A throwback to my last summer in Nashville.
It’s officially been 7 [seven] days since since I arrived in Nashville! After a very productive phone call with a much beloved Berklee teacher (the summary of which was “Calm down, you’ve only been there for a week and you don’t even have furniture yet”) I’m feeling more composed. I have less to kvetch about. I’ve come to grips with the death of my chair, I went to a great service at the Unitarian church, and had an awesome lunch with a friend at coffee shop that I haven’t been essentially squatting in for the past week (I love you Ugly Mugs, please don’t kick me off your wifi). As such, I figured this would be a good time to reflect on my last first week in Nashville. What follows is an entirely true story.
This isn’t my first brush with the Music City; last summer I had an internship at an awesome publishing company on the Row. I sublet a room near Centennial Park, which – for those of you not familiar with Nashville – is sort of like the Boston Public Gardens but slightly more sketchy (and for those of you not familiar with the Boston Public Gardens, I once watched a lady buy an unmarked duffle bag from a guy in a hoodie under a bridge in broad daylight while three separate wedding parties competed for prime photo shoot locations above them). I didn’t understand until well into the summer that I was one of the few people using the park on a regular basis who didn’t also live in it.
Centennial Park also features a life-size replica of the Parthenon – don’t ask why.
This is how I developed one of the litmus tests I use to make sure my life is still on the right track: Never be the weirdest person in a public park.
While walking around the ornamental pond one afternoon, pretending I wasn’t calling my mom for the second time that day, I passed a woman with four young kids. I didn’t see what she was holding but when it made a quacking noise I figured it was kid’s toy. But then, she started to complain loudly, “This thing is gonna shit all over my car before I get home.” I turned to stare with fresh eyes. This woman was carrying a live duck that she had plucked from the pond back to her rusted-out white pick-up truck.
I struggled to come up with a theory to explain what was happening as I watched, slack-jawed. Maybe it was a pet duck and she had brought it to the park with her for fun, like for a play-date with the ducks that live on the pond. Maybe she’s with the park service. Maybe the ducks are free if you can catch them. But I’m a realist at heart. She had caught that duck bare-handed and was probably going to eat it later. Now, I’ve seen people fish in public ponds, and I get it. I’ve seen people hunt in state parks, and I get that. I feel like these are socially acceptable ways to hunt for your dinner in public. Grabbing the ornamental ducks out of a city park, not so much. Or maybe I’m wrong, but it struck me as weird.
At this point, I realized I was gaping at her and that if she could snatch a duck out of the water without getting wet she could probably snap my neck without flinching. “This is how bony, smart-assed Yankee girls like me go missing,” I thought and quickly moved along. But there was a lot to think about. How easy is it to catch a duck? Did I just find a real-life ninja? What if the duck had a family? Was there a lady duck panicking somewhere out on the pond, searching for her missing ducky soulmate? What if they had children?!
Existential, duck-related musings aside, the rest of my first week was pretty weird. I received a drunken marriage proposal (he said he liked that I talked funny; I told him he had a very nice shirt but I normally need to see at least two outfits before I make decision like that, and that I had to decline); got flashed by a very disappointing flasher (who didn’t appreciate when I asked if he was serious); and learned that most people outside of the North East don’t rely on sarcasm as their sole form of communication. My internship was awesome and I tried to pretend to be an exciting 21-year-old who was going to do something hip later and not just curl up in bed and cry while re-watching “Wildfire” on Hulu by myself.
The next weekend I didn’t want to go out. I felt lethargic. I had no appetite. Food looked repulsive. I had been trying to go to a different restaurant every day but now none of my options looked appealing. I became concerned that I was seriously depressed. I lay in my bedroom with the blinds closed so that the atmosphere could more closely reflect the darkness of my soul. I considered investing in a Silver Sun Pickups album.
After a day of moping I figured I should eat something, whether the blackness in my heart craved sustenance or not. And as soon as I ate it I got sick. I’ve never been so relieved to spend a weekend in a bathroom before. It wasn’t depression, it was food poisoning (which is… better, I guess?). I called my bosses – the only people I knew in the city – and explained that I was very excited to have severe food poisoning and not be depressed but it was getting old and I was starting to feel dehydrated, and did they know a doctor I could go see.
I then wrote a mildly incoherent yet defiantly cheerful reflection to email to my internship coordinator back in Boston (which received a slightly panicked response – I don’t know if they’d ever had a student file a police report and become extremely ill all in one week before). Thus began my previous Nashville experience. [Cue “Mary Tyler Moore Theme Song”]
I think, that may be part of what’s stressing me out now; my last visit was so action packed. The slow pace and lack of furniture makes me nervous I’m doing something wrong. No one’s asked me to marry them. I haven’t even had to use my pepper spray once. And I have yet to contract a norovirus.
But as long as I’m not the weirdest person in the public park, I’m still doing ok.