We're officially in the red. There's not a hipster in sight - Tennessee is inhospitable to skinny jeans and irony.
Immediately, we noticed the bold architecture in Nashville. Edgy steel and glass 'scrapers protrude over historic brick and stone structures for a neatly juxtaposed skyline.
Not until this trip did I realize the aptness of the Music City dubbing. If the built-in speakers blaring country tunes on every corner don't clue you in, the monolithic music venue in the midst of construction next to the museum might. It's going to be the Kennedy Center of country music.
For lunch, Matthew insisted on BBQ. After days of couscous, fresh produce, and herbal tea, I supposed it was his turn. Matt chose Jack's BBQ, recognizable by giant pigs atop the sign, no doubt running for their lives.
Imagine every middle-America-red-country stereotype immortalized in one restaurant. Welcome to Jack's BBQ.
As my eyes adjust to the dim lighting, I'm overwhelmed by the smell of smoked meat. We stand in line to order cafeteria style. You can have meat, meat, meat, or meat, or any combination of the above. You can have regular, jumbo, a plate, or a pound. For sides, you can choose veggies, also known as "non-meat." Your choices of veggies include a thick, yellow, macaroni and cheese, baked beans, apples in a brown-sugar sauce, potato salad, or a mush of greenish brown suggesting that these green beans were canned before the Dust Bowl.
I'm a vegetarian for a variety of reasons, but I occasionally make exceptions to avoid offending a host or for a unique cultural experience. BBQ pork is inextricably linked to Tennessee 's culture, so I decided to try a small plate. For sides, I chose cucumbers and apples. Matthew was practically drooling next to me, reading all available tips on FourSquare and Yelp to make sure he got the best plate. Matt ordered three different meats: pork, ribs, and beef brisket, with sides of mac and cheese and beans. He also got a large Sweet Tea to wash it all down. I was pretty sure he would go into cardiac arrest by the time he finished.
I eyed my plate with trepidation. To my left, a couple was bowed deeply in prayer over their plate of meat under the head of a deer on the wall. To my right was what I can only assume to be a shrine to Confederacy. What's a vegetarian atheist to do? I look across the table at Matt, who is eagerly dunking forkfuls of meat into his three cups of BBQ sauce. Sensing my discomfort, he tilts his head and says with a grin, "This is America."