Five things I miss about Murfreesboro

Ian and I have lived in Chattanooga for nine months now, and while it often feels like we’re still brand-new here, Murfreesboro feels less and less like home when I pass through it every month on my way to Nashville for work.

That’s not to say there aren’t still things I really miss about it, even beyond friends, family and the general nostalgia I’ll always feel for it. In the past months, I’ve found myself missing some very mundane things that I haven’t really found a replacement for in Chattanooga, including:

1. A good grocery store. Now I know what all you East Nashville people were talking about with your food desert. There are no Krogers in the Chattanooga area, and I’ve been to six Bi-Los and they are all shitty. Well, there’s one up in Red Bank that’s so-so, but Bi-Lo doesn’t really carry the brand of staples that we eat so I always end up leaving there feeling like I spent a bunch of money on crap I don’t want to eat. We can’t afford to do our full grocery shopping at Whole Foods, either. We did find an amazing Publix a couple months ago—it was so great that I kept running around finding “our” foods and exclaiming “This place is tits!” The only problem? It’s way the hell out in East Brainerd and takes a good 20 minutes to get there, 30 if we go before 8 p.m. even on a week night.

2. Our vet. I do like the Chattanooga Cat Clinic’s vet, but their staff was pretty rude and actually endangered BK’s life back in the fall when she had a reaction to her rabies shot and they kept telling me she was acting normal when I knew for a fact she wasn’t. Now that we have a dog we’ve had to find a new vet that sees dogs, and while I like the staff and the vet at the place we took Stella to on Saturday, it’s old and dingy and dirty. I miss Dr. Barker at the Barfield Animal Hospital—we took our cats there for nearly 10 years and he and his staff were excellent. He saw us through Gordo’s bout with depression, BK’s random allergy troubles and was the one who cremated Evil Twin when we had to put him down. He always suggested ways to treat our cats without spending a ton of money and found a way to blend compassion with realism into his practice that I haven’t seen in many vets. Plus, his staff was really outgoing and friendly and we knew our cats would be in good hands whenever we had to leave them there overnight.

3. Julia’s Bakery. I’m sure there are amazing bakeries in Chattanooga, I just haven’t found them yet. Maybe I should make that a goal for the summer.

4. Knowing where I am at all times. (OK, most of the time.) Murfreesboro was spread out enough that I could drive out into the country and not really know where I was, but I would always eventually find a landmark that brought me back into town. Ian calls me Towelie (“I don’t even know where I’m at, man!”) because I tend to be directionally challenged, but at least in Murfreesboro I knew how to get anywhere I needed to go. I might not have always taken the most direct route, but I knew that city like the back of my hand. In Chattanooga, not so much. It is really fun getting to explore a new city, but it’s been nine months and I’m still having to rely on Google Maps to get to new (and sometimes not-so-new) places. Probably because I work from home and don’t get out and drive around as much as I need to in order to learn the layout of the city.

5. Our old liquor store. We lived right down the block from a place called Murfreesboro Wine and Spirits that must be an anomaly in Tennessee. It had a great wine selection, was reasonably priced and had knowledgeable and helpful employees. So far in Chattanooga I’ve found liquor stores that have all of those things—but not all at the same time. Riverside, my favorite, has a great wine, liquor and beer selection but has rude employees and their prices are just so-so. The wine shop next to Whole Foods has really helpful and kind employees, but they’re small so their selection isn’t great (surprisingly, their prices aren’t the highest I’ve found). I’ve been to a few places with decent prices, but they’ve been in not-so-safe areas (think bars on the windows and cops arresting people nearby) and haven’t had much of a selection. Chattanooga is a pretty booze-heavy town, though, so I know I just need to keep exploring before I find “my” liquor store.

Oh, I should mention that so far the best place I’ve found has been Beverage World, which is actually in Ft. Oglethorpe, Georgia. It’s only about 15 minutes from my house, so I probably should stop by there more often. It’s out of the way, but they’re open on Sundays, sell high and low gravity beer along with wine, and I’ll benefit from Georgia sales tax. Ok, maybe I did find “my” liquor store after all.

The new, still

We’ve lived in Chattanooga for three months now and it all still feels new. I can’t remember if that’s what it’s supposed to feel like when you move to a new city. The last time I moved I was 18 and relocating for college. Well, for many reasons, but I was starting college. It was really easy to make new friends because everyone was doing that, whether they’d lived in Murfreesboro their whole life or had just moved there, too.

