The pizza I’d come to pick up wasn’t ready so I went for a walk along White Bridge Road, which is part of an unusual neighborhood for Nashville. It’s a major thoroughfare with shopping centers and restaurants ranging from Turkish to Thai, and a sushi place where the sushi goes around tables on a conveyor belt and you grab plates of what you want as they pass by, which is almost entertaining enough to distract from the fact that the sushi isn’t that good.
Most—but not all—of the commercial places are on the east side of the street. On the west side there are business blocks next to blocks of homes, and behind the businesses there are homes. People live within walking distance of bubble tea shops, pet food places, mattress stores, a psychic. There used to be a Chinese restaurant and tiki bar in a tall triangular building with bright red tiles on its sloping sides. It’s gone now, but it’s been replaced by apartments.
White Bridge Road is four lanes of high-speed traffic and yet because it’s so close to where people live I regularly see people, sometimes groups, crossing it, usually families with kids, or sometimes just kids. It’s not like the high density neighborhoods of New York or Chicago where bodegas and delis sit next to apartment buildings. It’s not sprawling, even if it’s sprawlish, which makes it an okay place to walk.
It’s unusual because most of Nashville is built with cars in mind. One of the reasons we have such lousy public transportation is city planners and politicians assume everyone has a car, and, mostly, they’re right. A friend of mine has said to me several times, “I’d love to take the bus to work if I didn’t have to walk five miles across two interstates to get to the closest stop.” And that closest stop is one where, if you miss the bus, it’s a two hour wait for the next one, assuming the driver even stops. But White Bridge Road has bus benches, or at least bus signs, at almost every corner, and buses that run about every twenty minutes. For a while my wife had morning appointments at a place near it and she’d drop me off at a stop where I sat next to a guy who was a dead ringer for Robert Frost. We’d chat a bit. I learned he was a scholar of French literature, and he was impressed I could recite a bit of Baudelaire from memory.
When the bus arrived we never got a chance to sit together because so many seats were taken we’d have to split up.
I thought about all this as I ambled down the road, so lost in thought that when I remembered why I was there in the first place by the time I got back to pick up my pizza it was not only ready but cold.
Cold pizza is better than none at all. We really liked that area when looking for houses 17 years ago – couldn’t find anything there, though.
It’s such a nice area and I still don’t see any houses for sale around there. It’s also been well preserved, unlike some parts of our neighborhood where they’re tearing down the existing perfectly fine houses and building ones that are too big for their lots.
You were feeding your soul first, which is most important. Pizza can be reheated. Allegedly. Also, how do you know what Robert Frost looks like? I mean just walking out and about? Any chance you have a photographic memory? Either way, that’s fascinating to me. Mona
Mona, I’ve seen pictures of Robert Frost. He was in my high school English book my junior year, after all. And my memory is far from photographic. Just ask my wife when I come back from the store and realize I forgot to get celery.
Thanks for sharing this striking yet subtle Nashville sprawlish scene, Chris. Interesting to me!
I’ve always enjoyed your strolls around your neighborhood too. There’s something inspiring about the peripatetic life.
I did so much walking when I visited Nashville that I’m wondering if I walked on White Bridge Road. No matter where I walked, I never saw a house. Not a single one. And I didn’t have any pizza or sushi, either, so I guess I need to come back. Always great to visit with you, Chris.
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Since White Bridge Road is on the outskirts of Nashville I don’t think you ever walked down it, although if you had you would have passed some houses. Also you did have hot chicken while you were here which is something Nashville is known for so not having pizza or sushi isn’t so bad.
I wish cities were built more with pedestrians, public transit and cyclists in mind, but Robert Frost was all about paths taken and not taken and maybe your scholarly friend makes all the difference ?
It didn’t occur to me how much Robert Frost wrote about paths–thank you for that. In a way he did make up for the paths not taken because our conversations took turns of their own.
So weird–I commented on this post this morning but my comment isn’t showing. I’ll recap–Frost was all about the paths taken or not, so maybe your scholarly friend has made all the difference. At any rate, I hope this isn’t happening with other comments I’ve made through WordPress. There’s no issue if I go straight to your site, but sometimes I get an error message in WP. I’ll have to be more careful in the future!
Your comment showed up right away for me, I think, but then I also have to watch the spam folder carefully because a lot of legitimate comments go straight there for some reason.