In the busy entertainment district of Nashville, you see them. Large caricatures of Elvis Presley in front of storefronts, just waiting for a boozy tourist to stop and snap a photo and post it on their Facebook page. The microphone that he apparently was singing into is gone, but Elvis is still there, chained down around his waist so he can’t be taken away.
We’ve had controversies about young Elvis and old Elvis. Rebel Elvis and Las Vegas Elvis. Thin, leather-clad Elvis and fat, jumpsuit-wearing and karate-chopping Elvis.
This, I think, is a picture of sad Elvis.
I’ve never been a huge Elvis Presley fan, but anyone who loves rock ‘n roll has got to tip their hat to The King. There’s no doubt the Elvis Presley changed the world and revolutionized America when he started to sing blues music and swing those hips. He inspired the Beatles and lots of other acts and left an enormous imprint on American music and culture. His death was pathetic, but there is no denying his vast and enduring influence.
Now, on the streets of Nashville, the King is reduced to a fiberglass photo opportunity, like Ronald McDonald or a T-Rex or Paul Bunyon. It’s disturbing, and it’s wrong. There’s something forlorn and almost despairing about it that a few brightly colored balloons tied to his wrist won’t hide.
Lit from beneath, the faded paint from a long ago sign on the side of a brick building adjacent to one of the pedestrian bridges in Nashville seemed to almost glow when we walked across last night. The worn and repaired brick, the old wood in the windows and door, the paint — it was an example of how beauty can be found even in the most ordinary settings. Amazing what a little light can accomplish!
The Cumberland River flows through downtown Nashville. There’s a little park on the downtown side of the river where you will finds lots of concrete steps, people still shaking off last night’s overindulgence — and a literal high-water mark. It’s hard to believe the river reaches such heights, but in 2010 the Cumberland topped the high-water mark entirely and crested at 51.86 feet, causing catastrophic flooding that swamped the area. The river was a lot lower, thankfully, when we visited yesterday morning.
For a city located smack dab in the midst of middle America, Nashville is pretty damned cool. In addition to the music scene, which you probably knew about already, Nashville has some great bridges. The footbridge from the Bridge Building over the Cumberland to downtown not only affords you an excellent view of other bridges, it also is a striking bridge in its own right.
American cities would do well to turn all unused railroad bridges into pedestrian footpaths. They’re irresistible.
Nashville must be the top bachelorette party destination east of the Mississippi. You see the bachelorette groups everywhere — pedaling together to power the bicycle bars heading down Broadway, slamming down Jell-O shots, singing along with the band at the Honky Tonk Saloon, and whooping it up on the sidewalk — and always smartly attired in matching shirts and hats with clever slogans about love or being drunk, and sometimes both. As soon as one group leaves, another bachelorette band arrives to take its place.
Why is Nashville such a popular bachelorette destination? Well, why not? It’s got lots of saloons and live music and drink specials and pedal bars and all of the features of a modern bachelorette fantasy. And let’s just say that the ladies we saw were taking full advantage of the chance to cut loose, starting bright and early and hitting it hard. They were having fun in the bride-to-be’s last hurrah.
I’m guessing that what happens in Nashville stays in Nashville.
The bar where we ate dinner last night was very well-stocked, but I paused for a minute at the serious collection of jars — until I realized it was all moonshine. Well, we are in Tennessee, after all, eating in a place called The Stillery, and there wasn’t a revenuer in sight.
The moonshine came in lots of different flavors, like “apple pie.” I’m sure many party-hearty visitors to Nashville have figured they should guzzle some shine to make their visit fully authentic . . . and then came to regret it the next morning. I wasn’t tempted. In college I learned my lesson well that drinking fruity concoctions where the Kool-Aid-like flavoring serves only to mask the crushing alcoholic content isn’t a wise course of personal conduct — especially when it’s served from what appears to be a garbage pail.
With an inward nod to Granny Clampett, I let the white lightning pass and stuck to a beer.
I’ve become a big fan of hot chicken. Nashville is supposed to be the home of hot chicken — or at least one of them — so when Kish and I set out to find a suitable dining venue last night, I kept the poultry option firmly in the back of my mind. By sheer happenstance, we stumbled upon a place called The Stillery, plopped down at the bar, and checked out the menu.
One of The Stillery’s takes on hot chicken is hot chicken over macaroni and cheese. The bartender gave it an enthusiastic endorsement, and she was right on the money. Served on a spitting hot skillet, the spicy chicken and creamy mac ‘n cheese complemented each other perfectly. It’s one of the best dishes I’ve had in a while. The Gerst Amber Ale was pretty good, too.