Spent two days rambling around Nashville, ostensibly in town for a (terrific) Phish concert in a new downtown amphitheater overlooking the Korean War Veterans Bridge, which itself loomed over the Cumberland River with its briny, musky scent enveloping the skyscrapers. And, OK, that was great. But that was Tuesday, and I arrived early Monday afternoon with a day to kill.
So, found my cheap hotel across from Opryland. Wandered around the huge hotel complex, really a series of indoor mini-forests and chi-chi restaurants & boutique shops connected by hotel carpet and the white- noise hum of air conditioning, and thinking, Jesus, how American this all is. A manufactured wilderness–several, actually–nestled next to a fake French Quarter, all of which is plopped inside a biosphere dreamt up equally by Buckminster Fuller and Porter Waggoner, it’s a place where the country has been commodified in more ways than one. Being an American, I sorta loved it, in spite of myself. It was a pleasant place to walk, anyway, a place without sweating and the self-consciousness that brings out in me.
Otherwise, I sweated, and not just outside at the sweltering concerts I saw in Atlanta (twice!), Tuscaloosa, and here. I braved Prince’s Hot Chicken, glorious and delectably juicy and Oh My God Make It Stop Spicy and Lord I’m Gonna Regret This In Four Hours. I had posole and horchata as Mas Tacos Por Favor (cash only, bring your friends), a window-unit-cooled tiny spot in the hood. I spent too much at Parnassus Books.
I got lost a lot in Nashville. Well, no. I would have, if I didn’t have my new smartphone with the fancy GPS that spoke to me in a smooth, slightly stern female voice–I’ve named her Samantha, after a certain movie. Yes, I’ve entered mid-2009, with my first smartphone. This allowed me to tweet from the concerts, despite the lack of available wi-fi, for the first time. Is that a blessing? It kept me out of trouble, though I’ve already figured out that beer, secondhand weed smoke, and an active mobile phone represents a bad combination for me. But I’m grateful for the lesson.
I’m grateful for lots, which I suppose is why I’m writing this on a lonely post-vacation night. I’m grateful for the mountains around Nashville, for modern cellular technology, for the faux splendor of a city reinventing itself, for a long conversation at Pinewood Social over lox & bagels & Crema coffee with a fellow writer (and a stranger, till he wanted to peek at the book I was reading), for good cheap food, for being able to jog 2.5 miles on the treadmill every day during my hotel-hopping, even for the drunk who kept puking on himself at the Nashville show and then trying to hit on the women friends I was with, for the blonde sizzler with bee-strung lips who danced with a Chinese accordion fan for the whole show; and, most of all, for the four boys from Vermont who, in 1983, decided to form a weird band, and how that band got me to all this in the first place. Bravo and thank you to all of it.