Four People You Meet in Nashville
Last week I spent some time talking to a woman who had never been to the American South before. She was coming down to help with the post-hurricane clean up and had decided to forego the Red Cross's offer to fly her back home in favor of renting a car and driving through Beulah Land.
Her idea of what we're like is something along the lines of everyone being like Andy n' Opie n' Thelma Lou n' Aint Bea n' Goober n' Gomer. It was kind of cute, really. The truth is we don't have very many Mayberry types here. There are a few lawyers who really do make you want to run after them yelling, "Atticus! Atticus!" Years ago we had a mayor with the unfortuante surname of "Boner" who promptly lost his mind and traded his wife in for a country-music hanger-on who told Oprah and everybody more about either of them than anybody wanted to know. He imploded so spectacularly that I figured Robert Altman was off somewhere trying to figure out who he needed to write to explain that he was just kidding. They were all entertaining, but are they the people my new buddy is likely to meet on her visit? Nope. Lets take a look at who she could encounter:
Scary Mary Fangear They are everywhere and they're not limited to any particular form of entertainment or affiliation with any group. My friends still like to talk about the woman who wanted to strip to the waist and fight me in Centennial Park because she overheard me saying that I thought Vince Gill looked like Andy Kaufman.
My favorite, though, was the woman I saw at a stoplight next to the Juvenile Justice Center one afternoon. She was first in line, then there was a man in a Lexus and then me. The light turned green and I guess the woman in her Suzuki Samaurai didn't pull away fast enough to suit Mister Lexus. He hit his horn with three rapid blasts and gunned his engine. The Samaurai began to shake as this very, very large -as in blot out the sun large- woman in a Steve McNair jersey and an impossible Titans blue and red weave began to shuck herself out of the driver's side door of her little car. I heard the whirrrrr of the Lexus windows rolling up as she approached the car.
She banged on the window and bellowed, "Do you know me? Hey! Do you know me? Are you a friend of mine? Were you trying to get my attention? Hey! Hey! I'm talking to you! Are you my friend?"
I guess he didn't want to be her friend because she sauntered back to the Samaurai, squeezed in, turned back to the Lexus and said "Honk at me again, fool!" and then slammed the door shut, causing it to rock back and forth at least three times before it stopped. She sat through the next light. He just sat there. I didn't go because I wanted to see what would happen next. Unfortunately, she got bored and pulled off the next time it turned green.
Cletus the Fetus Poor Cletus swims through life in downtown Nashville in his own amniotic fog, pooping where he will and occasionally demanding money and/or canoodling from any paralegal who makes eye contact. My only line of defense against Cletus was a stamped leather purse in the shape of a fish. He approached me one morning and asked me if I wanted a Walnetto and then mentioned there was a fish on my hip.
Me: A fish?
Cletus: Yeah! That bag looks like a fish! You got a fish on your arm!
Me: No, I don't. It's a plain old black canvas purse from Dillards. You think it looks like a fish? I don't get it.
Cletus: Yeah! Its a fish! You want a Walnetto? (Okay, he didn't really offer me a Walnetto, but you get the idea.)
Me: There's no fish here. Its got two little ducks on the flap, see?
I held up the fish shaped purse and pointed to two little duck appliques that weren't there.
Cletus: Aw, lady! I'm seeing a fish. I gotta go.
Beetleskeeze Beetleskeeze stands on Broad and seems to be waiting for someone to say his name three times so he can escape whatever dimension he's living on. Sometimes he feels magnanimous and will help visitors find their way around the city.
Beetleskeeze: Woooooooooooooooooooooooo! Wooooooooooooooooooo! Hi, pretty girls! Are you lost? I'll help ya!
Girl in Car Who Completely Lacks Gavin DeBecker's Gift of Fear and Rolls Down Her Window (GiCWCLGDeBGoF): Yeah! We're looking for the Hard Rock Cafe. You know where that is?
Beetleskeeze: You're looking for a hard rock? Why?GiCWCLGDeBGoF: The Hard Rock Cafe. We're going to to a party there. You know where it is?
Beetleskeeze: A Hard Rock party? Its in my pants! Woooooooooooo! Hey! Where are you going?
Spliff Daddy Spliff Daddy is a youngish man who is on a constant quest to find the perfect place to hone his craft as an old school rapper. Sometimes its the bandshell-like perfection of recessed doorways. Other times its the overhang at the Tennessee Perfoming Arts Centre. My favorite place to catch Spliffy is on the corner of Fifth and Union. It is there that Spliff actually sings with a partner. The life-sized statue of Chet Atkins sits patiently as Spliff holds forth about the weather, MNPD Chief Ronal Surpas and Big Macs. Since he's all about sharing, Spliff always gives his cornermate a chance to shine, pausing mid-rap to shout "Take it away, Chet!"
Of course she could float through town and never meet any of these people. That would leave the tourists, the Baptists and the odd, embittered native who remembers what the place was like back in the day. But where's the fun in that?
copyright 2006 Jas Faulkner