Recently, I have had the immense fortune of being able to travel and experience some great places while on tour. For this I feel extremely lucky and try not to take it for granted. The unfortunate thing is that upon returning to Nashville, the city becomes all the more lackluster and, to be honest, it kinda gets me down. Now, I have had mixed emotions about Nashville since moving here, but I have always tried to find the good qualities, and to really be happy. And I feel like I've been successful; I am truly happy. But I don't really think Nashville itself has a lot to do with it.
I do have a great house, an amazing wife and a sweet fucking gig with some really wonderful guys (which I realize, of course, is something that happened for me because I live in Nashville.) But when we travel to cities throughout the country, I see so much of what Nashville lacks. Cities half of Nashville's size have twice the culture, be it music, food or all around cool-ass vibe. Granted, it is very easy to get into the mindset of "the grass is always greener" and I know some of that is playing a part. But let me just throw some rather unsettling statistics about Nashville your way that continue to haunt me.
# of baptist churches: 374
# of buddhist temples: 1
# of Professional sports teams: 2 (talk about a culture crusher... people don't realize how horrible these are for a city!)
major cultural export: commercial country music
# of Vegetarian restaurants: 3
# of real jazz venues: 0 (F. Scotts is a fancy-pants restaurant with lame-ass cocktail "jazz." I mean, come on....)
# of head shops: 0. Seriously, zero
Vanderbilt - private, highly expensive, highly conservative
Belmont - private, largest christian university in Tennessee
David Lipscomb - private, heavy christian affiliation
Tennessee State University - poorly funded state school predominantly for African-Americans (surprise, surprise!)
(I could go on and on.....)
So, yeah I know, bitch bitch bitch, right? I shouldn't complain when I have it so good, right? What it boils down to is that this city, in general, does not resonate with me at all. However, there are some really kick-ass things here and there that keep me excited and hopeful, which I guess leads me to my final quandary.
Sometimes I fantasize about Ellen and I possibly moving somewhere else. I of course, have some cities in mind, but even those have their major drawbacks (i.e. Austin totally kicks ass, .... but its in Texas, ouch! And Seattle is fucking great, .... but 9 months of cloud and drizzle ain't my bag.) Obviously no place is perfect and ultimately, its rare that people find that they live in a place that really suits them. They have to make it work. So, if I'm going to live in Nashville, I gotta find a way to make it work.
So, in my usual way, I got inspired to figure out ways to help Nashville change for the better. I got excited again about being a part of a minority group of people who are pushing hard to get Nashville on track to becoming a truly great city. I thought perhaps, is this my calling? Part of my 'personal myth' as Joseph Campbell might say?
But then I remembered a conversation I had with my friend Faith who lives in San Francisco (obviously another amazing city.) I explained this sense of empowerment in being part of a small group of people who are progressively minded, appreciate culture, etc.... amidst a bunch of bullshit. And yes, it does have its appeal. But ultimately, it gets to be exhausting. She says she felt the same way living in Tennessee, but now that she lives in S.F. she's so happy to be surrounded by an environment that really does suit her. She's not looking back and can't imagine being anywhere else.
I guess its just that when I drive around Nashville, there are so many little things that can get to me, that annoy the piss out of me (most of it, I think, is because Nashville IS in the south, and the south, lets be honest, is about as slow and backwards as the products of incest that sprinkle its rural areas (which are many!) Granted, the city IS changing, ever so slowly.... but I'm a naturally impatient person, so its hard.
I ask myself.... and anyone else who empathizes: Is it worth it? Is it worth the energy and hope and angst to try to help change an entire community, or is that in itself a futile endeavor? In a lot of ways I don't even believe in trying to change people or places. But if I'm going live here, I have to do something. I want to live by the words of Ghandi: "Be the change you see in the world." But, I guess I'm just frustrated and don't know which direction to put my energy. Maybe I can be satisfied to be living my life the way I am and try desperately to ignore my environment. But right now, that seems like a lackluster way to go. I guess I could also just stop my bitching and appreciate every moment of life as a wondrous gift. But where's the fun in that? :)