Grand Ole Sop-ry

     Saturday, a week after the great deluge of 2010 in Nashville, TN, I was involved in a photo shoot at Opry Mills, the mall adjacent to the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and the Grand Ole Opry House.

     The Mall is situated on the former site of the Opryland USA amusement park.(The park was flooded previously, in 1975)

     This is the first time I had really gotten a first hand ‘feel’ for the actual destruction that occurred in and around Nashville the week before. Actually, the devastation is STILL building. I did not go around the city ‘sight-seeing’, though through first-hand reports, photos, and videos from friends and acquaintances, I have seen enough to be aware that this was not a minor plight…stories of friends who were rescued from the rising, surprising currents,… furniture and cars being swept to who knew what end….


     My first impression upon entering the 1,200,000 square foot Mall was that the place should be ‘bull-dozed’ and built again from scratch.

     Every wall had to be stripped to the metal studs, at least six feet up, sometimes ten. Every inch of carpet, tile and hardwood flooring was in the process of being removed. Theater seats were taken out, not only to be cleaned, or more likely replaced, but also so that the surrounding areas could be dried, mud removed, decontaminated, and treated for mold growth. In some stores that seemingly had not even been visited by their owners, the mold was already taking over. The already disquietingly forlorn mannequins had taken on a new sense of pathos as they helplessly overlooked their homes’ total disarray.

     The ‘Food Court’ was being dismantled counter-by-counter, tile-by-tile…every piece of equipment and merchandise in the mall hauled outside for the adjusters and owners to assess and salvage, if at all possible. I didn’t see it first-hand, but I was told that in the Gibson guitar store, instruments had to be smashed so that they would not wind up on the ‘black market’ and then be returned as damaged, or worse, cause an outbreak of some insidious mold-related disease.

      I met the manager of ‘The Aquarium’, a restaurant whose decor is mainly LARGE tropical and fresh-water aquariums. He brought a biologist into the mall on Monday following the rain. They waded through waist-deep water to get to the restaurant to see if there was anything there to save.

     Upon entering the mall, he half-jokingly told the security guard that there were 12 inch fresh-water piranha that he hoped had not escaped into the mall then, ultimately, the city. By nightfall, of course, all news outlets were reporting the possibility…..

     Be careful what you say and who you say it to, right? (All aquariums were intact with no major ‘injuries’ OR escapes. That’s about the ONLY thing that went unharmed)

     Though dramatic, and possibly ‘tragic’ to some, the 20 or so 4’x4′ boxes of wet Liz Claiborne purses that were marked for destruction, or the irreplaceable autographed memorabilia from another shop, represented merely the monetary loss of things that had not yet become a part of someone’s life and story. These scenes were not nearly as poignant as the mattresses, stuffed animals, books and other personal belongings that had been placed by individuals and families on the streets elsewhere in the city.


     One of the most telling conversations that I heard was from a ‘disaster clean-up’ supervisor who has traveled the country on many flood, fire, tornado and hurricane restorations.

He said, “Well, at least it’s not Katrina!”

     I expected him to follow with a description and comparison of the devastation in New Orleans and surrounding areas…..Not quite…

     He went on to say, “I was part of the crew to help feed victims in New Orleans, and it was just amazing…!! Some of the people there REFUSED to be served food on paper plates!!! It wasn’t good enough. Now, in Iowa, following their flood, the people there took the clean-up workers into their own homes to feed US! Some had lost virtually everything, but they did all they could to thank and take care of us.” He continued, with a smile, saying, “I’ve been told that in Nashville, they’ll feed us TOO much!”

     I hope that Nashvillians will show how we deal with being ‘entitled’. We feel entitled to sweat as we work. We feel entitled to give to others as we try to forget what we have lost. We feel entitled to look towards a new day.

     We feel entitled to pull up our bootstraps, shovel in hand, and NOT wait to be taken care of. Is it the ingrained, almost instinctive legacy from the agricultural roots of our state that give our citizens the fortitude to come up fighting?…to ‘take the bull by the horns’?…to approach the failed harvest with the promise of the next Spring’s planting?

     Whatever it is, I applaud it and hope that we may set an example for others.

      In June, a veritable All-Star concert is being held in Nashville to benefit the victims of the flood. The tickets were sold out in minutes. As a demonstration of the yin and yang of human activity, I see now that tickets are still available, at ‘scalped’ prices from various ticket outlets. Are the scalpers going to give their profits to help the cause? One would certainly like to think so…but, cynic that I sometimes am, I don’t hold out much hope that that will be the case.

    If not, I do trust there is a special place reserved for the scalpers, and the looters who reportedly sent their kids into abandoned houses first to check on the ‘goods’…. in eternity….

I think you know what I mean!


~ by rkpowers on May 19, 2010.

4 Responses to “Grand Ole Sop-ry”

  1. Randy…….awesome piece. I know you are a gifted photgrapher, but your writing is inspired……….I sure could use you to help write messages………..hope you are all doing well and enjoying many blessings



  2. Another excellent essay my soul brother.


  3. I have just found your site, and I am ultra impressed with your captures, but also your insight into photography and life. I will be a follower for a long time. Thanks for being a breath of fresh air in a somewhat stuffy world.


    • Thank you so much. I appreciate your comment and hope that you will continue to check in or ‘subscribe’…I will try not to disappoint…no guarantees, though. As Popeye so elegantly stated, “I yam what I yam!”



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