The Right Side Of The Tracks.

skull1Gentrification is rapidly changing Nashville. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing depends on where you stand, and it may be something you have no strong feelings about one way or the other. Or you may be like me–I can’t decide whether I’m ambivalent or not. Really it all depends on where I stand, and if I stand on a stretch of Charlotte Avenue I see some changes that are fine, like some new restaurants and a rock climbing gym, but I worry about some of the older, hipper businesses potentially being driven out. There are the thrift shops and Bobbie’s Dairy Dip, an old-fashioned ice cream and burger place that I’m afraid may be driven out by development even though on summer afternoons and evenings you can drive by and there are people lined up down the block for one of their milkshakes. In the winter if you drive by they may be closed up with the sign, “Closed for the season. Reason? Freezin’!” but that’s another story.

I also worry about the future of Headquarters Coffee Shop, which is the greatest coffee shop ever in spite of–or because–it’s the size of a large walk-in closet.

And the area has also been a hot spot for graffiti. There’s a currently abandoned building that’s got some amazing graffiti, including this particular piece. I can’t make out what exactly the name is but that doesn’t matter. It’s the aesthetics that really get me. The different shades of blue really give depth to the highly stylized skull. It appears to have been painted over another work which is a little disappointing–the touches of mauve in the background make me wonder what the earlier work looked like. And is there no honor among taggers? Maybe the previous work was by the same artist who decided a revision was needed.

What’s striking too is the placement. As you can see the building stands next to railroad tracks. On the other side a new apartment complex is going up. It isn’t just a single neighborhood or even one area of Nashville that’s changing. It’s the whole city. A friend of mine said an estimated 80 to 100 people are moving to the city every day. They need places to live which is why the biggest development seems to be in new apartments. But the old giving way to the new is just a reminder of how much is ephemeral. The people who move into the apartments facing the tracks, for now at least, will also face this work of art–a memento mori.

Seen any graffiti that makes you think of death or change or that just looks really cool? Send your pics to



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  1. Gilly Maddison

    Please forgive me for being English ? but whenever I hear the word Nashville, I think of a place where the streets are filled with the likes of Johny Cash and Dolly Parton singing songs about death, divorce, alcoholism, ma daddy he’s in prison, cos he killed ma momma (gloom, despair and misery on me etc). I’m very wrong aren’t I?

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Honesty compels me to say Nashville really isn’t like that but I wish it were. But when I was born my parents really did live just a few houses away from Dolly Parton and once in church I stood next to Steve Winwood. Well, he may not be a country artist, but Nashville attracts musicians of all kinds. Just a short distance from where I work there are rows of former residences that have been converted into recording studios. So while there’s not a lot of singing on the streets there’s a lot of music being made. So in a way your vision isn’t that far off.

  2. Jay

    Oh gosh no, not the dairy dip!

    I have a very pretty pink dress with skulls on it. In fact, I probably have 2 or 3 dresses with skulls on them. And shoes. And boots, come to think of it. So skulls don’t really mean death to me. They’re decoration.

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      That is amazing. And, yes, I guess it’s really all in how you think of skulls. They don’t have to mean death–they can just be decorations, and incredibly fun decorations. Skulls can really liven up your wardrobe.


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