Friday, November 28, 2008

Ahh, 4H Club

The week we were finishing the home buying process (more on that later, maybe) we had to attend a class oh how to buy a home. Which is not what this post is about.

The classroom (wood-paneled storage room) featured plaques awarded to no one, as far as I can tell, for some odd life skills.

Wildlife Judging?
Outdoor Meat Cookery?
Poultry Judging?

Monday, October 27, 2008

At the Pumpkin Patch

This weekend we took the kids to a "pumpkin farm" to pick out pumpkins and get in on the fall experience: manure, gourds, animals, hay, hayrides, being cold, rotting pumpkins. You know: fall.

Pumpkin Hill has nothing on the Avila Barn. I won't count the longer hay ride in the pro column for Pumpkin Hill; 40 minutes is an unsuitably long hayride.

But the real story is another family sighted at Pumpkin Hill. A middle-aged woman and her mother had brought a toddler to select a pumpkin. I presume the child was adopted because his ostensible mother was white like the moon and the child was dark like fine chocolate. This isn't, by itself, notable to me in any way. However, this is the South and Mom was controlling the child by keeping him on a leash.

They clearly didn't pick up on the subtext.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

It's The Little Differences

It's the little differences between California and Tennessee that really get you.

For example, we don't have any flaming squirrels, and if we did it would mean companionship or hunting for food.

Monday, October 13, 2008

What Nashville Beer are You

I post this not because it is funny, or even remotely meaningful, but because I feel obligated. I am generally disgusted by the internet "quiz culture" and despite how asinine, narrow, and ridiculously panderous it is, I give you:

Which Nashville Beer are You

I'm just glad there is a flash app that can tell me which local beer I would like as long as I can tell it what kind of beer I like. Everyone who knows me knows that I hardly talk about anything else.

Monday, October 6, 2008

I Can't Get Away From High Gas Prices

The gas shortages have gotten better (not waiting in lines) but prices are still high here. I saw this article last week, Gasoline cheaper in California than in 15 other states.

We're only now getting notably below $4/gallon. Watching the lines, panic, and skyrocketing prices made me think about how these things are only the early signs of things to come when gas is sparse everywhere..

Sunday, October 5, 2008

More Evidence that Things (or People) May Never Change

These were sighted on a car in Austin, TX last weekend when we were visiting family. Submitted without further comment for obvious reasons.

bumper sticker
bumper sticker

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Craigslist Bargains

Good point. Why would you pay $800 to $1000 when you can get it custom for $250.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Well, it is a Red State

When not stressing about the potentiality of buying a house, I have been trying to process what is means to live here during an election year.

East Nashville is pretty diverse, so we see a good shuffling of campaign signs, including a fair number of Ron Paul and Clinton signs still up.

But this story is about how I found out McCain named his Veep.

I was at work, working with a customer on the retail floor and was forced by proximity, volume and absurdity to overhear half of a cell phone conversation.

Yeah. Yeah. She's a woman. They just announced it.

I had to turn around to observe this speaker, gripped by the southern accent I had incorrectly assumed to be a parody, and by the fact that I could imagine this statement being the setup for several decent punchlines. The speaker's accent was a real as his dirty off-brand 80's hi-tops, his cutoff sweat shorts, his white sleeveless t-shirt, and dirty "trucker's" cap.

No, no. She's good. I read all about it on the wikipedia. It was already up there.

Pause for other party.

Yeah, it's good. She's the Governor of Alaska. She hunts moose. Anyway, I'll call you later.

So, I guess Palin appeals to more than the crossover vote.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Survey Says...

Number of people I've seen walking around with a machete:

California: 0
Tennessee: 1

Number of people in the supermarket who don't seem to get the connection between physique and the contents of their shopping cart:

California: 10%-20%
Tennessee: 80+%

Number of times cops have stopped me to ask if I've seen anyone around fighting:

Tennessee: 2
California: 0

Number of times I've discovered I could afford to buy a house:

California: 0
Tennessee: 1

Number of species of creepy bugs found in my house (not including spiders):

California: 2-3
Tennessee: 5-10

Percentage of musicians:

California: ~10%
Tennessee: 90%

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Not to be outdone...

The Beer Lobby shows state pride with Tennessee Beer, complete with Vol Orange packaging. Even just a few short years ago we lived in a world without modern conveniences like this. I don't even want to think about an era like that.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Only the Finest

I was doing some tandem web surfing this weekend (you know, 2 people, 2 computers and a lot of "Look at this, look at that") and ended up on the Tennessee Titans website, which features a link to their cheerleader's site. What kind of information would a cheerleading site have, other than pictures? "Something great" I thought and was compelled to click the link.

I figured Bios would be the place to go, and I was right. The bios contain answers to several questions, including "What would you take with you if you were stranded on a desert island" (or something along those lines). Some notable responses out of the 31 Bios:

  • 7 (22%) said Cell Phone/Smartphone. Reception and power will be easy to come by?
  • 7 (22%) said some form of Other People. To share in your misery?
  • 4 (14%) said iPod or Computer. Right.
  • 3 (10%) said Chapstick (ok) or Lip Gloss. LIP GLOSS?

