Good morning, everyone.
Last night, I had the privilege of watching local comedian Ben Oddo's sold-out screening of his documentary on the bachelorette scene here in Nashville. I worked with Ben on a project called The Ben & Morey Show back in the day. That project was fashioned as a sort of late-night talk show, but instead of dumb celebrities, we’d invite prominent local figures on stage. We hosted everyone from a local Wiccan to mayoral candidate Charles Robert Bone to Andre Prince of Prince's Hot Chicken fame.
The documentary is set up as an investigation wherein Ben probes the city’s “Bachelorette phenomenon,” pitting camps who support and oppose the industry against one another to draw out some sense around the issue. Surprisingly, most of the folks in the peripheral industries who make most of their hard-earned pay from the bachelorettes were…ambivalent. Thankful for the money, but keenly aware of their effect on the city.
Some interesting numbers from the doc to clarify what that effect is:
- The Bachelorette industry is a global phenomenon, netting approximately $8 billion per year
- The CEO of the BACH app claimed that 20% of the parties they help plan go to Nashville. Roughly 4,000-5,000 per month.
- According to Butch Spyridon, CEO of the Nashville Convention & Visitors Corporation, who is interviewed in the doc, bachelorettes account for just under 1% of total tourist visitors in the city.
So while yes, bachelorettes are a scourge for most of us, they account for a tiny, albeit vocal, portion of tourists pouring into the city. The owner of the Ainsworth (where I've never been and will never go willingly) drew a comparison to The Field of Dreams, saying: "If you build it, they will come. Well, we built it!" Nashville has certainly built it. Like the scent of marijuana in San Francisco, Nashville has its own signature sensation: the sound of the wooing woo girls.
Ben and his crew navigated the bachelorette scene with great empathy—something that I would not have been able to do because I lack empathy (that's a joke for those in the back). The laughs were plentiful; hopefully, I can score a screener for y'all if you're interested in watching. I imagine Ben having a series in which he wanders into various subcultures, blind as a bat, and tries to make sense of them. A kind of How to with Jon Wilson meets the old school Good Neighbor Stuff YouTube interviews with Kyle Mooney of current SNL fame.
There’s one point peripherally mentioned in the movie which I’d like to elaborate on here: the reorientation of the city towards tourism and away from residents. One commentator in the doc pointed this out, preceded by the BACH app guy, who went into why having a "brandable" city is important. Nashville residents’ concerns about the tourism industry exercising undue influence on the city’s direction are not unfounded. What Ben's documentary made clear to me was that bachelorettes are not specifically to blame. Yes, they make a lot of noise and such, but as far as the rowdy crowd getting banged up on Broadway goes, the bachelorettes are probably the best behaved and arguably spend more liberally than your average weekend tourist.
Tourism is Tennessee’s second-largest industry. In 2019, tourism brought in $23 billion in travel spending and $1.92 billion in state and local revenue tax. Those are state-level numbers which include the most visited national park in the country by a factor of three, but Nashville still draws significantly more capital than that. According to a Tennessean report, "Music City tourists spent, on average, $20 million each day in Davidson County. Direct tourism spending totaled $7.36 billion and business sales were $12.3 billion – more than double the next-largest tourism center."
In short, tourism is a giant industry and, as with any other industry, it holds sway over a not-insignificant portion of the city's leadership. The transpotainment legislation that emerged from the Metro Council earlier this year reflected the desire of actual residents to exercise some sort of power over the city as it has an affair with the tourism industry.
Such concerns are a central theme in Michel Houellebecq's novels. Houellebecq is French, and through most of his books, the backdrop is a disintegrated culture in which hollowed-out towns and cities redesign themselves entirely to appeal to visitors. This leads to the destruction of "French cuisine" because travelers demand more palatable dishes– meaning entrees that match their culinary preferences, rather than those of the French themselves. Restaurants offering this faux-French food spread like a plague through the countryside and, in many places, ethnic restaurants appealing solely to the country which drives the most tourism dollars into that area arise.
When tourism takes control of a place, the character of the city becomes irrelevant. Spas and hotels emerge. Nice restaurants and venues occupy visitors’ time. Instead of reflecting some authentic aspects of the city, the city comes to reflect tourists. Any rough edges are sanded off, and the experience offered becomes undifferentiated from that of any other Las Vegas wannabe.
