December 8-11, 2000

The late John Egerton and I co-edited Nashville: An American Self-Portrait, an “intentional artifact”  documenting the city’s remarkable year 2000 through the work of scores of writers, photographers and other contributors. The book went to press in August 2001 and reached stores in late September. It thus became not just a multi-faceted portrayal of one of the most news-filled years in our history but also a portrait in deep detail of an American city at the moment before terrorism transformed the country.

Jim Ridley, now editor of the Nashville Scene, penned the day-by-day chronicle of the year that ran as a ribbon alongside the book’s essays, photos and art. I am posting some nuggets from that variegated ribbon as time permits.

Dec. 8—Just when Vice President Al Gore’s hopes for the presidency seem dashed, the Florida Supreme Court orders a statewide hand recount of approximately 45,000 disputed ballots in 64 of Florida’s 67 counties. Gore is suddenly a viable contender again, and Texas Gov. George W. Bush’s lead is cut to a precarious 154-vote margin. The next day, the situation will reverse again when the U.S. Supreme Court calls a halt to the recount. Deanna McFarland, a Republican voter from Hendersonville, expresses the opinion of most Americans when she tells The Tennessean she’s “tired of the whole thing.”

Dec. 9—Every December in Franklin’s Rebel Meadows subdivision, lines of cars, limos, even tour buses parade past Chuck Smith’s annual “Planet Christmas” extravaganza, a lighting display elaborate enough to have its own website and low-power FM radio station. After complaints from neighbors last year about traffic and sensory overload, former Franklin school board member Smith has scaled back his display. Visitors now have to settle for 10 motion-controlled light-up reindeer instead of 52; only a couple of “singing penguins”; and a mere 53,205 lights, as opposed to last year’s 143,268. The helicopter still works, though.

Dec. 10—At the Jewish Community Center’s annual Hanukkah Festival, a large-screen TV has been set up to accommodate Titans fans, whose playoff hopes depend on the outcome of today’s Titans-Cincinnati Bengals battle. The Flamin’ Thumbtacks do not disappoint. The Titans trounce the Bengals 35-3, thus securing a berth in the upcoming NFL playoffs.

Dec. 11—A plan to use $8 million in federal funds to save the historic Union Station train shed is dead. Since owner Henry Sender wants to build a for-profit enterprise on the shed site, federal tax funds cannot be used—and there is still the grim fact that the rickety shed has been condemned. Its fate is virtually sealed.