There were some other doozies including a Genie and a bottomless Coke well. But most importantly only 2 Titans Cheerleaders would think to bring a boat.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Legitimate Beer Distribution

Recently, Fat Tire and 1554 were made available here in Tennessee. I'm not a fanboi, but I enjoy both occasionally. The more Northwest Microbrews I can get in Tennessee the better. Anyway, they are only available in 22oz bottles, as pictured.

I guess the recent availability is not at all mob related. At all.

Friday, August 1, 2008

As you can see from my lighter...

Does anything say State Pride (...yeah) like a State-branded disposable cigarette lighter?

Answer: excluding State-branded meth labs, breathalyzers, and handguns, No. Nothing.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Friday, July 25, 2008

That's What I Get for Living Here

This week I was meeting someone at a coffeeshop and while waiting outside overheard this snippet of conversation:

Dude 1: Hey! Is that Garth?
Dude 2: I don't know.
Dude 1: I think it is!
Dude 2: Maaaaybe.
[Potential garth turns around]
Dude 2: Nope.
Dude 1: Shit!
Me: [rolls eyes]

I was later told the particular coffeeshop at hand is a popular celebrity-spotting zone. So now I'm torn because it is one of the few (the only?) coffeeshops open late in town. I can finally work late, but risk running into a gaggle of celebrity watchers or an actual celebrity. I don't know which would be worse, or if it's even worth it.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Yard Waste

Something I noticed immediately upon moving here is that garbage collection services are far less...extensive than in California, where we had weekly recycling, green waste and garbage pickup.

I was inexplicably surprised to find only trash and recycle bins, no green waste bin. But our current yard is large, so I neither expected nor encountered a problem finding a place to dump my grass clippings.

But at the same time I noticed people piling green waste along the street. When storms started knocking down trees, it wasn't uncommon to find an entire tree disassembled and rotting.

For months, this waste would pile up, wilt and turn brittle, sitting in large heaps all along my street. I had heard rumors from folks: "I think those yard places come get it..."

Well, this week I was surprised to see a large truck inching it's way up the street, a young boy sitting in the back operating a long hydraulic arm, stopping at each house and picking up the accumulated piles of brown yard waste. I guess this would be my tax dollars at work, but I think I prefer the Weekly Green Bin Pickup to the Sporadic Giant Crane Truck.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Today I Ate Lunch with 10 Strangers

Today I was taken to lunch at Monell's Dining in Nashville. I haven't processed the experience yet, so all I can do is describe it.

Monell's is in an old, large house in the Germantown neighborhood. I followed my host into the yard through an ivy-borne trellis and around the side of the house. The menu, which I see is based on the day of the week, is posted on the door to what was once a sunroom. And it's quite a long menu, but I don't have time to read it because as we enter are seated immediately.

Seated immediately at a large table. A very large table. With 8 people I don't know. Who are passing around bowls of food.

Cole Slaw, Macaroni Salad, Green Beans, Rolls and Corn Bread. I'm loading up some macaroni salad when a woman at the table tells us to pace ourselves, there is a lot of food. "Sure," I think, "there are three sides plus bread, and the main course to come." But before I've taken a bit of macaroni salad the staff seat 3 more people at our table and bring out mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, corn pudding, and okra for everyone to pass around.

Soon after I manage to get ahold of the sides I am interested in the staff seats two more people and brings out the main courses. Fried Chicken, Southern Barbeque Ribs, and Chicken Fried Steak.

And, of course, there was Banana Pudding for desert.

Lots of heavy, fried food. Around a table with 10 strangers. For $12. And the Weekend Brunch menu is a heart attack on a plate.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The 4th In Nashville

I don't recall sweating while watching fireworks on any previous 4th.

I did expect more general insanity from a Red State. My hometown of Cayucos (population "2500") was always crazier than anything I saw here.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Warning Signs

I am still trying to figure out how to get around here in Nashville. As big cities go, it isn't very big geographically, but I am still confused most of the time. Many of the roads go back pretty far into history, so they meander in ways that might have been convenient to drivers of horses and buggies, but make little sense to drivers of automobiles. This meander means that you will often encounter specific streets in places you would not expect.

Perhaps in an effort to atone for these oversights in Regional Planning, many streets in East Nashville have what I call "Warning Signs" in addition to street signs. These signs are posted 20-30 yards before an intersection to warn drivers (I suppose) which street they are approaching. Very handy given that it is easy to come unexpectedly upon and intersection, and given that a tree can easily obscure a street sign around here in only a week's growth.

Great Idea, Poor Implementation. Click the photo for an illustration. Warning signs are indistinguishable from street signs. And they are usually placed injudiciously. In the photo, Harwood Ave isn't the street indicated by the red arrow, that is a driveway. Nor is it the street indicated by the yellow arrow, that is also a driveway. It is in fact, the street indicated by the blue arrow.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Tennessee Fainting Goats

By most accounts, John Tinsley came to middle Tennessee in the mid to late 1800's to work as a farmer brining with him, among other things, a handful of goats.  These goats, the ancestors of the "goats-at-hand" were slightly smaller than your typical goat and had some odd characteristics.  They often walked stiff-leggedly, were not prone to wandering off, and didn't climb low fences or walls.  And they fell down. A lot.