To Houellebecq, the destruction of French civilization begins and ends with its attempts to draw in visitors—be they permanent or temporary. There's a famous map that shows the most photographed places in the world. Unsurprisingly, most of them are in Europe. The irony of the tourism industry, of course, is that it feeds off of the hard work of locals and the unique spirit they cultivate in an area. After it’s done bottling that up, it turns it into something entirely different: an undifferentiated grey-goo of mass appeal with its spirit hollowed out and sold to the highest bidder.
Firms like AJ Capital have become the ultimate boogeyman in this fight despite their efforts to retain some sense of locality in the properties they purchase. I’d hypothesize the target's on their back because they’re a smaller firm, less visible than their corporate counterparts like the Marriott.
In any event, there's no turning back the clock on this stuff, and frankly, I don’t have many solutions. Fortunately, we still have neighborhood enclaves apart from the bustle of Broadway that have maintained their character; as someone who grew up here, I can still reliably hit many of the neighborhood spots and see someone that I know.
One idea might be to restrict investments from outside the state. But, despite the Metro Council’s protestations against transpotainment, if you go to a Council meeting the only people there are real estate developers keeping careful watch over their projects. So, it seems likely that real estate developers have the council in their pocket and they’re unlikely to budge on any serious legislation that would prevent the overreach of such things from occurring.
All this is to say is that Ben's documentary provided fertile ground for a sane discussion around this stuff. Hemming and hawing against the bachelorettes is about the same thing as yelling at the TV while watching the Titans. Nothing you say is going to make Ryan Tannehill complete a pass. The best we can hope for is exercising some influence on the city's direction to ensure it doesn't morph into another Vegas. I don’t think the fight is lost yet.
Also, be sure to check out our podcast. Available wherever you get your podcasts.
Thanks for reading.
✘ BLACKBURN CALLS FOR PUBERTY BLOCKER INVESTIGATION
Tennessee US Senator Marsha Blackburn asks the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to investigate puberty blockers following Daily Wire writer, podcast host, and filmmaker Matt Walsh’s investigation into the Pediatric Transgender Clinic at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC).
Senator Blackburn’s response is in lockstep with other Tennessee Republican leaders. The momentum surrounding the videos released exposing VUMC is clearly felt by Walsh who tweeted out yesterday, “Tennessee will become the first state in the country to make surgical and medical “gender transitions” for children illegal. We will pave the way. This is just the beginning.”
SENATOR BLACKBURN’S PRESS RELEASE
Tennessee’s US Senator Marsha Blackburn publicly called for an investigation into the VUMC doctor's comments and supports the state's investigation into the clinic initiated by Governor Lee:
“Using children for profit and political gain is deeply disturbing. Experts agree that there have not been enough clinical trials conducted to prove the safety and effectiveness of using these drugs on kids,” said Senator Blackburn.“These drugs have not been approved for treating children experiencing gender dysphoria, but the left insists on experimenting on these children anyway.”
In a press release sent out this morning, Blackburn disclosed a letter her office sent to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) calling for an investigation into the use of puberty blockers on minors.
OTHER TENNESSEE GOP REACTIONS
As previously mentioned, Governor Bill Lee called for an investigation into the Pediatric Transgender Clinic at VUMC. The Attorney General's office backed up the investigation stating, "We are aware of allegations of illegal conduct at the Clinic for Transgender Health at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. General Skrmetti will use the full scope of his authority to ensure compliance with Tennessee law." Following suit, both Tennessee Senate Majority Leader Jack Johnson and Tennessee House Majority Leader William Lamberth have vowed they will take action.
TENNESSEE LAWS ON THE BOOKS
While investigations unfold and Republican legislators draft new legislation for next year’s General Session, Tennessee already has a few laws on the books.
