Souvenirs from Tent City
NASHVILLE, Tenn.--A book with a chewed up spine sits on my motel bed. A homeless songwriter gave it to me, pulling it off a table in a "living room" that consisted of little more than a chair on a mud floor under a tarp ceiling. “The rats got a hold of it and ruined it,” he said, gently handing it to me so it would remain intact. “If you don’t take it, eventually the rain will get to it and it will fall apart.”
The homes in Nashville’s Tent City are made from discarded billboards that drop from an overhead highway overpass. It’s a place you have to go over to get under and where Michael I spent hours trekking through weeds to make our way to the different campsites. We sat on couches made from car seats, watched a chicken drink beer from a cup and attended a campfire prayer service.
By the time we left –our notebooks and cameras filled with stories we will tell you later – my arms swelled with mosquito bites and my clothes reeked of smoke. Michael was splattered in mud from his shoes to his fedora. He’d slid down an embankment trying to keep up with a woman nicknamed “Mother Teresa” who lives with a man called “Papa Smurf.”
We were dirty, smelly and exhausted when we checked into the motel, a $44 a night place outside of the city. We got adjoining rooms, and on his side, Michael rinsed off the heaviest of mud from his clothes before putting them on the back of the car to dry. On mine, I started flipping through the pages of the book, making it through only a few before they began to fall out.
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