Summer is here

The thing I miss most about college is how when summer would arrive you could just feel the collective sigh in the city. Murfreesboro is a college town, and while campus is deserted by its suitcase-toting student body almost immediately following finals, the rest of the town seems to come alive as though it’s just broken free from a stifling shroud of fraternity and sorority douchebaggery and can finally be itself again.

That came out meaner than I meant it. I like MTSU students. I like them more than most college students, I guess, because I was one for six years. And they’re a pretty eclectic bunch—you have to be if you’re the largest student body of any public institution in the state. It just happens by default.

But there is a freedom in Murfreesboro summers, and while I love my job, it’s in the summers more than any other time that I find myself wishing I could spend more time in my town, with its goofy people and growing borders. I’ve worked in Nashville for almost five years now, and I feel like I’m losing touch with an old friend. One that I rarely see because despite sleeping on its couch, I get up early and come home late and never take the time anymore to just see how it’s been.

I should do that sometime.

May 22 | My birthday celebration at Toot’s

Saturday night we celebrated my birthday with about 10 people at the new Toot’s on South Church Street. It was awesome, except for the part where Ian got sick and walked home.

Toot’s is so great and they took really good care of us—and hooked me up big-time. I am pretty sure they’ll be seeing a lot more of us. Probably not that drunk, though.

Oh, and my friend Brianne, who is the craftiest person I have ever met, made me a freaking MUSTACHE necklace. Just wait til you see it.

May 21 | Fuck you, Metro

On Wednesday, the speed limit on I-24 West at MM60 was changed from 70mph to 60mph. On Friday, I was pulled over right at the speed limit change and given a ticket. No warning, nothing, regardless of the fact that I haven’t had a ticket in 12 years. I was going 75mph and was confused as to why I was being pulled over at first.

Now, between MM60 and MM56, the speed limit goes from 70 to 60 to 65 to 55. Great job, Metro Nashville. You’re special. I hope you put my $107 to good use, you bunch of assholes.

May 15 | Barenaked Ladies in Louisville

I can’t believe it’s already been almost a week since Holly and I roadtripped it to Louisville and back in a day to see Barenaked Ladies (meeting up w/ her dude Ron, who lives up there and joined us for the show).

The cool thing about social media—in this case blogs and Twitter—is that after a while you get to know enough about a person that when you finally do get to hang out, even if you’re an awkward unsocial butterfly like myself, there is plenty to talk about and a three-hour drive flies by in what seems like 30 minutes. (Also I got to meet Holly’s sweet kitty Dorian, who is not shy at all and has very smooth fur.)

Anyway so we booked it to Louisville, met up with Ron at the Bluegrass Brewing Company where I ate some very tasty roasted red pepper hummus and drank a couple of red ales, headed over to Proof on Main in search of gelato and found it—as well as a pretty trippy art exhibit.

The show was awesome. The Barenaked Ladies were great, as usual, but the crowd in Louisville was so much more animated than the one at The Ryman show. People actually stood up. Like, the whole crowd, not just one or two rows. And we danced and sang along and screamed and laughed and cheered. You know, like you’d expect a crowd to do at a concert. (Side note for any out-of-towners reading: Nashville tends to take its Music City moniker a little too seriously, and crowds at concerts here are notorious for having an “I’m so over it” attitude. It can really blow.)

And then, at the very end of the encore, Ed sang “What a Good Boy.” A very emotional song. A Steven Page song. I never thought I’d hear “Call and Answer” (my favorite song of all time) or “What a Good Boy” live again, but I’ve gotten one of the two now. And I closed my eyes and listened to the way Ed’s voice took to the song as though it was always his, and felt really lucky to be able to experience and appreciate their music.

Two BNL concerts down this year, two more to go. Bring it on, Austin!

May 10 | Barenaked Ladies at The Ryman

Monday night Ian and I sat among what Ian called “the safest concert crowd ever” at The Ryman Auditorium to watch The Most Awesome Band in The Universe, aka the Barenaked Ladies.

Now, those of you who know me know that I have been a pretty ridiculous Barenaked Ladies fan since about, oh, 1998? 1999? A long-ass time, anyway. So you will understand the significance of this next sentence:

While I thoroughly enjoyed the concert, I’ll have to admit I was a bit bored at times.

I know, right? Me? Kind of bored? At a BARENAKED LADIES CONCERT? I mean, that’s the shit that I live for, pretty much. So WTF happened?

