Throughout my career as a professional guitarist I’ve played in all sorts of bands, and in all sorts of situations. I’ve played in rock bands, blues bands, jazz trio’s, and eight-piece country bands, and performed in night clubs, sports arenas, on flatbed trailers in a field, and at giant outdoor festivals. One of the biggest challenges of live performance has been the ongoing battle to achieve a palatable overall stage sound. As most musicians, myself included, use the same gear from one show to the next, this leaves the PA system, the sound engineer, and the natural acoustic “space” of your performance  as the variables that will regularly change.

Let’s face it, most music performance venues are an afterthought. Whether it be a sports bar with a band in the corner, a tin roofed industrial building turned concert hall, or a 15,000 seat concrete sports arena moonlighting as a major concert venue, many of these situations simply don’t sound very inspiring. As a player in the band, I’m always trying to coax every ounce of sonic maximization out of every sound check or gig. But sometimes, no matter how much we keep tweaking monitor mixes, changing the angle or location of amplifiers, or notching annoying frequencies out of the PA, we just seem to wind up with a different version of mud. It is in these situations especially, that technique, concept, and style can have a huge bearing on the overall sound.

I saw an interview with Peter Frampton where he talked about a point early in his career when he transitioned from playing clubs and concert halls to sports arenas and stadiums. He mentioned how the sound was often less than great and that he adapted his songwriting style to work better in the context of “arena rock”. In the interview, he demonstrated this approach by playing a few simple power cords back to back and allowing the chords to ring openly. When I saw this interview, it not only reinforced a little of what I already knew, it got me thinking about how and why this would make sense.

When sound is in an acoustic space that results in a loss of definition, some of the finite details of a musical performance become lost in the mud, often because of an overly exaggerated natural reverb and/or certain over accentuated frequencies. This is especially true in large cavernous buildings, or at over sized outdoor festivals. If you’ve ever played in these situations, you may have noticed that the ballads often tend to sound and feel better than the up-tempo songs. One of the reasons for this is because a slower tempo allows for longer note durations, and longer pauses, or more space, in between the notes. Playing in a larger physical space means that it takes longer for a note to develop and bounce off of a wall, and by playing long slow passages you are allowing these notes time to develop before bombarding them with the next note. You are playing into the inherently slow reaction time of a large or inefficient space and working with this handicap.

Now think of this phenomenon in reverse. You are playing a busy, up-tempo song in the same clumsy, nondescript acoustic environment. The bass player is playing a pedal of steady eighth notes on the low E, but because of the nature of the room, it just sounds like one big long note. The intricacies of the cymbal work seem to get lost, and the guitar solo doesn’t seem to cut through the mix. Needless to say, the vocalist is now having a difficult time singing over the roar. The room is just too loose to handle this many notes in rapid fire succession at a high volume, and turning the mix up or down doesn’t seem to help. When all else fails, simplify. Rather than just playing the exact pattern of the studio recording of a song, or your interpretation thereof, try adapting your part to fit the sonic inadequacies of a particular situation. Maybe quarter notes on the bass and a simpler pattern on the hi hat will help create a more open, and spacious mix. Perhaps simplifying the guitar part by leaving out certain rhythmic nuances that are getting lost anyway will create a better feel in the moment.

Back in the early 2000’s a friend of mine asked me to sub a gig for him on a national tour. His advice was to learn the material to the best of my abilities, but to play “big and spacey”. In the years since, I’ve worked hard at my ability to play into the sound of each “space” and have learned that not only is less more, quite often, less is better. Playing simply in live situations allows each note to have more meaning and also creates more space in the overall mix for the other instruments. And when all the players of a group work within this mindset it can also result in a more controlled, and often more inspired stage sound. So if you’re playing a show and it doesn’t sound good on stage, don’t just go on autopilot and accept that fate. Work towards finding a balance between the inadequate physical space of the venue, and the amount of perceived “space” in the music. Space has its own vibe. Space is beautiful.

It was just after 1 PM on Saturday, May 29 as we pulled into the Fast Lane minimart in Huntsville, Tennessee. The parking lot of this fine establishment would be our home base for the day as this was the closest our tour bus could safely get to the mountaintop concert site. The event we were playing on this hot and humid Memorial Day weekend was “The White Knuckle Event” at Brimstone Recreation, an annual ATV convention on which thousands converged from all over the country, some even traveling from as far as Canada.

Shortly after our arrival, the event coordinator arrived with a fleet of four-wheel drive pickup trucks, our gear hauling and runner service for the day. Some local fellows helped load the gear into the back of the trucks, and we hopped in to make the 5 mile, 30 minute ride to the top of the mountain. The first couple of miles of this trek was quite scenic, winding through a maze of fields and rolling hills spotted with picturesque homes and cabins. After about 10 minutes of driving, the pavement ended and we proceeded up some steeper inclines as the road turned to dirt and gravel. We we’re now going up the mountain, and the old logging road on which we were traveling was a flurry of activity, with a steady stream of four wheelers and other off-road vehicles coming and going in every direction. The air was thick with dirt and dust kicked up from all the ATV’s as we passed a couple of campsites along the way.

