Archive for August, 2009

Saturday In Nashville

August 3, 2009

 

It’s 6:00 on a Saturday night in Nashville, and I am poolside. It’s a hotel pool, and it is teeming with squealing, splashing children, including one of my own, Jack. As soon as I can get him out of the pool, we’ll figure out dinner, but already it has been a full day.

 

Today was our country day. After something of a late start, we made it to the Old Zion Cemetery in White County, Tennessee just after noon. Today was decoration day at the cemetery, and there were flowers on most the graves. Jack and I brought potted mums for my father, grandfather and grandmother. Their graves were our first stop.

 

 

My grandparents and father are buried in the Old Zion Cemetery.
My grandparents and father are buried in the Old Zion Cemetery.

 

 

 

It had been eight years since I had visited my father’s grave, and honestly, it was the true purpose of our trip. On Monday, I will turn 50 years old. I wanted to do something special to celebrate the occasion, and eventually I decided I would share my milestone birthday with my dad, who never got to celebrate his.

 

Not surprisingly, I got a little choked up when I greeted my dad and his parents. He’s been dead for 27 years, and I think about him every day. I miss him like crazy, and often ask him for advice, which I believe, on some level or another, he provides.

 

Jack and I walked over to the picnic area, where about 60 or 70 people were gathered for lunch. There were two massive picnic tables, each 50 feet long, filled with a home-cooked dishes of every variety. This was southern, country cooking at its absolute purest, and it was wonderful. I tasted pork bar-be-que, chicken and dumplings, country ham, fresh green bean casserole, creamed corn, potato salad and more. Then came dessert. Pecan pie, caramel pie, chess pie, coconut cream pie and fried apple fritters–each one better than the last.

 

 

The picnic shelter at Old Zion Cemetery. Home to some seriously good southern country cooking.
The picnic shelter at Old Zion Cemetery. Home to some seriously good southern country cooking.

 

 

 

Throughout the meal, I kept meeting (more accurately, re-meeting) a panoply of cousins, aunts and uncles. About half the people there were Stewarts. Most of them I had met as a child, and it was good to introduce Jack to everyone, and let him hear some of the old stories about his ancestors.

 

Afterwards, Jack and I visited with a great aunt and uncle, whose failing health kept them from attending the decoration day lunch. They live on the farm my grandfather Stewart grew up on, and their daughter Ginny gave us a nice tour of the still functioning barn my great grandfather built over 100 years ago.

 

 

The barn built by my great grandfather Frances Alexander Warren Stewart is still in use today.
The barn built by my great grandfather Frances Alexander Warren Stewart is still in use today.

 

 

Ginny and Jack.
Ginny and Jack.

 

 

"The Homestead," where my grandfather grew up. Still a working farmhouse, and still in the Stewart family.
“The Homestead,” where my grandfather grew up. Still a working farmhouse, and still in the Stewart family.

 

 

 

 

 

PART 2

 

Jack and I are back at the hotel after a delicious dinner at Jack’s Bar-B-Que in downtown Nashville. My pork shoulder was delicious, but Jack’s ribs were some of the best I’ve ever tasted. The restaurant is simple and was perfect for our needs. Afterwards, we wandered up and down Broadway, and the strip that has now become known as Nash Vegas. I can see why.

 

The joint was jumping! The sidewalks were crowded with people. We passed one jumping country music bar after another, each one packed with rowdy revelers. Most wouldn’t let Jack in, but we found one (Rippy’s), where we were welcome. There was a nice, two-man band playing (Stevie Ray Vaughn’s “Pride And Joy” when we walked in), and a group of high-spirited vacationers at the bar. I drank one beer, Jack watched the X-Games on one of the TV’s, and we called it a night.

Jack Loves Nashville

August 3, 2009

So far, the highlights of Jack’s trip to Nashville have involved internal combustion engines and a gun.

 

On Saturday afternoon, while visiting the old Stewart family farm (and the modest farmhouse known as “the homestead”), cousin Ginny asked Jack if he’d like to drive the Kawasaki Mule, the four-wheeler they keep in the barn. While Jack gave an enthusiastic, “sure!,” I said, “Ginny, you’re on your own with this one.” Ginny started the Mule, backed it out of the barn, and handed the controls to Jack. I watched as they lurched away. About 100 yerds down the gravel path, Jack suddenly hit the brakes, and I watched in terror as Ginny nearly was eject out the front of the vehicle. Only grabbing onto the front post saved her. The rest of their spin was uneventful, and when he finally pulled the Mule back into the barn, Jack had a huge grin on his face.

 

Jack and Ginny get underway.

Jack and Ginny get underway.

 

Steven, a different type of mule.

Steven, a different type of mule.

 

 

 

Jack’s second automotive encounter happened Sunday morning, when I took him for his inaugural run on a Go Kart track. He was in the car ahead of me, and I was amazed when he fired out of the gate, and sped down the course like he’d been doing it for years. Naturally, when we finished our five minute run, he wanted to do it again immediately. I suggested a round of miniature golf as a buffer. Eighteen holes later, we were back on the racetrack. This time, there were a bunch of older guys behind us, who eventually caught up with Jack, and caused him to spin out and slam into one of the rails. No big deal, just good hard racin’. Jack got righted, and we continued the race.

 

Sunday afternoon, we visited with my cousin, Ralph, who is now 78 years old. jack noticed a rifle sitting by Ralph’s kitchen door, and asked about it. Ralph explained it was an unloaded 22 caliper rifle he’s owned for 30 or 40 years. He asked if Jack would like to handle it, and Jack jumped at the chance. Ralph demonstrated how to load, cock and fire the weapon, and Jack spent the next 90 minutes sitting in the living room doing just that, while Ralph and I discussed a variety of things. Jack peppered Ralph with a barrage of firearms questions: what’s the loudest gun you’ve ever shot? How far does the longest bullet from any of your guns go? How big is the biggest bullet from any of your guns?

 

I think Jack may have a future as a NASCAR driver, or Second Amendment attorney. Or both!

Inhospitable

August 3, 2009

 

As Jack and I strolled Music Row (Broadway) in downtown Nashville on Saturday night, I noticed that all the country music bars had virtually identical bouncers working the doors. They were all big, burley, surly white guys with goatees. It was as if they found one alpha big, burley, surly, white guy with a goatee, and cloned him. They dress all the clones in identical black jeans and black T-shirts and set them outside the doors.

 

A sign found outside most Nashville bars.

A sign found outside most Nashville bars.

 

 

I find it somewhat strange that all these establishments would choose to make these uninviting individuals their initial points of contact with potential customers. This is by no means unique to country music bars in Nashville. Nightclubs of all varieties embrace the bouncer-induced, step-in-here-and-I’ll-kill-you school of hospitality. I understand the unspoken, behave-or-else message these bouncers send, and it probably does a lot to keep trouble from ever happening in the first place, but it is a little strange. Imagine of the chorus of “Cheers,” singing, “Sometimes you want to go…where everybody wants to pummel you.”

 

The bouncer at the Wildhorse Saloon defied expectation, and was a nice, warm chap. The fact that he was a fellow Yankee fan didn't hurt, so we went in.

The bouncer at the Wildhorse Saloon defied expectation, and was a nice, warm chap. The fact that he was a fellow Yankee fan didn't hurt, so we went in.