The Curious Nashville podcast probes local history and answers peoples’ questions about various oddities around the history, and in December they did an episode that, among other things, answered the question of why there’s a giant pink elephant in a parking lot on Charlotte Avenue. And, as you can probably guess, I was annoyed. I’ve seen the giant pink elephant for years. I pass by it on a regular basis. Normally it wears a giant pair of glasses. Right now it has no glasses and has a giant marquee on its side. A couple of years ago they took off the glasses to repaint the elephant and it was not only an even more vivid shade of pink—leaning more towards magenta than salmon—but it looked creepy because they painted the eyes the same color. Around Valentine’s Day they put big hearts on the “lenses” of the glasses, and, as you can probably guess, I’m annoyed that I didn’t get a picture of that. I’m annoyed that having thought to myself hundreds, possibly even thousands of times, that I should stop and take a picture of the giant pink elephant while it was sunny, bright, and warm, I’ve put it off and had to take the picture above in the rain.
What really annoys me, though, is the reason I kept putting off taking a picture of the giant elephant. I was waiting for my blogging career to take off. I was waiting to become so successful and well known I could call up the car dealer that has the pink elephant in their parking lot and I could say, “Hi, I’m Christopher Waldrop, no doubt you’ve heard of me,” and even if they hadn’t I could say, “Well, I’ve got a fantastically successful blog and I’d like to write something about your giant pink elephant that could reach hundreds, possibly even thousands, of readers.” And I’d even suggest perhaps a small fee, and when we agreed on a price I could ask, “So can I give you that in cash?” but that’s another story.
The Curious Nashville podcast, however, beat me to the punch, got the scoop, fished the pond, threw in the towel, jumped the gun, cut me off at the pass, and also did a story about the big pink elephant. It reminded me that during the California gold rush of the mid-19th century the phrase “seeing the elephant”, to mean having extraordinary experiences but at extraordinary cost, came into currency as prospectors, settlers, and others who headed west to build new lives sometimes gave up everything they’d built to go see traveling exhibits that included elephants. The phrase “seeing the elephant” came to have a strangely positive connotation as many people who saw the elephant said the losses were worth it.
Anyway none of this would stop me from doing my own story, but it did make me think, what am I waiting for? What’s stopping me? Nothing, really, except my own hesitancy, so maybe I should go ahead and write something about it. And maybe I will. After all I saw the elephant.