A chill beginning to infiltrate our nights, the gentle rasp of fallen leaves crumbling underfoot and the starts-earlier-every-year onslaught of holiday advertising already approaching full eye-stab — it can mean but one thing: Decorative gourd season is fully upon us. And with it comes our annual binge on everyone’s favorite amino acid (tryptophan, which is actually more prominent in Parmesan cheese than in turkey), not to mention the artful display of a varnished zucchini or two. But between shaking out our moth-bitten sweaters and heroically chopping cords of rugged firewood for the winter (or, y’know, maybe just sticking to our Internet tendencies), we took a break from our seasonal chores to compose our thoughts and, yes, our feelings, in letter form. So here’s to the city we love, the people we admire from afar and some other stuff we generally find tolerable about life, all in an open forum. We don’t expect a reply, but wouldn’t mind a retweet. Happy fall!
An Open Letter to Nolensville RoadBy Sean L. Maloney
First and foremost, I’d like to thank you for smelling like meat at almost all times. Specifically, meat cooked over low heat for hours on end. That could be my favorite scent in the whole olfactory spectrum, and nothing says “we’re home” to my wife and me after a long trip like the whiffs of barbacoa and al pastor that waft into the car once we get off the highway on the way back to nuestra casa. Not that the smell of charcoal-fueled cooking is confined to the main drag — most weekends you’d think our little neighborhood was on a mission to keep Kingsford in business forever. As a person inherently suspicious of gas grills and propane tanks, this is about as comforting as it comes, like a security blanket made of smoke.
And of course there’s the actual food, rather than just the smell, that’s really the selling point. See, we used to live in, um, a fancier area that had all sorts of trendy eateries with contemporary design and all the bells and whistles that are supposed to scream “Good Food!” But really, the food wasn’t that good — middling at best on most days, more expensive than it ought to be on all days. Oh, but now that we’ve traded in our 500-square-foot yuppie cage for five rooms on the South Side, we’re eating like champs for half the cost. And the options! Even if we’re being super-duper lazy and don’t want to go past the end of our street, we’ve still got a globe’s worth of options: Ghanian over at Musaake, the best chicharron de queso papusas in town at La Papuseria Salvodoreana, grocery stores featuring the fare of at least four continents!
It’s like we’ve died and gone to foodie heaven! Except we’re not dead, and there’s still money left in our bank account. But the best thing about living right next to Nolensville Road, at least for this record critic, food lover and full-time nightclub denizen, is that El Amigo — the convenience store-cum-taqueria on the corner of Elysian Fields — is open after the bars close. In terms of late-night dining, Nashville doesn’t have a ton of options and the South Side even less, but do you even need other options when there are tacos to be had at 3 in the morning? No, you don’t need other options, just tacos. Or maybe tortas, if you’re really hungry. Which is all to say: Thank you, Nolensville Road, for keeping us fed, keeping us happy and keeping the lights on at the legit taco shop so we don’t have to go to Taco Bell after last call. There is nothing worse than a Taco Bell-flavored hangover, so thank you for being you.
An Open Letter to Gov. Bill Haslam, the Great Journalistic BenefactorBy Liz Garrigan
Are you The Great Pumpkin? Santa? Or did one of them send you?
Because what you have given journalists is nothing short of wondrous. In fact, you have singlehandedly made me question my choice to quit the profession. And not just because of that vaguely pretty boy face of yours. (Yeah, baby, you’ve got a little something. Crissy’s not the only one who’s noticed. But take it with a grain of salt: I think Art Garfunkel is hot.)
I was once the editor of this newspaper. And I left. Damn it, I left. Then a little time passed, Crissy smiled for 10 months straight, you were elected, and finally, because of some combination of self-destructive political malpractice, constitutional ignorance and tragically (for you) incompetent advisers, your Tennessee Highway Patrol goons went and arrested citizens lawfully expressing their right to protest in a public space. Even richer, they roughed-up and cuffed a baby-faced journalist working honestly and diligently in the freezing cold for really crappy money.
And then, praise be, you defended it, claiming something that not one human being or authority on the planet could confirm: that the reporter was publicly intoxicated. From ink-and-Internet-cookie-stained wretches everywhere: Thank you, thank you, thank you. It was so beautiful, governor. It contained all the ruinous, mean-spirited, wrong-headed government overreach that every red-blooded journalist prays for. Not as citizens, mind you. But as storytellers.
In fact, your Occupy Nashville crackdown, deemed unlawful by both night court and federal judges, was the first story since my erstwhile editorship that made me wish I’d clung to that job with the same tenacity you defended — for a cringe-inducing length of time, otherwise known as lots and lots of news cycles — your horrible misjudgment. It may not have felt like it to him when he was mid-perp walk, but Nashville Scene reporter Jonathan Meador — though very talented even without the aid of a governor serving him a juicy career enhancer on a silver platter — was presented with the best damn Halloween treat of his life. If his career were a goody bag, he got a king-sized Snickers bar with a Benjamin and a joint taped to it, courtesy of you and yours, governor. Which is exactly what I would have told him if I’d had the chance to take him out for an actual public intoxication.
