FAREWELL TO THE GOLD RUSH

“There are times when I can’t help thinking about the past. I know the present is the place to be. It’s always been the place to be. I know I’ve been recommended by very wise people to stay in the present as much as possible, but the past sometimes presents itself. The past doesn’t come as a whole. It always comes in parts.”
Sam Shepard, Spy of the First Person

“What will happen to us?” I asked. “There will always be us,” he answered.”
Patti Smith, Just Kids

You are going to have to humor me a bit today. Normally I stick to education issues, but today I’m in mourning over the demise of a friend. In this case, the friend just happens to be a place. But that doesn’t make its demise any less painful. If rumors are to be believed, last night the Gold Rush shuttered its doors for the last time.

News flash to the kids: being weird and a little different wasn’t always as welcoming or even as tolerated as it is today. I moved to Nashville in 1989. Just a 23-year-old punk rocker fleeing Pennsylvania. Lest you think I’m exaggerating, let me assure that fleeing is exactly the right word. I’d only been out of the state for a month when my father was summoned to State College to settle up $1500 in parking tickets I’d left behind. So yeah, it was time to go South, young man.

The Nashville I found in 1989 wasn’t the diverse vibrant city that it is today. There weren’t a thousand different places to frequent, and if you were a long-haired, leather jacket-clad young man, there were even fewer welcoming places. The running joke at the time was that Nashville had both kinds of music, country and western.

In the midst of all this homogeny was a haven for misfits. It was the anchor of a block that catered to those who heard something different from the Nashville Sound. The Exit-in, the End, Mosko’s, Fridays, the Grapevine all created a little oasis in the city for those of us who were looking for a little more, an alternative to the mainstream. One by one, save the End, those doors have closed and businesses that cater to a new Nashville have replaced them.

I have no great story about the first time I went to the Gold Rush. Probably because right from the first I knew I’d found my place and my people. I’d flirt with other establishments, but in the end, would always come home to the Rush. By the time I hit the door for the first time, the glory years for the establishment were starting to wane, but it was still the center of the universe for Nashville’s small but growing rock and roll crowd. A place you could walk through the door and always find a friend.

Music was always an essential ingredient. Bartenders chose their own music and it wasn’t uncommon to hear the Clash in one room and George Strait in the other. Bartender Kim spinning vinyl while she slung drinks on a freezing cold Friday night, a warm memory. The original Vinyl Tap.

It used to be when a touring Rock and Roll band played Nashville, you knew that after the show everybody would be at the Rush. Artist’s would show up and they would mingle among the crowd as peers. I can remember tossing drinks back with ZZ Top, Metallica, the Smithereens, Lucinda Williams, Motley Crue, and Ryan Adams as if they were just folks that worked down the street. Like we were all part of one big after show party.

The Gold Rush always had a way of melting the pretentiousness off of you. It was a place where Nashville’s first celebrity bartenders – Black Jack Mulligan, Buster, Earl, Larry, Cowboy Billy, Laura, Cindy, Cassie – set the standard. Just a first name evokes fond memories from regulars. It’s where I learned the craft of bartending. I also cooked for a while and learned that there are few jobs harder than that of a day line cook.

There was a comfort about the place, despite its proximity to one of the wealthiest universities in the south, you knew that you could slide in at any time of the day and be welcomed no matter how much money was in your pocket. I remember losing my home, car, job, and girlfriend all in one 24 hour period. I spent the day from open to close at the Gold Rush, maybe not the best idea, but it gave me a place and time to heal and move forward.

Throughout its existence, people met their soul mates at the bar, consoled each other over tragedies – I remember that after Chis Feinstine’s funeral there was really only one place to go – while celebrating marriages and births. It really was our honeycomb hideout.

Ironically the Gold Rush was founded in 1974 by a bear of a man named Keith Johse, who was as country as country can get. His partner Walter was killed in a car accident shortly after the place opened. Johse was known for his wry humor and his tolerance, both for a drink and of people. Hang around the bar long enough and you’d hear about the day someone shot through the front window. Funny how a place that only held a hundred people managed to have several thousand people present the night of the incident, as over the years people would recount the story as if they were present. That’s the thing about the Gold Rush it was always a little difficult to separate the fact from legend.

Over the last decade, the bar, like the rest of us adolescents, was trying to grow up and clean up. A slew of renovations got rid of some of the funkiness and they began trying to attract a more mainstream crowd. It wasn’t my cup of tea and admittedly my attendance has been lacking for several years, but I still enjoyed popping in on occasion and swapping old war stories with the veterans holding down the fort.

As Nashville has become more and more like any Any Town USA, it was comforting to know that a place like the Gold Rush still existed. A place where rock and roll still meant something and you could always find a little comfort from the storm. I’ll miss you old friend and though few will notice, Nashville without you just won’t be the same. Thank you for providing shelter from the storm.

If you’re still curious what all the fuss was about, I encourage you to read the words of the late great Jim Ridley, who managed to capture the vibe in a Scene article from 2015.

