We have named our new house in Nashville Agnes. This connotes to both of us a kind, patient, capable female entity, who has enfolded us in her arms, happy once again to have inhabitants to shelter. She is commodious, which is defined as “adapted to its use or purpose, or to wants and necessities; serviceable; spacious and convenient; roomy and comfortable; synonyms: Convenient; suitable; fit; proper; advantageous; serviceable; useful; spacious; comfortable. Agnes.
She is a craftsman bungalow, a style of architecture popular in America in the early 20th century but originating in Ceylon and India. They are typified by wide eaves, one-and-a-half stories, with a commodious porch having sturdy square or tapered pillars. Inside the rooms connect to each other without hallways, utilizing space more efficiently than earlier styles.
East Nashville is a treasure trove of craftsman bungalows, dozens of square blocks of them, all different, handsome or adorable or ugly as the case may be. Some are falling down, others done up to the nines. At some point in the 1950s in a fit of misguided urban renewal, hundreds of them were pulled down and little brick triplexes and duplexes were plunked down here and there throughout East Nashville. We have a triplex next door and two across the street. In a way it was deplorable, but it’s part of what makes EV seem so real. Nothing is too perfect, there is a fairly consistent level of grit and poverty, which I like. The main drag, Gallatin Avenue, is like going back to the 1950s, with wig shops, pawn shops, dusty carpet shops, bunker-type convenience stores with bars on the windows and loud proclamations of Discount Tobacco and Liquor.
East Nashville embodies the anti-globalization No Logo ethos. There are no Olive Gardens, no Fridays around uber-hip Five Points. Instead, the best restaurants favor wood floors and artisan breads. Some don’t even have signs, you just have to know about them. They are the ones I’ve only heard about so far and have no idea how to find. Or they move about, like the Mas Tacos Por Favor bus. Or stay put in a kind of mobile way, like the destination hot dog stand, I Dream of Weenie. The best fish sandwich can be found at King Fish on Gallatin Road, touted as the “crunkest fish in Nashville.”
Lest this seem to be all about food, there are fascinating feuds about stolen dog poop clean-up business, long, weepy listserv conversations about stolen lawnmowers, lost pets, and endless discussions about the relative de-merits of the local Kroger (oops, back to food).
So I’m back in the Istanbul of the South (re: when I first moved here in 1989, the mayor had recently told the visiting Turkish ambassador that he’d always wanted to go to Turkey to see the original of Nashville’s famous replica of the Parthenon).
And we are happily settling in. My bird feeders have been discovered. I am writing again, most days, at a good clip.
It’s dark and dreary now, but the boy-boy has returned for the hols, we are all together again, human and canines alike, and all’s right with the world.