God’s City

Nashville is it a city with a health warning. Visitors with the slightest allergy to twangy guitar and whining voice suggests it might be best avoided. Those seeking a peaceful dinner without middle eight interference may wish to try a different county. Music is not just the decoration, it’s a soundtrack to every conversation. Those that don’t play listen, wearing it like a badge that shows authenticity. I’m sure Nashville residents are not the only American’s wearing that badge of hometown honour. Long on opinion and rare occasion to modesty are sources of national pride.

It is not to say that some of the music is not good. I spent a long night listening to 50s style rockabilly and blues outfit. Very impressed by top class guitar play and the rasping vocals of a heavily tattooed temptress with a hint of Amy Winehouse. I wasn’t going to buy the CD plugged frequently…y’all gonna love it… but with a glass of bourbon and an ultra-sized steak, it’s a proper show. I think my problem is …unlike the radio, I can’t turn it off.

Sarcasm parked for a moment, Nashville is a very easy place to be. The rolling green landscape, leafy and spacious vistas, combining modern and traditional. The weather hot but not oppressive. Complaints about traffic are in many a chat but that’s the same as Americans complaining about petrol at 50 pence a litre when paying far less than the rest of the world.

Though it may not be advertised in the Conservative South, multi-culturism has raised its own flag. Much I always enjoying hearing a Mancunian twang from the mouth of a person of obvious Arabic origin, hearing drawn vowels dripping with thick American slang is a unique pleasure. It gives hope that one day this country will have lost its obsession with its white self.

Hope sadly fades when I meet Venus. The name Venus appearing on my Uber app, suggests an interesting prospect for my ride. Venus advertises herself as a great conversationalist. Oh and she is. Though the conversation is less with me but more with Jesus who I imagine must be sitting in the front seat the way the conversation goes.

Venus informs me she is Supermum, according to her saintly daughters. She reaches for a sip of modesty in her ice cup as she protests it’s all down to Jesus. The hint of humility turns to majesty as she describes her daughter’s Supermum emblem drawn with a great big C for Christ. She wants it patented. Passing by a Scientology church, a comment turns into a full scale rant on the role of science in religion, all to the tuneful beat of god rock on the radio. Venus believes in Science, she says. Science is God.

‘If the Big Bang aint God’s work then what is? Goddam,’ she protests, ‘it’s staring you in the face!!’

I’m lost for a response. I can only imagine Jesus is in agreement in the front seat as she mutters further Godly mantras out of my earshot.

People speak freely, their prejudices and wishes shared without shame or subtlety. Business has no etiquette where the sale is everything. A barman informs me he would like his tip as he’s leaving soon. Whilst God litters many a passing chat, I manage the whole week without the elephant in the room. At least I was relieved with that. Though Trump’s face decorating a chocolate bar in the airport tells me everything I need to know about local voting intensions, I’m glad I didn’t have to get into a conversation glorifying him. Maybe with foreigners around, people find it’s easier to justify God’s illogical miracles than a Trump presidency.

Country and Western, Gun Shops, Church and Cowboy boots. Coca cola drank like water. A country stuck in a retro theme park. But this is the gum that holds it together. An old record played so long on the jukebox, everyone knows the words but not the music that forms it. Confidence has its own truth belying any challenge. For an outsider, this feels like a wasted opportunity. For all its instinctive optimism, Nashville could be so much better for understanding that the world turns on an axis that isn’t created in Tennesee.