Friday, October 12, 2012

Musing City

I got back from four days and change in Nashville yesterday. Already I feel a need to get back to Tennessee, Jed. The change in scenery — more accurately, the momentary introduction of scenery — was exactly what I likely still need. Lately, I've felt particularly stifled out here in the flatlands. It seems that there's nothing out here, least of all truly friendly people willing to lend a hand, or even an eye or ear. This sanitized plastic land is not the place for me. Maybe the whole country is sanitized plastic by now; me, I'm willing to give the benefit of a doubt to places I haven't fully gotten to know yet.

So I was in greater Nashville for a handful of days. I can tell you this much: whether it actually has it or not, Nashville at least has the aura...of "life". I don't quite know how to explain it; there's just a feeling that things actually happen there. It's a feeling that permeates the rolling hills and the winding roads that must conform to them — roads on which one can easily get lost without a GPS, because there's no workable grid. But getting lost there isn't too bad, because it's very beautiful in the rolling greenery, or green-red-and-orange-ery here in the autumn. At least it is during the daytime; those close, fast-paced winding country roads tend to not be at all lit at night. I say all this, by the way, as someone who is apparently really amazingly good at directions. Pretty much anyone I talk to tells me how horrible they are at directions and navigation. But give me a couple minutes with Google Maps before I hit the road, and I sail smoothly. At least I usually do; I had rather a hard time one night in England in 2006. So maybe I'm skewed by my life in flat, gridded Illinois. But I've done well so far in the Nash. Anyway...

I didn't get to manage but a couple interactions with "locals"; I would love to have interacted more. As it is, I stayed alongside my family, except for one night at a bar, finally meeting someone I had known in cyberspace for a while. (Also, the previous night when I tried meeting them and failed, but never mind.) As a northerner in the South, it was wonderfully trippy for me. And from a comment made by the fellow who came to join my friend and me, the feeling was mutual.

I would most certainly benefit from getting out (of town/state) and interacting more often. If only I could find a way to be able from within this cornstalk-barred prison....

****

Here are some things other than scenery and natural beauty that I've seen in Tennessee but not in Illinois that I can recall:

• SPEED LIMIT 70

• MapCo

• Belk

• Stoplights after midnight implementing a two-way stop by having one of the two intersecting streets seeing yellow flashing lights while the other street sees the usual red flashers. I guess that's how that works, based on about two other vehicles that were out at the time that I saw.

• Exxon, though we do have their other half, the most boringly-named Mobil. No "Tigermarket"s here.

• Kroger, except down in the south of the state where I never went until last year. Actually, Bloomington-Normal might have it. I never go there, so I don't know.

• Someone else's outdoor cat coming to visit us and ours, although ours is not particularly a fan

• Shoney's (I'm pretty sure)

• Publix

• Cartoon-esque holes in the ground and a tree or two in the yard. Where are the "critters" that would make such holes where I live? What do they look like?

• An OVERSIZE LOAD passing another OVERSIZE LOAD on the interstate. I'm sure that's not exclusive to other places, just something I don't see every day. Actually, this might have been in Kentucky on the way back.

• Piggly Wiggly. I'd heard that these existed, but I never saw one until this past Monday.

• Quite so many two-or-more-word street names. Seems Tennessee likes to make it absolutely known who their roads are named for. I think the town I live in has exactly one street that bears a person's full name, and it likely helps that that one person is named "Ed". If we named a street for General George Patton, as has been done in a couple places in the greater Nashville metro, it would likely just be "Patton Avenue".

And that reminds me of another thing: Pikes. No Illinois roadway seems to be described as a "pike". We got most every other variety of thing to drive on: street, avenue, boulevard, drive, road, parkway, court (if it's a dead-end or only a block long). Occasionally we might chance upon a "trail", or "place", or something. But no pikes here. Weird.

• Jack in the Box. Another chain that's supposed to be nationally renowned, but if we have any here, I don't know where they are. I don't even know what kind of food they serve, exactly. Typical greasy fast food?

Actually, there are a couple chains like that, or used to be. Chick-Fil-A was totally unheard of here until maybe three or four years ago when one came in to replace the McDonald's in the Illini Union food court. News is that they've opened a few places in Chicagoland since. Also, Chicago has had a White Castle or three — the one at Clark & Ridge comes to mind — but never down here.

• A sign at the end of a dead-end street saying "Temporary Dead End", with another one right behind it saying "Permanent Dead End". The site of a legal battle, my family surmised.

• Someone removing their clothes right there in the bar. It wasn't my friend, and I don't think "Trish" will be, but it was good for a laugh. "Why is your bra in your hand?" "Because I took it off."

• A kitten climbing a tree. Before I went down, my cousin had actually snapped a picture of "Ellie" having gotten on the roof. I didn't get to see that in person, but that can be all right.

• Someone using their fireplace. Matter of fact, the house I live in doesn't even have a fireplace.

• The kitten using the ash-filled fireplace for very much her own purposes.

• And, last but not least, I feel a need to point out that I live north of this. But I'm told I ain't missin' much there.

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