For more than 40 years, The Gold Rush has been an anchor of the Elliston Place district known as the Rock Block. It’s not the kind of bar that draws paratrooping travel writers or souvenir-hunting tourists. It’s the kind of bar that locals keep like a secret — unpretentious, steeped in memory, impervious to trends. And its emblematic dish, in kind, is a fist-thick bean burrito that’s as simple, filling and satisfying as it is resolutely unhip. As long as there are struggling songwriters, strippers, Rock Block nightcrawlers, and law and nursing students looking for a place to smoke and drink the night away, the Gold Rush bean roll will serve as a combination hangover antidote and care package of discount sustenance.

QUICK HITS

In the “you just can’t make this stuff up” category, amidst a week of scandal and heavy criticism, the MNPS Director of Schools and the head of its school board decided the best use of their time was to fly to California and present on the directors evaluation at the Association for School Superintendents Conference. I’ll leave you to write your own jokes here, but keep in mind that the director evaluation here in Nashville is still a work in progress and has yet to be completed in a timely manner.

The state of Tennessee released a report last week that showed that schools of education are doing a better job preparing teachers. Per Chalkbeat:

The State Board issues its annual report card to gauge how well programs are preparing candidates for the classroom and whether they’re meeting the needs of school districts and the goals of the state. Criteria includes a profile of graduates over the past three years, their placement and retention in Tennessee public schools, and their observation and growth scores on their evaluations on the job.

I’ll let you decide how valuable you believe the report card is, but it did shine a light on some areas of concern. The number of those enrolled in teacher education programs is steadily decreasing. The report also shows that only 15% of enrollees are people of color, not a great reflection on the drive for diversity.

Budget season is upon us and that means that MNPS is putting forth its projections for student enrollment next year (2019-20_Projections). Looking over the list and I’m struck by the number of schools that are under-enrolled.

  • In 2014 Buena Vista ES had 364 students; next year they are projected to have 214.
  • John Early MS in 2014 had 492; next year they are projected at 221.
  • Pearl-Cohn HS in 2014 had 907; next year they are projected at 530.
  • Cumberland ES in 2014 had 459; next year they are projected at 242.

These are just a few examples and they warrant a deeper conversation. All are schools with high concentrations of poverty, and as such, beg the question, are we best-serving students and families by isolating children in schools of low enrollment and high poverty? I’m not a fan of closing schools and would recommend instead redistricting schools in order to diversify the population. But I suspect any efforts in that area would be thwarted by the fact that MNPS is a choice system and families would choose to go elsewhere.

We often like to claim that our school board is dysfunctional. When I hear those accusations, I tend to take those claims more as a sign that the board isn’t doing what the accuser thinks they should be doing versus actual dysfunction. Look around the rest of the country and you’ll see that in reality, we are doing pretty well. Nobody has been threatened with arrest for opposing the director, no one has been assaulted, teachers haven’t been removed in cuffs from school board meetings.

I believe the term “dysfunctional” when utilized against Nashville’s board is more a means of attempting to control people then it is an actual assessment. It’s usually coupled with warnings of dire funding consequences if a behavior isn’t quickly altered. In my opinion, a board that publicly never disagrees because they just want more tax dollars without scrutiny is more harmful than one that appears a little dysfunctional at times.

Students from Oliver Middle School worked with the National Park System (NPS) and National Park Conservation Association (NPCA) staff to conduct a citizen science project where the 8thgrade students deployed six wildlife cameras. On behalf of Metro Nashville Public Schools students, NPCA submitted a research permit to NPS for students to deploy, data capture, and present their findings on the wildlife within the Stones River National Battlefield National Park. Students from Antioch Middle School will retrieve the data cartridges and deploy new cartridges on March 5. Students from John F. Kennedy Middle School will retrieve the cameras on March 25. Students from the middle schools will present their findings to NPS and NPCA on May 8 at the MNPS STEAM Project Expo event at Tennessee State University. Very cool project.

The Department of Exceptional Education has a HELP DESK open every day from 8-4 for teachers, principals and anyone else who has a special education question. Contact information: EEquestions@mnps.org or call 615-333-5175 x665402.

Pre-Kindergarten Day on the Hill! On Wednesday, February 6th Pre-K staff joined Tennesseans for Quality Early Education (TQEE) for a day on Capitol Hill to speak with Senators and Representatives to garner their support of Pre-K. They discussed issues around funding, quality, child care, grants, coaching and home visits. There were 4 goals for the convening:

  1. Demonstrate broad statewide support for high-quality early education and development for children birth to 8 –years old.
  2. Brief Legislators on key early childhood education and development issues coming before them this session.
  3. Build/strengthen relationships between Legislators and early education citizen-advocate from their districts or regions
  4. Build relationships among early education advocates from across the state.

The PreK Team spoke on behalf of the 3,000+ children currently in MNPS Pre-K and to heard from advocates from all over the State of Tennessee. The support and recognition Pre-K deserves is certainly growing in Tennessee!