Mr. Tinsley's goats, which he sold before moving on from the area, suffered from a hereditary condition which at the time was quite rare, but has now been selectively bred to produce today's Tennessee Fainting Goats. This condition, Myotonia congenita, causes an involuntary muscle contraction in times of alarm or distress. When these goats are startled the brief moment of panic causes their legs to stiffen, whereby the goat falls over.

Highlights of that video are the mullet at :30 and the mass debilitation at about :50.

In the years since Tinsley showed up, Fainting Goats have been bred selectively, but I can come up with very few reasons why. They are considered Meat Goats by those to whom these things matter, but they tend to be smaller and thus, not so great for meat farming. So their practical value would be limited. Certainly, they would be an acceptable Lawn and Weed Service.  There seems to be a history of using them as Bait, as it were; if a wolf shows up, the goat will faint and be eaten (Circle of Life) allowing other your other animals, who are not hysterical, to escape.

Or the use I would put them to: when you're having a difficult day, head out to the yard and scare the bejesus out of your goats.  They faint, you laugh.  Suddenly the world isn't such a bleak place, yes?

Cruel jokes aside, they remain popular today, the Nashvegas Craigslist regularly features them for sale, which is how I stumbled onto this oddity in the first place. Since everyone gets a festival of their own these days, Lewisburg, TN, hosts the Fainting Goat Festival–featuring a Fainting Goat Show, of course–every October. There are plenty of specialized breeders, and, absurdity of absurdities, an International Fainting Goat Association dedicated to tracing pedigrees (of a genetic disorder mind you) and increasing public awareness and understanding of the Fainting Goat.

For a little more fainting goat entertainment, check out more fainting goat videos and the Fainting Goats wiki page.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Late Night Traffic Patterns

Being a husband and father means that I am not out late at night like I used to be. This week, however, I was out late the night we flew into Nashville after spending a week in Cali, and again to pick up my brother-in-law and family from the airport the night they flew in.

I noticed two things. The first is that it is still very hot and very humid at 11PM this time of year. Like being hit with a hot wet towel, but we have discussed this many times before, and while uncomfortable, it wasn't surprising.

What I did find surprising is that at some point in the evenings, and I don't know when because I rarely venture out after the kiddie's bedtime, the traffic signals go from the normal "Green Means Go, Red Means Stop, Yellow Means Speed Up" mode to a "Don't inconvenience anyone out this late" mode.

On larger streets–Gallatin Road in this case–the signals were all flashing yellow rather than cycling through the normal routine. Cross streets were flashing red. This may be common in bigger cities, Nashville is the largest city I have lived in, so how would I know?

It does seem like a good idea, people are just going to run those lights anyway.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Back in Cali

I'm back in California this week.  This was cemented not by the long, full day of travel, not by driving from the airport directly to In-N-Out for an Animal Style Double Double, and not by driving past Montecito, or rolling into SLO, or stopping at Trader Joe's.

It was cemented when, driving North, as we approached Rincon, I saw in my rear view mirror a BMW 325 cruising up the 101 with a surfboard sticking out of the sunroof.

Ahhh, home.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Pay Later

We discovered shortly after moving here that the A/C on the faithful Subaru was not producing cold air. The oppressive, humid heat here requires A/C long before the height of summer is reached. I took the Subaru to a mechanic close to work for an oil change, smog check, and A/C checkup.

Turns out the A/C System had no coolant in it, probably the result of a long slow leak. The only way to find the leak of a colorless, odorless substance is to add something distinguishing to it and wait. Our mechanic did so, planning to have me take the car and if the A/C failed again, he would be able to find the leak.

But the leak presented itself immediately after refilling the coolant, at 4:45PM on a Friday. There was not enough time to repair the leak before the end of the day, so the mechanic proposed that I take the car and bring it back when convenient to have the leak repaired. I agreed, and got out my wallet to pay for the work done so far: charging the A/C, oil change, and smog test.

"That's alright," he said. "We'll just take care of it all whenever you bring it back in."

"Uhh," I said.

Confused, I brought the car in on Monday for the remainder of the work. A small O-ring needed replacing, and despite the fact that the A/C system needed draining and recharging again, he didn't charge me for the labor or the part. I could have paid the bill in full on Friday, and was shocked that he was trusting enough I would bring it back and pay for the work.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Sighted: Troopers, no Traps

We do most of our driving in the city, but I also noticed this a few years ago when we were living in Cleveland - North of Chattanooga. In Tennessee, we have State Troopers, rather than Highway Patrol. I don't know if there is any difference in jurisdiction between the two, but I have noticed two practical differences.

First, Troopers are everywhere. It is unusual to drive anywhere on the freeways around Nashville without seeing a State Trooper. They don't seem to be patrolling in the sense Californians might consider CHP officers patrolling. When I see State Troopers on the road, they seem to be going about some kind of business, not specifically looking for someone breakin' the law, but ready to intervene if they spot something. The a CHP Officers seem to be assigned to a particular stretch of road which they patrol up and down, looking for "bad guys," unless they get called away on something.

Second, it seems that "camping" and "speed traps" are standard practices of the CHP, but I have never seen them used by State Troopers here. Camping and Speed Traps are both implementations of a basic strategy: an Officer parking his or her vehicle behind something that will obscure it from view, preventing you from seeing it before you have already been hit with the radar gun. So it has been quite a while now since I turned a corner, or passed and hill, and had that sinking feeling in my stomach and heart as I wait to see if the CHP Officer is going to pull out and nab me. Whew!