This time around I’m not making friends as quickly, but there are other things that are easier. I have Ian, my partner-in-crime. I have the cats. I didn’t have to live in a dorm and then try to buy furniture on minimum wage when I got an apartment. Basically, I am not completely broke and alone this time. And Ian and I are having what we’re calling our Blow It Out Year, where we’ve been going out almost every night to get to know our new city. Most places we can walk to, so we’re getting to see little nooks and crannies as we stroll by. Things we’d miss if we drove everywhere.

I don’t want to compare my two “move to another city” experiences too much because they were at completely different times in my life. Both times I was ripe for change, but for completely different reasons. And both times I fell in love with my newly adopted city.

Murfreesboro was so good to me. I built a family there. And now I can’t wait to see what Chattanooga has in store for us.

And just like that, it was done

Last week was a bit of a stress fest thanks to the buyer for our house being out of town the week before and not getting her paperwork completed in time for us to close via FedEx on Thursday, which had been the plan ever since she chose the one day in September that would not work for us as the closing date. People from our realtor’s office kept sending me documents from the buyer’s real estate agent that referenced Friday for closing, and I kept emailing back, “How many times do I have to tell you guys that we are going to be out of town Friday?!”

Finally I sent a stern email letting them know that if we did not receive the documents by 3 p.m. on Thursday everything would be signed on Monday, meaning the buyer would not be able to move in that weekend.

That seemed to light a fire under someone’s ass, because around 2:45 p.m. Thursday I got everything emailed to me. Then I had to rush over to BlueCross so Ian and I could print and sign it all in front of a notary. Luckily the notary there was cool with notarizing things on Thursday with Friday’s date, too. Jeez.

I emailed everything back, and we ran by FedEx before they closed later that evening to overnight the originals. We crossed our fingers it would get there in time and then left Friday morning for our trip to Music Midtown. Friday afternoon I got an email saying the buyer’s agent had forgotten to include some papers and could we please sign and return them sometime that day. Um, no. Like I had been saying for more than a month—we were not available on Friday. I mean, Jesus Christ on ice skates, people.

The papers weren’t anything that would hold up the buyer taking possession, though, so as far as we know she was moving into the house as we were enjoying festival beers and watching CAKE. Everybody wins! (We signed and emailed back the additional papers this morning, so we should be all square now. Although I won’t be surprised if I get another email asking for more signatures next week.)

Yesterday afternoon FedEx knocked on our door as I was working and handed me a check for the proceeds from the sale. I was expecting it to take a week or so to get the money, so that was a very nice surprise. And we both got emails from SunTrust saying our mortgage had been paid off—well, I got one saying our payment due was $0 and Ian got one saying our monthly billing had been canceled, which seems right in line with the slightly confusing way SunTrust likes to do business.

So, I guess we’re done. It’s been kind of anti-climactic, but I guess that’s what happens when you close via FedEx and not in person. It was no less stressful, that’s for sure.

Oh, and here’s something that our parents never could have done when they sold their first house: I looked up the person who bought our house on Facebook. Her mother was her real estate agent, so I figured she had to be young and, therefore, would have a Facebook account. I was right. I saw that on Friday she changed her profile picture to show her holding up the keys to the house and she seemed really excited to be moving in. So that made me feel good, although the whole thing is still kind of bittersweet.

I had to laugh, though, because Ian’s camouflage key—the one he had made as a joke—was right there, front and center, in the picture. So I wonder now if she’s trying to figure out if we are rednecks who just happen to have liked a modern, funky color scheme.

Yikes.

So. A lot has happened in the past three weeks.

Ian was offered (and accepted) a job at BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee as a biostatistician, and we are moving to Chattanooga next week.

The past couple of weeks have been a blur of stress and excitement, but mostly of weeding through all the crap we’ve accumulated over the nine years we’ve lived in our house. BlueCross offers a relocation package, but professional movers means professional packers—so we have to have everything out of the house that we don’t want packed up and put on the truck to be sent to our apartment in Chattanooga.

Oh yeah, we had to find a place to live pretty quickly. Trying to rent a house ended up being a frustrating and fruitless endeavor, so we ended up renting an apartment. After living in a house for nine years I wasn’t looking forward to going back to apartment life, so I sought out small complexes of luxury or unique apartments. We ended up finding a really neat place in the heart of the North Shore, and lucked out that they had a 900 square-foot apartment available right at our target move-in date.

The first two floors of the building are commercial, and the top two floors are apartments. The apartments are all one bedroom/one bathroom, but they have exposed ceilings, granite counter tops and concrete floors. Very industrial in a very urban area, which will be a welcome change of pace from suburban life.

I am so stoked.

