12th & Broad

Jan. 15, 2014 2:49 PM

Been Here Awhile: Growing Pains

More often than not these days I find myself among friends who are new to Nashville. And although Nashville has been deemed the "It" city by what seems like every publication from GQ to Dog Fancy, I can't help but overhear conversations from those who wish Nashville's growth would slow down. Friends in 12South and Sylvan Park groan about the tear-downs and the cookie-cutter rebuilds. They wish it were like the "good ole days." And by "good ole days," I'm assuming they are referring to 2008.

Burger Up It may be hard to find a parking space close to Burger Up in 12South, but our local food options are much better than even a few years ago. George Walker IV

See, I've been here for 34 years. And while I can't remember the really good ole days, I can remember growing up in Nashville in the 1990s. So for all the gripes about increased traffic and crowded city side streets, I feel like I need to take you back to what your Friday night would look like had Nashville not seen this recent trending toward cool.

On a Friday night in 1998, your night would likely start by looking for a place to get a good burger. And instead of The Pharmacy or Burger Up, you would have likely found yourself down on West End Avenue. And where Five Guys now occupies space, the only burger place in town in which you could eat your weight in beef was Fuddruckers. It was a place where if you ate a big enough burger, they put your Polaroid picture on the Wall of Fame. It wasn't as much "farm-to-table" as it was "refrigerated truck-to-wall."

And from there, if you were lucky, it might have been a night on which an event was in town. And instead of heading down to the shiny Bridgestone Arena in the heart of Broadway, you found yourself at the Municipal Auditorium, over by an area more known for bail bond companies than honky-tonks. It was small. It had about as much character as a tin can. And it generally smelled like the circus had just left town. To my knowledge, a corporate sponsor wouldn't touch it with a 10-foot pole.

Hockey Municipal Auditorium used to be Nashville's home for minor-league hockey games, like this one against New Haven from Jan. 20, 1963. Gerald Holly

Municipal didn't host Grammy concerts or the CMAs. But it was home to minor-league hockey and minor-league wrestling. How's that for hipster? I'll occasionally pass it these days on my way home from work. It still stands as a homage to the Nashville of the past: a reminder, that like Nashville, great things can come in small packages.

And on a 1998 Friday night, with a belly full of "gourmet" burgers and day-old cotton candy, the only civilized way to end the night was to hop across the street to the police station and take a seat at night court. That's right, back then you could find a prime spot on some wooden pews to watch the riffraff line up in front of the judge. We didn't need "Busted" magazine back in those days to see who got arrested; we could just watch them roll in after-hours live and in color. I promise you, even on their best nights, the guitar virtuosos in the downtown clubs can't entertain the way our city's nightlife did once Nashville's finest brought them in for mug shots.

So on the next Friday night, when you start to complain about the lack of parking around Burger Up and the high-priced parking around Bridgestone, remember, there was always plenty of parking at Fuddruckers.

Jake Smith is a Nashville native currently working as director of engagement for Blood: Water Mission. Follow him for funny quips and the ultimate in beards on Twitter at @igobyjake