Good bye Nashville, for now

Nashville has a beautiful skyline. I love how this cross section shows the old and new building styles.

Old and new

There was an Old Crow Medicine Show concert in an outdoor amphitheater down by the river the night I walked around downtown.

Nashville music1

Actually, the city of Nashville constantly emits musical notes! Here is the same shot, with some blur.

Nashville music 2

And while I'm getting artistic, an iris…

Iris of nashville

which was created when I swirled the energy around Joseph and Charlie  — two local musicians you met earlier.

Iris explained

Beth Walker, another musical fashionista from earlier, made a second appearance in my evening at a local dive bar. She was there, and then she was gone.


And there were plenty of interesting people to watch, including Lemyng, 21, a student and bar back at popular local coffee shop and music venue Cafe Coco.


At a different restaurant I tried some brewed-in-Nashville beer that was excellent! Full-bodied, sweet and not at all bitter.


Nashville (or NashVegas as the locals call it!) was a style oasis for me on my journey through America's back highways.


And there is lots of bold imagery.


Joes1 (2) 
A traditional Nashville night-out experience:

Country band

A bridge over the river


A lifesize replica of the Parthenon, built for the Tennessee Centennial Exposition in 1897


And a couple more 'back alley' images…

Street Stairs

Lost fairy with her light blinking out


She coasts up to us at 1:30 a.m., hair and smile topsy turvy, blinking blue sunglasses atop her head.

"What's happenin' dudes?"

"Not much," we reply. "You?"

"I'm fucking starving," she says. Then quickly adds: "I have five dollars, though."

"Hey, can I wear your hat?" she asks one of us. "I don't have lice or anything."

She takes the hat and hands over her sunglasses.

Her name tonight is Sera Tonin. Or maybe it's Augustine. She is 93. Well, 23, actually.

Her mom was a fairy, she says. So I guess that makes her one, too. A lost little Nashville fairy with her light blinking out as she flits from the drug house she's staying at to this dive bar where she may or may not be allowed in.

She's got some crazy dance moves, this bony girl — more fragile each time you see her, like a bird stripped of its feathers.

She'll tell you stories of being gang raped like a recount of a trip to the grocery store.

"I had a baby last year. I didn't eat or go to the doctor or anything the whole time." I don't know how she was OK. And it was really quick, too. Only like a half an hour."

"What happened then?"

"My sister stole her."

She wants to go to school for sociology and get her teeth fixed so the cavity-induced headaches will stop.

"I'm so tired of this caveman shit," she says.

"I can't wait to be the best philosopher there is. If I can make it to school, I can meet some like minds."

"If you get a bunch of people doing opiates that's kind of like a think tank," she adds, then laughs. "Everyone forgets everything."

The bar won't let her in tonight.

"Let's go in together," she suggests. "You can say I'm your best friend."

But it's already past last call. We head for our cars and she coasts into the night.

Small town and big city prejudices

"I grew up in a really small town (in Tennessee)Elliott and there were only two black people. I was raised to think the inner city was a dirty place and black people were the reason for welfare and all that. And I realize now that that isn't true. I've dated black girls. I wonder what would happen if I took a black girl home for Christmas."

"…I visited New York and everyone was rude. I didn't know what to think. Then I realized it was my accent and everyone perceived me as stupid. One guy told me, 'When I first met you, I thought you were retarded,' (laughs). Then we talked about politics and it was OK."

— Elliott Graves, 22, an airplane mechanic, Macintosh camera technician and business student at Belmont University in Nashville

Musings on Nashville’s music scene

Nashville is the other Hollywood. The musical one.

And I met quite a few interesting musicians, here.


Charlie Rauh, 24, left, and Joseph Hudson, 32, right, play a number of different instruments together and separately.

Joseph plays or sings in six steady gigs, holds down a part-time job at a library, does some film work and is training to be a wrestler.

"I think improvised music is going to have its heyday in Nashville because I can't recall a time in Nashville's history where that's been popular and I just see more and more manifestations of that," says Hudson.

Rauh thinks there is a unique Nashville approach to improvised music, too.
"A lot of it in other cities is usually loud and abrasive and for some
reason the focus of music from Nashville is more melodic and lush."

"The energy is mostly concentrated on Indie rock, now," says Rauh.

He adds: "There is a lot of apathy. A lot of people are making good music but because they don't think people give a fuck, they don't do anything. They don't try to book shows. They wait for something to come to them, when they're doing something that requires self-motivation.

He adds: "A lot of these people are already self-defeated and so their music is self-defeated."

He recalls moving to Nashville 2 12 years ago and walking out of a cafe with is guitar. "And some older guy walked past and said, 'Good luck, buddy. I've been here 10 years.'

Says Rauh: "Nashville is like a graveyard of artists. There are so many people who came here to make it big and didn't."

He continues: "I see Nashville as (providing) endless opportunities, because there are so many good studios and sound masters."


Enoch Porch, 27, above, has 'made it'  — enough to make his living for several years playing in bands and touring for a major label. He still does music, but has eased off from the commercialized stuff for a bit to focus on other things, including managing this Italian market and eatery on the west side of town.
Porch says he was tired of all the posturing that touring with a major record label required.
"I like humble music," he says.

