K. S. Anthony

Copyright 2004 by K. S. Anthony


Photo of the Union Station on Broadway.

The Union Station on Broadway around 2004.

When I arrived in Nashville, spring had not yet come and the trees still reached towards the gray skies with leafless branches the color of ash. I was glad to be out of Chicago, where I had run a twenty minute sprint through the sweltering heat of O'Hare to change planes, surrounded by the echo of the sharp, raw Illinois accents that stabbed at me through tinny speakers and dead-eyed businessmen engrossed in loud conversation with each other. The plane waiting for us at the gate was tiny--a Canadair jet--but it meant a brisk walk through the cold air onto the tarmac and as I ascended the steps and ducked into the cabin of the aircraft, I silently thanked God that I would not be traveling back through the flatlands of Chicago. As we lifted off from the runway, laced with dirty snow, I watched the white-dusted ground disappear beneath me and felt my soul climbing away.

 As we passed over Kentucky, I immediately saw the change in landscape. Gone was the panorama of middle America cut by highways into symmetrical squares and lots and in its place rolled soft country hills and dales, with winding rivers snaking through the gentle, silver tan of sleeping winter trees. The forests beneath me were just beginning to show signs of waking from their timeless slumber in wet, green leaves and I longed to feel the sod of that rich, cold soil beneath my feet and to tread on the hallowed ground where men had fallen in joyless war; where heroes had been born, where the earth still possessed a soul of its own and the people who lived on it and by grace, from its providence, were filled with that same soul. There is something humbling about the country, something that stirs the spirit to awe and wonder. I grew up in the country and never appreciated what that meant, what it meant to be from a place where you put people before profit and friends and family first, what it means to respect the land and the water, until I moved across the ocean and landed in San Francisco which lately I had come to refer to as "not unlike Hell, except with more people." On the terrain below us, I saw no such Hell. I saw only a land that sang to me in green fields and smoke colored trees; a place not unlike where I grew up. If God is to be found everywhere, I suspect His feet are firmly planted in the South.

I walked from my plane out into a place I had never been before, exhilarated by the feeling of being a stranger in a strange land. No one knew me here. There was no support network for me, no safety net to catch me. The familiar feeling of walking towards the unknown filled me with the rare joy of the man who knows that freedom, real freedom, lies in taking the reins of his restless nature and following his heart. My heart, for whatever reasons, had led me to Tennessee. I recalled the lines of Robert Service's poem The Call of the Wild...

 ...Have you swept the visioned valley with the green stream streaking through it, Searched the Vastness for a something you have lost? Have you strung your soul to silence? Then for God's sake go and do it; Hear the challenge, learn the lesson, pay the cost....

 The Nashville airport was quiet and calm and I quickly found a cab driver to take me to my hotel . As we drove down the strangely serene highway, I stared at the ageless slates of granite and limestone and understood why "Rocky Top" was one of Tennessee's five official state songs.

I finally arrived at my hotel on the outskirts of downtown. In the dimming afternoon, I could see the skyline of  the city, though it did not feel like the city I had spent the last 11 years in. It did not seem like a city at all. It had warmth and a pulse beat far different from Chicago's, from San Francisco's. Beneath its facade was something organic, something human. It had a soul, it had a history, and it had a life. And I felt it beating in time with mine.

I dumped my bags onto my bed and, eager to feel the Southern earth beneath my feet, set out towards downtown Nashville, with the cold air smelling cleaner than any I had breathed in a long time. 

Photo of the Union Station on Broadway.

The downtown now.  The L and C Tower (center) was the tallest
 building in 2004 and most of the others were yet to be built..
As I walked down Demonbreun Street towards lower Broadway, feeling the ancient wind brush over my face with Union Station looming over me, I wondered if I'd ever be able to leave; if I'd ever want to cross back over the Mason/Dixon line. For once I felt a sense of being at home.

I had been in Nashville exactly one hour.

Editor's note: Anyone who lived in or visited Nashville in 2004 or earlier knows that the city K. S. Anthony visited has been replaced by a much faster paced and less idyllic place.  In fact, much of Chicago and San Francisco has moved here. Still, we love it, despite the traffic jams on the once "strangely serene highways" and the kamikaze scooters on the sidewalks and the dearth of parking places downtown.  Life moves on.
Richard Loller

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