One reason for these differences might be that, at least in my experience around Nashville, drivers don't speed as blatantly and belligerently as we do in California. And I suppose a self-policing system is best.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

There Will Be Weather

There is a lot that can be said about the weather here in Tennessee - not the least of which being that the weather fluctuates so wildly, something said of if an hour ago has a fair chance of being incorrect now.

For the moment, though I am pondering something that has happened a few times, including today, since moving here. For the last few days, high's have been in the 70's. Not uncommon. However, today we also have intermittent rainstorms with temperatures in the high 70's. Also not uncommon.

Another occurrence that is becoming common is the weather forecast as reported on the radio this morning on my drive to work. The Nation Weather Center is forecasting a 100% chance of rain for the Nashville area.

This is a weather forecast I don't recall ever hearing on the Central Coast of California. Sure, it rains less there than it does here (even during El Nino), but from memory, an 80% chance of rain was incredibly high. If the meteorologist was broadcasting in the middle of a torrential downpour, s/he would still only report a 60% chance of rain.

But not here, no. I gather from the weather forecast today that there is no chance whatsoever of it not raining here today. It will rain. Period. So get your Ark.

Friday, May 2, 2008

You Did Not Just Say That...

To say that the South is not up to speed on "political correctness" and cultural tolerance and respect would be a serious understatement. Not to imply that everyone in California is empathetic and sensitive to cultural issues and identity - clearly that is not the case.

But in the entire 4-year span we spent in California before moving to Nashville I heard fewer offensive ethnic "impressions" or "impersonations" than I hear in a week here. They're bad, and there isn't a minority group that escapes ridicule.

Not everyone here is like this, I've met a good number of people that exhibit genuine concern and compassion for people of all cultural and economic backgrounds, but if one bad apple can spoil the bunch, what happens if you only get one good apple for every bushel?

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Let's go Eat at...Uhhh...

Any sizable city in America has at least one "Alternative Weekly" paper. At the risk of sounding callous, they are pretty much all the same. Arts and Entertainment, local highlights, cover stories about "the little guy" - be it a business, a renter, a prisoner, whatever. That isn't to say some are not better than others, quite the contrary, there are some I really like, but structurally they share roughly 80% of their elements.

One of those elements is the annual insert highlighting restaurants/pubs/bars, etc. Not surprisingly, this insert, wherever you may go, has the word "Menu" in the title. Here is Nashvegas we have the Nashville Scene, which recently ran their Menu of Menus (okaaaay).

Finally, I said to myself upon seeing this, we will have a decent selection of establishments when we eat out. We eat out so infrequently now that we don't want to waste any opportunity.

I could not have been any more wrong. In Nashville, a city with a metropolitan population of 1.4 million people has only 39 restaurants featured in their Menu of Menus. I am forced to conclude that either the editors are total snobs, the ad rates were exorbitant, or , there are only 39 interesting "restaurants" here in Nashville.

Maybe we'll find an italian place like this.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

I Can Mow My Own Yard, Thank You

There is a business segment around here known as "Doing Yards" or "Cutting Grass." On first hearing the terms, I assumed that this was a southern idiom for Landscaping, but I have learned it is not. These people who "do yards" cut grass and nothing else. They don't trim bushes or trees, they don't pull weeds, they don't spray herbicide or pesticide. They cut grass, and make a pretty good living doing it I understand.

I have been solicited cold twice in the last 3 days to have my yard cut. Apparently, these folks drive up a down the streets looking for, well, yards like mine. For the prices these guy want to charge me, I would think they could do more than trouble themselves to ride a mower across my yard, but that just isn't the case.

These businesses, and by businesses I mean "guys with trucks," exist for three reasons.

Very few houses here are landscaped, at least in the Californian sense.

My current working theory here is that because everyone has yards, and big ones, no one takes special interest in the condition. So 95% of front yards can be described thus: grass, 2 shrubs, some flowers around the house, and 1 tree. You won't find beds, edging, trimming, or any real effort given to make the yard distinctive. Perhaps one might find that in more suburban areas, but even in the ritzier areas of Nashville, landscaping is haphazard at best.

Everyone's yard is HUGE and all grass.

They say Texas is big, and down there everyone gets an acre of their own. Tennessee must come in second. I suppose with any yard, there is a formula: [Yard Niceness] = Area/Effort. When you have a lot of turf, that ratio is hard to maintain. For example, my current back yard is bigger then the entire yard of my last three residences in California combined. It takes a lot of time to mow a football field with a push mower.

The grass here grows like a damn rainforest.

I put off the initial post-thaw mowing for a few weeks, and when I finally finished, I wiped my hands, rolled the mower back into that basement and said to myself "That's that." But, comrades, the VERY NEXT DAY that grass was back, angry and making up for lost time. The grass here requires mowing at least twice a week, which is a frequency that is both inconvenient and unreasonable.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Why is Everyone Calling Me Sweetie?

It's can't be a Term of Endearment, I know that much. I'm hearing it all the time. At the Grocery Store, at work, among mixed company, formally, informally, everywhere. I can not get away from being called Sweetie. Its not uncommon for familiar terms to differ across generations: I once had a boss that constantly called me "Guy." As in, "Hey, guy" and "Good work, guy!" It was infuriating.

