1. This is the first photo we will show you of Nashville and its neighborhoods…

A black teen girl in white dress with long, natural, straight hair sits in large leather chair and looks directly at camera while white teen girl with long, straight, sandy hair, dressed in black tight shirt tucked into beltless bleached denim jeans sits on arm of chair leaning against other girl and looks at camera with her head slightly tilted away. A lamp is barely visible at right side of photo with a blurred photograph of man in top hat with rifle in hand in frame on table. The chair sits at an angle in a corner with the girls against a wall. The wall is covered in hand-written signatures. The coloring of the photo is warm yellow-orange and the white girl is partially in shadow. The effect of the photograph makes it look like a painting and the white girl resembles the famous Mona Lisa.

Journal note:

We were at The Standard club on 8th Ave in downtown Nashville–the Nashville neighborhood most people are familiar with. McKinlee Prince-Jeffries (of Prince’s Hot Chicken fame) had just finished her first fashion shoot, on the eve of her sixteenth birthday. She sat with her best friend Lola Mellencamp (of Ted and John Cougar-Mellencamp fame) chatting while they waited for McKinlee’s mother to pick them up.

They talked about their lives the way teens sometimes do, telling their secrets, some of which probably should never be told. And as they talked I saw what we had not seen before: Lives not so different from our own.

This is the first picture we will show you of Nashville because it is a picture of lives hidden in plain sight. In a city known for its celebrities and entertainment it is easy to miss seeing what is obvious.

We learn what is true only when we learn about people. We see the names—Mellencamp and Prince—Rock-n-Roll and Nashville Hot Chicken and we are tempted to see the stereo-type and not the real person. Yet hidden in plain sight is all the life we do not at first glance see—epileptic episodes, divorce, financial fear, bullies in the hallway at high school.

Like our own lives this is life defined not by stereotypes but by common things, the things we share in common, even if we do not yet know it. William Least Heat Moon called this The Deep Map. This is the world hidden beneath thin descriptions and appearances. Each city, each person a landscape to discover—if we dare to look.

We walked out onto the street as they departed and looked at the expanding city of Nashville and construction; we could see the gleaming glass and steel in the dusk, the sidewalk with people, the river of cars and carts and scooters and trollies–the neighborhoods of Nashville stretching out before us–and I thought, with so much hidden right in front of us what would happen if we could see each other and hear each other speak? What would we say and how would it change the way we live?

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