12. Some Ghosts Make You Blush

If you’ve ever been into any of the four story buildings on Lower Broad or 2nd Avenue, you may find yourself wondering why, no matter what time of day it is, the music is always so loud.

You’re not trying to be a party-pooper, you think, but how is a man supposed to talk to his wife over lunch with all that racket?

The racket is for a reason.

See, during the Civil War, this part of Nashville was basically an open air brothel.  Every building housed prostitutes.  And I’m not going to lie to you and tell you some romantic story about how wonderful it was. It was, in general, pretty horrible and a pretty horrible way to make a living.

But it was a living, at a time when a lot of folks were starving.

Yes, women were treated poorly. Yes, they had diseases. Yes, often times they laid there and stared at the slow shadows on the wall passing while they waited for the soldiers to be done with them. And sometimes they were beaten, and robbed, and killed, and no one cared.

Yes, all of that.  But…

If you go into those restaurants, the ones that admit to being haunted, they will tell you some sad tale of women who, a hundred and fifty years on, still mope around and have nothing better to do than to rearrange furniture and silverware.

But the truth is that, when it’s quiet, bar tenders will hear a woman clearing her throat at the end of the bar, the universal signal for “Poor me another one.” When it’s quiet, they can hear the silverware being pushed off the tables as if someone has taken her arm and brushed it all aside in one dramatic motion to make room for her butt or her hands and knees up there. When it’s quiet, you can hear the moans of dead women, the gasps, the shrieks, the screams, and those places, all trying to be respectable now, can only wish those noises sounded scary.

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Having the Life You Think You Should Have

The thing that concerns me most about my parents, not just for their sake, but for making sure I watch out for it in myself, is that they seem often to get themselves in situations that feel familiar, no matter how shitty those situations are.

Maybe that’s not fair.  I’m trying to speak in generalities, in order to make sense of specifics.  And maybe there is no making sense.  Like, we were having a perfectly nice, fun day yesterday and my Dad made some out of the blue comment about how much it was going to suck to walk around with me because I’ve gotten like my Uncle B. in my refusal to move around. Normally, something like this would have really upset me, but it came so far out of left field and had so little to do with our circumstances, that I just blurted out, “Real nice, Dad.”

And I don’t know what was going on in his head, but there was this moment on his face where I could see that he was embarrassed.

And that took me aback more than anything I’ve ever seen regarding my dad in my whole life.  He quickly recovered with an accusatory “Oh, I guess you’re going to be mad at me for the rest of the day,” but it was weird, that moment where he was mortified by his own behavior.

It made me wonder if he’s got an internal voice that is always saying shitty things about him and about the people he loves and he just lets it out sometimes.  I don’t know.

This morning, when I was getting ready to leave, my mom was making all these comments about how grateful they were to get to come visit and how she was glad we would let them mooch off of us for a weekend.  And I was all, “Um, you took us out to eat a bunch and fixed the light and showed me how to move irises. You’re not imposing. Your visits are nice and helpful.” (Which, okay, is not always true.)

But it kind of made me wonder if my parents don’t secretly believe that they suck. And whether they do crap to foster situations that prove to themselves that they suck.

I don’t know.

It makes me feel like I need to be more vigilant about that.  I don’t want to be 64 and still trying to make my life conform to all the shitty things I believe about myself.

In Which We Rescue Some Irises

My mom and I went way out into the back scrub and she showed me how to liberate irises from a too-shady spot.  So we pulled up all the irises we could find and put them in a bed closer to the house.

It was a pretty nice visit.

The fainting goat festival was a bit of a let-down but we ate at a Mexican restaurant that had a buffet.  What a brilliant idea–a Mexican buffet.  And all the portions were small and tasty.  And they had these banana things.

And a sun with a mustache so huge that it covers a cactus.