I'm getting called Sweetie by nearly every southern female I encounter. Because the South was "Polite Society" for a long time, there is plenty of lingering condescension in the language of today (see Vocab: Bless Your Heart). I would expect to hear Sweetie from elders, supervisors, and superiors in their own mind, but I hear from ladies across the age, business, and social strata.

It isn't as infuriating as the boss who only called me "guy," but Sweetie is at once condescending, quaint, and disarming. From what my close friends tell me, I am anything but a Sweetie, so like most social and societal issues, it's something I am just going to have to live with.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

This Can't Be Real Weather

I remarked to some new friends here today that the temperate part of California I hail from really only has 2 seasons: Fall and Not Fall. Fall is when its a little windier and late fall is when it rains. Other than that, you can't really tell the difference.

Well, it turns out that in Nashville, and I suppose the South at large, there are actual seasons. And it also turns out there are FOUR of them.

The current season, called "Spring" (and I'm not sure why) is a real puzzler. We are expecting a full week of hot days, high humidity and alternating sun and deadly lightning storms (or so the widget indicates).

Really? 78 Degrees and Thunderstorms? It's hotter on that day than on the sunny days? And that current temperature of 64 Degrees, that's at 9PM. This is the season called "Spring." I'm told there is also a season called "Summer" when it actually gets hot.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Gone Native: Ya'll is Actually a Useful Word

There is no second-person plural pronoun (or "corporate you") in Standard (or colloquial) American English. We use the or second-person singular "you" in both singular and plural contexts. To make matters even worse, we use "you" for subjects and objects; somewhere along the line English speakers decided we would be better off without the Dative Case as well. Thanks for that. But on to the example:

Singular: "I'm so glad you called!"

Plural: "I'm calling to invite you to my party!" (who's invited?)

We use context and constructs to work around this ambiguity, but these solutions are incomplete. This is actually a bigger problem than one might think. It has been demonstrated that ambiguous pronouns, in addition to tending towards confusion, take longer for listeners to process. In situations that are time-critical (elevator pitch, job interview, emergencies) or low-context (e-mail, phone, non-native speakers) the problem compounds and split second of ambiguity can cost you your desired message.

Enter Ya'll.

Obviously, "ya'll" is a contraction of "you all" which is one of the constructs American English speakers have adapted to compensate for the glaring lack of a second-person plural pronoun. That fact alone demonstrates the need for such a pronoun - one has been created in common usage. It does retain a certain stigma due to the popularization of it's southern origin, and "hill billy" associations, but they did get something right:

Singular: "I'm so glad you called!"

Plural: "I'm calling to invite ya'll to my party!" (who's invited?)

That isn't to say it is always appropriate. Humans are very good at adapting communication styles based on context; I don't talk to friends the same way I talk to my 1-Year-Old. Given that, like many words, "ya'll" is not accepted as "proper English" in every context, I do not use it everywhere.

Language, though, is a tool. You've got to choose the right tool for the job. Or as the saying goes: when faced with an collective, plural or indeterminate second-person sentence subject or object, don't choose the objective personal pronoun.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Oh the Irony: Best Restaurant Burger Yet!

Good Burgers are hard to find, even in California, where our culinary exploits are the stuff of legend. Lobster Tacos? Yep. Subtle, distinctive wines? Yep. Blending the ingredients and traditions of our diverse cultures to create something both familiar and wholly new? Yep.

Burgers...a slab of meat on a tasteless bun? Yep. Even in the area I hail from, where you can easily pay $10 for a "diner" burger with bacon, avocado, swiss cheese, and fancy mustard (fries and drink extra), they all taste the same. No one does anything special to the meat. No spices, no treatment, just a slab of meat. Sure, the bacon and avocado help a little, but usually they are cheap and tasteless.

Well, last week we were looking for a quick, cheap place to get a summery meal and some googling turned up favorable reviews for a place called Fat Mo's. Hmmm, we thought, where have we heard that name before? Turns out, we drive by one every day. As you can see from the picture, not much too look at. It isn't even a drive through, it's a drive-by. There isn't much outside to pull you in and places like this just don't exist in California.

Flo called in the order, and I was the wheelman. Pulling up, I must say I was nervous. Not too clean outside, no one in line or in the parking lot, no clear menu or prices posted until you get up to the order window. I was skeptical and I had no idea what I would find in my bag.

It turns out what I would find in the bag is the best damn prepared meal I've ever had for less than $20. For a whopping $11.54 American Dollars we got two burgers, two sides of fries and chicken nuggets. Feeding the family at a fast food joint costs more than this, and the burgers were great. Better than anything I ever had the illustrious Firestone Grill back in San Luis Obispo.

In-n-Out Notwithstanding

Please note, I am excluding In-n-Out Burger from this discussion because they are "Quick Food." That is, somewhere between restaurant food and fast food. In-n-Out rules, but it isn't a restaurant burger.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Vocab: Bless your heart!

Polite society survived in the American South much longer than it did in the rest of America, and this saying, Bless Your Heart, is an idiom that survives from that time. You hear it quite a bit here. I have been trying to come up with an equivalent that I have heard in California and have been unable to do so. We tend to come right out and say what we're thinking.

