Nashville trip – 2015

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I didn’t go on a vacation–or take any “vacation-like” time off–for the past two years. I was fired shortly after my last vacation (a “Mancation” road trip with my son to Louisville), and this week marked my first opportunity to ditch town since then.

I took my family on a road trip to Nashville, a city I’d always wanted to visit. If you’re not interested in scrolling through the pictures below, I’ll summarize by saying I loved Nashville. It’s a very livable, fun and professional city.

It also seems like it’s undergoing an incredible amount of development. I saw construction happening all around town, especially so in the downtown area.

To summarize in images:

Heading out, we passed through Indianapolis right around lunchtime. Rather than play our odds on roadside fast food further down I-65, a quick Googling led us to Punch Burger, not far from Meridian Circle in downtown Indy. It’s kind of a cross between Meatheads and Epic Burger.

Punch indy

Before heading back to I-65, I needed coffee. After making a quick stop at the Starbucks on Meridian Circle, I snapped a pic of Emmis world headquarters. I hadn’t been there since 2011-ish, when I visited on behalf of Emmis Interactive. I have nice memories of hanging with the staffs of WIBC, HANK-FM, B105.7 and The Fan.

emmis

Four hours after leaving Indianapolis, we arrived in Nashville. After getting settled in the hotel room, we were famished to the point of abject hangriness. The solution? BBQ. I have kind of a thing for it. We tried a place called Martin’s, which came highly recommended. It was solid, but my meal there was easily the least impressive one I had while in Nashville.

martins

Our first (and only) full day in town was a flurry of activity, starting with breakfast at Biscuit Love in the Gulch area.

biscuit love

I had the “Southern Benny”: a biscuit, shaved country ham, two fried eggs and sausage gravy, along with some “bonuts” on the side (fried biscuit dough, lemon mascarpone and blueberry compote). The bill added up fast for the four of us; but … so, so good.

From breakfast, we headed to the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum. Here’s what the sky and landscape looked like when we emerged from the parking garage:

lot

The roots of American music are on display–and fascinating to see. The visit was unfortunately-timed to coincide with the Kenny Rogers exhibit, not the Johnny Cash & Bob Dylan exhibit starting later in the week. Here’s some Kenny Rogers apparel and a couple of Grammys:

kenny

Moving along in the museum, I was delighted to see Elvis’s gold-plated piano. Excess? What excess?

elvis piano

Here’s Elvis’s Caddy, with a TV mounted in the back:

elvis caddy

I get it: country music sells.

chof

The Hall of Fame rotunda has a mausoleum-like seriousness to it.

rotunda

But it was cool to see all the inductees in plaque form:

minnie

autry

The famous Hatch Show Print letterpress shop is part of the HOF complex. I saw this on display there and promptly bought a print for my house:

whole hog sausage

After the HOF, we walked over to the John Siegenthaler pedestrian bridge. By that point (10:30 a.m.-ish), the temperature had climbed from 60 to 70 degrees, and the weather was approaching perfect. The bridge goes over the Cumberland River, offering a nice burst of exercise. The views also happen to be fabulous. Did I mention there’s a ton of construction happening in Nashville?

bridge view

After a round trip on the bridge, it was off to the Johnny Cash Museum. The walk-through was decidedly shorter than the HOF visit, but in many ways more rewarding. Johnny Cash, future farmer:

cash farmer

And Christ, how about these cups given to Cash by the Folsom prison warden? Or the explainer, written by Cash?

folsom

Or Cash’s personal Bible?

cash bible

There was a “Legends of Sun Records” exhibit in the back room. My jaw dropped at the sight of this acetate version of Elvis’s “That’s All Right.”

elvis acetate

We left downtown for a bit to visit Nashville’s recreation of the Parthenon:

parthenon

And from there, we went to a restaurant called the Pharmacy, which has an awesome outdoor dining area. Even more awesome: they make sodas and syrups from scratch. My son made the best choice; he went with “The Creamsicle”:

pharmacy

After lunch, we went to the Nashville Zoo. Like the rest of Nashville, a lot of it was under serious amounts of construction. While the rest of the world was learning how to use the Meerkat app, I saw actual meerkats:

meerkat

My favorite attraction at the Nashville Zoo is the kangaroo habitat, where there’s no boundary between roos and humans. The simple rule is humans must stay on the path, but kangaroos can go anywhere they damn well please. We hit the zoo as the afternoon heat was at its peak; the kangaroos were exhausted.

roo2

The creepiest thing I saw at the zoo? Roaches. The picture’s blurry, but those “Christmas light”-shaped things you see with black on them are all really big roaches. Sweet dreams.

roaches

The best meal of the trip was courtesy of Hattie B’s. Their “hot chicken” was also the best fried chicken I ever had. When we got there, the line was modest. By the time we left it was 20-30 deep.
hattie

Before hitting the road this morning, we had one more restaurant to scratch off the list: Pancake Pantry, near the Vanderbilt campus. There are zero frills to be had at this old-school pancake house. To make sure I didn’t end the vacation with a healthy meal, I went with the “Sugar and Spice” Pancakes. In the restaurant’s words, “Five light and tender pancakes made from a special cinnamon and spice batter. Sprinkled with powdered sugar and cinnamon. Served with applesauce, butter, and hot maple or cinnamon cream syrup.” All yes, no nope.

[amcale

Best Songs Ever #13 – ? and the Mysterians “96 Tears”

“96 Tears” by ? & the Mysterians–a song from almost 50 years ago–still sounds raw and exciting whenever I throw it on.

