Monday, October 19, 2009

Nashville = You can't get there from here!

I live in Nashville which most people know as "Music City" thanks to the prevalence of music, music venues and country music entertainers who live here (some of them are actually good..or so I hear). Nashville is also known as "The Athens of the South" and even sports the largest reproduction of the Parthenon anywhere in the world. You say "Athens of the South" and you envision a city of beauty, of charm and of intelligence and for the most part, that is so. What is decidedly NOT so, is the typical Suthun backward thinking that prevails in the city planning among other places.

Let's take a look at a couple of these... In this first photo, you will see a small park not far from the State Capital building. It is directly across the street from the massive new library (which is just out of sight on the left) and only 2 blocks from the state capital building. The entire park is about the size of two standard household plots and covers the end of the whole block as you can see in this pic. At the time this photo was taken (by yours truly), the city was in the middle of cutting down all the trees in the park AND removing all the well designed sitting areas!! Apparently, the wonderful original design of the park, with it's long cement seating and large shade trees had become a gathering place, not for local business people and tourists, but for the large and seemingly unwieldy homeless population. By taking away the shade and seating, the park would hopefully become less attractive to them. Amazingly, it became less attractive to the business people and tourists, too. Go figure.

Next, Exhibit #2 shows the recently demolished "Bus Sheds". The Bus sheds were nicely designed covered areas for those waiting for the city buses at the Downtown Hub. Solid steel with wagon wheel like arches, curved roofs and plenty of Plexiglas achieved an open airy feel and at the same time kept people dry. One block long The 8 "sheds" lined both sides of the 4 lane downtown street as this was the central 'hub' for the city bus lines. Recently, the new "Music City Central" bus station was opened and the 'hub' moved in, leaving the sheds to be demolished. Now, along with the sheds, the city planners have also opted to take this wonderful 4 lane street with it's wide sidewalks, and - that's right, cut it down to only TWO Lanes, and even WIDER sidewalks. Sidewalks wide enough for a marching band to practice. This street runs right in front of the big performing arts center (TPAC). On an average night of performances, cars will be parked out front and be picking up people, along with taxis and limousines. Who's idea was it to make this more difficult?

This is one of those things which defines and yet obliquely insults the Suthunah. We have so much and at the same time so little. New Highways are wide and spacious for driving interstate speeds, only to have a bottle neck where right of ways or design flaws cause more cars than needed to have to get through a 2 lane tunnel. I might expect this in a large city where 'too many planners spoil the plans', but Nashville, a city of just over half a million people, covers more square mileage than Dallas, a city of 1.2 million. With all that room, you'd expect there to be a better idea of what to do with it.

In addition, it makes me wonder if other cities across the south, in similar situations are likewise plagued with such problems, and it likewise makes me a bit afraid to travel much across my new native land...The South.

I suppose it's also one of those little idiosyncrasies that endear us to this southern life, that cause us to look past the little irritations and see the great city. Let me squint up a bit here...Oh yeah, now I see it!

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