Nashville to Nickajack

Simon Carnell

The town that ‘doesn’t need another silly love song’, and gets ‘You Look Like I Need a Drink’.

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Next to the deleted cigarette on the barroom door: the red crossed circle deleting a handgun.

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‘Hear a sound like a train coming’ (tornado season) ‘get in the tub and hold pillows over your heads’.

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In Music City, even the waiters and waitresses keep guitars in cases at the ready beneath the bar.

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Stepped outside the singer-songwriters circle for a smoke: the ‘lonesome’ airhorns of freight trains.

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Not Dollyville. Not ‘sketchy’ Memphis, defined by the cab driver as ‘not safe for white people’.

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No detail too small, for children trying to prise seashells from the aggregate, on the Parthenon steps.

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More complete than its original, the full-scale repro houses an Athena with eyes bigger than footballs.

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All along the route to Chattanooga: hoardings for fireworks, politicians, automatic weapons.

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Where the Southern Agrarians took their stand, the manners of the porter with his ‘yes’m’.

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Johnny Cash in a Hatch Show print, Tammy still standing by her man. Until the dee ai vee o ar cee ee.

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Neo-classical stud stables restored at Belle Meade. The one surviving slave cabin ‘not to be ignored’.

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The ‘Sioux-blooded’ Man in Black’s Dark Night of the Soul, in the Nickajack Cave. Saltpetre …

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… resurrected for Gospel, Folsom Prison, cancer … some mind-blowing boom-chick-a-boom.

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A penultimate choice, on Tennessee’s Death Row, before the last request. Chair or lethal injection.