I wrapped things up in Brooklyn, working one last event at Rockefeller Center and doing my mani shift on Saturday at the Beauty Bar before heading home to pack up and prepare for another journey.
This time, I planned to go to Durham, NC to visit Mary Caton and her husband, Eric, as well as their new baby boy. From there, I would continue to Nashville, TN – an 8-hour drive – and see that city, which I’d never visited. The final day would get me to Green Forest, AR, my childhood home, where I’d find my parents, and friends I only see when I get back to the Ozarks.
Though I had a beautiful day for driving and was making steady progress, I ran into trouble on I-95. Or rather, it ran into me.
I was just south of Richmond, VA when drivers ahead of me hit their brakes, hard. I did likewise to keep from ramming into the car in front of me, but two cars behind me, there was an impact. One vehicle hit another, and that one rammed into my back bumper and sent me into the middle lane, spinning toward oncoming traffic. Luckily, no one else hit me and I was able to pull over. The people in the middle car were injured, though not seriously, and had to go to the hospital. Everyone else seemed fine.
I wasn’t hurt, and my car was certainly the least damaged, but it threw a wrench in my plans nonetheless. I had to be towed to a nearby garage and as I waited for Eric to rescue me, I chatted with the tow-truck drivers, their drawls reminding me that the Mason-Dixon line was behind me. Eric was blessedly quick to get to me and we made it back to Durham in time for dinner.
I was welcomed into their new-to-them home and got to meet their little one at last. We enjoyed dinner and caught up for a while before calling an end to a potentially disastrous day.
The next day I sorted out my plans: insurance would cover most of the cost of a rental car and I was back in business. As I waited for news, I sat on Mary Caton’s porch and read and relaxed and MC commented that I looked like I was at a resort. I responded that I like to make lemonade out of my lemons, which is a good life philosophy in general, I think. Once I had things sorted, we made a trip to the Duke gardens for a lovely stroll and then went out for a yummy lunch.
Continuing to make lemonade, I contacted my friends from Bevel Summers, the band I befriended last summer when they came to Brooklyn. One of them, a fabulous multi-instrumentalist himself – Dylan Turner – was hosting an open mic in Carrboro, NC that night and I joined him there that evening after cooking one of the tastiest green curries ever made (if I do say so myself). (Unfortunately, we all ate the curry too fast to photograph, so just believe me: it was beautiful!)
I got to Carborro and The Station just in time to hear a bit of the act before me and then it was my turn to play. I played a few songs to a very receptive and enthusiastic group and enjoyed getting to know some locals afterward.
My late night was perhaps not the best idea before a planned departure the following morning. I rallied, however, and was on the road by 2pm, with Nashville in my sights, a rental car for my steed.
I cruised to Asheville and recalled, instinctively and rather miraculously, the best route to the city’s cute little downtown. I hadn’t been to Asheville in 6 years, so I took a break from the car to find cookies and coffee and stroll around the sunny hippy haven until I could feel my buttcheeks again. TMI?
Protesters at an intersection brandished signs inciting passersby to honk for peace.
I got back on the road and headed for Nashville, still several hours away. The time change was on my side and I arrived at my hostel in Downtown Nashville around 10pm. After check-in, I wandered in search of food and a well-deserved beer. The downtown was rather seedy and neon and run-down, like Memphis and Vegas combined (though I have not officially been to Vegas, full disclosure). It took far longer than anticipated to find a place still serving food which wasn’t either empty or extremely touristy.
I nearly gave up, but finally found an English-themed pub with a veggie burger on the menu. Thank goodness! I was on the verge of bed without dinner, so dragging of ass was I!
I made small talk with a fellow next to me at the bar and found out that not only does he work at the same company as my best friend from high school, he was scheduled to meet him for drinks the very next night! Small world, indeed.
I slept like the dead in the hostel, which I realized the next morning was windowless, allowing me to sleep in, which was definitely needed.
I got my things together and headed out, deciding to check out the Parthenon I’d heard someone mention on my way out of town.
It turns out to be a remnant of Nashville’s Centennial celebration. Aside from that, it boasts something the real Parthenon no longer does: a massive statue of Athena.
I was fascinated to learn that the original Parthenon replica was erected in plaster in 1897 for the Nashville International Exposition – the first attempt by a Southern state to rival the great fairs and expos of the North. It so captivated the locals that when the rest of the fair was demolished, they wanted to keep the Parthenon. Over several decades they raised the money and reconstructed the structure from concrete. It wasn’t until the 90’s that an artist was commissioned to make the replica of Athena to populate the structure. She is the same size as the original sculpture and as close as modern scholarship can come to an exact replica. Her gilded garb is real gold leafing and the details are meticulous. Replicas of the famous Elgin Marbles – the sculptures fleeced from Greece by the English Lord Elgin – also grace the Nashville Parthenon.
I drove by the Bluebird Café, since it is so talked about, hoping there might actually be coffee there, but it isn’t in operation during the day, so I hit the highway, enjoying the increasingly rural feel to the countryside.
I headed toward Memphis, passed their gleaming pyramid, and crossed over that big muddy river and into the land of crop-dusters and soybean fields that is the Mississippi Delta.
Memphis is still about 6 hours from home, but those hours pass quickly in a leapfrog of towns and highways and familiar stretches. It is a trip rife with billboards for local caverns and 45-mile an hour speed-zones as little towns with populations of less than 500 roll by and the hills get higher after the flatness of the Delta, the trees bigger and greener.
I made it into Carroll County not long after the sun’s setting and stopped in to see my daddio at his shop, the familiar sound of birds in alarm and one sharp bark from the beer-store hound, Spanky, before I was recognized and greeted properly with tail wags and colorful conyers looking to get a head-scratch.
Though the trip got a little behind schedule, I am happily at home and looking forward to spending more time with friends and family here. Mom and I will camp tonight and get on the Buffalo River early tomorrow morning for a protest float against the Cargill hog plants that are planned to be built along the Buffalo’s watershed, threatening one of the county’s protected National Parks.
I’ll write blog part two about my further adventures in Arkansas!
Love and miss,