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Thursday, December 06, 2007

The shape hung suspended in mid-air and turned slowly beneath the big orange crane. It's blue-grey hue perfectly matched the early morning cloud-covered sky behind it. If it weren't moving and didn't have crisply defined edges, it would be virtually invisible. I don't know if it was a panel or a support or some part of an HVAC system. It was going on the roof of that big new development at 5th and Main. High-priced condos with a view of housing projects. Only in East Nashville. I sat in traffic, waiting for the light to change and watched it slowly turn, changing back and forth from a two- to a three-dimensional object. I keep waiting for some giant kid's arm to reach down out of the sky and start re-arranging buildings like so many Lego blocks or knocking them all down with his toy lizard.

It doesn't happen.

On the in-dash CD player, Todd Snider is singing about the neighborhood in affectionate tones with profane lyrics. It's December, but the most festive thing I can see is the neon of the liquor store. It's cool to live over here now. Not cool in the homecoming queen and high school quarterback sense, but cool in the dis-affected outsider sense. Cool like the kid who always wore black t-shirts and knew the chords to every Clapton song and wouldn't be caught dead at prom unless his band was hired to play the gig.

We were here before it was cool. It just ended up that way. I can trace my East Nashville roots back to birth. But my parents moved us away when I was one and it would take 21 years to make it back. Lisa and I came here in 99 'cause we liked the houses and we could afford to buy one on a single state government employee salary. It was still a little risky then. We're technically Inglewood, not East Nashville, so that's kind of like the cool kid's cousin from out of town who shows up a few times a year and gets to hang out with the hip crowd.

The East Side is weird melting pot. A gumbo of artists and government types. The last mayor lived over here, side by side with musicians, consultants, lawyers and homosexuals. But I guess we're more of the soup stock, not so much the spice. Our artists friends used to invite us over when their parents were in town, probably to make them look more respectable to mom and dad. Married couple. With kids. State government lawyer. Stable. Respectable. Bland.

Some of that's changed. Now I'm a lobbyist. I've got a new car, a Blackberry, some cool new gadgets, a few new suits, a better haircut, some trendier glasses, a lot more responsibility and no one looking over my shoulder. I get to suck up to politicians, try to make policy and get criticized in the press. It don't feel East Side anymore. But maybe it is. Heck, anything can go in the mix.

The light has changed. I inch closer to one of the bridges into downtown with all the other commuters packed into their shiny metal boxes. It takes about as long to drive from the house to the river as it does to cross the river and drive a few blocks in downtown to the parking garage where I now have a reserved space. I didn't take the girl to school today on the way in, but I usually do. Most days her presence probably saves me from melancholy music and too much early-morning introspection. Some day I'm sure I'll look back and wish I made better use of those ten minute drives with her 5 days a week. There were mornings of hilarious serial made-up stories with a new chapter each day, but man, that took energy. But for every one of those, there were also mornings of trying to shut her incessant chattering out so I could listen to something on the radio.

I take a left on 5th so I can cross on the bridge by the stadium where the traffic doesn't back up quite as much. I'd like to have time to write something creative, paint-a-picture with a literary pallet, when I first get behind my desk. But that's not what they pay me for. I've got a nine-o-clock meeting with a bureaucrat and it's already almost 8. I didn't get breakfast at home and that first cup of coffee won't sit well on an empty stomach. Short story or sausage bisquit?

Sausage bisquit wins.