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VOL. 129 | NO. 105 | Friday, May 30, 2014

Dan Conaway

Dan Conaway

Get Real

By Dan Conaway

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NASHVILLE, THE CAPITAL OF Q. WHO KNEW? Last week – in a move I equate with Russian forces massing along our eastern border – Travel + Leisure ranked Nashville as America’s #1 city for barbecue.

You’re in the right state, but you’re seriously mixed up on city tastes.

Like Pittsburgh cheesesteaks, Shreveport beignets and Orlando stone crabs. Moline deep-dish pizza, Chevy Chase crab cakes and Poughkeepsie pastrami. Salem clam chowder, Greenville she crab soup and Lincoln steaks.

Nashville barbecue?

You’re in the right state, but you screwed up the overall flavor.

Compare Tennessee bourbon and Kentucky sour mash. Vermont lobster and Maine maple syrup. Idaho corn and Iowa potatoes. Mississippi salmon and Washington catfish. Virginia is the show me state and Missouri is for lovers. Tex Pinot and Ore Mex.

Nashville barbecue?

You’re in the right state, but something is very wrong.

Think of the view from San Diego’s Golden Gate Bridge or an evening on Buffalo’s Great White Way. Keep Houston Weird. Savannah’s Peachtrees and Atlanta’s squares. Durham’s Tar Heels and Chapel Hill’s Blue Devils.

Nashville barbecue?

This isn’t just about Travel + Leisure's dyslexic geography or challenged understanding of things pig – they obviously need to travel more and use some of that leisure to do their homework – this is about identity theft. Travel + Leisure is just the latest to be blown away by the great spinning wind from 200 miles to our east.

If Nashville is #1 in barbecue, then we’re #1 in line dancing. If Nashville is into chopped and pulled, wet or dry, then we’re into rhinestones and cowboy hats, pickin and grinnin. If Nashville wants to have a personality of its own beyond the Grand Ole Opry and corporate music, get a shot from something other than health care oligarchs, be known for something other than impressive growth and depressing legislation, or inspire more than convention center envy, then package all of that and go for it.

Just stop trying to steal a soul from somewhere else.

Next thing you know, they’ll be coming after our music. Wait. They are.

They are trying to build and have considerable support for the National Museum of African American Music in – pause for a steel guitar riff – Nashville. Nashville. You know, home to such world famous African-American artists and groundbreakers as, uh, give me a minute. OK, well, at least the city gave birth to entire genres of African-American music like … just a sec, something will come to me. While we think about that, at least the labels that first rocked and rolled a nation and gave America soul were started in the shadow of Ryman Auditorium like … anybody? Come on, there has to be at least one.

To find all those things, feel and breathe and taste all those things, allow a lot of extra time when you visit Nashville because they’re all three hours to the west.

I’m a Memphian, and the real thing is right here, and it’s a real shame when we let people take it away from us.

Dan Conaway is a lifelong Memphian, longtime adman and aspiring local character in a city known for them. Reach him at dan@wakesomebodyup.com.

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