I moved from California to Nashville in August 2016. Here are some journal excerpts from the cross-country road trip to my new home
We had some car trouble, and multiple people stopped to ask if they could help us. That was our first taste of ‘southern hospitality’. We turned down the help at first, but then accepted help from a couple, one of whom was from California (Bakersfield). Our lug nuts were loose so he tightened them, but we didn’t have the right sized wrench so he had to do his best with the wrong sized wrench, which he called “ni**er-rigging”. After he helped us, he asked us for water- we told him he could have the rest of a plastic water bottle we had been drinking. He chugged the rest and then threw the bottle 20 feet behind him into tall grass, shouting “whoo!”
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
We happened upon a cowboy and his wife- they were newlyweds, having only gotten married the day before. I believe they were in the big city for their honeymoon. Patrick and the cowboy got along well, and talked about boots, and country living. The cowboy had been working for a fire safety company, so he would go out to office buildings and check on their fire safety equipment. But his company didn’t treat him well or pay him right, and they wouldn’t give him time off for his wedding so he quit. While we were talking to them, an SUV drove by with a trashy white boy sticking his torso out the back window. He yelled slurs at the cowboy, something about his boots.
Eureka Springs, Arkansas
An old man sitting next to us at the bar told us stories about run-ins with the cops, and explained that he was thinking of making DMT from some local bark. We learned that Eureka Springs is a bit of a hippie haven in Arkansas. It is only 30 miles from the KKK headquarters, but has a completely different vibe. The locals smoke weed and indulge in other drugs, and most are artists and musicians. Patrick asked some questions about weed laws and enforcement, without revealing that we had some in our car and were worried about getting caught with it in the South. A few minutes later, the bartender slyly handed me a present – she had wrapped weed in a paper towel for us. She re-filled my drink.
I like the slower pace of life, and that everyone is friendly and treats you like a Californian would treat someone they know or are friends with. If you’re in a grocery store, someone might say something to you casually, like you’ve known each other for years. When I first arrived in Tennessee, I was at a rest stop bathroom and this woman came in and started peeing and she was emoting about how good it felt to pee, and once she finished she said “oooh, I thought it would never stop.” I thought it was weird that she was talking to herself, but in hindsight, after seeing how outgoing Nashvillians are – I’m pretty sure she was talking to me. If I imagined her as a friend of mine, it wouldn’t seem like weird behavior at all. But in Tennessee, friend-behavior is stranger-behavior.
Of course, you can’t always speak to strangers, like if you’re walking down the street and passing a lot of people. So Patrick and I are still learning the unwritten social rules here. There have been times where we feel that we ruined the vibe or got a look of confusion or disapproval or even hurt from someone for being brusque (for example, instinctively telling the hostess “table for two please,” rather than exchanging pleasantries and talking first). But then we try to over-correct by being more friendly.