Two of Nashville’s good guys are working together to help combat Nashville’s juvenile crime issue. Avery Patton, founder of Dirty Dozen men’s community organization, and Juvenile Court Clerk Lonnell Matthews have recognized that there’s a direct correlation between youth crime and kids skipping school. They’ve joined forces to try and lower those numbers. Patton and Matthews are now working together, developing a plan to bring grassroots groups together to finally cut kid crimes. Both men, who have a long history of working with troubled kids, say there are a lot of community groups promising to work with kids and could be viable solutions to keeping kids on the right track, but don’t have the proper infrastructure to be effective. This new collaborative effort will merge the groups, connect them with resources and streamline their efforts. This is very welcome news.

POLL RESULTS

Apparently, this week y’all had some opinions and you were ready to express them. Let’s look at what you had to say.

The first question asked for your opinion on the recently released and leaked Bone MCAllester report. Out of 148 responses, 64 of you indicated that there was nothing contained in the report that you didn’t already know and 44 of you indicated that it was bad, but then again so many reports have been.

In the light of the responses to this poll, I would argue that withholding the report from the public was more about creating plausible deniability for board leadership and less about keeping problems internal while a strategy is developed. It should be noted that while the board chair, vice-chair, and the director took it upon themselves to make a special visit to give a pep talk to HR, no such move was made towards the principals and teachers who shared their experiences with Bone McAllester. Once again a clear message is sent.

Here are the write-in answers that also echo that sentiment:

Used by the mayor to cover up the worst 1
Hilarious – finally something said out loud 1
NO BID contract to Briley’s attorneys, known systemic dysfunction, 100k wasted 1
10k a page is a rip off, truthful content but a ripoff, 1
Don’t have the time or energy to read it. 1
I have seen the lag in hiring practices at my school. 1
Too busy helping my kids with homework to read it 1
Seems to make clear there are real issues about leadership 1
Need to know if I’m getting my raise asap or applying elsewhere 1
Everyone knows he needs to go. Board Members are not in best interest of kids 1
Outraged that board members are still defending Joseph after that report 1
should have been made public from the get-go #noSpin 1
How does Sharon Pertiller still have a job in MNPS 1
Validates concerns 1
I don’t know the specifics but the release was clumsy.

Question 2 asked your opinion on the director’s recently completed self-evaluation. This one garnered 143 responses. 81 indicated that based on the evaluation, you felt the director was delusional. 29 of you didn’t read it and 25 of you took it as an indication that even director realized that he hadn’t accomplished much. Only 1 of you considered it an honest self-evaluation.

Here are the write-ins:

Embellishing junk 1
Blah blah blah 1
Like saying affrimation in the mirror 1
Hahahhahahahahabahah! 1
All a distraction of misspent money. Teachers need to survive. 1
He’s completely out of touch, and it’s obvious to anyone who has a clue. Useless 1
The supposed good doesn’t even begin to outweigh the bad.

The last question asked for your feelings on the Friday emails from the director or the chair of the school board. It’s safe to say that there are not many fans of these emails. Out of 144 responses, 70 of them indicated that they create a suspicious feeling. Not one person said they help clarify things. Most telling are the write-in responses:

Both using email to politic & cover up 1
Most teachers see it for the propaganda it is. 1
They’re full of crap. 1
It felt petty when she blamed a board member, so I stopped reading. 1
About as effective as a sled in Nashville. 1
???????? 1
They make me laugh. 1
Wish I did NOT know what they were talking about-nauseating 1
Total birdcage liner 1
They make his hole bigger and deeper. If he continues, he will bury himself. 1
spin 1
They shouldn’t even bother 1
They’re trying to save face 1
They are a total freaking joke. 1
It contained the 2016 HR report. Can u remind me w 1
Effectively makes me roll my eyes 1
Gross. Obvious cover up. Never in good faith. Ever. 1
What the hell was that? 1
Do your job, Sharon Gentry. You’re a fool and we all know it. 1
laughable 1
:/ 1
ridiculous 1
Total Propaganda 1
Gentry is a joke. Her nonsense makes my ears bleed 1
Joseph’s are nonsense but Gentry’s was offensive 1
Effective in lightening the mood in the teachers lounge w/ laughter 1
Makes me angry as they try to sugar coat shit 1
Always, always a positive spin to the negative attention surrounding mnps 1
It’s all feel good blather. Doesn’t fool anyone. 1
Thou who protest much… 1
great bird cage liner if printing them weren’t already a waste of trees 1
It fans the flames. I’m so angry. 1
Gentry is an awful human

That’s a wrap. Check out the Dad Gone Wild Facebook page. It’s a good news station with lots of inspiring pictures from last week. If you need to get a hold of me, the email is norinrad10@yahoo.com. Keep sending me your stuff and I’ll share as much as possible.

If you think what I write has value, please consider supporting the work through Patreon. I’ll be honest with you, February is a slow bartending month so I could use any support you can throw my way. To those of you who pledged money, thank you, thank you, thank you.

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