Nashville, Tennessee. Music City, USA. The Heart of Country Music. This was the place I visited last week.
The three of us, my husband, my son and I, went downtown on the first night. Broadway was the main drag in downtown Nashville, full of honky-tonk bars and music halls, open to the street with one place’s music blended into the next as you walked by. Sometimes, there were two bands playing in the same place – one upstairs and one downstairs, so what we wound up hearing was a loud cacophony of sounds, a deluge of noise that engulfed relentlessly. And it wasn’t just the bars and that street – some of the Uber and Lift drivers had the radio turned up to an unpleasant (to me) level, including one that blasted modern Christian music at me. My biggest regret was not wearing ear plugs, or having my earbuds in – not for my own music, but to just block the sound. It would have made Music City that much more tolerable. That said, I am glad I got to experience and shop downtown, because now I can say that I did it (and never have to do it again).
It was different for Jeff and our son, Sam. They soaked it all in, going to the Station Inn to hear blue grass, and went to see Ray Stevens perform. They visited Jack White’s Third Man Records and visited two guitar shops.
I found Nashvillians uniformly friendly and outgoing - from one Lyft driver with whom I exchanged ribald jokes (happily and without offense – at least I hope I didn’t offend him) to a woman who talked to me about being retired, her previous job and beautiful flowers in the Spring. I loved that Southern twang of their speech, kind of like a gentle stream of water running over pebbles.
Denver doesn’t see real spring and that many flowers until mid to late April, with some plants, like lilac, blossoming as late as May. Seeing and smelling flowers shooting up from the ground was wonderful, but also seeing trees like dogwoods, redbuds, and magnolias in bloom was thrilling. Shiny, dark green holly bushes with bright red berries in a showy display was also foreign and brilliant. The United States is a huge country, with a wide variety of flora, and region-specific beauty that is strange to me always gladdens my heart and makes me feel like a child discovering new things about our world.
One of my oldest and dearest friends from Denver now lives near Nashville. Caroline and I go back to junior high school. We have both changed and matured in many ways, but that simply means that we respect each other’s opinions more now. She came over to the Opryland Hotel, where we were staying for my husband business conference, picked me up and we got a chance to hang out, and eat together. Another day, I also joined her in a Cross Fit session – with loud rap music to keep us pumped up. Caroline has been doing Cross Fit for a few years now, but that was my first session. Caroline is my new hero, she is already strong and getting both stronger and healthier. I worked out way, way too hard. I really didn’t do nearly as much as some participants, but I am so out of shape that I was in pain for days after, and still am feeling some soreness and achiness, now long after the work out.
A great deal of Caroline’s strength isn’t just physical – she has a strong moral compass, and she’s not in the judging business. If she can see both points of view, it may offend some people, those who only believe in the rightness of their way. But Caroline does her own research and makes up her own mind. I am proud beyond measure of her and of our friendship.
We also got a chance to see Jeff’s aunt, his mom’s older sister, on her birthday. She lives in Smyrna, Tennessee, which is about 30 minutes away from Nashville. Her daughter drove her to our hotel to have breakfast with us. Aunt Carolyn, cousin Kathy, her partner, Raquel, and the three of us enjoyed each other’s company over a sumptuous buffet. Jeff’s family isn’t pretentious, they’re easy-going people who laughed with us through breakfast and when it was time to leave, no one was in a particular hurry to part.
But even in the hotel lobby areas, lounges, and hallways, there was music, so I feel like I spent the entire time in Nashville yelling just to be heard. Now I walk around the house whispering lyrics from songs to myself, to compensate for the loud that was Nashville. I am in need of a little quiet vacation from the noisy one, but I wouldn’t trade it. I’d just modify it with ear plugs.