Thursday, September 07, 2006

Stop The World (And Let Me Off)

The last couple of times I went home to visit, I noticed the strangest thing: Nashville is getting hipper. This is strange to me because it’s Nashville, my hometown. Sure, I’ve always defended it against idiots who ask if people in Nashville wear shoes or own refrigerators, but that was more of a defense of myself than my hometown.

My usual line of argument was always proudly boasting that Nashville is deemed the “Athens of the South,” for its several major universities, and variety of culture. Yes, culture.

Naturally, however, I spent my teenage years devising ways to get as far away from Nashville as possible, which is one of the reasons I landed in Seattle.

Lately, though, lately I’ve noticed little parts of Nashville that are starting to closely resemble little parts of Brooklyn or Capitol Hill.

Nashville is getting hipper because it’s growing fast.

Nissan just moved there, it’s going to get the country's fourth largest skyscraper, a brand new symphony hall just opened, and, finally, Nicole Kidman lives there now. It’s an industry town full of transplants from other cities, kind of sort of like LA or New York.

Is this what happened to Austin, Texas?

Nashville is not a town to cross on foot; you must own a car. And one of the greatest changes I’ve noticed over the past five years is that each time I go home, which is every couple of months or so, I am stuck in traffic for about five minutes longer.

Yet they have also produced a series of bike paths.

Now, compared to New York living, Nashville doesn’t look so bad.

As a little blue county in the middle of a red state, it is rapidly becoming what every city is built for in the first place: a thriving haven for all the small town “eccentrics” who were never able to come out of the closet or wear whatever they please or speak their minds, for fear of getting the shit kicked out of them by half the football team.

The dive bars are real dive bars; the rent is appallingly cheap; and I’ve found that you can get better Mexican food there than in New York.

And the kids, the kids are starting to look pretty damn cool. Still takes a while for fashions to trickle down/over, but not as long as it used to, I guess because of the Internet?

Although I still spotted a kid in the airport wearing a t-shirt that read,
Things to Do:
1) Your sister
2) Your mom

Of course you have the music. Obviously, there’s the country music and all of the legendary personalities encompassed by that industry, but there’s also a budding indie scene that’s kind of cute and still on the cusp of the conventional, the way that sort of genre is supposed to be.

Therein flock the hipsters. Hipsters need moral freedom, more spaces (bars, clubs, cafes) and cheap rent. Also, a city without hipsters is unconscious. A hipster is a city in the condition of self-reflection, awareness, consciousness.

The city’s growth, its cheap rent, and its effort in becoming a valid blue sanctuary for those whose beliefs/desires/needs are at odds with the conformist logic of small, red towns, provide a temptation in the face of the ghastly rent and job competition in New York.

But then again, these kinds of changes take time, a little too much time if you ask me. Nashville is still my hometown, scarred forever with the effect of ennui which is a hard thing to forgive, no matter how good the barbeque.

Honestly, though, I think every city would be a better place if it followed Nashville’s example in having a downtown strip where failed musicians sing old Johnny Cash covers for free.


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