The diaries: Nasvhille, Tennesee music and whiskey
Friday May 13th – Stetson country
Nashville: home of Stetson hats and cowboy boots. When does the myth start / stop, when does it become reality, and finally when does it become cliché ?
A couple real cowboys, but many people here have never set foot on a farm, more of a fashion. Some bars are smoking, not all, not entirely sure what the legislation is.
Watching Memphis and Oklahoma City fight in the playoffs – two more or less local teams, while listening to lie bands play country music. Great!
I now recall having heard several times, in my youth and recently: “I love all kinds of music, except for country music.”
Now why would that be? In fact, I recall having perhaps said the same thing once in my childhood. I’m guessing it’s because it’s oft associated to patriotism, bigotry, traditional values and so on. But I love it!
It’s basically rock with a violin, a fiddle, a ukulele or some other cool instruments.
Good pork melt sandwich at Rippy’s BBQ Ribs, on Broadway (the main tourist attraction, a street filled with bars and live bands, including the famed Tootsie’s).
“Why are you drawing my bartender, man?”
“Huh, jus’ keeping busy.”
“Why, is she your girl or something?”
“Just making sure you alright, man.”
Big guy, red-head buzz-cut.
Sure I am, whatever that means.
Evening: the rain resumes, thick, equatorial, scented with the lushness of Tennessee’s green hills!
Earlier that afternoon, after a couple of Pabst Ribbons at the BlueGrass on an empty stomach, I wandered past Broadway’s fairy Disneyworld, which quickly ends. A few crackheads at the bus terminal downtown, some gloomy gas stations. Quickly toured the lobby of the Country Music Hall of Fame, decided on not doing the visit. Napped in the car as the day sunshined.
Awoke in the evening at 6:30 to a spectacular meteorological phenomenon: the sky was clear when I opened my eyes, but within the ten minutes I got up and out of the car a black, spiraling cloud formation had domed over the city, heftily speeding and twirling above it, leaving only a bubble of bright blue day across the horizon.
Hard to describe, but I could not suppress the feeling of looming apocalypse… And now the rain will not subside…
It seems all the brides-to-be and bridesmaids come here for their last strokes of fun! There was a wedding ceremony taking place on the bridge. Cool.
The Opry Mills shopping complex was closed due to flood damage. I checked out, but didn’t tour, the well-known Opry Ole House, a concert venue where so many rock stars and other music celebrities have either debuted or toured over the ages. Also got a glimpse of the General Jackson Boat (is this Andrew Jackson, the first Grand Mason of the region? Saw a plaque in town – y’know, that guy on the $20 bill).
Inadvertently strolled (not so will the naysayers say) into a Coyote Ugly through the backdoor (forwent cover). It’s true then? A place where girls go to expose their moves on the bar and where guys go to gawk at them and buy the bold temptresses shots – thus ensuring further rounds of raunchy fun. Got a few shots before being told to shut it off.
Nashville is also the place of congregation for vagrants, vagabonds, artists and musicians seeking their claim to fame (hey, me too?) or at various stages, form nascent to degrading through never took off, etc.
Forgot to mention, yesterday I briefly met two guys, including the train-hopping dude, with a wealth of beard and two peaceful blue eyes – was from Alaska, or California, can’t remember which. I didn’t know you could still train-hop the commercials like the good ol’ days, but he had managed to come this far! Apparently they’ve begun to install infrared sensors in major urban areas but the rest is good to go, there’s even a website with info about the depots and schedules.
This morning I also met a friendly Mohawk at Sun Records – famed production label, first to break million-record mark? who gave me some pieces of history, came across him again that evening on Broadway. Ate fried fish / shrimp / chicken at Captain D’s (fast-food, OK, first time though at that particular chain, a caveat in my loose ‘vows’ which I’ll detail at some point). Also first laundry experience outside of town, among modest folk. That night would eat two fateful hotdogs from the gas station which would be the reason, I believe, for some major and worrying discomfort in the days to come.
Broke the 3,000 mile mark today.
Slept in Nashville near Broadway again. Awoke shivering in 50degree, windy and cloudy weather. WTF. Am tired of Disneyworld atmosphere (won’t even mention OpryLand Resort… Shit.), however enjoyable the music and history here – will now head to a place of great interest, the one and only Jack Daniels distillery in Lynchburg!
Sunday. Visited Jack’s distillery, entertaining tour given to us by Billy. Unfortunately production units not running on Sunday, considered staying an extra day just for that.
Irony of ironies, Moore County, where Lynchburg and the distillery are located, is a dry county! Only recently did the Jackie D peeps manage to get a referendum passed enabling stored to carry ‘souvenir items’, unique containers which happen to contain the local specialty. Even then, these are taxed at 60%.
No pictures are allowed within Jack’s buildings, unfortunately, for very professional reasons: it seems the electronics could mess up the fermentation process or something. Excellent! Here’s some promo for them: hand-crafted barrels, whiskey filtered through specially trimmed-down charcoal pieces, drop by drop, and the maturation is decided by individual tasters.
A number of bikers in town. Meet MaryLou, the pink bikerette. People quite chatty here, teacher from Mississippi engages the conversation during lunch (one of the best and most traditional so far: BBQ chicken leg, mash potatoes, cornbread, baked apples, yummy southern food).
“Favorite Lynchburg Holidays:
3) The day whiskey was invented”