Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Dear Nashville

Dear Nashville,

Last week I packed my car, drove it down my street, found my interstate exit, and left you. When Ruby pulled past 440, there was no benediction. When she hit White Bridge, there was no parade. There was no red carpet. At Charlotte, there were no radio dedications, though I listened to L100 just in case. There were no trumpets sounding, no crowds lining I40, no banners hung from an overpass. No pomp. No circumstance. I drove, then I kept driving.

I moved to New York last week, and I’m here now. It’s warm here, and sun is shining.

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When people move, they disappear into the ether of Elsewhere. They report back frequently--then less--from some lost horizon about people we don’t know and places we can’t see. They describe their new life as beautiful and thrilling and incalculably better than their last. It probably is. They give us the weather report and the sun shines forever. It probably does.

They don’t look back, because they’ve moved to look ahead. And once there, they don’t say the things they should’ve said, because they’re away from it now. They speak from here (or there) about now, and here is perfect and now is brilliant.

But I’m here, now, and I do have something to say. I’ve got something to say I wouldn’t have said in the past, something I’m surprised to say now.

I’ll miss you.

I’ll miss Hillsboro. I’ll miss living in Hillsboro more than I did when I moved to the east side. I’ll miss walking past the perpetual traffic jam at 21st and Acklen, the renegade parking near Sunset Grille, the ambulances that disrupt the sidewalk conversations.

I’ll miss Fido, my jacket smelling like its burned and smoky darkroast. I’ll miss its Yazoos, my reward if I did good work that day. I’ll miss the staff, who knew my face and order if not my name. I’ll miss the soft lighting in its bathroom. I’ll miss watching the undergrads on semidates. I’ll miss it in February, when it’s one of earth’s only warm places. I’ll miss its playlist, which is good ten percent of the time, bad thirty percent of the time, and predictable all the time. I’ll miss meeting a friend there.

I’ll miss the groping skyline. I’ll miss its silhouette at dusk, driving into town. I'll miss walking under the canopy of a Batman shadow. I'll miss the ugly, utilitarian horrors of its downtown riverviews. I’ll miss the buildings going up, those coming down, a whole town permanently under construction, all visible and naked and inching towards progress, something higher, something better.

I’ll miss El Palenque’s chicken mole.

I’ll miss the Basement, a rock room that's still intimate, a cellar that still sounds good, a landmark that still feels comfortable. I’ll miss the corner table on the back porch, sweating there at midnight in August, wishing I was a smoker. I'll miss any place owned and operated by folks who simply love music, and love musicians.

I’ll miss the Belmont strip. I’ll miss PM’s burger. I’ll miss the Thai market, its greasy messes. I’ll miss the old houses next door, graffitied alleys behind, the overeager hipsters posing on Bongo's porch, the swarming musicians that rival any school’s, anywhere.

I’ll miss Vanderbilt every fall, its colors and its campus rising like a flame. I’ll miss the West End Starbucks and the Opryland Hotel at Christmas, both a weird, personal tradition. I’ll miss SATCO in the spring, the girls in skirts, the fresh tans. I’ll miss Free Cone Day in April, happier than ever to wait in line. I’ll miss Steeplechase in May, though I’ve never been.

I’ll miss cutting my grass in the summer. I’ll miss sweating for two hours in the sun. I’ll miss sitting on the deck and drinking a beer and seeing a job done well.

I’ll miss driving. I’ll miss taking the backroads and sidestreets and alternate routes Nashvillians are so bad at finding. I’ll miss timing myself from the east side to my friend’s in Hillsboro. I’ll miss beating that record. I’ll miss the drive in late afternoon through the innards of Green Hills, canvassed by trees, emptying out at Harding, Highway 100. I’ll miss geeking out to a mix and singing at the top of my lungs. I’ll miss having somewhere that my time, destination, and playlist are my own. I’ll miss driving in silence when I need to think. I miss driving when I need to do anything but think. I'll miss driving.

I’ll miss my car, Ruby. I’ll miss her loose brakes. I’ll miss my stacks of archaic CD cases, passengers messing up their alphabetical order. I’ll miss knowing I could beat someone off the line if I really had to. I’ll miss her after a good, overdue wash. She cleaned up nice.

I’ll miss Mojo Grill, the gigante at Fiesta Azteca, and the late Taste of Tokyo, its mediocre sushi, stark room, and impossible prices. I’ll miss driving past Tom’s Elite on Gallatin and telling myself I’ll stop one day. I’ll miss Greenhouse’s playlist. I’ll miss cookie dough eggrolls. Sure, I’ll even miss the Pantry.

