Tourist Season.

Just once I’d like someone to ask me how to get to the Ryman Auditorium so I could say, “The same way you get to Carnegie Hall,” although the Ryman is also a former church so I could just as easily say, “Preach!”
I do get stopped frequently by people asking for directions. Once, less than fifty feet from West End, a guy asked me if I knew which way was West End. I just told him instead of being a smartass and saying, “West.” Another time as I was waiting to cross the street on my way back to work a car stopped next to me and a woman leaned out and asked how to get to the riverfront. I was a little surprised by the question–I thought it was fairly obvious. You just look for the skyline and head that way. Even though Nashville suffers from a great deal of sprawl–decades ago the city’s government merged with Davidson county to form one metropolis–the downtown area is pretty compact. The Tennessee Performing Arts Center, the downtown branch of the public library, Riverfront Park, the Centennial Sportsplex, and even the Ryman are within easy walking distance of the section of Broadway where you’ll find the infamous Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge and other honkytonks. Downtown Nashville has become a thriving tourist attraction which still tickles me. I remember when lower Broadway was a much seedier place where you’d find ladies of the evening in broad daylight, but that’s another story. Anyway I just pointed to the tall buildings that make up the skyline and told her to head for those. It reminded me of the time I was in Cleveland and left my directions to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in my hotel room. Rather than go back for them I remembered it was on Lake Erie so, like a baby sea turtle, I headed for the water. It was nice to be able to look around where I was going rather than looking down at directions.
And it’s lucky for me I get people asking me for landmarks rather than street names because I’m terrible at street names. This is partly my own fault. Decades of not driving and relying mostly on public transportation I haven’t really focused on street names. I can get around really well but if you ask me for directions to a place I’ll tell you, “Turn left at the building that looks like Batman,” but I couldn’t tell you what street its on. This is also partly the city’s fault. I’ve mentioned both West End and Broadway–two streets I do know, which is easy because they’re both the same street–one turns into the other, and if you head west on West End it then becomes Harding Road.
The only time I wasn’t really able to help someone who asked me for directions was when a young woman carrying a tuba case asked me where the Blair Music Library was. This was just outside JJ’s Coffee Shop, just a block away from Vanderbilt University. The Blair Music Library is part of Vanderbilt but on the farthest side of the campus from where we were. I gave her directions and was tempted to offer to help her carry her instrument, but I thought this might seem creepy coming from a complete stranger. And I figured a tuba player is prepared to go the distance, whatever it may be, even as far as Carnegie Hall.

 

10 Comments

  1. Michelle

    Love the public awareness ad! How old is it – late 70s? It looks to date to the late Pertwee era. 😉 The name Elvira threw me a little bit – I know of the ‘Mistress of the Dark’ one so I was kinda expecting a very different video. It’s nice that you’re nice to tourists… me too, though it can be very tempting to mess with them sometimes. I’m always sure to warn them about our dangerous “drop bears” if they’re heading out bush anywhere!

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      If memory services the public awareness ad is from 1977 or possibly 1978–it was, I believe, inspired by Close Encounters Of The Third Kind although it was one of many commercials featuring Elrod and Elvira. I think it slightly predated ‘Elvira–Mistress Of The Dark’, also known as the great Cassandra Peterson who’s also written a children’s book called Bad Dog Andy, but that’s another story.
      And speaking of the late Pertwee era I love Bullamakanka.

      Reply
  2. mydangblog

    I remember being in Spain last year and being hopelessly lost. We asked a woman on the street, and when it was clear we couldn’t understand what she was saying, she smiled and motioned to us to go with her. She literally walked us about 5 blocks out of her way to take us to the hotel we were looking for. People who can give you directions to get you back on your path are a godsend.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I’ve been so grateful to people who’ve given me directions that I think the best way to honor them is to pay it forward.

      Reply
  3. Gilly Maddison

    Do people still get lost with all the gadgets we have telling us where we are? If anyone asks me for directions, I say, “haven’t you got an iPhone for heaven’s sake?” I LOVE the ad!

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Amazingly smartphones don’t have all the directions a person needs. I work across the street from a university campus and people frequently ask me for directions to specific buildings–something their iPhones don’t know. So it is still possible to get lost.

      Reply
      1. Gilly Maddison

        You are so right – the other day, I went for a walk with a friend, out in the country. She wanted to walk from the house we were staying at to a local farm to get raw milk. Do you know the way across country? I asked hopefully. Oh, it’s ok, she replied, we’ll use Google Maps. So Google sent us straight through wheat fields that had no public footpaths. When we finally arrived almost at the farm, we found a massive ditch blocking our way. Google was right, the farm was right there but we had to walk another mile to get around the ditch. Was fun though – sunny day – the rain had stopped when we set out so only got wet up to the top of our thighs wading through wet crops that we shouldn’t have been in!

        Reply
        1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

          That does sound terrifically fun. I hope the milk was good too. Being able to just amble across the countryside is one of the things I miss from my time in England. In fact I even envy you getting wet from slogging through the crops. It’s also nice to know that even if Google Maps has made it harder to get lost–you have a way to know where you are everywhere–there are still surprises.

          Reply
  4. Ann Koplow

    People often ask me for directions, Chris. Maybe it’s because I look nice.. Usually, my directions include “and then ask somebody else.” The next time I’m a tourist in Tennessee I hope to be directed to your general vicinity. And I hope you ask for directions to Boston sometime, too. Thanks for today’s tour.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I hope someday to find my way around Boston and hope also I can ask you for some directions–before I ask someone else.

      Reply

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