Saturday, September 21, 2002

"the past is the past, the dead are the dead"

-partial inscription on the monument to The Battle of Nashville, located on the corner of Battlefield and Granny White Pike, Nashville, TN

Three Short Stories about Nashville, with an Addendum.


Once, in a rare Nashville snowstorm back in the 80's, a group of my father's friends went sledding drunk. This is a great Middle Tennessee tradition, sledding drunk and walking about at night - it snows enough to sled so infrequently that when the city is covered by the white stuff more than five inches thick, everything shuts down and everyone parties. The guys were road musicians, restless in winter, all around their late 20's. One of them, S., got it in his mind to climb the monument to the Battle of Nashville. It was on top of the hill everyone was sledding down on, and very, very cool. The monolith has the spirit of youth, a young man clothed only by a strategically placed sash, holding back two heavily muscled charging horses - the steeds of war. On top of the monolith is a male angel all robed - a concession in this city to God, who has to be over everything, even the spirit of youth and the steeds of war.

Anyway, S. was going to climb the statue, but he was drunk, and when he got halfway up, he found out the brass horses were covered in ice, unlike the rest of the white marble monument. S slipped and fell - but instead of falling all ten or twelve feet to the ground and bouncing harmlessly like drunken musicians normally do, he got caught - right between the legs! His friends tried to get him down, but he was seriously injured and seriously stuck - hanging by his crotch, the horses of war finally getting their revenge on the spirit of youth. This was a few years before 911 emergency services, so the fact that a fire truck and an ambulance came was a big deal, and drew a crowd, even in the middle of the night. S was seriously hurt, in pride and in body - but a few years later he did have a little girl, so I suppose he was all right after all.

Last week I followed the directions of two friends out to a gutted house near Hillsboro, so that I could be introduced the the Vampire court of NashVegas. It wasn't scary at all - after all, Live Action Role Playing, in the hands of adults, is usually more like a party than a game. But I was impressed by the formality of the court, and in order to stay and have fun, I took on an alternate personality of my own. Having watched far too much Sopranos in the past week, I became a burned out drug dealer with an itchy trigger finger who was new in town - it was best to play a newbie on the scene just so my character could make it through the night alive. I became a Caitiff, a clanless, so I wouldn't be a threat to anybody, and acted rather slow, keeping an unlit cigarette in my mouth to keep myself from slipping out of character. I found it was fun to pretend I had a gun in my waistband, and that helped me hold myself differently. After hanging out in the main parlor of the Victorian style Vampire club for an hour or so, the doorman, Kai, a Caitiff unusual for his high status, tapped me on the shoulder and took me into the back room, where I was formally introduced to the Prince.

The Vampire Prince of Nashville is a Russian, and in a darkened room he sat with his two high sheriffs, a favored childe, the court gossip, and the Seneschal - the second to the throne. The Prince himself was in an expensive suit, and could have passed for any CEO around town. His sheriffs looked uncomfortable in their suits, huge men that in real life could pass for any redneck bar bouncers. His childe was your typical young businessman in waiting, the kind of guy your mom would want you to bring home. The court gossip was a young woman in a reserved ball gown, and the Seneschal was actually my friend Tony in drag, playing a french fop named Guillome.

Kai presented myself and another newcomer (actually a known player with a new character) to the Prince, and I was told I'd be tolerated at the court. I kept my head down, my answers short, and my character survived the evening - providing me with some of the best people watching I've had in the past two weeks. Nashvillians that are normally DJ's, state workers, bank tellers, mall workers - the house was full of these, vamped out for Saturday night. Women in ball gowns, in black plastic, in goth kid rave gear. Men in business suits, men who could pass for your Sunday School teacher, men in glittery club gear. Smiles filled with fangs, laughs with pointy teeth. Kai, the Caitiff who spoke with me, was the only one in stereotypical "kid vampire" gear - and his character took the time to hang with mine, to explain the subtleties of the court's interactions. I witnessed one big LARP fight outside, and at the end of the night, in front of an assembled court, someone had their right hand cut off - and stored in a jar, so he couldn't regenerate it until he had fallen back into favor.


Sunday I was working with my father, and I found the LARP expierence very valuable. We had gotten a call from a former road manager who had some stuff to sell - that day, for cash. Dad never goes on such buys alone, and though I didn't tell him, I found it valuable to pretend, once again, that I had a gun. We met the seller in the parking lot of my dad's business, and he was there not only with an amp, but with meorabilia from one of my favorite early 90's grunge bands to sell. I immeadiately felt crappy - there's only one reason a guy like that needs cash, right away, on a weekend night and is willing to sell his favorite stuff for. I noticed him eyeing me skittishly, and I realised that by the way I held myself and smiled that he thought I really did have a gun! I wasn't holding my hands in any particular way, but it was all about my stance and my bearing, shadowing dad - usually I just stand far back and wait to be told what to lift or check.

The guy handed us a gold album, signed by a big artist - not one of his guys, but a limited run piece from a heavy metal band he must have worshipped growing up. He also had some band posters from back in the day, and I was further saddened. In 1993 he had been with one of my favorite bands, and now he was handing over stuff for quick cash on a Sunday night in Nashville. Dad was fair with him, and I know he'll be back - he's on the long slow slide away from everything, and I don't know what'll stop it. This was the first time I'd seent his sort of behavior from the musicains that I loved in High School, the Seattle crew - mostly because they stick to the West Coast and all. In the past few years I've grown used to selling off pieces of Music City that represent parts of my youth, but this was something different, something a little closer to my heart, something from my own personal love of art. And I'm selling it on e-bay.


I'm in Nashville this week when I thought I'd be in Atlanta. I'm going back home soon enough though. Christi and Kati and I went to Fido's the other night, the coffee shop that was Jones Pet Store when I was growing up, and after that Kati and I roamed around Dragon Park till a cop kicked us out. The park was very comforting to the both of us, and together we crawled into the huge cement pipe I used to hang out in as a kid. We talked and I shared my 6-year-old self's safe place with her, my concrete pipe that I loved, protected by my dragon, the big ceramic sculptue nearby. I needed the comfort of both my friends and my safe place this week, hell, this month, as I still find myself jobless, rootless, and far too dependant on others. Things are odd, and I need to leave this town soon, despite the money I'm making.

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