There is reserved parking downtown for bands to unload; there is good natured hollering and ribbing as equipment emerges from vehicles I can only describe as beat on all four corners. At 10:30 in the morning, the quartet at Tootsie's is not a headliner; three vets going through the motions and a young lady on vocals making the mistake of playing songs folks know like the back of their hand. A couple sets down their beers (bottle, no tap) and takes a twirl alongside the bar; they tell the barkeep how much quieter it is than the night previous. There's no coffee at Tootsie's either...keep it simple. In the daylight its possible to appreciate the old publicity shots and group photos peeling like mica behind yellowed Plexiglass. Does Tootsie's actually work at being a dive, or does it just come natural? When I learn there are at least two other establishments nearby owned by the Tootsie's conglomerate, I lean toward calculating...
But somehow that's not the prevailing atmosphere in downtown Nashville. Of course, all that neon is meant to attract tourists, but I also feel I could walk right into a time warp, hear the air crackle like celluloid, and look around at a landscape out of a Hatch Show Print. Maybe its a visit to the Country Music Hall of Fame; maybe its plaster Elvis swiveling for neon Betty; maybe its the Ryman itself, a mother hen of music hovering over it nest of honky tonks. I've heard music in both the Opry venues; one has all the personality of a theater show in Branson, but the Ryman is a church and the folks on stage are preachin' to the choir.
What I'm sayin' is that I love a good cliche'. And Nashville parades its cliches' with aplomb. Biscuits and gravy, jam and pie? See the Loveless Cafe complex on the Natchez Trace where the merchandising balances precariously on the foundation of the 1950s motel. Shrimp with grits, homemade pimento spread and hummingbird cake? Presented tea room style at the Chef's Market with recipes to go and the implication that they taste the very best if one wears an apron.
I guess it's the process
Of learning to excess
All of those things
That you already know...
......Lyle Lovett 'Good Intentions'