Nashville, and How I Forgot to Pack Nice Clothes

This is me, at Parnassus Books in Nashville, last Saturday — Bastille Day — yakking about Le Road Trip:

The author takes a minute to familiarize herself with her own book, in front of a bewildered audience.

I hope nobody noticed my crappy Gap trousers that I had to wear because I forgot to pack my dressy grey linen slacks. Luckily, though, somebody remembered to pack their screaming kid and bring it to Parnassus so that it could wail its little heart out just behind me and that blue book shelf.

My official photographer [Top Cat] is a perfect husband, but he has his drawbacks as a portraitist. He seems to have  knack for getting photos of me with my eyes closed …

I was saving this face for my Nobel Prize acceptance speech, but Nashville’s close enough.

or my mouth hanging open…

The author has just been informed that there is no bar at this book store.

… or worse:

Note the crowds not listening to me at all in the background.

I can never get over my amazement that people I don’t even KNOW will come out to meet me and have me sign copies of my books and share their own travel stores with me. Thank you, dearest Southern Readers, for the pleasure of your company at Parnassus Books! Special thanks to Amy, who came all the way from Indiana and sat in the front row! There is a special place in Heaven for people who come to book events and sit in the front row, for which me and every book-eventing-author are eternally grateful:

But it was not all work and no play in Nashville, no sir. Top Cat and I also got to live it up in Music City, the only ville in America that can claim to have a Batman Building: 


That’s what the locals call the ATT building that dominates the silhouette of their downtown.

That red brick structure on the left is the Ryman Auditorium, the original Grand Ole Opry. It’s a landmark, is all I’m saying.

It was pouring rain, I mean monsoon-quality precipitation, that afternoon:


It occurs  to me that Nashville is probably the outer (northern) American limit of were you can wear a cowboy hat and not have people judge you.  The good thing is, that if it hadn’t been so sopping wet outside, we wouldn’t have stopped into the Tennessee State Museum

…and we wouldn’t have known that the 1843 election deserves its own diorama. You know the 1843 national election, right? The one that saw James K. Polk of Tennessee become the 11th President of the United Sates?  Yeah, that one. No, me neither.

If not for the pouring rain, we would never have seen  Andrew Jackson‘s wine glass (Andrew is the more famous President from Tennessee):

History has judged boring old sober-sides James K. Polk to be one of America’s greatest presidents, yet it is Andrew Jackson, our 7th President, who has his face on our $20 bill all for being dashing and sexy and populist.  Go figure.

The museum also had lots of portraits of notable Tennessee citizens. I loved many of them but this picture is practically a catalog of tasteful mid-19th century jewelry, and I’m still an antique jewelry historian deep down, so that’s why I’m showing you this picture and not the ones with weird looking kids in them.

I also had to try out the town’s famous French bakery:

Name of bakery withheld for its own protection.

The place was packed because of this:

Nashville loves Bastille Day!!!!   So I bought four macarons to go, and the first one I tasted was so vile that I just threw the other three in the trash. Well, at least Nashville’s heart is in the right place. And you have to forgive a city that can give you this

…just as the sun is going down!  Everybody in Nashville loves the sun sets, because everybody knows that Nashville really gets going after dark…


Music Row (downtown) glows in the black of a Southern night …



…and the party is already in full swing at Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge

…where you can squeeze into the crowd to hear local musicians hop on stage for a few songs…

…or you can mosey a few doors down to where there’s a dance floor and try out your best honky-tonk moves:


And then, all too soon, it’s time to pack up and head out to the airport to wait out a nine-hour flight delay. Terrible rain storms in New York City kept all NYC-bound luggage on the ground there at Nashville’s delightful international airport tarmac, in 100-degree Tennessee heat. That’s my brown bag there, just beneath the tip of our plane’s wing. I was watching it carefully, wondering if that bottle of Biltmore white wine I’d packed was going to explode from being baked all day long.

Oh, did I forget to tell you about our side trip to Asheville, North Carolina, and my walk around the Vanderbilt gardens of Biltmore mansion?   I’ll have to catch you up on that with next Friday’s post…for now, we’re watching the sun set over the Nashville skyline…

…and saying Farewell to wonderful Music City

…and coming home to rapturous greetings from our devoted herd of loving cats:

Lickety and Taffy, overjoyed that we’re back.


Candy, who can hardly contain her excitement.


Dudley and his high regard for all we mean to him.


Oscar’s embarrassing show of emotion.


Bibs is thinking…”You look familiar. Aren’t you the people who bring me dinner? WAIT!! DID I MISS DINNER!?!?!?!?”

**** KILL ME NOW: I just noticed today, July  20, that is selling Le Road Trip for a whopping $53.86. Which explains why sales have dropped off lately…

The Bloomsbury crew is trying to fix this with the Great and Powerful Oz/azon but until the remedy with the ruby slippers works: the books costs a mere $24.00!!!! Order it from your local independent book store!!!!

****THIS JUST IN****

My publisher, Bloomsbury, tells me that Le Road Trip has sold out of its first printing and the second printing has not yet arrived in Amazon warehouses, so until those new books arrive the scalper’s price for my book is, indeed, $53.86. I cannot apologize enough for this. Don’t hate me for writing a book that appears to cost Fifty-Three Damn Dollars.

****SATURDAY UPDATE (July 21, 2012)****

Amazon just got re-stocked. Le Road Trip s now AVAILABLE.


18 Comments, RSS

  1. Trace Willans July 20, 2012 @ 6:04 am

    Next year when i have my birthday which happens to be the 14th of July I think I will go to Nashville or France. Tough choice.

