I only get in Nashville. Example: Nashvillians are masters of making fun of you to your face and leaving you still thinking they’re just the sweetest, ever. Maybe we learn to do it as a way to flip off tourists without making them feel like anyone’s been rude to them.
I kind of hate the very thing the world knows Nashville for now. Do I even need to point it out? I don’t hate country music itself. In fact I like old country more every year. But the modern country music *thing*. Whatever it is that’s turned lower Broad and 2nd Avenue into teeming hives of tourists in fanny packs and cowboy hats night and day. This is probably the cri de coeur of many old school Nashville natives. We still fondly remember when 2nd Ave. was OUR THING, and even a little bohemian. Pretty sure there’s nothing remotely bohemian down there anymore.
My perverse love of a certain kind of tackiness is thoroughly Nashvillian. I realized this while I was there. I was charmed by every pair of boots with jeans and every carefully styled but “casual” country hairdo.
I love the fact you can live in New England and not need to make more than a 10 mile drive for any reason in part because going back to Nashville after a bit I immediately wondered how any of us ever did ALL THAT DAMNED DRIVING. The whole south is like that to some degree, but in Nashville and Atlanta it’s kind of extreme. You just drive, and drive, and drive. If you have a good buddy or beloved relative to chat with as you do, it’s fine. If you do it alone it feels a little crazy. How did we do all that driving all those years? It’s nuts.
I love our accents, and I love simple politeness. I love hearing “yes ma’am” and “no sir” used as part of casual conversation and realizing no one saying it is being sarcastic at all. I still love RC Cola and Moon Pies and had to really school myself to not go through a few Goo-Goo Clusters while waiting for a flight at the Nashville Airport.
I don’t like the weather. When I dream about Nashville, the skies are always gray. When I remember some things, the same. The fact is Nashville probably has more sunny days than where I live now per year but my memories of the weather weren’t undone at all by my trip there. I looked out my parents’ back windows at the hills beyond, being stripped for new suburban homes, and the pearl-colored skies, and I thought, ‘yep, that’s what it’s like here.’
I found myself blue that Antioch—where I grew up, which already was the kind of Nashville address that might get you funny looks from other Nashvillians 30 years ago—has become so run down. It was weird to see so many familiar buildings either derelict or bearing completely unfamiliar names.
Sitting in the Airport Whitt’s BBQ eating a pork bbq plate and listening to a couple sing classic country duets at the Airport Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge next door, I started crying.
Not bad crying. Not a desire to stay. But more an expression of love not just for the place where I was born, but for the people who go there. Who live there. For their dreams, and their music. I realized just how Nashville I was, as a person. And that I was fine with that. Proud, in fact. And I realized that even if I’m never there for more than a week again, even if home may be what many from Tennessee would consider the freezing hell of New England, I’ll always be a Nashville boy, and love the place for the time I spent there. And there will always be friends and family, folks I love, living there still. I cried because I felt a little more complete than I did when I landed four days before.
I cried because it was Nashville, there were high lonesome sounds in my ears, and damned good barbecue on the end of my fork. Sounds about right. No matter where I live, the rest of my life, sounds like home.