What a generally excellent day.
I mean, considering I had to get up at six in the morning (did anyone catch that I was completed screwed up with regard to the time change when I complained about having to get up at 5 “my time?” I left my watch set to EDT, but set the clock in the RV to local time (since I have to reset it every time I’ve unhooked). I was in bed reading and had a panic attack when I realized I must have set the alarm wrong, because the hours of sleep the clock suggested I had left differed from the suggestion my watch had. Still, 7am “my time” is too damn early, any way you slice it…) and drop seven bills at a Chevy repair shop, the day had a ways to go to make up for it.
I mentioned breakfast, after that they told me I had about four hours until the RV would be ready. So I hopped in the Tracker to see what Nashville had to offer.
At first, I was a little disappointed. I drove directly towards downtown on the road where the Chevy place was located, and turned down a couple streets in the downtown area. It looked pretty much like every other downtown area in the US (that homogenization issue rears its ugly but familiar head), and, besides, it was only eight-thirty in the morning at this point: everything was still closed.
After realizing I was approximately two turns away from not being able to find my way back to the Chevy place, I retraced my steps and drove back towards Opryland: there was a lot of associated tourist crap around there…
Several of the museums along Music Valley Road (and here I use the term “museum” in it’s loosest possible sense) opened at nine, so I had a few minutes to select which might best pass some time. Cars of the Stars? The Willie Nelson and Friends Wax Musuem (What, you think I’m making these up? You can’t make up crap like this)? Luckily (only considering the circumstances was it lucky), each and every one of these museums had a gift shop out front. Now, these aren’t your typical museum gift shops (and why would they be, at this point?) where you could buy items associated with the subject of the museum. No, this was like being in some land-locked Gay Dolphin where all the snow globe ashtrays have “Myrtle Beach” scratched out and a cowboy hat and “Nashville” penned in, many times spelled correctly. And no, that’s not the part I consider “lucky.”
The lucky part was that the security was not what you’d call air-tight, and you could see into the museums and check out an exhibit or two before ponying up the admittance fee. Now, I think we all know that I eliminated The Willie Nelson and Friends Wax Musuem from contention at the outset, and, further, I think we all know why. So I snuck a peek into the Cars of the Stars museum.
You know the stories that you hear about celebrities with too much money who buy the stretch limosines with TVs and bars and bowling alleys in them? Well, them’s not the cars what are in here.
What we’ve got here is the burned out husk of a ’50 Ford that Elvis once traded for his first train ticket anywhere the hell out of Tupelo.
Get yourself a couple sheets of cardboard, write things like “Dolly Parton’s Chevrolet” and “Loretta Lynn’s Buick” and “Billy Ray Cyrus’ Yugo” on them, then go to any used car lot and set the signs on the hoods, and you’ve got a reasonable facsimile of the Cars of the Stars Museum experience.
So I chose the one remaining option, the as-yet-unmentioned-in-this-account Toy and Train Museum. Inside the obligatory gift shop offering hilarious gee-gaws like the plaque picturing two naked youngsters from behind, the little boy uttering to the little girl that boffo punchline: “No, you can’t touch it, you already broke yours off,” were two halls, of a total area a bit less than that of my rather spartan house. Now that I think about it, I think there are probably several more toys _in_ my house than in this museum…
Now, they did have some interesting stuff that I would have liked to have known more about. But the organization was like a rough cut of cleaning up your room as a child: first pile all the toy soldiers here, all the windup cars here, all the toy boats here. The only difference is these people put up windows and started charging other folks for a look. The documentation, when there was any, was hand printed in large letters on narrow paper, with what I’ll generously refer to as creative hyphenation, and tended towards the general: “The tin cars in this display were made from 1890 to 1950, in the US, England, Germany, and Japan.” I’d have a better chance of learning about the history of a particular car with a calendar, a globe, and two darts.
And I don’t know much about the preservation of wood, metal, and plastic, but they also had original boxes for some of the toys, and even one comic book. And I _do_ know something about the preservation of paper. And you could learn a lot about how to properly preserve paper by simply doing the opposite of everything that they had done: bare paper (it was one of those give-away books with no glossy cover) laying under flourescent lights, surrounded by items made of cheap plastic (most plastics are constantly breaking down and releasing dangerous gases. Just another example of better living through chemistry). I stood there and watched the book decay for a few minutes, just for a larf.
The train section was a little more interesting, but tended towards wind-up English trains, rather than the Lionel O gauge stuff I’ve learned a bit about through osmosis. They had a reasonably impressive electric layout going; my Dad would have loved that little steam engine careening through the pressboard town at about 274 scale miles an hour.
After that little adventure (which I actually rather enjoyed, despite my overly-syllabic evisceration of the experience), I stopped at the neighborhood outlet mall. There’s that homogenization thing again. No lie, on this trip I’ve now driven past five, FIVE, sets of Tanger Outlet Stores (ever since I saw my first set in Commerce, GA, years ago, I’ve wanted to vandalize the “T” in their sign, so they’d be the ANGER OUTLET MALL. I feel this more accurately represents what is typically going on there, anyway). Anyway, this time it worked in my favor, because I knew there’d be a Totes outlet there (there was) and I could buy a cheap umbrella (I did). The umbrella had a tag that showed the $5.99 price was an excellent bargain, as the umbrella had a suggested retail value of $22. Kind of disillusioning that the umbrella’s slip case was clearly labelled “Suggested Retail: $12.”
This had not yet filled up my alloted time. I started driving back towards the Chevy place, not knowing where things might be that were fun yet close enough and easy enough to get to. On the way in, I saw a sign for the Hermitage, and thought that might be cool.
I suppose it was. I guess that sort of thing is simply lost on me. Bygone opulence, restored, rebuilt, and repainted to hold at arms length for nine bucks a head. Some of you know my comic collecting tends to be lower-grade stuff. There are several reasons for this (it’s more affordable and available, so I might actually complete runs I start, and I can read them with my own oily fingers without worrying about damaging them further), but one is that low-grade (the more beat-up stuff) lends a sense of history for me: I can _feel_ the time that’s passed, I gain perspective on what the object has gone through to get here. High grade items, and particularly restored items, whether comic books or the homes of dead presidents, offer me no texture, no struggle, no sense of survival. The Hermitage looked to me like a great big dollhouse, with which I was not allowed to play.
Man, rereading that last paragraph, it looks like I had a crappy time. I really didn’t, I enjoyed it while I was there, and I’m glad I went. Perhaps the value in those kinds of things is not what we see in the object, but what the object shows us in ourselves.
From the sublime to the ridiculous, I then went and wrote a fat check for RV repair, ran across a fantastic comic book store (did I mention my newly-acquired Amazing Adventures #1? Oh, yeah, I did…), found a KOA Kampground next door to Graceland (for true, _next_ _door_ to Graceland. I’m walking there tomorrow morning. For some reason that’s a little unreal to me. Walking to Graceland…), drove there, made myself some sammiches, and sat down to write. Thanks for reading what I’m certain is the longest update yet. It was a lot of fun to write, I hope that comes through when you read it.
And please keep the email coming. I know my replies are kind of short (because I typically have to run my email there at the counter while people are checking in or buying biodegradable toilet paper for chemical toilets), but email is the only human contact I get that goes beyond “Are you ready to order,” “Will that be cash or charge,” or “And please remember, NO FLASH PHOTOGRAPHY.”