Ever since all four of our parents died a decade or so ago, once in a while Peg and I run away from home over Thanksgiving.
We hadn’t gone on the lam in a while and were itching for a getaway.
The fates aligned, and instead of Turkey Eve with the guys and Turkey Day with the rest of the family, my wife and I headed to the Athens of the South. The Protestant Vatican. Music City, USA.
Disclaimer: to those who know us best and love us most, except for the opportunity to eat and drink and party, which we could do down at Kent Narrows, Nashville may seem an unlikely destination for Peg and me.
Particularly at the start of what looks to be a long cold winter.
There ain’t no beach in Nashville, and there ain’t no ocean blue, and late in November, like the man sang, there ain’t no sunshine.
Peg and I are not big fans of modern country music.
And neither of us have ever even seen more than a minute of that nighttime TV soap opry that’s popular with some of our friends.
Back in the day, my wife’s dad was a guitar playing country-and-western singer with a sizable Eastern Shore following, and growing up in Peg’s family, the legends of Nashville were as big, if not shinier, than those of Hollywood. Without ever having been there, she’d always held a warm place in her heart for that town.
Me, I love history, pop culture history included.
There was a quick non-stop flight available.
An Expedia travel package was pretty damned affordable.
It was marginally warmer down there than y’all were here.
Plus there was an opportunity to eat and drink and party.
How could we go anywhere else?
After a short uneventful flight, we were greeted in the arrival area by a band of teenagers, mostly young women, wailing on and belting out Adele’s Rolling in the Deep. It was one of the best airport hellos we’ve ever received that didn’t involve loved ones.
Our clean and comfortable room in a centrally located hotel was ready for us despite our showing up four hours before check-in time.
We taxied down to Arnold’s for some badass home-style soul food. Arnold’s is a kind of famous meat-and-three cafeteria that’s in a sketchy neighborhood and only open four hours a day for lunch. The chow line sometimes snakes into the parking lot, and reviews of waiting times can frighten one off, but for us, we were scarfing down our vittles within fifteen minutes of arriving. We just did the meat-and-two: chicken and dumplings, potatoes and turnip greens for Peg; I had the meatloaf, candied yams and (for the only time in 2014) mac-and-cheese. The food, for once, was all it was cracked up to be.
We shared a slice of chocolate pepper pie. Dense, dark, and deliciously spicy, our dessert tasted of both home and of somewhere else, of comfort and of travel.
It tasted like we needed to take a walk.
Our first meal in Nashville under our belt and a winner, we then had some trouble finding Third Man Records. Even with that modern navigational tool, the telephone, at our disposal, we kept getting all looped up, and the ambiance kept getting scurvier.
At one point, we were, both literally and figuratively, on the wrong side of the wrong side of the tracks.
Third Man Records is a small independent record label founded by musician Jack White, known best as half of the defunct rock band The White Stripes. Third Man’s mission is to help make sure vinyl records don’t become a thing of the past. There’s a recording studio, a performance space, and a funky little record store out front. Jack White wasn’t in that day, but I heard the cashier assure another customer that the proprietor was a hands-on type of guy and it isn’t unusual to run into him there. Just not today.
Our hotel was right across the street from the amazing Country Music Hall of Fame Museum. We took the full tour, including a side trip to RCA’s famous Music Row Studio B, the Cradle of the Nashville Sound, where Elvis cut his first number one hit, Heartbreak Hotel, and where such classics as Roy Orbison’s Only the Lonely and Dolly Parton’s Jolene were recorded. Over 1,000 top ten hits were recorded at Studio B. Much of the original equipment is on display, including the Steinway featured on almost every classic piano riff ever laid down there.
We spent hours walking around the CMHOF.
We saw a lot of stuff.
We saw a pair of Carl Perkins’ Blue Suede Shoes.
TOMORROW: HONKY-TONKS, HIPSTERS AND HUMPTY DUMPTY!