Sunday, November 17, 2002

Another 3 stories about Nashville

The man in charge of Vanderbilt University's almost $2 billion endowment was paid more than anyone else at a private college or university in 2000-2001, according to a survey being released today.

-"VU portfolio officer tops pay list", The Tennessean 11/17/2002, b1

Another 3 stories about Nashville.

Mars Music has begun the process of closing for good. Mars was the extension of Wal-Mart marketing into the realm of music supply, a warehouse type of store filled with every kind of complex sound machines down to the most ordinary of High School band equipment. Mars is going out of business owing everyone in the supply side tens of thousands of dollars. Worse, in their liquidation they are underpricing the smaller music stores dramatically, ensuring that their competitors have the worst sort of Christmas season possible.

They don't owe my family any money, but owe people who work with us money. As the biggest music store goes out of business nationwide, they cause big ripples in an all ready suffering small economy. I can't think of anyone who plays music professionally in the United States who won't be touched by Mars going under in some small way. Of course people who couldn't afford equipment before will be able to get it on the cheap as Mars dumps all its inventory in the market. I try to think about all this positively, but then I think of all the people this is going to hurt this season, and how Nashville is continuing to hurt. They say this winter will be cold, and all I can think of is the page of the OED where all the meanings of that one simple word - cold - are laid out before me, a blanket of small white specks like snow peaking through the even, mechanical type.

I came up to Nashville for a week - just one week, I told myself - to work for my father. Things are horrible lately, with Mars closing and the economy so bad. Dad has bought a 1966 GTO, and if we can finish restoring it by summer there will be a big payoff to help the family through the recession. So while dad was at the shop this week I learned how to sandblast, and worked on the chassis in the driveway, plastic around me and my little sister's turtle shaped sandbox between my legs to catch the rust and dirt that blew.

Since someone would be home to watch the workmen, it was decided that we could hire to independent contractors to finish off the bathroom in my parent's new-old house. The room needed new wallboard and a ceiling. The two workmen were, because this is Nashville, also musicians, and my father was able to pay them partially with store credit. I was to simply keep tabs on the workmen, to pop in and out of the house as I took breaks from sandblasting, to check their progress and to make sure they didn't rob us. I thought I did a pretty good job the first day, until I was cleaning up the garage that evening and found where they'd been using cocaine. When my back was turned from the garage, sandblasting - they were behind me, maybe four feet from me, doing lines from a small folded piece of red paper I found on the workbench. Having gotten high, the workmen had forgotten to hide their evidence.

My moral dilemma: do I tell them to go away with the bathroom half done, or never mention their drug use and get a finished bathroom? Well, we need the bathroom...the men came back the next day and I locked the garage from their use. When they left, my father and I found they'd scratched up the vintage tub we had just got refinished a month ago. Dad deducted the cost of fixing the tub from their pay, but I was just exasperated. Of course they scratched up that tub because they were working high. Finding your contractor's cocaine is Nashville. I'll never know why anyone other than the stupid super rich would ever touch the stuff. It can't be worth the cost - either in the price of the drug or what it does for you. They lost almost a day's pay due to a mistake they made because of cocaine, while they were working to get more money to buy cocaine. Besides, it's just so tacky.

When I was a very little girl, and I had just moved to Nashville, someone very smart went and built Dragon Park in a section of town called Hillsboro village. Dragon Park is a playground where a sea serpent made of concrete arches out over the ground in three loops with a long curving tail. The Dragon is perhaps 50 yards long (without straightening his loops out) and long ago tire swings hung under his two main arches, and a water fountain sprouted from part of his tail. Now the swings are gone and the fountain no longer works. The serpent is mostly covered in blue tile, but what really makes the dragon beautiful is that the children of Nashville were allowed to make mosaic pictures on its hide. I remember that each age group had a different theme they were supposed to make their pictures match. Older children did figures from fairy tales, mythology, and American history. My age group, the youngest, was asked to do sea forms, and I have a star fish immortalized on that mosaic dragon where the three bears march forever alongside knights, cowboys, and the odd depiction of George Washington staring out at a mermaid's breasts.

I went to see the Dragon with Christi and Sara this week. Their company cheered me, as did the company of Winn, Kati, Dinan, and the few others I've been lucky to see on a week where I've worked my body hard enough to make my shoulders ache by supper time. Friday was the most fun; Tony and Andrew and I went to see Harry Potter for free at a theater well known to us, and entered perhaps ten minutes before the anxious lines of waiting children, got the best seats, and hashed out the themes of the film for hours into the night. We laughed and gossiped at our favorite Mexican restaurant, and while I was with my friends I felt that the world was a beautiful place indeed, despite the coming winter.

read the first three Nashville stories

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