Student Athlete Protection “This bill requires, for the purposes of participation in a middle school or high school interscholastic athletic activity or event, that a student's gender be determined by the student's sex at the time of the student's birth, as indicated on the student's original birth.” (Effective March, 2021)
Hormone Treatment Prohibitions For Gender Dysphoria “This amendment prohibits a healthcare prescriber from prescribing a course of treatment that involves hormone treatment for gender dysphoria or gender incongruent prepubertal minors, except that a healthcare prescriber may prescribe a course of treatment that involves hormone treatments for prepubertal minors for diagnoses of growth deficiencies or other diagnoses unrelated to gender dysphoria or gender incongruence.” (Effective April, 2021)
Tennessee Accommodations for All Children Act (aka, The Bathroom Bill) This bill gives students, parents, or employees the ability to sue “for all psychological, emotional, and physical harm suffered” if school officials allow a transgender person into a bathroom or locker room when others are in there. It also allows legal action if a student is required to stay in the same sleeping quarters as a member of the opposite sex at birth, unless that person is a family member. (Effective July 2021)
- “The “Bathroom Bill” has consistently been tied up in court. The most recent lawsuit was filed last month by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) on the behalf of an 8-year-old transgender girl entering the third grade in Williamson County. They are “suing the Tennessee Department of Education and its commissioner over the enforcement of a state law barring transgender students from using school facilities like restrooms and locker rooms consistent with their gender identity.”
- In 2021, District Attorney General Glenn Funk stated that he will not enforce “transphobic or homophobic laws” in reference to the “Bathroom Bill.’
- Bomb Threat Closes Nashville Libraries (Scene) The Nashville Public Library system received a bomb threat via email this morning, prompting the closure of all branches and an ongoing investigation by the Metro Nashville Police Department.
- Tennessee shifts learning loss programs to stimulus funding, moves road projects to state funds (Center Square) Tennessee plans to spend $102 million of its $3.7 billion American Rescue Plan allocation on a learning loss intervention program for Tennessee students.
- Democratic leaders push back on calls for Vanderbilt transgender clinic investigation (Lookout) A day after Gov. Bill Lee and state Republican leaders called for an investigation into transgender care at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Democratic leaders pushed back, saying that “hate” was being used “for political purposes.” I have a simple question for everyone that disagrees with the blowback: do you or don't you support the castration of 14-year-old boys? It's a simple yes/no question.
- Mayor Cooper pushes $50M plan to curb homelessness; residents question strategy (Main Street) Mayor John Cooper is pressuring the Metro Council to support a $50 million strategy to reduce homelessness in Nashville, but residents of a neighborhood near one of the city's largest encampments want to see more data to show it will work.
- Nashville's mayor unveils agenda for city's youth (Tennessean) To a room full of people and organizations serving children, Cooper laid out goals, developments and new hires in his mission to make Nashville "the best place in the South and in the country to grow up in."
- With party vehicle rules under scrutiny, Metro pauses insurance requirement (Tennessean) The new regulations require entertainment vehicles that allow alcohol on board to have a $1 million liquor liability insurance policy. Enforcement was slated to begin on Oct. 3. But all except three entertainment vehicle operators reported they have been unable to obtain compliant insurance.
- Highland Yards Announces Multiple Retail Tenants In East Nashville (Now Next)
- Nashville slated for new hotel concept (Post)
- Consulting firm plans to take space at Gulch tower (Post)
- Arcade owner buys once more on Fourth Avenue (Post)
- Metro approval sought to update Lower Broad building (Post)
❒ You Might Not Have the Brain of a Sapsucker Left If…
John Arra checks in from his outpost way out Charlotte Pike.
A sapsucker is a type of woodpecker. For you city slickers, a woodpecker is a bird, not a sex toy. Given their tiny brains, sapsuckers are not very smart, but they do know how to do one thing very well: they live off the sap they find in tree trunks by pecking little holes through the bark. It is Willie Stark who compared the ignorant, malleable electorate to sapsuckers.
Willie Stark was born in Nashville over a century ago. He got into politics in Louisiana during the Great Depression and made a reputation for representing the little guy whose ambitions were constantly at risk of being crushed by big government and big business. In return the people loved him. In other words, he was a populist. His success came from the people up, not from the top down.
Willie first won a small office by exposing a corrupt bidding process that gave a school building contract to a favorite of the entrenched establishment. The school building collapsed, killing several children. The people remembered and supported him with their votes. The dominant political machine noted that Willie had a knack for speaking to the majority of the voters in Louisiana of that day, the poor whites and blacks who worked as tenant farmers and laborers, giving them hope in exchange for votes.
Hungry to do more than the help of money and sympathetic newspapers could make happen, Willie was flattered to be asked to run for a bigger office. But along the way, he discovered that he had been suckered into running not because the big guys wanted him to win, but to split the vote of the opposition. Willie toed their line and gave the standard, boring stump speeches up to that point. But when he realized he’d been had, he changed his tune. He made the people face the hard, unvarnished facts of life.
