“It Was So Fascinating! Here They Were, in My Little House in the Suburbs, Trying to Plan a Murder!”
WE’RE IN NASHVILLE, trust me, just not that Nashville, not the sequin-knockered bosom of country music and home of the Grand Ole Opry — and no, Ma’am, there will be no fringed satin blouses in view tonight, only gift-shop t-shirts, and no needle-nose two-tone snakeskin boots either, just blinding-white Nikes, America’s footwear. There’s definitely no boozy, smoky romance of the honky-tonk, or anything else for that matter. That Nashville may actually exist, may even be just outside and around the corner for all we know, but we will not find out. On this trip, we’re in another Nashville, a grim and nondescript small city of the postindustrial South, a place like any other where the young and rootless come in search of a fresh start and relief from bad juju. It’s what you might call a perfect spot to hide a while and figure out what the hell comes next.
“You know what else they don’t have down here?” Brenda Colletti looks across the table, wide-eyed and expectant. I’m stumped, as I have been every time she’s uttered that phrase over the past 12 hours — and she’s said it more than once. “Diners! I’m so bummed! I used to go to a diner any time of day or night to drink coffee.” She sighs dramatically and shakes her head. “I can’t believe I’m here.”
Neither can I — having suggested that she choose a restaurant for dinner, preferably someplace that feels authentically, demonstrably, convincingly Nashville ( that other Nashville), I’m a little disappointed to end up at the local outbreak of the Hard Rock Café, the multinational chain of themed food parks. We’re tourists, in other words, out-of-towners, a couple of Yankees. This place makes the NASCAR Café down the block look homegrown.
The sweet-natured waitress has just delivered our chicken wings, interrupting Brenda’s tale. She’s been telling it since this morning, at a variety of sites and without interruption, except when some wholesome young waiter or waitress pops up.
"Naow," the waitress drawls, "is ever’thing aw-raht?" She’s beaming at us.
Brenda’s staring switchblades from the corner of her eye. "Yeah."
"O-kay," and off the waitress goes to smile at someone who deserves it.
"Everybody here is so sweet and so caring," Brenda says, allowing herself a wry grin now that there are no witnesses. "Everybody says hello — ‘Hah, how y’all doooon?‘" She cracks herself up. "I can’t stand these people. I have a hard time relating to ’em. I hate being nice."