Two things, really:

  1. The crowd at The Ryman was just… lame. I’ve seen the Barenaked Ladies five times before, but never in Nashville. This was the first time I’d seen them and almost everyone in the audience sat. During the entire performance. They finally stood for the first encore song, but then sat again. It was disheartening. And because I was not drinking (it was a school night and I think I was still hungover from Saturday), I was not willing to be “that girl,” the lone girl in the balcony who stands and dances and waves her hands around, annoying all of the wet blankets around her.
  2. Steven Page’s absence. The energy just wasn’t the same. Page and Ed Robertson, the other/now sole lead singer had this really awesome chemistry. Like, you could just tell they were BFFs and having a really fucking good time at the show, like they’d be doing it even if nobody was there and they weren’t getting paid. Kevin and Tyler are good sidekicks, but they couldn’t make up for the palpable absence of Page. The witty banter, the adlibbing, the goofy dancing, the great guitar-playing… it was all still there, the show was just… missing something.

Now, I’m not sure that anyone who hadn’t seen them live before, as a whole band, would think the same thing. Maybe I was expecting too much out of the audience. And the show was still really good. They have always put on a great live show, and even people who aren’t necessarily fans (aka Ian) still have a good time, or so I hear.

I’m seeing them twice more this year—once in Austin at the end of the month with Summer and again this Saturday in Louisville with Holly and Ron—so I’ll be interested to see if the crowds are more energetic and have a positive impact on the show. And I’m curious to see what Holly, who’s never seen them before, thinks about the stage presence.

Now, this is not to say I didn’t enjoy the show. Because I really did. I’m glad I went, and I’m really, really happy Ian is willing to suck it up and go to their shows with me every year or so because despite not being his cup of tea, he knows it makes me happy. That’s pretty awesome.

Two cool things that happened at the show, too: They brought out Erin McCarley, who sang on Every Subway Car on their new album, to sing the song with them live because she happens to live here in Nashville. (Ed told a story about never having met her before this show, and he happened to run into her on the street earlier that day and recognized her, but she didn’t recognize him. I just have to say this: I hope that was a joke, because how the hell can you be a fledgling musician in Nashville and get the chance to sing on a Barenaked Ladies song, know you’re going to be performing it live with them at THE FUCKING RYMAN, and not bother to look up the lead singer of the band so you can see what he looks like??)

Also, later in the show he told a story of going to The Station Inn the night before and hearing David, the dude at the far left in the above picture, killing it on the guitar with his band Cadillac Sky. Ed apologized for putting him on the spot but asked if he’d come up and play guitar on Fox on the Run with them. Of course David accepted, and he fucking tore that guitar up. It was awesome. A very Nashville moment, I guess, where some oddly shaped dude with a raging hipster beard gets pulled out of the audience and completely blows up the stage like it’s no big deal.

It’s shit like that that makes me love Nashville, despite its frequently crappy crowds. So I’m heading into Saturday’s show with an open mind. And Holly’s already agreed to get up and dance with me, so watch out Louisville!

May 8 | Like true nerds, we went to the RenFest

Yeah, we ended up going. We thought we were going to forgo our plans and instead volunteer somewhere with flood relief efforts, but all of the projects we found on Hands On Nashville within our preferred driving distance were full. And as non-civically inclined as it sounds, we had been planning on going and were really looking forward to it. It’s one of my favorite events of the year, and this was the only day we’d be able to go.

We did, however, stop by Food Lion on the way there and picked up a ton of canned goods to donate to the Second Harvest donation truck they had at the festival. That, combined with previous volunteer efforts, a donation and six relief t-shirts, was enough to allow me to justify being there instead of tearing drywall out of a stranger’s home.

And I’m glad we went. It was awesome. It also led to a marathon day of drinking that ended with an epic game of Rock Band, followed by an all-day hangover on Sunday. But Saturday was a beautiful day filled with laughter. And I needed that.

Nashville cleanup efforts continue

I have to hand it to Nashville: We* know how to organize and get shit done. All over town groups are meeting up to disperse into neighborhoods and clean up, tear down, rip out and salvage what they can. Yesterday some co-workers and I gathered in the kitchen to make more than 50 sandwiches to donate to a volunteer group handling relief efforts in the neighborhood of a former coworker out in Bellevue.

If you’re looking for a way to help out, visit Hands On Nashville. They have no shortage of projects, and not all require goggles and work gloves, if you’re not into that. Or you can donate money. Or food. Or just about anything to those who lost everything. Or you can buy a t-shirt (here too), and all of the proceeds go to the relief efforts.