“Listen to me, you hicks,” he would say. “Listen here and lift up your eyes and look on the God’s blessed and unflyblown truth. If you’ve got the brain of a sapsucker left and can recognize the truth when you see it. This is the truth: you are a hick and nobody ever helped the hick but the hick himself. Up there in town they won’t help you. It is up to you and God, and God helps those who help themselves!”
Willie Stark lost that race, but his new message touched a nerve. With overwhelming support from the electorate, he won the governorship of Louisiana and set about reforming the corruption endemic to the big institutions of that state.
Then, Willie Stark was assassinated. End of story.
⁕ CHART OF THE DAY: WHO WORKS?
⚔ MISSIVES ⚔
- 🌴 A top Democrat in Palm Beach County, Florida, endorsed Gov. Ron DeSantis for governor by saying there is “too much on the line” during the 2022 midterms.
- 📈 Mortgage rates rose for the fifth consecutive week, reaching yet again the highest level since the financial crisis. The average rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage climbed to 6.29%, according to a survey of lenders released Thursday by Freddie Mac. It was the second week in a row that rates topped 6%. The last time rates were this high was October 2008, when the U.S. was deep in recession.
- 🇷🇺 The United States for several months has been sending private communications to Moscow warning Russia’s leadership of the grave consequences that would follow the use of a nuclear weapon
- 🚨 A Republican senator is moving to force a vote on ending the yearslong national emergency declaration on Covid-19, pointing to recent comments by President Biden that the pandemic is over.
- 🇯🇵 Japan intervened in the foreign exchange market on Thursday to buy yen for the first time since 1998, in an attempt to shore up the battered currency after the Bank of Japan stuck with ultra-low interest rates.
- 🇬🇧 The Bank of England voted to raise its base rate to 2.25% from 1.75% on Thursday, lower than the 0.75 percentage point increase that had been expected by many traders.
THINGS TO DO
View the full calendar and see upcoming shows here.
🍺 The Pamphleteer hosts Bar Hours on the third Thursday of every month (the next meeting is this Thursday, October 20th) at Lucky's 3 Star Bar from 6-8 PM.
🎩 The Pilgrimage Festival is happening on the 24th and 25th at The Park at Harlinsdale, a century-old horse farm recently purchased by the City of Franklin. The festival has six stages and 60+ artists spanning Rock & Roll, Americana, Alt-Country, Bluegrass, Jazz, Indie, Gospel, Pop & Blues.
🎪 Check out our favorite driving distance festivals this summer.
👨🏻🌾 The Pamphleteer farmer's market guide.
⚔️ The Knights in Armor exhibit is running till October 10th at the Frist: European arms and armor from the renowned collection of the Museo Stibbert in Florence, Italy.
🎧 Listen to the Pamphleteer's Picks on Spotify, our playlist of the best bands playing in town this week.
🗜Flea Market @ Nashville Fairgrounds, 8a, Free, Inf0
🎻 The Cowpokes @ Acme Feed & Seed, 12p, Free, Info
🍻 Fridays by the River @ Shelby Bottoms Park, 2p, Free, Info
+ Pop-up biergarten
🏛 Musicians Corner @ Centennial Park, 5p, Free, Info
+ Erin Rae @ 8:15
🍀 Live Irish Music @ McNamara’s Irish Pub, 6p, Free, Info
🎸 Kelly’s Heroes @ Robert’s Western World, 6:30p, Free, Info
🎸 My Morning Jacket @ Ascend Amphitheater, 7p, $39.50, Info
💀 Evil Dead II @ Full Moon Cineplex, 7p, $8, Info
🎻 Chamber Ensemble: Musician Showcase @ Edgehill United Methodist, 7p, Free, Info
+ Part of the Nashville Symphony's neighborhood residency in Edgehill
🎸 David Nance (opener) @ The Blue Room, 8p, $15, Info
🕯 Symptom of the Universe @ Springwater, 9p, Info
+ Black Sabbath cover band
⚔️ Kill Bill Vol. 1 @ Belcourt, 12a, $12.50, Info
Around the Web
⌘ At NatCon, Online Right Leads. Will Traditional Grassroots Follow?
Words of Wisdom
“The past is always beautiful. So, for that matter, is the future. Only the present hurts, and we carry it around like an abscess of suffering, our compassion between two infinities of happiness and peace.”