As you may have guessed, it doesn't actually mean "Bless your heart." It is used most often regarding children. Just as an adult might tell a child struggling with a puzzle that he or she is doing well, you would later hear that adult say something like "The puzzle only had 4 pieces but bless his heart, he couldn't figure it out." In this context, it's innocuous.

However, you will also hear it used of adults. In this context it is one of the most condescending things I have ever heard. Just as with children, it is used of someone who is struggling to understand a concept or complete a task that they are unable to. It is also often used of Yankees who are mystified at the culture of the South. Maybe something like:

Yankee: What exactly is a meat and three?
Native Southerner: Bless your heart, we'll just have to go!
Yankee: Right.

And the California Equivalent:

Not-Californian: What exactly is California Fusion?
Native Californian: What do you mean 'What is California Fusion'? It think it's pretty clear from the name.
Not-Californian: Right.

Vocab: Yankee

You are probably a Yankee. I know you don't think of yourself that way, but trust me, you are one.

If you aren't from the South, then you are a Yankee. Sure, it usually refers to someone from New England (The North), but if you're from California, or Colorado, or anywhere else, you're just as good. The word gets bandied about less frequently than the concept, but you still hear it.

Clearly, it stems from the Civil War; the defeat of the Confederacy is still bitter on the tongues of Native Southerners. Many view everyone else as a Yankee and in some small way, part of that humiliation, even if they happen to be from California.

Reflecting on this, I realized that I do the same thing. Mentally, I still separate America into California and Not-California, so clearly I have no ground to criticize regional elitism. However, my geographical prejudice only goes so far as to create the groups, I don't have any names for Not-Californians. I need your help, gentle readers, to come up with a term for those folks. We're Californians, what is everyone else?

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Who's Your Daddy? Seriously.

This is another in what looks to be a continuing series, or at least theme, of bizarre laws.

This law, SB3717, is still in the State House introduces mandatory genetic testing of all newborns and alleged Fathers before a Father can be listed on the birth certificate. Yes, I live in a state where this is being considered.

You don't have to think very long to come up with the points being argued by both sides. And, sadly, you don't have to think very long to figure out who it is targeted at, and why.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Open Letter to TN Pedestrians

Dear Tennessee Pedestrians,

What the hell are you thinking?

Darting out across undivided four lane streets to cross? I'm really sick of it. I'm sick of that, and I'm sick of you standing in the middle of the turn lane waiting for traffic to clear so you can dart the rest of the way across. It's pretty apropos that this lane is commonly called the Suicide Lane because that's clearly what you're after.

I know you're not in hurry cause no one is in a hurry in this state. And why do you ALWAYS have a plastic grocery bag when you do this? Even when you're nowhere near a grocery store?

I am told that Tennessee traffic law does not contain a Pedestrian Right of Way clause, which pretty much seals the deal on this practice being The Dumbest Way of Getting from Point A to Point B That Does Not Involve a Cannon.

California has a Pedestrian Right of Way clause, and we still bother to use the crosswalk most of the time. Yes we're smug about it, yes, we just walk into a crosswalk like we own it, and yes, we get bitchy of someone stops quickly, but at least we use the paint.


Perturbed in Nashville


My promised trip to a "Meat and Three" did not materialize so we'll all have to wait and see what it is.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Basement Tornadoes

I'm not planning on making a habit of using this blog as a link hopper, but this is apropos.

Basement Tornadoes, courtesy The Onion

Score one for Tennessee

I will admit that my social commentary both here and "IRL" may be construed as disparaging toward the South. Honestly, I believe that people are people no matter where you go and as humans, we all have things that we want and need. Location truly affects this very little. So my feelings toward the South aren't hostile or negative so much as they are indifferent and cynical. You know, how I feel about most everything in the world.

In this case, though I will give credit where it is due. A few weeks ago, the wife and I happened to decide to take the kids to the local "Center for the Visual Arts" because it features this great activity area with all sorts of art-related activities.

Coincidentally, that Saturday also happened to be the first Saturday after a new exhibit opened. This exhibit is unlike anything I have seen in California. Sure, you could find something of this caliber at the Getty, or at MOMA in The City, but Nashville is a city of 1.5 million. The LA Basin and Bay Area have populations of approximately 100- and 85-billion, respectively.

The exhibit features the following artists, among others:

Van Gogh

So, a relatively small city in Middle Tennessee is currently an entire Art History course unto itself. The collection is on loan from the Cleveland Museum of Art on display until June 1st. Come visit us and see it. I'll be going back.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

I Don't Know What Meat and Three Is

I'm not a card-carrying world traveller, but I've been a few places and eaten lots of different kinds of food. Food is one of the many things that differentiates a culture; food can tell you a lot.

There is something that happens here is the South called "Meat and Three." On two occasions, native Southerners have attempted to explain it, but the specifics still elude me.

I gather it is a meal, seemingly lunch, but a simple examination of the name raises many questions. I am concerned that no one has been any more specific than to use the term "Meat." And the completely abstract "Three" provides no context to decipher any further information. I gather that mechanics some how play an important role in this nebulous ritual as well, but my questions are always answered with platitudes ("It's great" and "You'll love it") or adjectives ("incredible", "huge", and "amazing").

