Sit down and chat with any Nashvillian, who has lived here for at least a few years, and the conversation will inevitably, and probably quickly, move toward the massive growth that has happened in our city. We love it, we hate it. Great new restaurants. Real estate prices are too high. Wonderful increases in our property values. Horrible traffic problems. Better malls and more movie theaters. Too much gentrification.
Nashville is an “it” city. Everyone is moving here (rumor has it about 100 per day), and if they aren’t moving here, they are sure partying here. Downtown on Broadway doesn’t even vaguely resemble the older neglected strip of property that hosted historic bars, family-owned furniture stores, and a boarded-up Ryman when I moved here over 30 years ago. Now it’s bachelorette party central with pedal taverns, professional sports teams, and astronomically outrageous parking fees.
I love that the city I moved to when I was 20 is now considered beyond hip. I feel redemption in a way. When I transferred colleges from Bowling Green, Ohio to Nashville in 1981, my northern classmates just looked puzzled and laughed. Then in their best, most insulting and stupid fake southern accent, they would say, “Nashville? Why do you want to move to Nashville?” I tired of explaining. They didn’t get the whole “I want to be in the music business,” thing anyway, so they certainly did get the concept of moving any further south than Cincinnati.
So, picture painted. I love Nashville. I’ve always loved Nashville, long before it was the place to be. And I really enjoy experiencing a lot of the changes. But, it seems like every month, one of the spaces where Pete and I hung out, bites the dust. Some are demolished and replaced with high-rises. Some are run out of town because of obese lease prices. And some have just lost out to the competition. We lost another one just this week.
But I need those places. I need to be able to go and sit somewhere and have a beer at the bar like he and I used to when we’d plan our next steps in life and career. I need to sit at the same table where we drew up our management agreement, or to have a glass of wine at the place where we celebrated our first wedding anniversary. I am such a sensory learner. If I can see it, hear it, smell it, I can remember it–like it was yesterday. Those memories, tied to those locations, are vivid–really vivid. Sitting in those places can make me melancholy, make me smile, or even make my heart race. I experience the memories on a very physical level, and my brain doesn’t know the difference. It can’t identify whether the experience is real or not. To me, it is necessary to be able to feel those feelings. Without Pete, I can’t actually experience them anymore, so it’s a necessity to experience them retroactively.
As these wonderful gathering spots get taken out one at a time, it chips away at my memory bank. Each time it happens, it’s a new loss. I’m tired of loss.
When you step back in time, does it feel real to you?