In the 18 months since I relocated here I have many highs and many lows. I have frequently written about my issues adapting and assimilating into a culture not my own and to a city of which I had no previous experience or knowledge. I came here in search of healing - physical and emotional - the former I am ongoing and pleased with, the latter has been put on hold. Why? Because what I have found is a city resistant to change and resentful yet oddly co-dependent upon outsiders.
I do not own a car and yet I have rented cars more than I have done in decades as even here car sharing as I knew it via Zipcar, Car2Go and RideShare does not exist here. I see a type of car share available thru Enterprise but that is exclusively to State employees, so I walk and ride Metro as that is my main source of transportation. I appreciate Metro and that the system is undergoing changes and upgrades with a Mayor who is a positive about public transport, so I work with what we got and it is not bad and could and should be better. I have risked my life crossing streets and roads with no crosswalks nor sidewalks and I have been lucky, 300 people have not been so this past year. The anger about such change is palpable and is centers around money and in a city that is undergoing as much gentrification as Nashville has the past 5 years the divisiveness is equally palpable. And yes race is a factor but money governs the race on issue as it does color.
I live on 4th Ave S, one way that runs across the city towards the south end of county and intersects with many highway exchanges. The cross street, Chestnut, is adjacent to the east-west connection of the city and is equally busy on a daily basis.
Behind my home is an upcoming area of Wedgewood Houston and the bars, apartments and other facilities that run adjacent to the train tracks are new and growing businesses that once housed artists and others who understood in exchange for low rents they would have to tolerate the noise, congestion and other delays that the CSX train exchange just akin to the area causes.
But now they are leaving and the new are arriving. I pay 1800 dollars a month rent. Again, I don't own a car which brings the why but more importantly the how when I am a Substitute Teacher in the lowest paying professions in the lowest paying districts in the region. I am a writer in my down time and have been fortunate to find many who support the creative arts here that are not just about music and for them I am grateful but had I not resources and a willingness to compromise I would be living in box next to the tracks.
That said when one works along tracks the endless train noise is surreal. I wear earplugs in my home 24/7 and when I have the windows open I have to wear additional ear coverage to protect my hearing. The trains horns often are beyond the 140 decibels as stated by law and in turn often go longer than the 4 horn range they are to do at each crossing. So ostensibly I hear 8 per run but often to be angry, punitive or just for laughs they ring them consistently through the crossings or up to 13 rings in a 5 minute time frame. This does not include the vibration caused by the speed of the trains which often is excessive past the legal limits. Again nothing surprises me with CSX as their financial problems are well documented so they do what they do regardless as they run unregulated and largely ignored here.
Additionally the trains stop often with only one to two cars blocking the pass. Irony that is always at rush hours in the am or pm. They can block for upwards to hours (yes as in plural) at a time to only a few minutes. In that time frame I see cars backed up to the major crossing of Lafayette and watch School buses, Public Buses, Emergency Vehicles, Police and regular cars resort to some of the most bizarre changes in routes to sheer dangerous behavior, driving in reverse, turning around on a one way, on sidewalks, thru the park across the street all to divert. We, the residents of the sole apartment building, are either trapped in our homes or unable to access our homes due to the backup. We are on the fourth replacement of a Turn Only sign to the point the men decided to place it behind a stone wall so now for certain the cars have a clear sidewalk in which to drive.
I have watched cars try to outrace the trains and in turn get stuck on the tracks adding more delays and confusion. My favorite this week was a Police car that turned on its blues after sitting pushing the far left lane to turn in order for him to re-route. When I have asked other Police about this they have informed me it is not their job. So I have taken it upon myself to direct traffic, be verbally abused, threatened and harassed as well as thanked to get cars and people moving. Frankly the endless noise, the honking of horns the angry yelling compels me to do this and not the kindness of my heart. The waste of energy and air quality is another as I have been recovering from the other kind of healing which was the primary reason I came here and it has led me to be housebound by choice. As a result it has enabled me to witness to some of the most troubling incidents and traffic seen most often on major highways on a daily basis. No traffic reporter ever covers this and it is well worth a camera to see and hear what I do.
On days when I have to work and need to go South I cannot as the bus is stranded with me. I have to walk, get an Uber or find some other route to get to a job that ostensibly pays me barely enough to pay said rent. That is my choice but I need to live close to a transit center and to Vanderbilt to access my medical care. And to move again the costs would not be offset as the rents are largely the same throughout the city in this area.
There are many potential solutions to some of the problems that exist. A Silent Zone mandate that could be evoked at night and could be passed via resolution through the City Council and on to the legislature. There are the same with the 20 minute rule that stops blocking of intersections. And all of it can begin through the local officials that govern the city. But like the schools should I want respect in Nashville I need to be from Nashville. I am an outsider and I am not worthy of respect nor attention. I see it in the schools from the Staff to the Students and they wonder why there is a crisis in them but that is for another blog at another time.
The desire to turn the Fairgrounds south of my home to a major Soccer stadium is laughable. One way out one way in when you live on 4th Ave S. There are too other ways to resolve this but again my voice is not heard. I am trouble, difficult, confrontational. Live with it or should I take my degrees, my education, my training and my money and taxes with me to where they will both respect and hear me?
I see my Doctors next week and I plan on changing my course of treatment to accelerate my healing and I can write anywhere. I have me the wonderful people of Ingram and they have already inspired me to go beyond what I believe and that I can do anywhere.
I go now to the Festival of Books with the hopes to be there as a Writer but also as a Visitor. The reality is that Nashville doesn't want people like me here - Pro transit, sidewalks, pro education and public schools and someone who cares and who has the audacity to ask questions and expect answers.
I have taken to Twitter to air my complaints repeatedly to the Mayor's office who told me to contact CSX directly. Been there done that and got nowhere but thanks. I have contacted Colby Sledge's office, my representative with regards to the problem and sent him film of what it like to live adjacent to this literally potential train wreck. I have spoken to the neighboring business, to the Church, the Shelter and the Daycare/Schools nearby and they all feel the same way but in true Southern fashion the response is: "Its always been that way." That resignation permeates all my dialogues here as if change is simply for one's pocket and any other kind means to give up something. Be that good or bad it means giving it up and they are not having any of that now y'hear!
My most recent exchange with said Mayor's office that if I wanted to go around the train I was told to go via Oak Street. Yes I am aware of that (I live here and all of that) but again I don't have a car. I bus it and the delays to the bus is another issue and yet this is a street pegged for lite rail. We had this in Seattle and we have light rail and trains, and buses and ferries that transport people. We have bike lanes and trolley cars and we have sidewalks and crosswalks.. gosh why would anyone leave such a nirvana. I am asked repeatedly: "Why did you come here?" And my answer is that very question.