Some time before noon, we rolled under a port-foyer of a big hotel. It’s the Gaylord Opryland Hotel & Convention Center. Places like this depress me. I’m sure it’s unjustified, as the place gets rave reviews, but for me it’s a poster for some sort of idyllic retreat; who comes here, to witness such enormity? After receiving room keys from Renée, we remained on the bus and drove to another immense building, one of the seemingly infinite which colosify the landscape. There seems nothing humble about the place, and that’s what I think irks me. The online encyclopaedia tells me this place is
“the largest non-casino hotel in the Continental United States outside of Las Vegas.”
Yawn. Feels like me saying I have the biggest house on the street of a particular street number. Your lame facts do not impress me, human. I suppose my room is a nice size, not to big, not too small. However the air conditioning is relentless; its control has been stabbed with a pen numerous times; I guess there was one stab too many, because now the thing is stuck on cold while outside it is 23C/73F. I thought to let a little warm air in, but was met with this:
The can-do reader would of course be right in saying “Well why don’t you move rooms?” but if I did, I’d have nothing to write about. Your protagonist is met with physical and psychological challenges, thus making for a read chocked with obstacles and conflict. Perhaps I’ll go out for a walk and make a fuss over something; even though I don’t care, I think I’ll demand gluten-free, vegan food and start behaving like my human rights have been violated if I can’t find it; I feel like getting into trouble — let’s see how far this ‘southern hospitality’ stretches.
Just as I wrote the previous paragraph, the clear and sunny face of the sky grew over with a grey beard of cloud. I think the gods are on my side.
* * *
My mood lightened once outside; rather inside. I found myself in a gigantic atrium called the Delta. Completely covered and kept from the real Mother nature, the human surrogate was in charge. Palm fronds waved in a mechanical wind and little canalways snaked around an island of brick and mortar on which one might spend their money. Even the fish are manicured — catfish patrol the concrete canals lined with leaved life. Troughs in the riverbed allow boats to flawlessly navigate the waterways and the catfish are drawn to these little dark trenches. From a bridge over calm water I spy a fish as long as my forearm.
I am loath to admit the Conservatory is very nice. Like a Victorian glasshouse, managed life is kept indoors amidst steel girders supporting little bridges. The only thing that completely ruins the experience is the awful muzak piped through speakers camouflaged in the undergrowth. Creekside walkways and human-made waterfalls are the backdrop to weddings and incidental photos of budding love. I can’t help but chuckle cynically to myself — oh isn’t it all so beautifully fake. At least the flower scents are real. I think.
Still, the place is an impressive undertaking in managed space. The size alone must surely present daily challenges of logic, let alone the sizable requirement of horticultural specialities to keep everything here in tip-top shape. I walked around for about 90 minutes and saw everything worthy of seeing and eventually found myself in the real outside. Instantly I noticed the quiet. The limitless sky allows for a relative silence compared to the covered indoors with its waterfalls, fountains, and human traffic. The smell outside is of dried pine needles and, well, air, I suppose. It reminds me of a summer in Scarborough Ontario. Despite the view of a car park, and glimpses of the highway between breaks in a screen of trees, It’s actually a little more serene out here. And dare I say it, I could swear I saw a real live bumblebee.
About to head back into the contrived paradise, I overheard a group of women talking as they approached this particular hotel entrance; one of them posed the question, “It’s the grand ol’ opry, but where’s the grand?”
I ended my journey with a veggie burger and was surprised I ate the whole thing. At midnight we ride for Tampa.