We spent this past Saturday night at the new place after we signed our lease and moved a few things in, and the neighborhood is amazing. There isn’t a chain restaurant or big-box store in sight, besides a Whole Foods a couple blocks away. There are bars and restaurants galore, all less than half a mile away.

And while I’m starting to get a bit nostalgic about leaving Murfreesboro/Nashville, my mind is reeling over the elimination of our 80-mile-a-day commute. Ian will have a 5-mile commute each day, and because I work for The Best Company Ever I’ll be working remotely from home. So instead of spending a minimum of two hours a day in my car, dealing with traffic, I will walk a couple feet to the dining area of the apartment that I’m transforming into my office.

We have a ton of stuff to do over the next week—and this move comes right in an extremely busy time at work, so my stress levels have never been higher—but I’m starting to get really excited.

Let’s just hope our real estate agent can sell our house within a couple months. Eek.

Our Year of Live Music: Smoked Out

Well, I tried.

Friday night I left work, picked up Ian and drove home so we could change before heading out to Mellow Mushroom to eat and watch some of the Olympic opening ceremonies. After that, our plan was to go with another friend to see Rhythm Kitchen, a local band fronted by one our favorite Mellow Mushroom bartenders, play at a local cigar bar called Liquid Smoke.

I knew that it was going to be smoky since it’s a cigar bar and I’m not a total idiot. What I did not anticipate was their complete lack of give-a-shit with regard to their customers’ ability to breathe.

There was only one functioning fan in the place, and as soon as we walked in I felt my lungs close up shop and hang a sign out front that read “No cancer for us, thanks.”

We stayed for the last couple songs from the band before Rhythm Kitchen, but I had to go outside to get some fresh air. When I came back in, I knew I wasn’t going to be able to stay much longer. Rhythm Kitchen came on and they were good—I mean, really, really good—but I started to feel like I was going to throw up from all of the smoke. Thick, heavy, sweet smoke swirling together above me from cigar after cigar, plus a few cigarettes mixed in. I didn’t even see that many people smoking while we were in there; it was like all of the smoke that had ever been created in the bar had never dissipated. It hung there all around us like a smoky blanket, just waiting to be breathed.

I started to feel light-headed, and to the chagrin of my companions I had to get out of there. So we did.

Skylar’s voice is amazing and I would love to catch the band again—but no more Liquid Smoke. That is, unless they invest in some sort of ventilation system that involves more than one wobbly ceiling fan and a prayer to Bernardino of Siena, the patron saint of lungs.

PSA: It’s really effing hot

It's hot as shit in Murfreesboro

It’s hot as shit in Murfreesboro

When we had a mild winter, people kept saying, “Oh, just wait until summer!” But when the weather for Bonnaroo was perfect (mid 80s during the day, mid 60s at night), I wasn’t sure if the hell of a summer people had been talking about would ever materialize.

Until this week, when it reared its ugly head and smacked us all in the face with a big, city-wide case of swamp ass. Yesterday Nashville hit an all-time high of 105, and today the high was another record-breaker at 109. I haven’t seen official information for the high in Murfreesboro yet, but my weather widget told me it was 113 degrees at 4 p.m today.

Rutherford County issued a burn ban yesterday for the entire county, but I haven’t seen a fireworks ban yet. I really hope they issue one before tomorrow night, when I’m expecting the local yokels will begin shooting them off. I’m actually glad that the Fourth of July is on a Wednesday this year; Ian and I have to work the next day so we don’t want to go out anywhere to celebrate, which works out since I’d probably be too paranoid about someone setting the giant field behind my house on fire with their bottle rockets and what-have-you.

This time of year is never fun for someone with a house-burning-down complex.

Pat Robertson is an asshat

First off, for some reason he thinks Murfreesboro, a city with more than 101,000 residents as of the 2009 census, is a “small town.” Murfreesboro is no stranger to the “small town” insult, but generally it’s hurled by Nashvillians pissed off at Rutherford Countians jamming up I-24 with commuting traffic or Vanderbilt alums crabby that MTSU beat them at football again.

Secondly, Robertson has decided that local Muslims could bribe county officials—apparently with $10,000—an insult to both the Muslim community and the local politicians. The Rutherford County mayor recognizes Robertson as a nutjob, saying that his comments “were so ridiculous they do not deserve a response.”

But the best part? Robertson’s worried that “Muslims could end up taking over the city council to pass ordinances that require public prayer and foot washing.”

Oh, you mean how Christians around the country are working on requiring prayer in school, and denying gay people their right to marry and women governance over their own bodies?

Yeah, god forbid we should let one specific religion dictate how the rest of society conducts itself. Oh wait.

WE ALREADY DO.

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.

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.