Yesterday I had to run an errand to the Jewelers to get my watches repaired. The woman behind the counter was "nice" but of course a moron. When she asked what I do I said, "For now I Substitute Teach." I explained I just moved here and in the process discovered what a swamp mess that the school system is and for now it is job I do but as my sell by date and license conveniently expire in three years that will mean time to move on and out. This confused her and then proceeded to do what most people do when they hear I teach, inform me about kids these days and then in turn trash talk them. Which my response is, "Children are only mirrors of the adults around them." Here that confuses them and they don't see it as the insult it is intended to be. I say it regardless of whom says it to me, it must be akin to when someone finds out that they are a Doctor and then proceed to ask for medical advice. It is presumptive if not boring to talk about work when you are not at it and expect to give advice to someone about a child they know nothing about.
The woman also shared her fear about me walking around taking buses and such as how "safe" is that. I said well if taking public transport and walking on public sidewalks is that much of a risk then am I the problem or is there something wrong here where one cannot do so and do safely. As the real risk is that over 300 pedestrians were killed here last year and the transit is only part of the problem as also getting to it requires crosswalks and access, two other things missing here, so getting car jacked and robbed as that is the real crime happening here is what less worse? She, like all the residents I meet here are totally unaware of any news or facts in their own community. No wonder they are afraid, they are stupid and uninformed. Hmm so are Trump voters.
She also did not understand why I moved here and why I will be leaving once my purpose here is done. As if any of that is her business. Could you just fix my watches? People are not used to anyone who moves as I do. I met one man from New York and his response to me in just a brief conversation was, "you'll be gone in 4 years." Yes I agreed and had the sole singularly pleasant exchange with a random stranger since moving here.
I am exhausted in trying to figure out the script to introduce myself of even have pleasant exchanges with the populace here but I am at odds. Unless I am "on" as in performing a false speech and fake smiling and dancing like a minstrel, shows clearly once popular here, I lose the audience. My tone, my resting bitch face, my black clothing and just my overall personality is not something the Southern folk get at all.
I do believe that age and gender have a lot to do with it and that those who recall me actually call me by name at the coffee shops, planting stores and other retail outlets I frequent. At first I was shocked now I just realize they do actually note that and do respect when you communicate with them as I do with anyone who serves and assists me. That said you find yourself exhausted trying to find the right tone and demeanor to please everyone all of the time.
Tuesday brought me to my hairdresser who is a nice gal but dumb as a rock. She and her husband who wants to be a Teacher/Artist/Musician/Lyft Manager/Band Manager/fill in the blank are like many of the people I meet here. The pull to be in the industry is the prime reason most relocate here. The others are from businesses literally who relocate their employees as there are few skilled workers to do the work they need to run them. I had to explain to her that the wages and housing costs are not coinciding and that the wages which have remained stagnant for a decade and with the great approval by the Chamber of Commerce who really run the show here. She truly did not understand the basic math of costs of living and how the costs for housing can reflect a bubble and most of it due to the outside investment (as the property across the street from the salon is by the rich son of an out of state real estate developer who is making a sound studio.. a business he has no experience, training or familiarity with. Again that is So, Nashville) who are buying and flipping properties right and left which adds to inflated costs and hysterical buying. When you have people getting mortgages underwritten and/or co-signed by parents, the income or stated income "belief" is akin to fraud. And when you see this much property turnover and the costs being over financed by largely out of state banks this is 2008 all over again, but in largely commercial real estate. It is as if Donald Trump is running it here!