Oh, the laughs and frivolity you supplied! I bet even newsroom rivalries evaporated over this story, so “Kumbaya” it was for journalists. At Christmas, when your people lay out the big cocktail shrimp and bar for the Capitol Hill Press Corps party at the executive residence, you can have a few gin and tonics and pretend to look back on the whole episode as though it were a big misunderstanding. If it comes up and everyone’s laughing, and then someone spills a drink on your shoe because he’s so buckled over at the thought of the whole debacle, just remember: They aren’t laughing with you; they’re laughing at you.
Meanwhile, locals weren’t the only beneficiaries of your administration’s sweet, sweet incompetence. Meador’s jailhouse encounter gave lots of outlets the occasion for righteous indignation. CNN weighed in, as did The Huffington Post, Gawker and Romenesko. The Chattanooga Times Free Press even likened you to a “petty Balkan dictator.” For what it’s worth, governor, your smile is much nicer than any petty Balkan dictator I’m familiar with. So take heart.
Finally, governor, I just want to say that this space doesn’t fill itself. Except when you act like someone even the hapless Ron Ramsey could mentor. For that, from the bottom of our beer glasses, we thank you.
An Open Letter to WVOLBy Jack Silverman
Damn, modern life is fickle. Rock bands have the shelf life of mayonnaise, and Internet memes spew forth at such an alarming rate that I risk getting berated for Facebook-posting any link that’s more than three hours old. I feel as if I’m being tossed about on turbulent seas, and I’m frantically searching for any rock to grab onto. And that drowning sensation is most overwhelming late at night, when the day’s frustrations have taken their toll and I’m left to battle my inner demons.
But just when things seem most hopeless, there you are, like a beacon in the darkness. As I make my way home, down avenues strewn with broken dreams, ghostly apparitions and the occasional food truck, I flip through my radio dial, and there you are, at 1470 AM, just like always. Sure, WSM 650 AM has its honky-tonk merits. And Neal Conan, he’s all right — but not so much at midnight, when WPLN is rerunning Talk of the Nation.
But you, WVOL, know how to soothe my soul. I know you’ll give me everything from Muddy to Marvin, from Al to Aretha. Sure, I may have to sit through a few contemporary R&B numbers that aren’t my thing, but I know that sooner or later you’ll be workin’ your way back to me, babe. And when I hear The Temptations singing, “I can’t get next to you,” I’ll be thinking how grateful I am that I can get next you.
And how awesome is the nickname “The Mighty 147”? Honestly, I kinda fell for you as soon as I heard that. No vain attempts to rhyme, or to sound mellifluous. It’s straightforward and in-your-face. It sounds like a storied military unit, like The Fighting 69th.
I know things won’t be the same now that local talk-radio legend T.J. Graham has passed on. (May he rest in peace.) But know this: Whether times are good or bad, happy or sad, we’ll be together.
An Open Letter to the Procrastinating Pricks at RogaineBy Mike Jameson
When I first started losing my hair, I was in my 20s. Music came out of Sony Walkmen, and microwaves were the size of Buicks. So I had little faith technology would cure my pending alopecia. But rumors persisted of a miracle cure — an ointment (or, as my father would say, a “salve”) that reversed hair loss. So I waited.
And waited. And while those mindless little bureaucrats at the FDA were undoubtedly testing my miracle rub on lab rats, my hairline was retreating faster than the French at the Battle of Any-War-France-Fought.
But then, finally, you layabouts at the Upjohn Company brought Rogaine to the market in 1989. Now, by this time, either my hair had turned a strange flesh color or my scalp was fully in view. Regardless, I tore open the package and awaited my hirsute future ... only to read in the instructions that “applicants” (I swear to God, it called us “applicants”) whose scalps were “fully visible” were “less likely to experience full rejuvenating effect.” In other words, while those damn furry lab rats were getting Michael Jackson-sized dosages of my miracle cure, the salvageable follicles on my head were dwindling to the point of hopelessness. Like Titanic passengers sinking into the abyss as lifeboats dawdled.
So, my thanks to you dilatory pricks at Rogaine. And what’s really great is that, thanks to you, younger generations of men won’t suffer my fate. ‘Cause I’m all about making every other man look good.
An Open Letter to Korean Veterans BridgeBy Ashley Spurgeon
”Crossing the river” is a big deal to Nashvillians. It doesn’t matter which way we’re headed, something about the geography is off-putting, as if moving from bank to bank will add an insurmountable amount of time to our commute, even if that commute is just from downtown to Five Points. That’s why I’d like to thank you for making that trip slightly less annoying. Know why? You’re a fun bridge to drive on!
Being neither an architect nor an engineer, I’m not sure what the proper name is for your Dali-esque melting-ladder canopy, but the way the rungs pass overhead is so entertaining to watch, it almost distracts from the skyline, and your vantage is the best in the city. In fact, the whole neat curve of you is a lovely contrast to the wholly pedestrian pedestrian bridge (which looks like an Erector set gone wrong) and, ugh, the bridge on James Robertson Parkway, which contains all the charm of Soviet Bloc construction.
Also, when I’m in a particularly silly mood, I like to shorten your name to “KorVet.”
So thanks for the hundreds of safe trips back and forth. And a special thanks for adding a bit of gentle charisma to a city that occasionally forgets that people like nice things to look at.
See you soon.