Like most everyone we know, we've had something on our minds lately: Henri Bergson's principle of duration. Especially the part where the French philosopher concludes that the instant you start to take stock of a moment — the great time you're having at a party, the romantic night you hope will never end, the season finale of Duck Dynasty — you kill it. You've already started processing it and filing it away, which means you've effectively stopped living it. Sure, you can cherish, appraise and fondle it in memory. But the moment's gone, and you've already moved on to the next moment.
So it was with mixed feelings last month that we saw The New York Times declare Nashville an "It" City. "Here in a city once embarrassed by its Grand Ole Opry roots," Kim Severson wrote, "a place that sat on the sidelines while its Southern sisters boomed economically, it is hard to find a resident who does not break into the goofy grin of the newly popular when the subject of Nashville's status comes up."
Dammit, we were just getting used to the past year's proliferating mass-media profiles, the travel-section tip-offs and paratrooped-in guides to the city. We'd happily have watched for years as they kept discovering Music City has more than country music, or food besides drumsticks. Bergson's not around to ask anymore, but we worried: Now that the Times says we've arrived, does that really mean we've departed?
Once we started thinking about it, we realized the Times had done us a favor. Now we can concentrate on the things that make a city something more than a passing fad. Nashville author John Egerton said as much when he told the Times, "We ought to be paying more attention to how many people we have who are ill-fed and ill-housed and ill-educated."
But now that the moment has been effectively captured for us, in one swoop of the Grey Lady's butterfly net, we might as well take the opportunity to pin down what's happened. We decided to make a timeline of events that charts our path to ... er, Itness. The more we looked, the farther back we kept going. The cool event that puts us on the map in 2012 might have its roots a decade beyond, or earlier. Way, waay earlier.
Some things occur to us as we scan the results. One, some twangy dudes playing hillbilly music on Lower Broad in the '90s had more impact downtown than a multi-million-dollar development blocks away on Church Street. Two, today's ballyhooed chain is tomorrow's Sam Ridley Parkway McDonald's. Three, the things that ultimately made us "It" were here all along. Jack White, a born ambassador, was undoubtedly the catalyst for a lot of media attention — but what led him here?
Follow now along with us, and see if you can pinpoint exactly where "It" happens ....