Subject: Letters From America Where Are You Going?

Fri, October 15, 2004 6:31 pm

Where are you going, where do you go? Are you looking for answers, to questions under the stars? If along the way you are growing weary, you can rest with me until a brighter day.

I’m off to New York after an exciting week in Music City. It’s gorgeous here, trolling around historic sites of the Civil War, not to mention all the country music places of renown, and the heart and soul of the CCM business.

It was nice to finally see the trees and the rolling hills of Tennessee. And the actual town areas are very cool. There is lots of village life here. The local Starbucks that Danielle frequents knows her name and drink, and this morning it was made before she even ordered it. That’s community living, I tell you.

And I finally found someone who could make the closest thing to a real coffee that I’ve had here. It’s cool being the one who introduces people to the flat white.

Now, when I say civil war.. I really mean it. It appears that for the most part, the whole of Franklin is actually a historic site. That probably has something to do with the Battle of Franklin. As you walk through the streets around the centre of town, there are dozens of old brick buildings formed in classic American architecture from the 1800’s. The stately white columns against red brick, combined with seasonal fall and harvest decorations, american flags and the red and gold splendour of fall… transports you to a place decades from where we are. As you walk past home bakeries and candle stores, the scents of cinnamon and pumpkim fill the air.

It seemed appropriate to journey just outside the main village centre to the Carnton Plantation, which is one of the foremost Civil War history spots. The plantation became an impromptu sort of field hospital during the battle, with the house being filled to the brim as the fighting continued, and then the wounded spilling out onto the lawn and surrounding areas. After the war, the plantation owner and his wifer, became so concerned with the decay of the Confederate graves.. shallow dug after the battle, that they dedicated two acres of the plantation and re-interred the fallen soldiers there. They kept records that assigned each identified soldier to his state, and when we walked through the graveyard, there were still fresh flowers alongside some markers. Some now ancient ancestor is still remembered. There had just been a commemoration for the war, and so the yard was filled with state and american flags.

Simple rows of stone markers against the lush green grass, the quiet of the cemetery felt older and somehow sacred, even though it’s not my ancestry or my freedom that was fought for or against. Still makes you respect this place, because of the deep connection that they have to their history and traditions.

Anyway.. Monday, it was great to venture into downtown Nashville. More specifically, we started at Broadway with lunch at Jack’s Bar-Be-Que. According to the Texan behind me, we were lucky enough to be dining at the only place outside of Texas that really knows what Bar-Be-Que is. The guy behind the counter prided himself on correctly assessing what our menu choices would be. And so I had brisket for the first tie in my life. Served with cornbread, and your choice of cream corn, green beans, fried beans etc etc. Then a collection of barbeque sauces to choose from. I was particularly impressed with the Smokey Kansas.

To be fair, credit for the choice for lunch belongs to Michael Todd. He’s a friend from Earthsuit days, who now works for another CCM band. It was cool to catch up with him, he and Dani were great tour guides around downtown Nashville, including a saunter past legendary bars with smokey and dusty stages, where legends were discovered and still play. Also paid a visit to Gruhn Guitars, just an experience of divine measure to see so many wellcrafted instruments in one place.

Danielle’s been working during the days, so the nights have been full of catching up and hanging out. It’s been so amazing how natural the whole thing has felt. We went to see Garden State that is just too perfect for words. Can I be so bold as to say, it’s a story of emergence that could be a metaphor for society or individuals.

Also watched Spiderman 2 on the IMAX screen and thought that the cars were crashing through the screen. EEks. I’ve done the driving tour of the houses of legends, as well as refined and defined the Triple A theory of Christian Music. Look for an expansion on that any day now. And.. the guitar voyage didn’t finish just with Gruhn Vintage, but continued to he Gibson factory, as well as the Gibson Showcase bar. You can also expect a shortlist of 101 Things To Remember When Playing To A Small And Unfamiliar Crowd. I think that one of the acts we saw needs to subscribe. #9.. Never, ever, whatever may come, give the audience a chance to tell you what they really think of your efforts.

Now that it’s so close to coming home, it feels both strange and comforting to think about it. I’m thinking about my couch, and my family, both the McLeans in the Big House and Mum and Co. I’m thinking about going up north and youth group when I get back. It will be good to see friends again, and sad to say goodbye to this place. There are a dozen things that I’ve simply run out of time to do, and so the plan is just to make the best of the last few days in New York. I’m off to have an adventure in the city that doesn’t sleep.

One of the defining moments of Tennessee was the thunderstorm just two nights ago. A hot and sweltering evening, that finally broke, with lightening forking through the sky, and thunder rolling it’s baritone through the hills. I slept with my window a little open that night, and felt the cool breath of an approaching winter on my cheek. It was different to the air in Florida, that was warm and soft like pyjamas you’ve just pulled out of the dryer. Here it whispers of all the glorious celebrations to come.. Fall, celebrated by Halloween, followed by Thanksgiving, then Christmas. And after all the celebration of what has been, and thanksgiving, prayers for what is to come, then they will celebrate New Year.

People here are good at celebrating. Good at remembering all that is good and right and worthy of celebrating about the big and small moments of life. So I am savouring and celebrating cornbread, and the smell of cinnamon candles. I’m enjoying all the moments that I can, and longing that this spirit of celebration will render itself into my soul as I voyage home.

Expect an installment of the Gospel, as living in New York.

Be Well