Actually, just go check out Nashvillest’s “So Nashville Is Flooded… How Can I Help?” post. It will tell you everything you need to know.

*I’ve been struggling with whether or not I’d look like a douche saying “We Are Nashville,” since I don’t actually live in Nashville. BUT… I work there. I spend at least 10 hours a day, 5 days a week there. I have friends there. I hang out there. And I’m trying to believe that “We Are Nashville” means “We are the greater Nashville area” and it’s not excluding all of the surrounding areas—including my own Rutherford County—that were affected badly by this flood.

Toot’s South: Finally Open!

Tonight on the home stretch of our laborious daily commute back from Nashville, Ian and I drove past the building where Toot’s South has been readying itself to become my new favorite hell-yeah-I-can-walk-there-and-back hangout, or so I like to believe. Anyway, every night Ian and I drive by it, and every night we shake our fists toward the brick and mortar and mutter “FASTER! BUILD FASTER, TOOT’S!!”

Ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to be one of the first to inform you that Toot’s South is, indeed, open for business.

Now, you can’t live in Murfreesboro and not like Toot’s. It’s just not possible. I am not even that big of a fan of their food (sorry, guys, but you kind of leave us vegetarians out to dry), but the atmosphere, cost and beer specials are what get me. And now it can get me about a block away.

I also want to point out that Toot’s Murfreesboro and Toot’s Smyrna have an excellent social media person behind the wheel. I’m guessing it’s the same person, as the online voice is nearly identical, but whoever is doing it is good. And not good in an “I read a Chris Brogan book last week,” but good in a “We want to get our customers excited about eating at Toot’s so we’re going to have fun and be playful but not in a calculated, smarmy way that creeps people out” kind of way.

So take note, corporate social media dudes: Toot’s is tearing your ass up. They not only follow people on Twitter, they actually respond to their tweets. And they retweet people. They pay attention to what’s going on in the community. And they have fun with their Facebook page. It’s not just regurgitated content (easier for them, admittedly, as they don’t have a blog on their corporate website to regurgitate anyway); it’s original, engaging content with trivia and lunch specials and—gasp—conversation!

And you might think Twitter and Facebook are lame or unimportant—but you’re wrong. Because their customers are on there. And I’ve lived in Murfreesboro for nearly 13 years, so of course I’m going to go to Toot’s. But now that there’s one a block from my house? And I can communicate with them on Twitter and Facebook?

My ass is gonna be there allll the time. And so will my beer- and chicken-finger-basket-loving husband. And our friends down the block. And whoever I can get to come party with me for my birthday.

Next up, though, Toot’s… we’ve gotta talk about getting a veggie burger on that menu. I love y’all, but I can’t eat grilled cheese three days a week.

Trying to help

Last night Jamie, Lesley, Christy, Alison, Samantha, Paige, Ian, Dave, Tara and I (and babies Maisie and Cecilia) drove around Inglewood and other parts of East Nashville giving pizza, water, cokes and baby wipes to people outside cleaning up their homes after the flood.
The end of the road | Inglewood
I hadn’t seen any damaged homes in person until last night, and I’ll admit my heart kind of caught in my throat and is still there.

We drove past so many houses where you could see the water line had been up to the roof and there were just piles and piles of carpet, debris, clothes and other items sitting out on front and side lawns drying off or waiting to be picked up by garbage trucks. Y’all, I can’t even fathom seeing my house surrounded by water up to the roofline. I don’t know that I could handle that.

Chain link fences were bent like straws, car hoods were popped and personal belongings lay outside of homes as we listened to the sound of chainsaws in the distance. We drove around for a few hours, coming up suddenly on people alone or in groups, all confused at first as to why a group not belonging to any church or official organization would be out offering food and drinks to them. Many accepted gratefully; others politely refused. We’re a proud lot down here in the south.

I can’t imagine what it would feel like to have my entire house soaked to the brim, losing everything I have ever owned, and then have to come back and sort through it all, wondering what I might be forgetting about or stumbling upon sentimental items that can never in a million years be replaced, no matter what kind of insurance I had.

We saw signs on streetposts notifying us about lost pets. We met an elderly woman who lost everything and, understandably, was having trouble wrapping her head around it.

As we drove through neighborhoods that I had never been in before, my lungs became claustrophobic. The scent of rain, rust and mildew was pungent and undeniable. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that smell.