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Nashville Cats

:: I returned to Edmonton from Nashville a day earlier than scheduled, on Thursday, 10 June 2004. The conference was a good one, my 13th SLA, and my 11th since 1993. The conference was held at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center, the largest facility of its kind – whatever kind that is – I’d ever seen. Enormous glass atriums with lush, tropical indoor gardens, walkways, waterfalls, and an indoor river connect the hotel and convention center sections of this sprawl, kept at 72F all year round. The place seemed to have a sense of humour as well. The utility costs must be staggering. Nonetheless, it was nice to have the convention in one location rather than many, as it was in NYC last year. More details about my conference time are available at STLQ.

Away from Opryland and the conference, I did little else while I was there. There was a party at the Wildhorse Saloon in downtown Nashville, which was the only time I made it into the city. After spending some time at the Saloon, some of us wandered over to the Country Music Hall of Fame – not to go in, but to catch a free bus ride back to Opryland! I did not make it to the Grand Ole Opry either, despite it being on the same grounds as Opryland. My disinterest in country music aside, yes, it would have been cool to visit these places, but the time nor the moment never did seem right. By Thursday the 10th, Nashville was swarming with country music fans, coming from all parts of the world for the CMA Music Festival.

The last night I was there, I wandered a bit past my hotel, and noticed a store with the sign, Ernest Tubb Record Shops. I decided to check it out, and entered country music heaven. Wall to wall CDs and cassettes – yes, an entire wall of prerecorded cassettes, there is still a market for them, and it’s in country music – trinkets, doo-dads, curios, photos, music books, souvenirs, you name it. The place was packed with what appeared to be a tour group, and while standing in line to pay for a couple of items, I listened to them talking, detecting more than one British accent. I asked one of them if they were over from the UK. The fellow said they were part of a tour, organized by a UK country music disc jockey, who was also present. It was very surreal to be in a country music store in Tennessee, only to be surrounded by c/m fans speaking in English and Scottish accents, waxing poetic about the CDs and souvenirs they were buying. When asked if country music was popular in the UK, he said to me that if you were from the UK and liked country music, you were “considered to be a bit of a mick.”

In Nashville, I learned that “tea” means “unsweetened ice tea.” “Tea” was served at every luncheon and dinner buffet I attended at the conference. If you want what we call tea, one asks for “hot tea.” A number of new friends I met at the conference, many of them true southerners, took me to Cracker Barrel, a restaurant chain that features true southern homestyle meals. Well, sorta.

It was quite the experience. I checked the menu, noticing many items with “n’” in the title: Salads n’ Such, Vegetables n’ Sides, Beverages n’ Juices. After careful consideration, I ordered the Grilled Pork Chop from the Country Dinner Plates menu, and my two “vegetables” were Fried Apples and “Dumplins”. Not dumplings, but dumplins. Others at the table ordered the Breaded Fried Okra and Turnip Greens, promising me I could sample them. At least one order of Hickory Smoked Pork Barbeque arrived afterwards, which I can only describe as shredded meat. This was also served at one or more convention events earlier in the week.

The meal was not one of my most memorable dining experiences, but the amazing company made up for it. I can best describe the “dumplins” as thick, white, square-shaped pieces of what seemed to be pasta, smothered – no – drowned in what appeared to be a white goo. The fried apples and pork chop were ok, and the turnip greens and breaded fried okra I sampled seemed fine. I passed on dessert. The weird thing is, someday I want to go back and try something else on the menu. {Note to my new friend in NC: Hey, Mary, does that sound like a heckuva deal (as they say in Minnesota?)}

Mary, btw, bought me a Moon Pie, which was quite tasty, and reminiscent of a Wagon Wheel, available from our corner store for a nickel, when I was a kid in Winnipeg. In fact, moon pies are called wagon wheels in some parts – It sez so right here. Further investigation reveals that the Wagon Wheel was the creation of Garry Weston, the “UK son” of Canadian biscuit baron, Garfield Weston., mentions the UK and “Canadian Wagon Wheel” in their “Biscuit of the Week” discussion from 29 June 2003. Too bad the pictures aren’t working.