Recorded in a living room on a 4-track recorder in 1966, “96 Tears” became a blueprint for punk and garage rock. The organ–deliberate and basic–delivers the song’s signature sound, tapping forward as ? threatens, “And when the sun comes up, I`ll be on top. You`ll be way down there, looking up.”

Best Songs Ever #12 – ELO “Four Little Diamonds”

Everyone has a favorite ELO song (unless they’re unfeeling monsters), and most will tell you that the band’s 1970s singles were best.

Forget “Mr. Blue Sky” and “Evil Woman.” “Four Little Diamonds,” a less-successful single from 1983, hits all the right notes.

And if the law don’t get her, then I will…

Fast food cockiness

I cook a lot of meals at home. I really do. More often than not, they even involve green vegetables.

But life moves fast, and it’s not always easy–or possible–to settle into a kitchen routine for an hour or two. Sometimes a fast food solution is too easy to resist.

After an early evening spent at a middle school “away” basketball game, I pulled into a Portillo’s drive-through. My local Portillo’s is always busy, to the point where its parking lot traffic squeezes the business out of neighboring chains Chipotle (totes Chipotes) and Jimmy John’s.

The drive-through line was easily 10 cars deep when I joined it. I was probably six car lengths behind the outdoor menu when a Portillo’s employee came up to my driver’s side window. “Can I take your order?” she asked.
“Sure. I just don’t know what it is yet.”
“You don’t know what you’d like?”
“No. Can I have a menu?”

Her reaction would’ve been less incredulous If I’d ordered a sofritas burrito bowl with tomatillo salsa and corn. She cocked her eyebrow, paused for a moment, then said, “just pull up.” Cars were already stacking up behind me. I did as she said.

Apparently you should know exactly what the fuck you want before you even pull into Portillo’s territory. I had to pick out dinner for my family of four, so I needed to have some reference to work from. I also hadn’t been to Portillo’s for a while, so I wasn’t sure if they served a Maxwell Street Polish. For that matter, I wasn’t sure if I wanted an Italian Beef. Or a beef/sausage combo. Or hell, I heard their salads are good. Point is, I came to Portillo’s looking for inspiration. Instead, I got a sneer.

I pulled all the way around to the pick-up window. The person behind the window started to hand me someone else’s meal. “Nope, that’s not mine,” I said.
“I’ve got a burger, hot dog, shake …”
“No. I didn’t order anything. That’s not mine. I wasn’t allowed to see a menu, so the order-taker had me move on. I finally saw a menu, though. Can I order here?”
“Uh. Sure?”

I placed my order (which came with complementary eyerolls!), and was asked to pull around to one of Portillo’s meat-purgatory reserved spots to wait for my order. I waited there for about 10 minutes until someone brought my food out.

It’s cocky … arrogant, even, for Portillo’s to expect its customers to know exactly what they want, the second they pull up. Even if I had gone to McDonald’s–a place where every menu item is known worldwide–I’d have needed to look at the menu before ordering.

Corporate Nursery Rhymes

I hate corporate jargon. My “ask” is that people stop using it, or I’m going to demand a “come to Jesus” meeting.

To make a point that probably doesn’t need to be made, I’ve rewritten a few nursery rhymes using corporate speak. I expect to fail fast on this effort, because I honestly don’t have the bandwidth to keep doing it.

TWINKLE TWINKLE LITTLE STAR

Twinkle, twinkle, little star,

I-don’t-know-what-I-don’t-know about what you are.

Up above the world from a 30,000 foot view,

Like a diamond in the cloud.

ttls 

RAIN RAIN GO AWAY

Rain rain go away,

Let’s table this for later.

rrga

HEY DIDDLE DIDDLE

Hey diddle diddle

Herding cats and a fiddle

The cow jumped out of the box

The ducks in a row laughed

To see such sport

And the dish doubled down with the spoon

hdd

One Song Per Day, and the courage to “audible”

I have lots of creative ideas. Most of them are pretty awful (case in point: “Supes totes soup totes,” tote bags for soup), but I generally believe in following creative sparks or inclinations, and seeing where they go. Sometimes those sparks pay off; other times … not so much.

I try to give the “good ideas” time to grow. Case in point: One Song Per Day. As I got older, and was cut off from the music industry, I realized I’d become detached from new music. Music discovery can be a challenge for an adult whose work/life commitments make it difficult to scour for new music, let alone find the time and money to go to shows. My solution was a music blog that featured a new song every weekday. It was done for myself, and (in theory) aging music fans like me.

Relatively speaking, it was a lot of work; probably 10 hours’ worth per week. But I thought I was on to something, so I kept pushing the blog and myself. Beyond that, I was spending a minimum of $10/week on songs, for streaming use and for future consideration. And after all the work, thought and writing … no one paid attention. I tried to augment the blog with a daily “recap” feature on Rivet, but the referral metrics were astonishingly low. In short, I created a dud. And once it stopped being a point of passion for me, it was time to “audible” and move on.

Rather than putting a bullet in the blog outright, I decided to put the blog “on hiatus,” to see if anyone noticed. That was October 14. Since then, I’ve received not one email or tweet about it. Not a “hey, when are you coming back,” or “I want to hear more music!” My decision was the right one. Time to move on and embrace the next “big idea” (which I’m convinced is THIS).

(If you were a fan of the blog, thank you so much for reading! I appreciate it.)

Road Rage and Tailgating

I don’t get tailgating. It’s bullying, only behind the wheel.

It’s a behavior that creates unnecessary stress for a driver and his victim, and could easily lead to an accident. Or in Chicago, a shooting.

I was encouraged by this video that’s been making the rounds this week. A (supernaturally fast) bike rider in Skokie was being tailgated on Oakton Street, and a local cop took notice.

If you’re a habitual tailgater, just stop, okay?

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