East of NORMAL
the condo people
When you’re coming off of Ellington Parkway down near Spring Street, and you’re at the intersection with Main Street looking across at the convenience mart, there it is on your left. You know what I’m talking about. They’re sprouting like truffles all over town. The condo.
It’s quite a structure. I’m not looking at it right now so I can’t give you the architectural chapter and verse, but I recall it being modern looking, chic if you will. Minimalist maybe. European looking perhaps. This is where people live now. And they’re a different kind of people, such as are popping up all over our booming town, on the East Side and the West Side — the condo people.
People who live in condos intrigue me. I think they’re different from people in the big apartment complex expanses in Bellevue or off Harding Place. Those places I understand. That’s the sort of place where grad students pool together and share a flat. Those are the places where the pizza gets delivered, and the guy bringing it lives in the next unit. But condos? That’s a different breed living there.
Drive by condos and take a peek into the tinted windows on the first floor: the exercise machines, the juice bars. These are worlds unto themselves. They don’t have parking lots. There are magical hidden places where you can put your car and it disappears until you need it, unless of course you’re that most rad of condo people, the type who doesn’t even own a car.
I’m a Southerner. Worse yet, I’m from Kentucky. We had yards. And driveways. It’s hard for me to wrap my head around the notion that we are watching a seismic shift in the direction toward city life, where people not only have exercise rooms and juice bars right downstairs, but they’re working jobs that can support a splendid existence, a life of Uber rides and macchiatos, touring company shows at TPAC and music at the Ryman. They’re working jobs, and I mean serious jobs. I’m a musician. And that means that for 30 years I’ve supplemented my income with shit jobs. It’s the only kind of work I understand. So here are these condo people who grew up in places like California, Chicago and Stuttgart. And they’re going uptown everyday to work in other big buildings, and they talk on the phone all day and make decisions, the kind that seriously affect other peoples’ lives and bank accounts. And they look out a cool window when they do it.
I’m not knocking those people. I think the fact that they live among us is cool as hell. Now there is the notion that these buildings are obliterating places where noteworthy shit went down, where music was recorded that changed as many lives as a thousand condo people making decisions every day for a year, and those buildings are replaced with a new cityscape, without plaques to inform passersby what went on at this spot in years before.
There is no point in fighting this change. Maybe we can save one old titular building here and there, and that’s a fight worth making, but overall, the condos are going to spring up anyway, because Nashville is growing like a weed, and we can either embrace it and harness it, or bitch about it. In the meantime, I wonder if the jobs condo people have would give me chest pains if I had to work one. I wonder if maybe they sit in their living rooms and channel surf and ponder where their life is headed just like I do. In other words: maybe they’re humans.
Maybe you’re the same age I am, and we’re both people who can look at any street on either side of the river, and remember what it looked like before what it looks like now.
—Tommy Womack is a singer-songwriter and a member of Government Cheese, Daddy, and
the bis-quits. He is the author of “Cheese Chronicles” and “The Lavender Boys & Elsie.” Visit
his website at tommywomack.com and keep up with his popular “Monday Morning Cup of
Coffee” series and “Tommy Womack’s Friday Happiness Hour” on EastNashvilleRadio.com.
His column “East of Normal” appears in every issue of The East Nashvillian. He is currently
working on a memoir and a new Government Cheese record to be released in Spring 2015.