Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Y'all And More Y'all

When you are on a flight to Tennessee, you don’t expect silence to pervade every pore of the plane. JFK might have been overflowing with noisy Spring Break revellers, but none of them boarded our flight. In just a quick scan, I picked up on a severe case of ‘Hillbilly’ syndrome (my own creation) seated at several window and aisle seats- a drawn out ‘y’all’ constitutes the aforementioned syndrome- this particular verbal tick was on overdrive alongside a plethora of ‘yes m’aaaaaaayymmzz’.  As we were heading to the country’s ‘country music’ capital, I was anticipating some real Hickville folk, some real Southern fried food and some real lazy strides.

With a week worth of Nashville ahead of me, I had the liberty to idle my time away with breezy explorations, rather than packing everything in, in 2-3 days like most of my trips in the U.S. It started off after a long Southern slumber in a big plush bed, and I was ironing out the creases around my eyes, slipped into spring clothes and was ready for a Nashvillian tour.

My friend Kate, whom I met in London last year during her exchange was my well equipped tour guide, lucky for me she was not equipped with an annoyingly irritating tour guide voice. 
Bell Meade was our first stop. It is a neighbourhood of central Nashville, in which some of the finest looking houses are strung together with the beautifully manicured lawns- they make for great scene-stealer's. I had no idea as to the lush green Tennessee has to offer, believe me, from above the city looks like it is cushioned between overgrown broccoli!

Of course we checked out downtown Nashville, with the honky tonk stores, selling their over priced merchandise to naive tourists i.e. me. Honky tonk is among the local vocabulary used here. It derives itself from a style of country music based within the cacophonic tourist bar scene. The stores are lined up side by side, like a long commercial corridor with typical ‘nick knack’ and cowboy shops. 
Double Treat For Us

While shopping in itself can be entertaining, the added singers and twins (see above) make for a most entertaining step away from the daily grind on a Tuesday morning. 

Unlike New York, the car culture prevails the Nashvillian roads. You cannot rely on public transport to get you from A to B, so a car is essential.

With our essential car, we hit Hillsborough village. This 'village' is a block length street, with true home-style shops with items modeled after a vintage feel- gives you a feel good feeling as well. My top two stores were: Pangaea and Social Graces.

The former and latter are eclectic gatherings of the funky clothes/jewelry/stationary/body products that Nashville has to offer, and only Nashville I believe.  I don't think I would call them the latest trends, but they are certainly unique enough to fuel a young clientele into this interesting 'folk' art.
Chock-full Boutique

Pangaea, is a retro store with stacks of mainly clothes and jewelry. It can be a bit overwhelming sifting through the million oddities, but everything seems made to measure for someone in particular. There is a degree of 'kitschy' in the store, what with its overflow of whimsical looking scarves; earrings and rings, but if you are looking to tap into the Boho look, I say go go.

Adjacent to this gem, is 'Social Graces' gracefully occupying a modest space on the street. This store sells what could easily be boring stationary and necessities. Candles;Letterpress greeting cards;candles;Wedding cards;Gift Wrapping etc. Even as you step into the store, the smells shoot right through you, compelling your purse to open up and give in!

 I wasn't due to buy anything, but I really paid close attention to the embroidered details, and luscious smells to the point where it put visions in my head of old fashioned gentility. And with old fashioned music lulling in the background, well, I was taken out of the modern context of 2011 and gently placed in 1939.

On a few occasions we hit the local bar scene, where up and coming bands showcase their unheard/unsung talent and have the opportunity to grow from their modest beginnings. I was amazed at the professional sounds and intriguing styles that make for a thrilling experience. 
Surrounded By Talent
With variations of hard and soft sounding melodies, the harmonies piped into my body’s rhythms tuning my unfamiliar ear to the excellence of the local talent. The highlight of bar hopping landed in the Cold Cave venue. The Kills gave a sexy and sensual performance featuring the unique Allison Mosshart- she and guitarist Jamie Hince wowed us all with their effortlessly energetic powerhouse ‘duet’. 

They worked off one another so beautifully, creating a performance that I couldn’t explain at the time, but can now process as natural ability with added substance. I am pretty convinced that the endless late night shows they commit to are made feasible with a kick or two- regardless, they were off the radar; I was so entranced by the hypnotic lighting as well as their movement on stage, I left the venue abuzz with ‘Kills’ fever running dangerously high. Later in the week, Kate I went to 'The Stations Inn' where Bluegrass hill music is heard- attracting a more mature audience. This type of music falls into the 'Old-time music' category of the North American folk genre. A combination of folk and fiddle sounds will produce the traditional music of yesteryear.

For a change of pace, Kate and I escaped to 'Radnor Lake'- a lake trail that allows for a beautifully relaxing hike in a green and clean domain of close proximity to the downtown area- you wouldn't think it was so close. 

It isn't desperately difficult to hike, it is mainly flat with a few ascending areas, but it won't wipe you out. Although, it is very long and windy, so you need to have a good sense of navigation and know at what point you will go back! 

If you want to ground yourself, I suggest you take to natural preserves such as this. I find nature to be such a grounding element, because in this space I was a spec amidst this all encompassing natural setting, it had a very calming effect. Also, the trail is good for wildlife spotting, not that we saw anything beyond a squirrel, but it is said that deer lurk around among other animals....

On this green note, in celebration of ‘Earth Day’ on Saturday 23rd April, Nashville combined its ‘country music city’ status with a forward thinking: ‘green collar city’ image. We went to Centennial Park, where a hoard of stalls were spread out over the massive plot of land. Among the typical face painting, candy floss and hair braiding, were stalls catering for those in search of eco friendly alternatives to earth killing items. Select cars, scooters etc were on show to promote a greener alternative as well as recycled hand soaps, scarves and clothes targeting green fashionistas. Being a Saturday, all families had planted themselves on the grass with picnics and copious amounts of water, for it was a sweltering day of sun and heat. And of course, the event wouldn't have been complete without the sounds of the south: good old country music. 

We traipsed the grounds of yet another park: Sevier park, with Kate's dog: Gunner. Where we were met with a smaller volume of Saturday folk, and simply absorbed the bliss of natural beauty in smaller form.
Kate and Gunner
At this point, we had covered sufficient amount of Nashville's turf, and I really got a sense of quintessential Nashville, and I just think its such a cool place, yes m'ayyyym.


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