A couple Nashville cuties


Katie Beth Kirkeminde, 25, left, is a hostess at Bourban Street Blues and Boogie Bar in Nashville, while Beth Walker, 26, right, plays and sings in a two woman act called A Finer Wire.
They met this Tuesday night outside popular Nashville music venue Exit/In.

Katie Beth, who does model, got her dress at Forever21. Her belt is by Another Line; the shoes are Michael Antonio and the stockings are Anne Klein.

Beth qualifies as a laid off reporter, herself. The entertainment magazine she wrote for closed down in June.
"I like lots of colors, bright colors," she tells me. "Usually I put my outfit together in my head first."
All her items are from Target except the blown glass pendant, which she picked up at a thrift store.

Couchsurfing – my first experience

Before I left for my trip I joined an online travelers' community called Couchsurfing, where members can look for places to stay or offer to host others in their homes.

My first 'hookup' so-to-speak was at Noah Porch's home in Nashville.


Porch, 29, drives around this cool 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle. He works as a program analyst and has been "doing the couch surfing thing" since 2005. During that time, he's graciously played host to a large number of travelers, but has yet to be a surfer, himself.

"I backpacked through the UK when I was 18. I wish I'd have had it
then. I'm sure I'll use it (as a surfer, not a host) at one point," he

He lives in a house about three miles from downtown with two of his brothers, also in their late twenties. The guys all have girlfriends and the girlfriends have dogs. Noah and his girlfriend, Mary Beth, recently rescued a 2-week-old Rottweiler puppy they found on their doorstep, in fact.

The night I arrived, they hosted a dinner with fresh fruit and Indian food. They let me bring Armani in and offered lots of great 'backdoor' Nashville suggestions.

It seems counterintuitive that professional people with busy lives would open their worlds to strangers, but that is the beauty of the Couchsurfing philosophy.

Says Noah: "Everyone is totally different, but everyone has the thing where they love to travel and love to see new things."

"The Nashville community is really cool," he adds. "They'll get together and have potlucks every second Sunday of the month."

He says those who crash with him are "usually people that are not very materialistic. Really, anyone who is a traveler isn't very materialistic because you can't be. You can't have a bunch of crap holding you down."

"I haven't had a bad experience," he adds. "Everyone is on their way somewhere, so no one's really imposing."

I loved meeting him and his friends and learning from them. It was also a much needed oasis for Armani and I to recoup and catch up on cleaning and posting, as we'd been feeling pretty ravaged by the unabated heat.

Bells, Tenn. — Not sure what to think of this town!

I made a brief stop for ice, baby carrots and gas.

From the grocery store parking lot, I shot this funky old building


and picked up my free copy of the West Tennessee Examiner's "CrimeSeen," which I imagine has been the stripes-earner for a slew of unfortunate reporters.

Let's get to the highlights. Nancy Grace would be so proud.

'Two go to trail'


If you don't want your picture posted…


Wholesome advertisements


'Blazing flames injuries'


The website for the Examiner is Go figure.

‘Don’t fret’ and Memphis nightlife

IMG_2740 Keon Cooper, 23, was my personal Memphis tour guide one Saturday night. He is a firefighter and cooks at at The Pier Restaurant downtown, where we met when he helped guide my RV into an alley so I could plug in and have AC.

(I overloaded my system and had to unplug for the night at 7:30, but that's another story).

I hadn't planned to spend the hottest weeks of the year in the South, but I'm trying to hit a tier of states I wanted to see and would have otherwise missed via my planned coastal itinerary. Unfortunately, the heat and humidity are merciless. More for Armani than me. Humans can escape for dinner into air conditioned restaurants. Humans can sweat. But she has to weather this out in her giant, metal dog house.

Thankfully, in the crazy scavenger hunt that is now my world, there are messengers sent to help me.

Anthony Gales (who I met when I mistakenly pulled into his gas station from yesteryear) was one of those. He told me about The Pier.

And when I got there, manager David McCain (right) was surprisinglyIMG_2744 OK with the idea of donating electricity to me.

He claims he's gotten stranger requests — like a group of 17 filing in at once to use the restroom.

McCain actually spent much of his childhood in the Ozarks where I'd just come from.

"Don't fret," he said to me, while I was thanking him excessively.

"Ha, I must me in the South," I responded. "I could use a little less fretting.'

Outside of the tourist draw on Beale Street, Memphis was surprisingly less lively than I thought it would be. It almost seems this city had it's musical moment in the sun and now that creative energy is hovering some place different.

It is still incredibly historic.


Keon and I had a good time walking around and talking about life.

In fact, I think we made a kickass team – this 115-pound blond girl and the 260-pound black guy. If only because the world reacts to us so differently.

He got searched at the entrance to Beale Street and they waved me on through.


"Wow," I said. "They hardly even looked in my purse. I guess they don't think I'm much of a threat."

"Yeah," he said with a laugh. "People usually get out of my way."