This week I would like to take a moment and acknowledge my little corner of the planet located on the east side of the river in good ole Nashvegas. We're an odd bunch over here. A former Victorian enclave turned ghetto turned urban frontier turned hodge-podge of what makes Nashville one of the best kept secrets in the land (in my opinion).
I would argue that my region of the country is a bit of a dichotomy - a yin and yang - of mint juleps and moonshine, bluebloods and backwoods, parasols and overalls, B.B. King and the B-52's. We defy stereotype and yet are some of the most stereotyped people around. I would also argue that my state is an even more intense example of that contrast, my city even more so, and my neighborhood - well, let's just say we take this yin and yang concept to a whole other level.
My neighborhood is a place where you're apt to see a young woman jogging down a sidewalk and sharing it with a homeless guy, striding by people hanging on their front porch playing guitars and mandolins, being passed by a car with the base up too loud, and then bumping into her neighbor on his way to Drag Queen Bingo at the corner bar that sits a block from one of the best child care facilities in the city.
It's not a perfect place or utopia - obviously, since some of my neighbors have to live on the streets. We don't do as good a job as we should of integrating all of our diverse populations. And we have our other difficulties - like a bit of a crime problem (there are a series of bumper stickers for our neighborhood - one of which says "we'll steal your heart and your lawn mower.") And the ongoing challenge of not crossing from urban renewal into over-gentrification.
So far the Yuppie insurgents (as I like to call them and then try to remind myself that "inclusive" means including everyone) haven't scrubbed every corner clean and cram-packed it with fake urban cuteness, but some have certainly tried. I complained once at dinner that I thought we were headed too far in that direction and spent much of the meal whining about outrageously high home prices and my new neighbor with the BMW and Weimaraner. When I left the restaurant I was relieved to find myself parked between a pickup with a confederate flag decal and a Prius with a bumper sticker that said "Dick Cheney eats kittens" because I knew that my weird little part of town would live to see another day.
One of the ways our overall spirit and oddity manifests itself is in the fairly-new August tradition of the Tomato Art Fest. Why the tomato (and why tomato art) you ask? Because it's a good Southern summer staple? Because we grow a particularly special variety in East Nashville? No. It's because the tomato is "a uniter, not a divider - bringing together both fruit and vegetable."
There's a beautiful tomato contest. And an ugly tomato contest. Tomato art show for adults and for kids. A costume competition for dogs. Salsa dancing and a Bloody Mary contest. There is a pageant that crowns a tomato queen and king on that Friday - one of the requirements being that you are able to lead the parade the next morning (pictured above). The parade on Saturday is a second line parade in the New Orleans tradition - started by some our Katrina evacuees on the one-year anniversary. It goes for only two blocks or so, stops to form a circle of singing and dancing, then turns and goes back to the other end. It's a brief, noisy, unstructured, sweaty, costumed, conglomeration of bedazzled umbrellas, kids on bikes, dogs in capes, women with crazy hats, men in platform shoes, and a guy playing a washboard-type thing with a spoon. Doesn't get much better than that:
Please excuse my poor digital-camera-as-video-camera skills
This year's winning bumper sticker:
More pictures from the parade
Tomato-themed crafts for sale
Even though it's usually crazy hot for Tomato Fest (last year I ended up showering twice before noon) I know that you can't really have a Tomato Fest in October or May, and well, a cooler-weather Apple Fest or Cabbage Fest just wouldn't have quite the same flair.
So I'd like to say thank you to my neighborhood for giving me a reason to not only be grateful for where I live and for the most-delicious tomato, but also for making me enjoy the lovely onset of August.Did I really just put the words lovely and August in the same sentence? Yes, I guess I did.