Nashville received 3 months’ worth of rain in 2 days over the weekend of Mayday, 2010. Luckily, I had planned a mini-vacation with a friend to occur on Sun-Tues of this week, and was still able to make it out of Nashville in time for the plan to be realized. My companion 17 Words for Yeah (17WfY, from here on out) and I settled on the Tennessee Aquarium, the Hunter Museum of Art, and Rock City as the cultural destinations, and set out from Nashville at the very last minute we were able to escape the city with our lives.
The Tennessee Aquarium has a freshwater riverine environment as well as an oceanic environment, plus there is now a permanent butterfly room dedicated to the regular hatch and release of a variety of types of butterflies. There is also now a permanent exhibit featuring seahorses and sea dragons, both of which are species 17WfY and I agreed are definitely here from some other planet. Not to mention the transparent, perfectly symmetrical, glowing neon-like spaceship jellyfish, whose real nomenclature I quickly forgot and replaced with “spaceship jellyfish.” (<– that’s not a real sentence, by the way.)
Having never before seen Rock City, and while so near it, and in the spirit of eagerly accepting almost any suggestion that would delay the inevitable return trip, 17WfY easily convinced me that it would be nice to See Rock City before rushing home to view the devastation that had been piled onto Nashville and the surrounding areas. Rock City cannot easily be explained. It could be, if it weren’t for a small section of it whose weirdness puts a different spin on the imagined Rock City experience. I had and still have not actually read the brochure (nor the web site that I assume exists), but I will bet you a dollar that you will see something at Rock City that will qualify as one of the weirdest juxtapositions to be presented at a family-oriented mostly-natural edutainment experience.
While the “rock” part of Rock City is what you may expect, there is an exhibit that is situated within some cave/tunnel formations that is just plain bizarre and totally out of place: The Fairy Garden. It is the placement –into hollowed out and sometimes black-lit areas of the cave– of quite a lot of dioramas depicting scenes from various nursery rhymes, executed in the fluorescent painting of purely-eerie-looking figures situated into and around similarly fluorescent painted foam environments. You know: Jack Sprat, The Cat & The Fiddle, Old Mother Hubbard, The Little Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe, and the like. These dioramas were heralded and guarded by (and I think we are to believe created by) the various elves found throughout the Fairy Garden.
Upon our return above-ground from the Fairy Garden, we ate at a Thai place whose name I’ve also forgotten, which was run by an Anglo-Saxon woman who insisted the food she’d just minutes ago allowed us to order specifically only by number was very authentically made by real Asian people in the back, which, as far as I know, it was. It was there that 17WfY and I planned to acquire two households’ worth of bottled water before the trip back to the flooded Nashville, having been made keen to the news that potable water was going to be in short supply upon our return.
Once we thought most of the surreality of the Fairy Garden had worn off, we received word via the information stupor-highway that there was a story in “reputable” news sources of the entire inventory of the three aquarium-themed restaurants in Opry Mills having been overtaken by the flood waters, which supposedly had freed the large set of piranha into the floodwater, which would supposedly support them. (“Luckily”, he said condescendingly, “I was unfamiliar, preferring locally-owned joints to chains and also opting to stay the hell out of malls in general.”) (While I seriously doubted the news, I must admit it recalled a secret and long-forgotten fear of mine, that of walking upon a large and thriving anaconda or boa constrictor that had been let go (or escaped and killed?) its previous “owner” who lived next to the creeks in which my friends and I used to spend waaaaay too much time wandering as bulletproof children who were (mostly) impervious to peril.)
In spite of the continued stream of news about rising water levels, the video of the destruction of Opry Mills and the Opry Hotel, the video of the building floating down the Interstate, and the video of the guy being sucked into the water with the section of roadway he was standing on, we were somehow able to have a more relaxing mini-vacation than relax (a little) after determining that our friends and dwellings and places of work in the area were safe, but that the downtown areas of Nashville, as well as a variety of areas in many directions took on way more water than has ever been recorded in the history of this region.
On the way back into town we stopped to survey the situation close to some of the riverside roads in Williamson County, and saw waterlines indicating a high mark taller than the roof of average SUV. Bridges were still partly submerged, and people were bringing their possessions out of their houses to dry or to be discarded. My new neigborhood in East Nashville was not hit hard, but others in the area had residences that were totally submerged. The waters receded as quickly as they collected, and by mid-week the only real reminder of the flood was the very visible evidence of the tremendous damage it had caused.
I thought at first about separating the two topics of this post into two individual posts, but the juxtaposition of the events as part of the same week was so intense that I think the awkwardness of their being presented together here is an accurate reflection of my week. That said, as depressing as the flood and its aftermath have been, I am really grateful to have been able to have a relaxing escape from the pressures of the daily, weekly, and monthly grind, and also for having had the company of my friend 17WfY.
The rest of this post is a list of links to stories I found interesting about the state of the flood and the local and national response: