The optimal condition for humans is a state of suspension in time, or out of it, when we feel no need to draw a line between work and play. “Flow,” some have called it. If you regularly experience this condition while doing your job and earning your paycheck, consider yourself one of the masters of the universe. There aren’t that many of you, proportionately at least.
But some play is clearly not work in any sense. Nobody paid me to play yesterday morning, but (as some of my in-laws might say) I wouldn’t take anything for it.
This has been one of those weeks, near the end of the middle/high school academic year, when routine goes by the boards. Yesterday was typical of this time: drive Younger Daughter to the bus, come home, a short while later drive Older Daughter all the way to school for another final exam, then hang out and bring them both home when they’re released later in the morning.
So, again, I had a couple of hours at my disposal. What to do? Find a quiet corner in one of the nearby Vanderbilt libraries to “work”? Or surrender to the May mood and play? No contest.
Last time I faced this situation (last Friday) I enjoyed a ramble downtown. This time I’d brought my bike.
I pointed it in the other direction, away from downtown and south toward Belmont Blvd. Soon I’m pedaling past Belmont University’s Fidelity Hall, where I was once employed for about 24 hours, a decade ago– ’til the provost got wind of my Unitarian sympathies.
Then, near my earliest Nashville abode on Oakland (a block off of Belmont). It was cheap, shared with another Grad student, and had a pronounced lean in the direction of the bathroom. Great place to spend the early ’80s.
On beyond Wildwood, a later abode, and then into the domain of David Lipscomb University. Lived across the street from its main entrance in a converted-garage apartment just before moving away to teach at East Tennessee State back in ’92, when my friend J. moved in behind me. In all the years since I’ve never driven, walked, or biked past there and seen J. on his stoop. But I did yesterday. First time for everything.
Then, around the baseball field at DLU. A game was about to commence, but I reluctantly pedaled on.
Stopped at the little jewelry/engraving shop on Granny White, looking for an anniversary gift. Engraving is free, but it takes a week. So now I know what I’ll be giving for next year’s anniversary.
One door down is Rhino’s Bookstore. (BTW: I got to know the bookseller’s daughter back when she and Older Daughter were kindergarten classmates and I was a classroom volunteer, in the early ’00s, but Mom didn’t seem to recall. Time, thief of memory!) I pop in, quickly find the sale table, get excited about David Gelernter’s book about the 1939 New York World’s Fair– it replicates a time and a mindset when the sky really was no limit, for those who believed earnestly in the future– but then discover that it wasn’t supposed to be on that table. At $2 it was a steal, at $10 I’ll have to think about it.
Back on the bike, but soon am off again to gaze closely at the monument to the Battle of Nashville. It was re-located to this spot after a 1974 tornado destroyed its base and then highway construction destroyed its setting. It was the first monument dedicated to both north and south, and appropriately celebrates unity as brokered by the “spirit of youth.”
Pedaling through the now-upscale “12 South” neighborhood, I’m soon within a stone’s throw of yet another old residence from Grad School days. It was a rough neighborhood then, but I didn’t worry because I lived with a pair of Dobermans. They really were very sweet doggies, “Annie”– for Annie Hall– and “Sophie”– for Sophie’s Choice. Two of my best pals ever, and still two of the best films ever, for my money.
A right at Edgehill and I’m soon at Fort Negley (and Greer Stadium, where I hope we’ll take in our first Sounds game of the season before long). Fort Negley was an important Civil War stronghold for the occupying Union army. For most of my time in Nashville it’s just been that big neglected mysterious hill behind the ballpark, but not long ago it was rehabilitated and now is a lovely historical park with a bike-able trail rimming its perimeter. The view from the top is terrific.
Now it was time to get back to school and into the hook-up line. Rats! I really wanted to stop in for a visit with my friends the Scientologists, whose “Celebrity Center” now occupies the old school-building at 8th and Chestnut. Maybe next time.
That’s what I call playing.