Oh, Nashville! How do I love thee! I love your nonsensical streets. I love your generously portioned food. I love your catfish and your chess pie and your fat-backed greens, so tender and smooth, they slide down the throat without bite. I love your gracious mansions abutting your nongracious Walmarts. I love your old brick buildings, your wandering river, your warren-like trailer parks, and your music flowing from open doors onto crowded streets. I love your dogwoods and flowering plums and tulip magnolias as they uncurl – both delicate and lurid and demure and wanton – for a tiny collection of perfect days before vanishing forever. I love your floral-wearing, deep-fleshed women and your mustachioed men wearing pressed button-downs stretched neatly over high, wide bellies and tucked into starched Wranglers with large, sliver buckles. I love the men who call me “darlin'” and the women who call me “baby” and the children who call me “ma’am”.
You walk through Nashville, and you pass by the ghosts of Johnny Cash and June Carter, of Waylon Jennings, Patsy Cline, Minnie Pearl, and Bill Monroe.
We go to Nashville a couple times a year to visit with my husband’s war-bride grandma (been in this country for sixty years and still speaks with an English accent) and his aunt and uncle and cousins. At this Easter visit, I sat in a garage and listened to a gaggle of old white men with stubbled chins and hacking coughs as they balanced their instruments on their knees and played bluegrass for hours and hours. In between songs they traded insults and self-deprecations like baseball cards (“His wife is what we call a go-getter. She works and he go-gets-her.”), but once the music started they transformed into angels.
Music is funny that way – even cities that have had their share of bad decisions and small thinking (and believe me, Nashville’s no stranger to the Bad Idea), music transforms them. When we sing, we stop yelling. We move in a rhythm that is not our own. We listen. We open up. We let the music take us away.