A couple Saturdays ago, I accompanied a photographer friend of mine to Nashville for a day of exploration. Our goal was as simple as that: to explore.
It was a truly beautiful September afternoon; the kind where fall feels close at hand, but the weather is still reminiscent of summertime. Taking advantage of the sunshine, we began our adventures at Dragon Park in Hillsboro Village. Aptly named, Dragon Park consists of a large mosaic sculpture of a dragon in the Fannie Mae Dees Park. The dragon sculpture is decorated with pictures constructed by school children in the 70s from colorful bits of broken tiles. Looking at the sculpture is always such fun as there is a seemingly endless array of pictures to be found in the swirls of tile; clowns, cats, mermaids, unicorns, lighthouses, and even Easter eggs reveal themselves upon closer inspection. In the sunlight, the dragon’s strange skin sparkled beautifully, and my friend and I laughed while watching all the local kids clamor in the awkward and endearing way that kids tend to do.
From there, we went to the nearby used bookstore, BookMan/ BookWoman. The store’s owners Larry and Saralee Woods started their business because they no longer had room in their home for their collection of books. Years later, BookMan/ BookWoman has garnered an impressive reputation for having a large and diverse inventory. With more than 100,000 books in stock, the genres available in the store run the gamut from Astronomy and Beat Generation to Women’s Studies. In addition to this, the atmosphere of the store is everything one could want a used book store to be. Customers are invited to walk through rows upon rows of towering shelves filled from top to bottom with books, many of which are made all the more tempting because of their beautiful, vintage hardback covers. Chairs and benches sit in various corners of the store, encouraging visitors to stay a while. And of course, the smell of the older books is ever-present and only adds to the experience. This store is an absolute must for any bibliophile.
A little further down the street, a short walk led us to the Zeitgeist Gallery, where we were able to view fine art from local artists. Many of the pieces were very large and very abstract, and in that way completely compelling. After visiting Zeitgeist, I was reminded of the importance of these galleries and the outlet they provide for creative expression.
Next, we decided to experience a very different side of Nashville, and moved on to Broadway downtown, where, even at four in the afternoon, the bars were spilling over with tourists. My friend sneakily took photographs of some of the more memorable characters as we wove in and out of the masses with their cowboy boots and rhinestone-studded everything. When that became exhaustive, we stole away to a side street and were delighted to find Rocket Fizz, a charming soda pop and candy store. Outside, skateboarders sat on the curb, chewing on brightly-colored nuggets of taffy. Inside, the store was an explosion of color as rainbow-colored candies and sodas were arranged all about. The store’s specialty is taffy, and every flavor from Neapolitan to mint chocolate is available. Not to be outdone, the soda collection is also extensive with flavors such as lemon meringue and key lime pie. Once we had bought a large assortment of candy, we moved outside and took up residence on the curb where the skateboarders had sat. We munched away on taffy like children, and watched as the afternoon sunlight ebbed away over the adjacent river, thus bringing our adventure to a very satisfied close.
Later that night, I joined some friends of mine for the midnight showing of Videodrome at the Belcourt. Opening in 1925 as a silent movie theater, the Belcourt has since served as a site for children’s theatre in the 30s, the home of the Grand Ole Opry (1934-1936), and a community playhouse. These days, the theater specializes in showing independent films, foreign films, and documentaries, in addition to art cinema and classics. Every other week, a midnight film suggested by theatergoers is shown, and a themed mixed drink can be purchased. For instance, when my friends and I saw Videodrome, the 1983 David Cronenberg horror film starring James Woods and Debbie Harry, the mixed drink was a concoction dubbed “The New Flesh.” A girlfriend of mine said it looked disgusting, but tasted great. Much like the Zeitgeist Gallery, the Belcourt serves a very important purpose in Nashville as it allows people an all too rare connection with art. Also, the staff is always very welcoming and approachable, which only adds to the experience they provide.
After the movie, a girlfriend of mine and I stayed in the parking lot talking for hours about our lives as of late. We stayed so long, that, as I drove back to Murfreesboro, a pale morning presented itself before my windshield. And even though I was exhausted by the time I reached my apartment, the day had been an undeniably great one, and I was pleased to have seen so many facets of Nashville.