Nashville, Part Deux
Many months ago, we began planning to visit some good friends in Nashville. We were looking forward to it like hostages creeping out into the light of day after more than a year spent underground in the bunker of COVID-19. But just as the hatch slid open and our eyes had begun to adjust to the proverbial sun again as the corona virus had receded somewhat, in came the Delta variant, and the rise of cases in the south of the United States. And Tennessee was smack dab in the cross hairs of zones in the country where more people avoided inoculations than got them.
So, the visit was in jeopardy. We were coming in hot from Florida, a peninsula the overly dramatic news reports had already painted red with variant cases. And our friends had already been dealing with some complex health concerns even before COVID was a thing. But hope was still alive, and virology. So, we got a quick swab up the nose at a rural drugstore, and that came out clean, so we headed over for a sweet time of meeting my friend’s newest family addition and watching him toddle around in the backyard while we talked and caught up.
We ate brunch, picked tomatoes from the garden, remarked over the giant sunflowers, and talked about kids, Jesus, and Scotland.
It was simple and good and now I am praying that the Delta variant goes out again as quickly as it arrived and my sweet friend can have a hospital bed to deliver the next addition to her family, coming soon to a COVID-infested mess. Ugh.
Our Sunday night in Nashville, we checked out the bluegrass jam at The Station Inn—a place with the ambiance of a 1970s single-wide trailer, but the best bluegrass in town. Among other fiddlers and pickers, we heard a 12-year-old strumming a massive guitar that dwarfed him behind it but did not dampen his high tenor voice from belting out “When the Saints Go Marching In”.
Two other friends of ours drove down and the next day we hung out on the rooftop at Kid Rock’s Big Ass Honky Tonk and Rock-n-Roll Steakhouse with us. (That’s a real name.) This is quintessential Broadway in Nashville, the gritty honky tonk area of town where the beer is mediocre, the music is loud, and the people watching is better than on the bus. For example, this guy hangs out at Kid Rock’s:
We sauntered down the crowded street after a while and found another honky tonk where the band included a middle-aged, leggy blonde playing a flute. We checked out Printer’s Alley and then heard a busker under a concrete overhang whose voice reverberated beautifully in the urban acoustics.
Once we got hungry, we found a multiple-level food court with everything from poke bowls and pad thai, to nachos, cotton candy and boozy ice cream. We saved the southern BBQ for another place, another day—and it did not disappoint. As a recovering vegetarian (though it has been several decades) the sides were my favorite: banana pudding, potato salad, green beans, and macaroni and cheese.
And we sampled some Tennessee Whiskey—I’m capitalizing because that’s the brand name at Nelson’s Green Briar Distillery. We sipped tastings and heard the history of this spirit, including the shipwreck that sent the German immigrant family’s original fortune to the bottom of the sea—gold bars sewn into the patriarch’s jacket.
Then, we stumbled into the American Pickers store and priced what appeared to be the world’s first gas pump and other oddities. We drove to Franklin, Tennessee, and breezed in and out of historic houses, plantations, and Civil War battlegrounds and cemeteries. Then, back in Nashville, we got to hear the music at The Listening Room. And that music was amazing. (See the other blog about that.)
But there is also a certain kind of music in the rekindling of friendships. The long overdue visit spent relaxing in the sun with my friend and her family, and baby giggles bursting randomly into the air like soap bubbles sounded as good to my ears as the bluegrass ballads we heard at The Station. And reuniting with our other friends elevated even ordinary moments in Nashville. So, while I still find Nashville to be a magical city, I recommend being there with magical people as well.