Posted by: adventuressetravels | June 24, 2010

Beneath the Rhinestoned Veneer

 “The van leaves at 8:30?”  I hadn’t gotten back to the hotel til almost 3 and stayed up another hour getting everything packed and ready to go.  A part of me wanted to stay to see the bands Sunday.  There were probably more bands that I’d never seen and genuinely wanted to that day than the others combined.  Namely Rise Against and Ween, but there were a few others.  But the bottom line was I was there to see my friends and they were leaving or already gone.  Besides, if I stayed I’d have to carry my bags around all day, find a ride to Nashville myself, a place to crash that night, and in all honesty I was pretty festivaled out.  Not to mention the minor detail that my host was expecting me that day.

I felt a little bad calling S, my host, at 9am on a Sunday, but he’d offered to give me a ride, and I had told him what time the flight was.  Sweat dripped down my face as I stood in the parking-garage-like arrival pick-ups area just outside the Airport.  Yeah, it was definitely better I’d skipped the festival today, I would have cooked!

Almost on cue, a shiny black Jaguar convertible pulled up to the curb.  S flashed me a broad carefree grin; before I had time to recover, he was already helping me put my things in the trunk.  A jaguar?  He’d said he’d be driving a black convertible, I just didn’t know how pretty it would be.  I’m not normally a car person, but this was nice by any standards. 

“Since you’re in Nashville, you really should wear this, I think there’s some sort of law about it” he reached in the back seat and extracted a cowboy hat.  I laughingly put it on, and away we drove; top down, wind whipping past us, and a fabulous mix of indie pop on the radio.  What a perfect end to a fantastic weekend. 

But this wasn’t an end to anything, not even music festivals.  As it happened Nashville was hosting CMA, the huge Country Music Awards festival that weekend.  Now country isn’t my first choice when it comes to music.  Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, and the old legends, sure, but I could really live without most of the music that fell in the category “Young Country.”  However I was in Nashville, and when in Rome…

After stopping by S’ cute little country home for breakfast, we gathered our collective courage, took a deep breath and braved the 100 degree furnace of a day for a tour of downtown Nashville.  CMA was in full swing.  The streets of downtown Nashville were blocked off and packed with walking, or waddling, stereotypes.  It was like looking at the world through some fisheye lens that stretched and widened the kids at Bonnaroo and shoved them into cut-offs, cowboy boots, and hats.   We watched performances, from the bridge, grabbed ice cream, and poked our heads in a few honkytonks, the campy little country western bars that lined the main strip.  Popping in and out of stores to take advantage of the air conditioning, we stopped by the country music hall of fame gift shop, and perused their selection of cassette tapes.  Yes, cassette tapes.  Apparently they still make them.

Nashville wasn’t just downtown though, and after a few hours S suggested heading for Centennial park. Strolling beneath the magnolia trees in the lush green park, the nearby weeping willows their long tresses dipping in the little lake was a world apart, a century apart, from bustling downtown. 

We crested the hill, and like something out of ancient Greece, there was the Parthenon.  The full-scale reproduction was originally built for a fair in 1897 because of Nashville’s moniker, the Athens of the South, and then re-built in the 1930s.  Standing sentinel over the park, emitting a sense of peace, class, and grandeur, it as impressive as it is surprising.  The kitch and glitz of CMA was funny, but I liked this other, more peaceful side of Nashville.

“CMA isn’t Nashville,” S corrected me, rolling his eyes, and he was right.  I got a glimpse of the real Nashville that night, the city off the main drag, away from tourists.  This was a place of blues jam sessions, dive bars and townies; a grittier place that lent itself to rich tales and intrigue. 

I wouldn’t mind going back sometime and getting a deeper look at the city. The glimpse I got beneath the rhinestoned veneer piqued my curiosity.  Unfortunately, as so often happens on the road, just when I scratched the surface it was time for me to leave.  On to the next adventure….

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