This morning started early with a lovely continental breakfast and a swim in the pool. I love hotels! Every morning should start with someone else making breakfast and a quick dip in your pool.
Today was our downtown day. Michaela and I made the mistake of taking a cab. We felt like calling the police and telling them that the cabbies are ripping people off! Apparently, Nashville has no real public transit, so most people drive. Therefore, the cabs have a great monopoly on transporting poor souls like us. I take a lot of cabs, and I've never seen the meter jump up so fast. Just crazy!
Our first stop was the legendary Ryman Auditorium. The Ryman was built as a church in the 1800's, and later, due to it's awesome acoustics, it became a theatre and event centre. It had a vibrant stint as a performing arts space in the first half of the 1900's, hosting such talents as Fanny Brice, Sarah Bernhart, and Helen Hayes. It also featured touring musicians and opera companies. In the mid 1900's, it became the home of the Grand Ole Opry, and this is how it is best known today. After the Opry moved to it's current home, the Ryman sat empty, until an 8-million-dollar renovation re-opened it's doors. It currently has a busy concert schedule. My fear with renovated buildings is always that the spirits will be pushed out of the space, but not here. When you are in this theatre, you can feel all the music, all the artists, all the spirits that have filled the space. Michaela and I did the self-guided tour of the auditorium, and the backstage tour. It's such a beautiful space with curved seating and a gallery. The staff were very friendly with lots of great stories about the history of the place. But here's the best moment - they let you stand on the stage to take pictures. I stood on a stage where Bob Hope and Ethel Barrymore and the Follies performed. And I could feel all of it. And then, they let me sing. I opened up and sang It Is Well, in a high key. No mic. What gorgeous acoustics! They say they're second only to Carnegie Hall. You could hear the sound filling every corner of the auditorium. At that moment, I fell madly and hopelessly in love with the Ryman! Michaela also sang, and it was beautiful. We've decided that performing there in on our lists of life goals.
After floating out of the theatre, we spent the afternoon gadding up and down Broadway, visiting every open store and club. Lunch was at Legends Corner. They don't have a kitchen, but they serve lunch. Go figure. Our waitress was great. Very hyper. She would just get up and leave the building every few minutes. Michaela figures she was waiting tables next door as well. But you know, she would always put down her cigarette before coming to our table, and that's just good service. The place is a dive in the best kind of way. Smoky, with walls covered in all kinds of music memorabilia, and a cowboy on stage singing and playing guitar. If they haven't shot a film there, they should.
Next was the Ernest Tubb Record Shop. Their motto is if they don't have a specific cd, it's just not worth having. Again, memorabilia everywhere. Every building on the strip is covered in memorabilia. I found a great double cassette of Dottie Rambo giving lessons on songwriting, and some cds of the Jordanaires. I also picked up a few local cds of singer-songwriters for Gerald.
Gruhn's Guitars was amazing. Again, a Gerald store. I played a $4200.00USD Taylor. All koa with abalone inlay. Stunning! Way too much guitar for me.
We wandered into Willie Nelson's General Store and Museum with some trepidation. The "museum" is in the back of the store, and it costs $5 to see it. You'd think a living legend would deserve a bigger tribute, but who are we to comment? We skipped the museum, but I did find some great Jack Daniels treats to bring home. The Confederate flag could be found on t-shirts, mugs, and bumper stickers. I would have told them that it's not politically correct to display it, but I really value my life too much. We left there pretty quickly.
We strolled by the river, which is lovely, and found an outdoor stage. Calling this place Music City is no exaggeration. Music is not simply everywhere. It's welcomed and encouraged. How can you not love that? And there's a public art display on this summer of giant guitar sculptures, each painted by a different artist. Kind of like the moose in Toronto.
We visited the Hatch Show Print, which makes posters for all the Ryman concerts, as well as shows across the country. We found a poster there for a show at the ACC in Toronto! They still print by hand using hand-carved blocks. Michaela and I have also decided that someday, they will do our posters.
Oh, and we had a great visit to the Dixieland ice cream store. Again, live music! In an ice-cream parlour! This is awesome.
Nashville doesn't feel like a big city. It sort of feels like a very busy town. Everyone is very relaxed, and they're all on "Nashville time", which is sort of like "island time". So friendly and good.
However, this city is a little too obsessed with air-conditioning. It's a lovely heat outside, but you need a sweater inside. What's up with that?
Our evening was spent at BB King's Blues Club, featuring the talents of the Clarence Dobbins Revue. They did lots of old-school R&B, like Otis Redding, Al Green, and Marvin Gaye. And, oh my! Can Clarence work the room! He would loop the cord of the mic around his arm, and walk to a table and sing to people. Then he'd drag the cord to another table. He barely stood on the stage. Walking, and singing, and dragging and winding the cord. And he kept taking us "back in the day". He took us so far back, we were expecting a song about creation! Everybody in the room loved him. He had to feel it. Funny and great.