I'm not too shy about food; I've eaten many different kinds of meat, but the possibility that this is an initiation has crossed my mind more than once. I have been promised a trip to "Meat and Three" next week, so if I make it back I'll let you know.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

I Have Three Lanes and Yet I Must Scream

Driving, I think, is heavily cultural. If you think about it, how people drive, and their attitude about it is related most directly to the geography and development of their area. That is to say, folks in the LA Basin who have to plan on driving for 2 hours to get 20 Miles and those in, say, Texas, who may drive for 2 hours to get to a gas station have drastically different mental maps of their world.

There is a lot to say on this topic, but for the subject at hand, I will say that I was expecting the traffic and driver attitude here in Nashville, metropolitan population estimated at 1.2 million people, would be a lot like that found in larger metro areas in California. Extended traffic hours, long waits, and everything that comes with it.

I was wrong, though. Sure there are similarities: I drive about 15 miles to work, which takes me across one named local highway and three more interstate freeways. Directions to get anywhere in town start to sound like a game of Battleship: "24E to 65N to 40W to 70." And after all that, you've gone 9 miles.

But even though we're in a big city, and most of the freeways around town are 3 or 4 lanes, and split and loop back all over the place, I've noticed a major difference between driving here and driving, well, anywhere in California.

Most 2 or 3 or 4 lane freeways in California are densely occupied most of the time. You don't have a lot of open lanes, or room to move around. Even so, they stay moving at a pretty good pace except for the heavy traffic areas. The speed limit may be 55, but you won't find us caught dead driving that speed except in inclement weather. Like if it was raining and snowing and hurricane force winds and the sun was setting and shining right in your eyes and there were trucks on the road and there had been an accident and the highway patrol was out in force. Even then we'd be doing 65 in a 55.

Here around Nashville, I'll jump on the freeway to get across town and find three glorious lanes, nary a one backed up except at the splits, with wide open holes as I bob and weave my way from freeway to freeway. Somehow, still, this freedom is a secret to the faces staring right into it every day. The Tennessee drivers have picked their lane and they will never leave it, they drive 55 in safe conditions, content to arrive when they may. But not me. No, I am downhill slalom champion in my Yuppie Outback. I am shackled to no lane, and these drivers, all of them outmaneuvered and outclassed see only a teal blur and me, pumping my fist out the sunroof as I scream past.

Friday, February 1, 2008

What lane am I in anyway?

This post isn't about the freeway driving or merging aptitudes here in the South (believe me though, that post will be coming friends, yes it will), rather it is about the roads themselves.

Californians, we like to think we aren't so shallow or fossil-fuel obsessed, we love our cars, our roads, our deftly engineered, precariously balanced, interlocking cloverleaf overpasses. Overpasses that enable the necessity that has become an addiction which grips those hardest who need most the freedom. Our routes and secrets for avoiding traffic, the cloverleaves that deposit our climate controlled, plush leather, heated-seat, living coffins from one multilane artery to another without reducing our speed "unless there's traffic," the jinx we all utter at least once a week; the closer we live to The City, or LA, or Sac, the more frequently we say it and cross our fingers, knock on wood, or cross ourselves.

Living in The Golden State, I thought of roads in categories, none inherently better than the others: back roads, streets, big/busy streets, highways, freeways. In Cali, most roads are well maintained given how much we drive. The state, counties, and cities know expensive construction projects, diverting and backing up traffic, are cheaper and generate less ill will than the uprising that would ensue, keyfobs and lattes in-hand, were our precious, precious roads poorly maintained. We expect the same common courtesy in other parts of the country.

I experienced a phenomenon living in Chattanooga that I have rediscovered in Nashville: when in rains here, as it often does in winter...and spring...and summer, the street lines simply disappear. One might think that CalTrans and TDOT could find a single, reliable source for reflective paint, but they must get different catalogs. Dividers, bike lanes (where they exist), shoulder lines, stop lines, arrows, everything painted on the streets, everything friends, all completely invisible when wet.

This is faith-based driving. These roads that suddenly veer left, on a hill, with a blind stop coming directly at me, wet roads, invisible street lines, I say a silent prayer prayer to Ohchit, I mentally divide the street into thirds: left lane, turn lane, right lane, I guess where my lane should be, hope no one is coming over the blind stop and hang on.

Will I make it?

Monday, January 28, 2008

Wherever You Go, There Politics...Are

While there areas of the country, of various states, counties, cities and neighborhoods that have, for whatever reason, been labeled with any particular trait, characteristic, or identity, I have found that wherever you go, people are people. I could, certainly, be writing this blog from the other side of the fence, pointing out how crazy California is. I have long maintained that California should really be an independent country because, well, we don't get the rest of the country and the rest of the country doesn't get us. But I digress.

Politics, and politicians are same wherever you go since, well, they're people too and, well, birds of a feather, right? In California, it turns out the Governator (case in point of why the rest of the country doesn't get us) gets into a little accident on one of his motorcycles and we discover he (gasp!) doesn't have his motorcycle license. I'm sure if you have ever met more than 3 people with motorcycles, you probably know someone who rode one without a license. I mean, really, it basically a bicycle, right? If you don't have a license, they impound the bike, I'm sure there's a misdemeanor, and you get a stern lecture, then you go get the license.