  2. Monique July 20, 2012 @ 7:57 am

    I love all your captions with the photos..:)
    Seems like the event was fun and you made the most out of a very colorful city..
    I see your hostas are in full swing too..

  3. janet bellusci July 20, 2012 @ 7:58 am

    you never fail to make me laugh on a friday morning with your wonderful posts and photos. thank you, viv.

  4. Deborah July 20, 2012 @ 11:42 am

    I am so glad Amy was there to represent the Hoosier State. Wish we could have car-pooled. I had my car all packed the night before, with Google maps & a little Bastille Day gift for you (sea salt from France), but when Saturday morning rolled around, my off again, on again cold was just too much. I could imagine getting myself down there but the thought of driving back was just too much. My uber fantasy is that I’ll get to see you in NY someday.

    The only consolation is that I was home to see it rain . . . finally.

    Love the captions on the photos. Can’t wait to hear about the Vanderbilt gardens.

  5. Diane P in N. Cali July 20, 2012 @ 2:05 pm

    Love the post, still laughing!
    Wish I could have been at your bookstore appearance; perhaps you’ll have one in San Francisco one day? (I hope, I hope!)

    And isn’t it kindv flattering that, while Amazon is out of stock on your Le Road Trip, that sellers are asking $53+? But I couldn’t help noticing that Amazon also offers to buy back copies at a whopping $6….~shakes head~

    So glad I have my copy…I’m not selling at ANY price!

  6. Downith July 20, 2012 @ 3:00 pm

    Go Amy!

    Next time I go to a book event Vivian, I will sit in the front row.

  7. Nadine July 20, 2012 @ 4:12 pm

    Fun post, and you make Nashville look like a happening place. Congratulations on the 2nd printing. That’s great news! Thank DoG your cats won’t let you get too much above yourself.

  8. Vicki Abbott July 20, 2012 @ 6:49 pm

    Ooo, your cats and comments are adorable!

  9. Joan July 20, 2012 @ 7:28 pm

    Love this account of the Nashville trip…you always make me chuckle or laugh right out loud which scares the bee jeerers out of my husband, Bottom Cat. (Top Cat was taken!)

  10. Barbara Finwall July 20, 2012 @ 8:14 pm

    Thanks for taking us along on your trip. That was fun. I guess you didn’t get to meet Anne. But you did get to go to The Biltmore. Isn’t it great?

  11. chel July 21, 2012 @ 10:12 am

    Ahh, Nashville. My first college boyfriend’s frat formal was held there so we drove from Atlanta and explored the city all weekend. I don’t think his friends quite understood why we spent the weekend looking at art instead of partying it up, but that’s what I do. Bring me to a new city, I find the museums. And take shelter there.

  12. Sandra July 21, 2012 @ 11:28 am

    Well, I live in Nashville but I did not make it on the day you were here. I have to tell you that I did not like the way you described Nashville. I am so upset and disappointed.
    First you said “bewildered audience” what does that mean??? You talked about the screaming kids, I think you have screaming kids everywhere, maybe the parents did not have a sitter but wanted to see you so bad they had the “kid” tag along.
    What did you mean about The Ryman being a landmark,I took it as if you did not think it was a landmark.
    You talked about the rain ruining your trip, Nashville needed that rain….cowboy hats and no not everyone in Nashville wears or owns a cowboy hat.
    The Tennessee Museum…seems like you were making fun of some of the items there such as the glass..
    and the French Bakery…did you have to tell us that you threw away the food you bought..slamming the bakery…maybe others would like the food…you said you would “forgive” the city because we had a nice sunset with a rain bow….and it was not our fault that you had a 9 hour delay and were flying back to your beloved NY to more rain…..
    I hope you never come back here…..

  13. Mary July 21, 2012 @ 3:07 pm

    Sorry Sandra. Don’t come to New York. You might not like all the museums, Bakeries, and Deli’s or the rain, or food .
    AND, don’t write about it on a blog, because someone will not understand your humor. They might call you a redneck or hillbilly, and tell you never to come back.

    And, ” rain bow” is spelled rainbow.
    Thank you; thank you very much……

  14. Nadine July 22, 2012 @ 5:49 pm

    I came back to this post because I wanted to see the photos of the cats again, and OMD! Sandra totally misread your post!

    Plus, if she’d been a long time reader, she knows your fascination with the quotidian facts of life and she’d know that you really do love the Tennessee State Museum. And that people can wear cowboy hats and cowboy boots look actually at home in them. I could go on, but I have more important things to do than correct Sandra’s misguided impression of your post.

    What I really wanted to say this this: Vivian, if Bibs ever becomes 1 cat too many, let me know. I covet him.

  15. Michele July 22, 2012 @ 10:23 pm

    Oh, I guess Canada is off the hook now, eh? You can come to Alberta anytime, dear heart, and you will be adored and loved, because we have a sense of humour. Loved your rendition of your trip. I actually thought it made Nashville seem interesting….

  16. Amy July 23, 2012 @ 1:47 pm

    It was so great getting to meet you!

    Thanks for the photos–now I have proof when I tell people that I got to hang out with none other than Vivian Swift, travel writer extraordinaire.

    I’ve got an article I wanted to send you–it’s a photo spread of Southern gardens. I’m going to look for it online now–it’s in the latest issue of Garden & Gun.

    Til we meet again!

  17. Bobbi July 25, 2012 @ 5:31 am

    Fantastic tour I must say. Congrats on the print sell-out. Even if it were 53 bucks it would be worth every penny!

  18. Lisa July 30, 2012 @ 2:08 am

    Oh my goodness – I got such a good belly laugh out of all your comments. Thanks for taking us along on your journey. I love that you can laugh at yourself through the beautiful portraits your husband took too.

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