She truly expressed confusion when I explained what a median wage is and what that means with attracting the kind of educated and trained individuals who would willingly relocate here and be able to build a business or industry that attracts again more educated and trained individuals. And that the appeal of no state income tax is not enough as Washington State has that and in Seattle the median wage is now 75K up 10K from just two years ago; that Portland has no sales tax and is one of the top draws for new residents and of course San Francisco Bay area that has yes a state income tax and sales tax and sees no slowing of growth with regards to industry or business. Why would anyone come here with a red state government, average public schools and okay Colleges, no legal Marijuana, no open minded attitude about sexuality and of course the whole Christian thing and race thing. So unless you are in the "industry" there is no draw here. She seemed confused about what a median wage is. That sums it up. She and her husband are from Arkansas, that proves my point
Which brings me to the largest employer - Vanderbilit. And that is not about actual education or even medical treatment, their focus is the research field and that is their biggest concern over the Trump Budget, not the ACA as one would believe. The cuts to the NIH affects them in a greater magnitude versus the ACA as well Tenneesse never expanded Medicaid and 35% of Nashville residents have no insurance as we have zero choice regarding insurance. This is again the constant quandary that exists - the reality and the possible - they are not in the least connected. And it is why the care is affordable but also challenging to get done. The lack of qualified professionals assisting the heavy lifters is a never ending rotating cast of characters.
As the week wore on and they do here despite perhaps having the most perfect weather I could wish for, the schools were the same and the kids are in their testing mode which is laughable as again the reality is that again less than than 30% of them will go on to College and that is based on those who finish. And this is despite the sheer magnitude of Colleges/Universities that align the roads here giving the City another moniker other than Music City, the Athens of the South.
Last night I went to the Frist to Volunteer again, the last three times were a fiasco. For a special event I sat in the volunteers room and waited for 30 minutes for the coordinator to come to assign me and that was a no show so I left. I was not sure what I expected for this was a showcase for the Nashville Public Schools Art and as I had subbed in many of the schools in those very classes so I was curious if not excited. Of course the other volunteers were a no show and that is largely due to the reality that they are trying to staff an entire "Museum" with volunteers and with wages, traffic and the reality of how boring it is, few show up. But I put on my best Liza and met many excited families, some Teachers and the great Artists whose worked lined the walls. It was for me a joyous 90 minutes that I had game face and great speech and felt better about once again trying to make small talk with the locals.
The reality is that they want to know what brought you here. And I am in an uncomfortable reality that telling people I am here for cheaper oral maxxofacial surgery and to run away from the horrid memories of living in Seattle that I could never escape unless I left, so I did. So in other words: None of your fucking business. I am still experimenting with that script.
The Mayor who was hat the Art show as it was named after her was an engaging presence from what I observed and she had come from her State of the City (well Town) speech reflecting on the growth the city-town has had the last decade. The 8% annual growth (which does not mean 85 people a day moving here as frequently cited) means new demands on both infrastructure as in transit, roads and sidewalks and schools. I applaud one and thought "don't go there on schools it is a lost cause." But once again as I read a normal transit plan that two years ago hit the wall is again facing a challenge. By whom? Again, a non resident who does not live in the county but cares about how we spend our money here. He wants to propose a non-debt referendum in the State Legislature. Gee thanks. And as the local paper interviewed the real community about the plan they found the one naysayer, ironically again an owner of a bike store so it was highly amusing that he was anti transit, and he concluded with the the mantra here: Who'se gonna pay for it? Uh we will asshole or we will in other ways but again math, logic and critical thinking not a strong suit here.
And yesterday I read more about our local news and of course the State Legislature is as busy as a Beaver could be as they "inadvertantly" passed legislation that honors a slave trader and infamous statue on I-65, Bedford Forrest. The other was the "natural and ordinary" law that is typically So, Nashville, in that passive aggressive manner that claims one thing does another.
All of this I was reading while in a "fake" Magnet school during a test and I busted out laughing at the irony of how idiotic that once again our legislature demonstrates they are as good as the idiots who elect them. The kids asked if I was reading the comics and I said no the news and then I was asked if there was a word call prejudicism. And he is in honor AP class! What an honor.
There is some good out of this. Two books, one about being a Substitute Teacher and the material at this point writes itself. The other about living and swimming in the deep red sea. That I think will be flash fiction just short bursts of tales of the people I meet. They are not worth more than a passing glance and then I just need to let you all swim by.
What more can I say about living in Tennessee? Well it's So, Nashville. And that is one thing means another and it always contradicts never compliments the other. It is a permanent state of daze in which I function. And I learned you can't run from something you are only running into something else. So my next move will be more of a stroll and not a race. Turtles were always my spirit animal.