Well, here in The Volunteer State, lawmakers do things like get DUIs. Last year, State Rep Bob Briley got plowed and went on a "drunken rampage" where he "tore down streets at 100 mph." He was finally stopped and arrested, but not before cursing and asking the arresting officers to shoot him in the head. This was all captured on the police in-car cam. Well, the Distinguished Gentleman apologized to his colleagues last week for the behavior he's "not proud of."

All that is really just run of the mill politics. From what I can tell, he still has his license, he's serving a jail sentence on weekends only, and still a member of the State House of Reps. His apology however, has sparked a fantastic war of words as demonstrated by the titles of articles in the Tennessean:

  • Briley statement draws widespread sympathy
  • Briley earns praise, forgiveness in House
  • Citizens react with anger at Briley, ‘thieves, adulterers,’ comment (note the comma, it's important)
  • Legislators' forgiveness of Briley steams some voters

After the apology, Rep. Gary Moore defended Briley saying, "Some of us are alcoholics. Some of us are thieves. Some of us are adulterers." Rep. Charles Curtiss said Briley has "got a lot of issues in his life, but the reality of it is that all of us have issues in our lives. The press has not caught up with all of us yet." And then went on to say, "I don't think there are any criminals in here, but we're a cross-section of society. There are people in there that drink, people in there that beat their wives, people in there unfaithful to their wives. No question in my mind about that."

Lessons to take away: DUI's are OK for white elected officials, many of whom are also alcoholics, thieves, adulterers, and wife-beaters. But they are definitely not criminals.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

When you can get coffee

Here in East Nashville there is a trendy coffeeshop called Portland Brew East (like Portland Oregon, where coffee is born).  I don't, as a general rule, drink a lot of coffee.  But it's a great place to get online and do some work without kids and household distractions around.

San Luis Obispo, CA, a town of about 55,000 is home to Linnaea's Coffee. You can really get any coffee drink (that doesn't contain alcohol), the decor is worn wood, they sell lots of high quality food and baked goods, and feature local artwork.

Nashville Metro Area contains over 1.5 million people.  The zip code 37206 which I and Portland Brew East share (and also defines East Nashville) contains 28,000 residents.  You can get lots of coffee drinks you like at Portland Brew East.  The decor is contemporary, they sell high-end coffee accessories, and feature local artwork.  They don't feature much in food or baked goods.

In San Luis Obispo you can enjoy Linnaea's between 6:30AM and 11PM everyday of the week except Sunday, when you would have to leave at 10PM.  Their seasonal hours often extend to 1AM on Thursday through Saturday.  At one time Linnaea's had an "open all night" policy on Fridays and Saturdays that played an important role in my life.

In East Nashville, however, you can't enjoy any of this after 9PM.  Or before 7AM.  Or at all on Sundays.  If you want coffee, a place to spend some time, a place to meet friends after dinner or a movie, then you have to be done and gone by 9PM.  Except on Sundays, when you have to be done by 9PM the night before.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Places You Can Take Guns

Tennessee is a state that issues Handgun Carry Permits to US Citizens or "Lawful Permanent Residents" who are 21 years of age. You can apply at your local Driver Service Center (the TN equivalent of the DMV), It costs $115, requires a handgun safety course and fingerprinting. WIth the 4-Year permits, one can carry any handgun the permittee legally owns or possesses. This however does not allow a permittee to carry the handgun anywhere (s)he chooses. One place you cannot take a handgun is into an establishment that serves alcohol.

The City Paper ran an article today about a bill introduced into the State Senate which would finally allow permit holders to carry their handguns into establishments that serve alcohol. It's about time, isn't it? There are 34 states that allow guns in bars. The bill passed the State Senate with a vote of 24-6. Similar bills have been defeated in the general assembly in the past.

The bill does specify that the permit holder may not consume alcohol while there. That should suffice to prevent any mishaps. Some quotes from the article:

Democratic State Senator Rosalind Kurita "I just don’t see a need to bring a gun into Pizza Hut or O’Charley’s" Honestly, though, when was the last time you got decent service from a Pizza Hut? Kurita again, "liquor and guns don’t mix." I think that's a subjective call, 'cause really it depends on what you're drinking.

Democratic State Senator Beverly Marrero: "there were times possibly when someone behaved in such a way where someone should have been shot. But I’m glad they weren’t." I know this is a tad confusing, but that's an argument against the bill.

Bill's sponsor, referring to the current ban on guns in bars asked “Who are we protecting?” Tough question. I think I'm going to have to say "People who don't want to get shot by drunken idiots."

Link to the Article

What is CD All About?

California Diaspora (CD hereafter) is a chronicle of the experiences of a Native Californian living in the South.  Specifically, living in Nashville, TN.

Nashville is a large city so many inhabitants are transplants like myself who were drawn here for various reasons.  Nashville is a major hub for several industries including the Christian and Country Music industries and their support industries (photography, videography, graphic design, music production and representation, etc), Book Publishing and Distribution (religious specifically), and many others.  So Nashville will perhaps not be as shocking or offensive as Left Coasters might think, but there is still plenty of strange stuff happening here.

I will also include some stories from my sojourn in Chattanooga, TN from a few years ago.

I invite comments on all posts and would love to read similar or conflicting experiences from the South.