I’ll miss Sam’s. I’ll miss drinking long, cheap, and semi-well and talking longer, cheaper, and better. I’ll miss it in the many months when its front wall opens. I’ll miss its Golden Tee. I’ll miss the city’s best and only sports bar, its ample seating, its pours. I’ll miss meeting friends there because it’s easy to say.

I’ll miss 3 Crow. I’ll miss its curt waitresses. I’ll miss its neighborhood pride, the way it anchors the epicenter of East Nashville easily, the way it’s always cool without trying, cool despite its clientele. I’ll miss it on Sundays. I’ll miss cursing my fantasy football teams from its raised two-tops. I’ll miss its smoke-drenched walls and its wooden chips.

I’ll miss the October foliage on 16th, where the trees are radioactive, neon, blinding. I’ll miss all four of our trick-or-treaters.

I’ll miss driving past churches emptying on Easter, a thousand shades of white and pastel exploding from the street to the steeple. There's a Methodist church in Hillsboro that rings its bells every evening. I used to stop working when those bells rang. Sometimes they didn't, and I didn't. I'll miss those a lot.

I'll miss driving to the Green Hills Kroger at midnight to shop for groceries. I'll miss the man who worked the self-checkout graveyard shift. He worked it as long as I went there. He knew my grocery list better than I did. I'll miss the nights I went to re-up on essentials--Fruit Roll-Ups and juice--and he looked at my cart like I was hopeless and insane. I'll miss the way he said goodnight cheerfully and nodded, like he was never tired, but said nothing else, because he was.

I’ll miss Eastland. I’ll miss its back porch, gold and crystalline at happy hour. I’ll miss the Vesper, but only if Lindsey pours it. I’ll miss walking home after two when it’s chilly in November.

I’ll miss my house and my room and the view from my window. I’ll miss it in winter when I can see for miles, and I’ll miss it every morning when the sun’s out and everything’s quiet. I’ll miss setting the coffee to brew while I’m in the shower and smelling it upstairs while I dress. I’ll miss the stovetops in the kitchen and the big fridge. I’ll miss my clunky TV. I’ll miss flashing people from the balcony, the bad water pressure, the remote turkey, my awful chair.

I’ll miss my friends. I’ll miss the friends who see themselves in this letter. I’ll miss the ones who won’t read it. I’ll miss all of them, and I already do.

I’ll miss my brother, who made all of the rest worth missing.

I'll miss him like hell, and that’s all I can say about it.

Because the best things are hard, Nashville, living with you could be. It started easy and it became hard and then it was time to go. But you shaped me in ways I fought first, then came to accept, then appreciate. You were my first house away from home, and I lived with you like a tourist. I lived with you like a child's dance: one foot in, one out. A year passed, then two, then three, then it was time to leave. At some indefinite point during that dance you became home, and I'll miss you.

I’ll miss you from a separate place, at a different time. I’ll miss you while I look like I don’t. I’ll wonder and I’ll come calling. I’ll report back with good news and expect the same. I’ll miss you from the distance I insist on keeping. I’ll miss you in a week and a month and a year, many moons and many moves from now. I’ll miss you probably always, if imperceptibly, the way we miss any happy chapter of our past, or any faded aspect of ourselves.

I’ll miss you as I’m finding new things to love, while I’m carving out a new home, a new routine, forging a new life in a great and unseen Elsewhere. I’ll miss you then the same way I miss the best and most distant things now, those joyful and blurred scenes of my own autobiography, all obscured by time and story retelling, gilded and soft at the edges, made euphoric and unreal with age, recalled years later like a wonderful dream.

For now, I write you from way out here, where it’s warm and the sun is shining, and it’s early in the morning.

I imagine it’s sunny there, too.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Chris this is a beautiful letter . . . it made my heart ache a little bit. I too, will miss Nashville for some of the same reasons and for many different ones . . . thanks for voicing it.
Moriah

Michael said...

Moving is tough ... but welcome to the state. I may take a train from the 2nd city your way one of these days.

Sarah said...

i want to frame this letter!

Anonymous said...

We miss you too, Chris! :) Myra

ross k. said...

That real estate in Hillsboro was PRIME son, PRIME. Hell, I miss it. Nothing's better than walking past traffic.

I'll miss you being in Nashville when I get there, dude. But at least I know what to go look for now. Bon voyage.

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