The State Department has a good, but generally underused, program that lets us to volunteer to speak to people around the country when we travel. I often give them my schedule when I am traveling and sometimes they can arrange meetings in my free time.  I find I get more out of travel when I get to talk to interesting people and this is a good – official – opportunity for that. I learned a few things about Nashville at a meeting arranged by State public affairs.

I think of Nashville as the capital of country music and that is still true. The Grand Old Opry is here and musicians come to Nashville from all over the country.   But I learned that Nashville is much more, with a diverse economic base. The biggest industries are education, health care & tourism.  

The most famous local university is Vanderbilt, but there are many others.  The guy at the mayor’s office told me that around 60% of the students who come to the area to study stay after graduation, enriching Nashville with their “human capital”.   He pointed out that young people today often choose where they want to live and AFTER that look for the schools and the jobs that will get them there.   Young people today, especially those with the most marketable skills – the kind of people cities are trying to attract – are more mobile than we were.  On the other hand, they are a little less likely to move once established.  This may be because they choose the place in the first place and like it and/or because relationships hold them in place.  

Nashville competes with – and “benchmarks” – cities like Austin and Charlotte, NC. They are around the same size and have similar compositions.  Austin also has a strong music scene.

Chrissy and I had lunch at a bar and grill called Piranha’s.  They had a truly odd sandwich made of roast beef with the French fries jammed in.  It tasted okay and was very filling, but I don’t think I would order it again.  You see in the picture above that they have some kind of contest going about eating a 10lb cheese steak.   Nobody has won, so far, and I am not surprised.   I think the whole thing might just be a bridge too far even for the biggest eaters.   I recall that the “Big Texan” in Amarillo has a 72 oz steak challenge.  If you can eat it, you get it free.  Some people succeed in that and a solid meat meal would be a bit harder – maybe – that something including bread, but I just cannot figure out how eating 10lbs of anything would be possible. Maybe I misunderstood the challenge.  Across the street from Piranha’s was the Charlie Daniels Museum, actually just more of a shop, pictured above.

The other pictures are the cheese steak challenge, some interesting buildings and a music festival being set up in front of the courthouse. I understand they have live music most weekends.