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24 Hours In Nashville, Without A Care For Hot Chicken Or Country Music

by Dewan Gibson

I recently spent 24 hours in Nashville with the goal of avoiding country music and culturally-appropriated hot chicken. My first stop was Frist Art Museum. It was hosting a Frida Kahlo exhibition and showing murals by local artists. I’m already familiar with Frida’s work and was more interested in the murals. I was about to pay $15 for admission, or actually, say I was a college student and pay $10, when I saw a large TV screen displaying a map of the murals’ locations throughout the city. I figured I’d get a more authentic Nashville experience by viewing the street art in its original locations, even if that meant going to some pretty rough neighborhoods.

I’m not one of those guys who yells, “I go to any hood and get respect!” Well, I say things along those lines when alone in my car listening to gangsta shit. But I don’t run into trouble when traveling. Maybe it’s because I smile a lot and wear cardigans. This time was no different, though some guy did block my car in with his just as I was about to leave an old lot near the mural. I waved and said “How’s it going!” He nodded his head, moved his car, and that was that. I’m guessing he thought I was someone else. People say we Lightskins look alike. 

Here are some of the murals I saw while wandering around Nashville. The first picture is from the Frist Art Museum hallway. Also, to get an idea of the gentrification in “new” Nashville, check out the picture of two very different adjacent homes. I wonder if those neighbors know each other. 

Unmask 'em mural by Elisheba Israel Mrozik in Nashville, TN.
"Ride Norf" mural by Norf Collective.
"Wake up!" mural by Norf Art Collective in Nashville, TN.
Hip new home next to dilapidated home in Nashville.

After my art walk, I drove to 12 South. It was your typical hipster neighborhood: weak chins covered by face fros, craft beer, indie shops, white women wearing interesting glasses. I ate chicken soup and tacos at Bartaco. Really nice staff at that restaurant. Maybe they were exercising covert dine-and-dash prevention, but four different workers asked if I needed anything. It felt like the last waitress was going to address me as “My Lord.” Pretty heavy for a taco shop, but I’ll take it. 

Mexican chicken soup from Bartaco in  Nashville, Tennessee.

A rain and sleet prevented me from further exploring 12 South, so I bought a last minute ticket to the Vanderbilt basketball game. A great seat was only $6 via StubHub. 

Funny enough, Scottie Pippen was there. Yep, the Scottie Pippen who dunked on Patrick Ewing and told Spike Lee to sit his ass down. His son plays for Vanderbilt. Junior’s smaller than dad, in both nose and height, but he’s a good player as a freshman. The boy has court vision and a veteran calm to his game. 

View from the six dollar seats at a Vanderbilt University men's basketball game
Scottie Pippen in the crowd at Vanderbilt basketball game.

Unfortunately the student body didn’t seem to care for the game. I expected thousands of yoga pants-wearing coeds to be there, but it was mostly just a few hundred older folks. I’m talking people old enough to remember Vanderbilt’s first women’s basketball team, whose picture I saw in the arena. 

Group photo of Vanderbilt's first women's basketball team.

After the game, I finally checked into my hotel. I stayed in the hip Hilton Suites in downtown Nashville. It’s very Ikea but with a co-working space on the main floor. I had a power nap that almost turned into a full night’s sleep, but I forced myself up and out since I was only in town for a night. 

Hilton Suites room in downtown Nashville, TN.

I walked down to Broadway, Nashville’s main strip for nightlife. It was a Monday–Veteran’s Day–but most of the bars were crowded. I was recovering from a bad cold and three-day NyQuil binge and didn’t want to drink. I told myself just one beer and back to the hotel. Of course I had two whiskeys and a beer within 20 minutes of being at some bar featuring an R&B cover band. The alcohol hit me hard and led to me to produce this award-winning Instagram video about a rare snowfall in Nashville. 

I woke up at 6:30 a.m. the next morning for a walk downtown. I had read the John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge was a must-see. I wouldn’t say all that, but it allows for a good view of the Cumberland River and the stadium where a mediocre NFL team plays its home games. If you happen to be on the bridge when it’s icy, as I was, you may be lucky enough to see a guy bust his ass…TWICE…while riding a scooter. 

An icy John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge
Man falling off scooter on icy John Seigenthaler Pedestrian Bridge

My 24-hour stay in Nashville ended later that morning with a visit to a plantation. Let me explain: I visited my first plantation in Charleston, South Carolina and found the tour, led by the wokest white man this side of Max Kellerman, compelling. But Nashville’s Meade Plantation seemed different. There’s a winery onsite and you can do a tasting tour of the premises. I found that too casual, maybe even a bit festive for such a somber place. Like, they’re really up there harvesting grapes from grounds where the enslaved are buried? 

I decided not to take the tour but did talk with one of the staff members. She made me feel a bit better about visiting the place. Some of that has to do with her softening me up by saying I reminded her of her grandson, who she hoped would grow up to look like me. That’s probably the most unique compliment I’ve had since a friend called me Skinny Kravitz.

I drove on the plantation grounds until signs told me to turn around. The home pictured below is where Bob Green resided. He was enslaved but grew up to be a “world-renowned” horse trainer. The training and breeding of the horses, in addition to free human labor, made mad profits for the plantation’s owners. Some of the funds were used to buy more people. Their descendants would continue to live in the slave quarters until the 1970s. Yep, the 1970s.

Former home of enslaved horse trainer Bob Green, Meade Plantation in Nashville, TN.

-Dewan Gibson

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