Tuesday, November 14, 2006


Nashville was great, but getting to see my pal Cindy was the best of all. Friday night after I arrived, however, I wasn't sure I'd get to see her at all.

She called me Friday morning to deliver the dismal, dreadful news: it was snowing in Des Moines. Yes, snowing. GAG! She feared it would delay flights all day... which did turn out to be the case, unfortunately. Her flight out was delayed long enough that she missed her connection in St. Louis (although I thought it was rather chintzy of the AA people because they could've held that connecting flight up for 15 more minutes until several people could get there). She had to spend the night in a hotel with no luggage... no contact solution, no toothpaste, thanks to the terrorists (may they all be nibbled to death slowly by camel spiders)... and finally made it to Nashville the next morning at around 8 AM or so.

I, on the other hand, had a relatively uneventful flight out of DFW. I met a wonderful military guy on leave from being stationed in Mosul, Iraq; he's a Spc4 named Robinson and he's from Kansas City. God bless him; he's salt-of-the-earth and I'm proud to have him on my side. We chatted while standing in the interminable lines; I spoke to him first because he was in front of me in line and I wanted to thank him for his service to me and my country. SaLUTE!

I got pegged for the pat-down, but the lady was very cheerful about it and it went quickly and smoothly. Again, the lines were hideously long, mainly because one of the two metal detectors wasn't functioning and we were all being routed through one. Gah! Could've been much worse, I'm sure. At least my container of Popeye's Red Beans n' Rice made it through; I was sustained for the rest of the evening on that!

Anyway, once I was in Nashville I picked up my rental car (a dark green Pontiac G6 with lots of acceleration but NO turn radius) and headed for the hotel -- the Airport Ramada Inn & Suites. It was kind-of a dump, actually, but it wasn't gross or disgusting, just run-down. I think they were in the process of renovating. Cindy had called with the bad news, and I was a bit tired from having had some grumbly-guts all day (sorry, TMI I'm sure), so I just turned on the hotel room TV and lounged for the evening instead of going anywhere.

Saturday morning after she arrived and had showered and freshened up, we headed right over to our favorite Nashville restaurant, Swett's.

Is that a menu or what? Pig feet, even. Although neither of us had the pig feet; instead, I chose chicken-fried steak with brown gravy, mustard greens and pinto beans, and cornbread (notice it's flat and fried? Yum!!!). Cindy chose the pork chop, the greens, and green beans.

I'm telling you, Swett's is worth the drive, from wherever you happen to be in the world. No lie.

Next was a visit to our favorite weird clothing store, a place called Smack! down on Elliston Place. We were a tad disappointed, however; it seems to have toned down and trendied up. Blech. Oh well, life goes on. Elliston Place Soda Shop had just closed because of a plumbing emergency, so no milkshake at the counter. We did get to visit Rock Block Guitar Shop, though, so all was not lost.

Cool tin ceilings, eh? The place is a gem.

Of course, it wouldn't be a trip to Nashville if we didn't drive slowly around the traffic circle and look at the frolicking naked people statue (it's actually called Musica and it's quite nicely done, in my opinion).

It's such a liberating thing to look at, and not simply because it's a bunch of naked people. These people are absolutely full of joy, which MUSIC brings to people... I just feel happy when I look at it. A lot of people have complained about it being too , well, naked, but that's not what it's about for me. It speaks to me on a deeper level, and I would explain it to my own children in those terms because I want them to grow up with more than a simplistic, concrete concept of art. There's so much more.

That evening we drove west of Nashville to Loveless Cafe, which we hadn't tried before but which was reputed to be worth the drive. We can both attest to the accuracy of this!

I had the fried catfish and I can honestly say that I don't think I have ever had better fried catfish in my LIFE. Melted in my mouth, it did. The biscuits were divine, and so were the green beans and grits. Cindy had meat loaf.

Can you tell that food is a main highlight for our visits to Nashville? The music is incredible, but the food is the biggest draw.

Later in the evening we visited the best lil' coffeehouse anywhere, a place called Bongo Java near the Belmont University campus. Here's a pic of my latte:
Isn't that pretty? I thought so. Otherwise I probably wouldn't have taken a photo of my coffee to share with y'all.

Sunday morning we slept in, then stopped by Opry Mills Outlet Mall for some AWESOME shopping... then we hit Swett's again for lunch before heading to the airport. I had the meat loaf (melted in my mouth, I promise you), the mashed potatoes and the greens again (I love greens!), and I bought a slice of pecan pie to take to the airport with me for later. Cindy had the beef tips, which she reported were divine to the extreme. I've never had a mediocre meal there. If you live anywhere near Nashville and you haven't been to Swett's, shame on you!

And that pretty much wrapped it up. It was way too cold to visit some of the other cool stuff like the Parthenon replica and places like that. It was almost too cold and windy even to tolerate going from the car to the mall entrance, I tell you. BRR!! But at least it wasn't snowing.

It was a very happy birthday trip, one I needed very badly.

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