There are a couple of streets in Nashville that I really love. If you ask most people, I'd bet they'd say Broadway or West End or 21st by Vanderbilt and the Hillsboro Village portion of 21st, and I'd call those people crowd whores and snooty academics (I want to go back to college. But I still believe in the snooty academic).
Broadway is cool, I guess, if you're looking for tourists and irritating goods that cost little and fall apart quickly -- I've never actually bought anything on Broadway, except for some ice cream. Though the buy one pair of boots get two free deal at Boot Corral still beckons me, I've yet to indulge. The Ernest Tubbs record shop is for the tourist. The Mojos on Broadway is for tourists, however, the Mojos near Division street is for the locals. The only time Nashvillians actually hang out on Broadway, is when they've gone to a Predators game or they've attended the Opry at the Ryman. But even then, regular Nashville people usually don't go to the Opry much. I suppose there's a small group of college kid barflies who hang out at Wildhorse Saloon and Tootsies.
But honestly, if you're in Nashville as a tourist, the last place you're going to spot Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman is on Broadway. Although they DID grace the Frist Egyptian exhibit, I think that was a rare jaunt out of their Green Hills enclave (this weekend I was going south on I-65 and a black Bentley went screaming by. I'm pretty sure it was Keith Urban).
I must be a traditionalist or something of that nature -- adhering to what tradition, I'm not sure -- but the streets I love are old and a bit sketchy. Maybe that's why I love them. At lunch I took a drive down 8th Avenue. I love that stretch of road. There are lots of old rusty buildings and train bridges (train bridges? I'm sure there's a specific NAME for train bridges, but one doesn't come to mind and I've no time to go chasing down a word), and walk-in clinics for the homeless, and big fortress-like buildings that are banks and credit unions (you WILL JOIN the credit union). Some of these sketchy buildings have been turned into chic joints like Flyte, the snobby wine bar and whatnot, never been there, don't want to go, snobby bugs me and I'd probably choke on a piece of cheese.
Grimey's, the independent music store is on 8th. Grimey's is as pretentious as the wine bar, however, if you want to shop for hard to find music, sorry, you've got to go to Grimey's. One thing I like about 8th is how it rises and dips and you go past a hilltop cemetery with old stone steps leading up to it. At least I think it's a cemetery. Anyway, for a split second I feel like I'm in some Eastern European city. There you go. What I love about Nashville is that I can pretend I'm somewhere else. No, that's not it. And anyway, half the time I live in my head and when I'm there, somehow I'm still in Utah, my native land, land that I love, "My country 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty…."
Further down 8th you find a cluster of antique shops that I've never been in, and an exotic car dealership, and what looks like the remains of an old movie theater. I'm not sure what it was, for all I know it could have been a strip joint (Nashville has a strip joint for every 10 people, which equals 54,552 strip clubs), I need to ask a native. But there are a bunch of art galleries mashed together with the Berry Hill vet, a check cashing place, and the Athens Family Restaurant, which I've also never been to, but I've heard is great.
The other street I love is a real shocker, I believe. It's known as Nolensville Pike-- I like the bit of it that goes from 440 down to Harding road. I like this section because it's the most Mexican. The best place to eat Mexican food in Nashville is at a joint called Taquerio La Hacienda, or something like that, which means, I believe, House of Tacos. I could be wrong, I don't really speak Spanish, I've just assimilated Spanish.
Let's say you take the Nolensville exit off of 440, and you head away from downtown. You're heading downhill, and the city fades. Suddenly, it's like you're in a small border town. You pass the Phonoluxe store, which, I guess sells records and cd's. I don't really know what Phonoluxe is unless it's Spanish for music, but it's very cool because the store is housed in an old red brick building with a giant sign painted on the side of the building that says "PHONOLUXE." You pass La Illusion, the bridal shop and western wear joint (!), hilarious because I think in English that means, "the illusion." Or maybe even "the delusion."
Keep going. You pass the first Krispy Kreme donut shop, just off Nolensville on Thompson Lane (it really IS the first, all you Krispy Kreme lovers, and haters [in case you want to take it out for taking over the donut world]). You pass the Tire Recappers shop (they STILL recap tires, amazing!), and my personal favorite, Dan Company -- no one really knows what they do at Dan Company. It's in a small non-descript building and the curtains are always closed. I believe it's a front. Maybe they sell olive oil….
Even further down you pass another Mexican restaurant called Hacienda, the international market (there are about ten, plus a restaurant called Istanbul, a handful of carnicerias and panaderias), the Nashville Zoo at Grassmere (isn't that a great name, Grassmere?), the gorgeous Taco Bell, and Gorilla Mufflers with the tiny-hipped hand-painted gorilla on the side (he's ripped a muffler right off a car and is waving it above his head). My all time favorite shop is called Happy Days alterations, which just barely beats out Mr. Business Card.
Who comes up with these business names? I don't know, but I say it's loveable. I used to love Gallatin road in East Nashville, but then I realized, NO, no, it's Nolensville Pike all the way. In case you're curious, however, there's a Mexican restaurant on Gallatin in a hand-painted yellow brick building with a sweaty, red, upright bull on the side of the building. I believe he's handing you your tacos, and there's smoke billowing out of his flared nostrils. Someday I'd like to see who'd win, the Gorilla or Toro. Really, you have to see these streets to really appreciate their intrinsic beauty.
I almost forgot my favorite tire shop in Nashville, which just happens to be on Nolensville. I've never bought any tires there, but I'm sure they'd be classy. The shop is in yet another red brick building, with an all glass front and white columns supporting the façade. If I'm guessing correctly, this was once a bank. Now it's a tire shop. What they SHOULD have done was go halfsies. Bank on one side, tire shop on the other. That way you could have your tires rotated WHILE you're depositing your check.