Plague Serial 4
At this point, a proper narrator would take the time to describe the general aspect of our city to you: What it is like to live in or visit this Nashville of 2031, how the people here get through their days, what they think and feel.
This story has no such narrator. Though you should be provided with some sense of what this place is and has become, and why an outsider pop star like Monsieur M would be inclined to come here.
And, as your time is much too valuable to waste listing columns of minutiae, I will simply provide you with a brief impression of this current metropolitan spacetime in the spirit of a drunken Italo Calvino hurrying home to a hot bath:
It needs to be said that there was a revolution, of sorts. A crescendo was reached, with elements of society thrown so high that the inevitable downward momentum and scattering created room for the fantastical. Undecided things became decided. Decided things became forgotten.
This was less a state of collapse, more a new state of inversion, with the machinery of government and commerce and community exposed and externalized and hung on the walls of reality, the networking of our daily lives now a patchwork Centre Pompidou made from odd new ideas and dusty daydreams.
Long before the rumble, Nashville’s twin threads of heehaw-tertainment and financial clout built from the ill-gotten gains of for-profit healthcare had intertwined, a pair of fuchsia-fringed snakes locked in coitus, reaching out from downtown in seven directions and excreting slick avenues lined with walls of glass and steel.
Life here is experienced mostly in small vertical spaces that slowly transform into concrete castles for semi-suburban fiefdoms, these crafted in secret homage to our Uncle Walt, as they stretch across the inner ring-road orbiting the most expensive addresses, out toward the historic legacy suburbs where the real battles were fought and the greatest changes have occurred:
Looking south toward the bedroom suburb of Brentwood, one may glimpse the golden stumps, glittering towers formed from the remains of six massive monuments, which were partially destroyed by the civilian uprising. These once 600-foot-high habitable statues built in the guise of the forty-fifth and final president of the united states were obliterated from the waist up, leaving only six giant pairs of legs that reflect light for miles and are now home to six separate colonies of fine artists, traditional craftspeople, artisanal cannabis grow-ops, whiskey distilleries, and a small but dedicated group of militantly nudist cheesemakers.
Turning our gaze eastward: Mt. Juliet is now the center of the American farm-to-bookshelf revolution, where Tennessee’s cultivator-publishers — supplied with endless new works by the seventeen writers guilds, blessed with undeniably irreverent tastes and satisfactory educations, and surrounded by a community of delicate craftspeople — are transforming their lush green fields of Buncombe and Eichorn hemp into handheld literature featuring beaux-arts bindings, marbled endpapers, letterpress title pages, engraved frontispieces, and hot-metal typeset texts, all in limited runs, and distributed globally to guild-affiliated bookshop smallholders, logoserias, and griot supply stalls, with the requisite allotment faithfully supplied to the revolutionary vanguard of the micro-mobile-library Libertasothis movement (lest another AntiBezosian jihad take place).
To the north, towering above the ten thousand tynihomes of Whites Creek, the Vulvanteer Monument attracts myriad visitors every year. Considered the Mount Rushmore of Tennessee, this dazzling installation features the 80-foot-high heads of Loretta Lynn, Wilma Rudolph, Tammy Wynette, Frankie Pierce, Pat Summitt, Tina Turner, and Minnie Pearl cast in materials seized by the revolution from the remnants of the imploded football stadium.
The sisterhood that maintains the monument and the cherry-tree-filled park surrounding it is famed and revered for its strong and consistent output of highly collectible lenticular postcards depicting our beloved heroes waving, winking, or strumming guitars. And the city’s most celebrated one-seat ramen shops are clustered here on D.J. Paul Drive (formerly Old Hickory Boulevard), each serving its own version of the local coq-au-feu-katsu specialty.
“But what about the music?” you ask; “This is supposed to be Music City, after all.” Naturally, with New Orleans and Miami now uninhabitable marshlands, Las Vegas completely shut down and abandoned since the third pandemic, the DC corridor a no-go toxin zone, New York in ruins, and Austin off limits as the new capital of the Sinaloan Republic, our former nation’s many minstrels, bards, troubadours, cover bands, and analog-synthesizer-live-set performers have converged on Downtown Nashville, and especially within our Midtown rainbowery, to create a new mélange of melodies offering all listeners a non-stop aural glass bead game of wild and raw ideas built from a fractured culture nobody really understands anymore.
Meanwhile, the hidden vinyl subcultists install invisible records in public spaces which, once discovered, can be played with the simple wind-up devices left on the streets and given to every small child at the beginning of the school year to instill curiosity and motivate exploration in the next generation of audio adventurers and creators. And there will never be enough l’homme orchestre raconteur burlesque performers to satisfy the needs of those brides-to-be who desire both inexpensive, naughty entertainment and hygienic safety for their bachelorette gatherings.
Not all changes have required destruction or violence or cataclysmic motivations. Some deep spiritual shifts have occurred. The West End is still home to Centennial Park, which still contains a full-scale replica of the Parthenon, which still contains a full-scale replica of the Athena statue once in the original Parthenon, but now modified to portray a more familiar and beloved countenance, and augmented with an artificial intelligence, a quantum copy of the mind of this familiar and beloved one, so that our citizens may forever commune with their celestial benefactor, receive her blessings, consult her oracles, and seek her guidance after tithing their consumer sacrifices.
Which is where we find your narrator and his esteemed guest, master indie author-composer-musician Monsieur M, happily clutching his lemon pies and black beans in the rear seat of my silver subscription sled, ready to render his tasty offerings at the temple in exchange for what? More life? More ideas? More success? Purification? Forgiveness? Absolution?
As the parking attendant rolls over to dock with our ride and stow it within the below-ground car-ta-combs, Monsieur M is already leaping out of the vehicle, swatting the lint from his purply pants and dutifully attempting to tame his platinum mop, making himself as presentable as possible for an audience with Saint Dolly.