pages fly away 47

In the morning, I got up and took a shower, which went on to flood the bathroom floor.  I used the towel to mop it up the best I could, then headed out, stopping by a Foodland to pick up some groceries.  There I asked about a park and was referred to one called McFarland.  It ended up being on the Tennessee River.  There was a swinging bench facing the river next to the O’Neil Bridge.  It seemed like a good place to attempt a morning meditation.  My mind was already jumping so hard that trying to contain it later that day would probably be impossible, especially since I was on my way to Nashville.

Sitting down on the bench swing, I pushed off the pavement with my toes and the swing slightly rocked back and forth.  It made me think back to being a kid, swinging with all my might, stretching out my legs to the sky, feeling freer than any other way I knew how.  White clouds were bunched up in the sky.  The reflection of them almost floated downstream.  There was a steady whir of cars passing over the bridge.  Songbirds were singing in the trees.  A V formation of ducks flew overhead.  Somewhere off in the distance a train whistle blew. 

It was hard to focus and keep track of my breaths.  A couple passed by, both of them with gray hair.  Off to the side of me a crew was setting up a stage.  There was a festival scheduled to take place that weekend.  The sound of trucks went rolling by.  Some motorcycle freedom fighter went roaring over the bridge.

The first time I went to Nashville, I was about twenty-five and traveling around the country on a Greyhound bus.  I had a five-hour layover and made my way to Broad Street, or Broadway, finding the Ryman Auditorium, home of the Grand Ole Opry, on my own, then cutting through the alley over to Tootsie’s to drink beer and watch some country music up and comers take the stage.  From there, I went into Ernest Tubb’s Record Store to browse through records, and hit up a few other bars, before making my way back uphill to jump on my bus.

It was two and a half hours to get to Nashville from Muscle Shoals.  I Googled the Country Music Hall of Fame and let Karen direct me to it, taking the 64 to freeway 65.  When I got off in downtown Nashville, it was thirty dollars to park.  There was no way to back out of the garage I’d pulled into.  I was steamed.  Then when I got out on the street there were all these partiers on pedal tavern tours, cranking up Brittney Spears and the Back Street Boys.  This was all part of the new pop country movement.  Any moment now, they’d all start rapping.

I decided to take a stroll before visiting the Hall of Fame.  There was the Johnny Cash and Patsy Cline Museum, what you might call old-schoolers in this part of town.  I walked past the Sun Diner, a red rooster playing the electric guitar, and Luke’s 32, a cowgirl in short shorts with an electric guitar of her own.  There was Jason Aldean’s, not far from Betty Boots, the Music City Showcase, Nudie’s Honkytonk, and the Ernest Tubb’s Guitar Store, just about to go out of business.  A mural at Legend’s Corner, depicted some true legends, seated amongst a crowd of new up and comers.  Time would tell how many of them deserved to be seated there.

From the Ryman Auditorium, where statues of Bill Munroe, Loretta Lynn, and Little Jimmy Dickens, stand outside, I went looking for Tootsie’s, and found it had been refurbished, almost as if an old honkytonk had been archived inside a new one.  There were two stages and a thousand headshots on the walls.

It was almost ninety degrees out.  As I made my way back to the Hall of Fame, I realized how much I needed to find a laundry mat.  It was thirty dollars to get in, the same as I’d paid for parking.  The museum traces the evolution of country music.  The origins of it are based in folk music, much of it derived from England and Ireland, and blues from the rural south.  Black and white photos showed an old man on a porch with a guitar, two young men, one with a fiddle, the other with a banjo.  Most of the earliest recordings were done in the Appalachians and the South.  There were pictures on the walls of early heroes like Jimmie Rodgers, Hank Williams, Roy Rogers, Eddie Arnold, and Roy Acuff.

There was also an exhibit about the Outlaw Country movement that sprung up in Texas during the 70s, songwriters like Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings, who grew their hair out and injected some rock and roll attitude into their performances.  The Hall of Fame itself, is a circular enclosure with plaques on the walls commemorating those who have been inducted.  To the young people pedaling bicycle bars around out front, most of the names on the wall probably meant little. 

It became popular about fifteen years ago, for people to claim how much country music had always meant to them.  In reality, when we were kids, whenever Hee Haw came on I wanted to run out of the room and throw up.  I liked Kenny Rogers.  I liked Alabama.  I liked Willie Nelson when he sang with Julio Iglesias.  I liked Waylon on the Dukes of Hazard. If it crossed over to top 40 radio, there’s a chance I might’ve listened to it.  If not, I wanted nothing to do with it.  Country music was just music for old people and rednecks.  Now it’s for everybody, popstars, rappers, and DJs too.

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