I was in a bathroom stall at a bar when I read an ad on the back of the door: “Nashville is…cowboys with smart phones, southern belles with tattoos, southern hospitality and culture with a SoHo flair.”
I went back and sat at the bar and peeled the label off my beer while I wondered who the hell really believed that. Someone had to have thought it was brilliant. Someone had to have okayed it, proofread it and sent it off to be printed. A cowboy with a smart phone is just a Billboard country songwriter, churning out lines like sit on my tailgate, you look good in that skirt — trash that somehow makes a lot of money. A southern belle with a tattoo is just a sorority girl who got too drunk in Panama City. Southern hospitality with a SoHo flair is just a restaurant where a historic home used to be, with a middle-aged chef from somewhere else, who thinks that cheese grits are the essence of southern cuisine.
Glossy magazines drunk on a post-recession lust for Americana call it “new Nashville,” and its soulless overgrowth has never sat right with those who loved this city before it became a destination, before its low-key charms were traded in for a pale imitation of Brooklyn cool. The fact that a publication based in East Nashville — the neighborhood that had always offered a semblance of counterculture for those who don’t just want pearls and derbies — was now touted as a synthetic “new Nashville” is indicative of just how far gone the Nashville I grew up in is. And how even further gone my parents’ Nashville is.
I sent a picture of the bathroom ad to my father. He simply replied, (continue reading)