About Nashville, the Thing is….

The grass of Vanderbilt University carries the color of old dollar bills. With red brick buildings and the crackle of winter’s dead leaves underfoot, one isn’t surprised to see covered coeds walking around in overcoats and scarves.  It is thirty-two degrees and I, however, am strolling in a sweatshirt that has about as much insulation as an anorexic on meth. This is what happens to Californians who don’t read the weather report before traveling to Nashville in the winter.

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I gave two seminars this morning, and though several people responded with lobotomized expressions one only expects from the severely-medicated, the reviews were all good. And then I had the ventured out into Nashville. Here’s a summary of the place, albeit in jest:

Downtown is a ½ mile strip of neon lights promoting three things: Boots, Barbecue, and Music. Grown men stand outside and tell you they have the best local band in town, and then offer you a two-for-one sale on boots. When asked “if that means four boots or two boots,” they stare into space for a moment, and then tell you to “git along, ya little asshole,”   – or so I’ve heard.

The barbecue here is more of an art piece than a meal. There’s a rub, a smoking, a basting, a three-day cook, and some places even perform a little blessing, although I’m fairly certain it is less for the slaughtered cow and more for the person who is about to eat something that is now three days old and spiced beyond imagination. Thankfully, there are bathrooms on the premises.

As for the music, I counted thirty-four honkytonks, however, there are some very unusual looking trashcans that spit music from their bottoms and say “courtesy of Nashville” around their brim.   That several people can stand around staring into a trashcan while tapping their feet and singing just adds to the strangeness here.

About twenty-five thousand size-twelve running shoes from downtown, Music Row plays host to what can only be termed the Garden of Eden for songwriting. One should not enter Music Row with preconceived notions.  I did. I expected people playing guitars outside of studios and restaurants, and to see expensively-suited execs leaking contracts from leather briefcases. I was wrong. Instead, Music Row is more muted than a politician’s integrity. The Row is a series of houses, which have been converted into studios or offices. The houses are mostly red brick, one story, hosting no more than three rooms, and have small billboards shouting Kenny Chesney, Jay-Z, Beyonce, and Meghan Trainor on the front lawns. RCA studio B is there, a two room hovel where Elvis and Dolly Parton and a thousand others played, although if Dolly and Elvis were in the place, there wouldn’t even be enough room for anyone else (the best part about that last comment was that it was straight up and not meant to be funny, although the material is just plain ripe for comedic jest). The crowd outside is taking photos of what will certainly provide some questioning glances when they return home. Still, it’s pretty amazing to think, with a voice and few instruments, billions of dollars have been created here.

It’s a few minutes more over to Green Hills, home of many country music stars and location of the Blue Bird Café. Blue Bird’s history is one of fame and friends meeting up for fun. With 100 seats and an open invitation to all famous singers, the line starts queuing at 3pm for the 6pm meal. On any given night, one might see Brooks and Dunn, Blake Shelton, or Leanne Rimes – for those on the West Coast, these people are country singers who tell stories with acoustic guitars, and talk funny, and wear boots, and say things like “Y’all can git up and line dance now.” Many tourists come to take photos outside the entrance to the Bluebird, which just happens to be about fourteen feet wide and in the middle of a strip mall. The whole thing can make someone from Malibu really uncomfortable.

To make it all even stranger, I took a journey over to Centennial Park. The signs explained the meaning of the place, but I was severely distracted by Vanderbilt University’s female track team running sprints on the lawn and then even more so by the building behind them.

I’m going to post a picture now….

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This building is in Nashville…

…in the middle of the city….

…just sitting there…

…and no one even seems to be aware of it.

I couldn’t find any signs to explain it, although there was a thin, spectacled Ethiopian man standing in front of it asking people to give him eight dollars so he could let them inside. His name was Erkel – I know, right? – and I didn’t give him eight dollars. I did find another guy that might be responsible for this whole thing.

Here he is…

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It’s pretty much the only explanation I have. Otherwise, WTF is the Parthenon doing in Nashville?

Anyway, that’s all I have to say about this latest trip. I’m getting on a plane now. If I make it back to LA, I don’t ever want to talk about this stuff again.  Enjoy the Super Bowl. Hopefully someone remembers a pump for the balls.

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