Biscuit of the Week? Mary, thank you for the Moon Pie! 🙂

On Wednesday evening, Christina Pikas and I visited Opry Mills, a local mall, to see Shrek 2. Before the movie, we browsed Tower Records, where I purchased a DVD, the D-Day Anniversary Edition of Saving Private Ryan. This will no doubt shock Heavy G and KGo (that I actually bought a DVD, that is). While in the store, I listened to a CD called Happenstance, by Rachael Yamagata. I liked the sound: a deep, smoky voice led by her piano and backup band, and good songwriting with catchy hooks. Comparisons to Norah Jones will be inevitable. I passed on buying it there, but on a lark, checked the local A&B Sound when I returned to Edmonton. I asked the multi-pierced goth druid working the help desk if the store had a copy, thinking the chances were as good as him knowing who Yamagata was in the first place. Well, he had no idea who she was, but he did find her on the in-store db. Then, when he pulled a copy from the shelves, I was so stunned that I bought it on the spot. It’s a great record, and I’m glad I made the effort to look for it in town. Miracles can still happen.

The people of Nashville are incredibly friendly to visitors, something I’ll always remember about the city. I have never been overseas, but upon my return, I checked the list of 50 states, to determine how many I have visited in my life. The number is 25: California, Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming. So, 25 more to go!

In 2.5 weeks, I am off again, to Winnipeg, and then St John’s, for the KG wedding. Time flies, and seems to move faster when you get older. In Nashville, I saw old friends, made some fascinating new ones, and experienced a pretty good professional conference. Other things happened as well, about which I will write at a later date. Now, I find myself staring into the void, wondering what life has to offer next, and trying not to think too much about it all…

8 Responses to “Nashville Cats”

  1. garth danielson Says:

    hey, one of the ladies that you flew back with was the librarian where I work. Ha.

    Just been watching some of the SCTV’s from the new box set. These are the ones that have been filmed in Edmonton. Last week we watched David Cronenberg’s Fast Company which was filmed at the Edmonton Drag racing track…is that still there that you know of. Let me know. Have you heard of this movie? It’s so unlike Cronenberg in general…not horror but still an expolitation film. It was tied up in litigation for many years and has just recently come out on DVD. It’s about Dragster and funny car racing. It’s not great but it’s watchable. It was the last movie that Playboy Playmate Claudia Jennings ever made. She was killed in a car accident a few months later. Fast Company was on a double bill with another Claudia Jennings gem…Deathsport. Claudia and David Caradine in a Roger Corman sf classic, with super powered motorcycles and mutants.

  2. randy Says:

    Garth: Where do you work? Who is the librarian of whom you speak? When I changed planes in Mpls, on my way to Nashville, a whack of Mpls librarians boarded the same flight. Maybe she was one from that group. Let me know. – R

  3. Murph Says:

    You got me thinking: Alaska, Arizona, California, Washington, Hawaii, Colorado, Oregon, Idaho, Utah (duh), Nevada, Montana, Minnesota, Florida, Georgia, Pennsylvania. Hmmph. I lived down there and have been to fewer states than you.


  4. Linda Says:

    The “dumplins” were dough…like a biscuit dough, usually cooked in a chicken broth. There are actually much better places to get “southern cookin” & “sweet tea”, but CB was the closest.

    Glad you had a good time!

  5. Garth Danielson Says:

    I work at Donladson Company, and the librarian here is Julie Eskritt. She’s 40ish with brown hair and kind of quiet. There was some woman between you and her on the flight.

  6. darcy Says:

    Welcome back, randy! Glad you had a good time. Hope you’re feeling better, too?


  7. Teri Says:

    I’m partial to Folks, which I think is PoFolks with more grilled items on their correctly-spelled menus. All of the Atlanta PoFolks have been converted to Folks.

    If you’re ever down here in A’La’na, we also have Mary Mac’s Tea Room and The Colonnade Restaurant (on Cheshire Bridge Rd, between the antique stores and adult entertainment establishments).

  8. Mary Says:

    Hey Randy!

    Glad you enjoyed the Moon Pie…now you have me craving one. Actually, tea should be “iced” tea, instead of “ice” tea…and if you were in the south, it would be sweetened instead of unsweetened 😉 Someday you’ll have to come to North Carolina to enjoy our “barbeque”.

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