A little while later (it seemed like an hour) we reached the summit and a spectacular panoramic view of the mountain range came into focus. We backed up the pickups to the stage and commenced our load in and sound check. The stunning view off the back of the stage was that of several other peaks, jettisoning up across the horizon under some billowing clouds that seemed to stretch on for as far as the eye could see. The contrasting view off the front of the stage was that of a sea of four wheelers dotting the hilltop amidst several vendor tents, all viewed through a thick haze of freshly kicked up mountain dust.

By four o’clock we had finished sound check and strapped in for the bouncy ride back to the bus. Chilling on the bus for a little bit, we dug into the event provided meal of country ham, green beans, steamed corn, and hot rolls. As this was the only store around for miles, the parking lot was a flurry of activity, providing varying degrees of amusement which could be viewed through our tinted bus windows. At one point a truck pulled up towing a trailer upon which a four wheeler containing several young family members sat. A little while later, one bright fellow took off on a dirt bike with his toddler sitting on the handlebars. It was a regular ATV Woodstock, and after dinner and some showers we hopped back into the pickups for another bouncy ride up to the peak as it was getting near showtime.

Now nearing dusk, we were in amazement upon reaching the concert site when the view of 10,000 concertgoers sitting on thousands of ATVs came into sight. We hit the stage running, and the powerful PA system filled the night air with the sounds of Rhett Akins music. We began the show with our appropriate onslaught of ‘Down South’ and ‘I Brake for Brunettes’ and the crowd was instantly on our side. After a few more tunes, Rhett introduced me as the bands only Yankee and encouraged me to play some southern slide guitar. This led to our rendition of ‘Curtis Lowe’ which was followed a little while later by some hunting songs from his new CD like ‘My Baby Looks Good in Camouflage’ , ‘Duck Blind’ and ‘Hung Up’.

We finished the show to a massive ovation which brought us back for a brief encore. Just before we began our short second round I was informed that one of the patrons wanted to propose to his fiancée on stage. A minute later, an excited young fellow stood on stage in front of the masses and told his girl he loved her and wanted to marry her. Teary-eyed, the girl made her way to the stage to meet her love, at which point he gave her a ring. Everybody got all mushy at this point as we played Rhett’s hit ‘She Said Yes’.

Our mountain top adventure complete, we loaded up our gear, road back down the mountain, and hit the road.

Last night I went to a blues jam at a local bar near my home. In my younger days, I used to frequent blues jams regularly, sometimes driving an hour and a half just to sit in for three songs. I haven’t been to a blues jam in quite some time, and last night was a reminder of a darker element inherent to some of these events.

This particular jam is held at a local watering hole, and in general, a fun place to go. The bar owner is a man of high spirits, and his good nature is a catalyst for the overall feeling of community which exists in this quaint setting. Kelly and I were meeting some friends, and when we arrived they were already there, hanging out and listening to the house band play their first set. These friends were also locals and had invited some of their friends, a three-piece blues band of passionate youngsters that drove down from Kentucky.

Shortly after greeting them and settling in, the fellow that runs the jam came over and asked our band friends if they were here to play. When they said yes, he barked “Do you guys play blues? You look like a bunch of rock and rollers to me, with the long hair and everything. This is a blues jam and we’ve got to pretty much stick to the blues.” Certainly not the friendliest foot to put forward. He accepted the fact that they were going to play, but told them they had to play with an additional guitar player, some local SRV type.

As they were the first players to arrive at this first come first serve jam, the jam master told them they were up, but to set up as quickly as possible as the clock was ticking. As they were setting up their guitars and getting situated, the “blues Nazi” walked over to the drummer and told him that he was too loud, even though he hadn’t played anything yet.

A few minutes later they started playing their first song, which was going well until halfway through it when the uninvited “guest” guitar player accidentally unplugged the bass players amp, essentially train wrecking the song. Halfway through the second song our less than friendly jam night commando was in their face again telling them they were too loud. They finished their short set to a decent response, and I might add that I thought they were quite good, full of that kind of youthful energy and passion that so many older players often lack.

When I chatted with a couple of these players shortly afterwards, they told me they frequent a lot of blues jams near their hometown, and at least half the time they get this kind of attitude. It made me remember the days when I used to frequent blues jams and how I had often experienced the same thing. The funny thing is, this particular blues Nazi, is not even a very good musician (as is the case with most blues Nazi’s). His condescending destructive nature wards off many a player. These three excitable youngsters drove 100 miles to come play music, as I had done many times in my younger years. So what if they were loud, isn’t live music too loud half the time anyway? If we wanted to hear quiet music, we would have stayed home and played the stereo.

The moral of the story is: Life is short, so don’t be a blues Nazi

With each day bringing horrific new insight and ever more uncertainty regarding the oil spill in the Gulf, it’s now more important than ever to become educated and aware about the world we live in. With that in mind, my wife Kelly and I have decided to start our own news blog site, The Normand Post. This forum which will exist to explore the problems facing humanity and all of the planetary systems, and start an open-ended dialogue to help create solutions.

In the meantime, I will continue my efforts to document the Tennessee flood, writing blogs and articles for my own site, and other websites as well.

One recent news story in Nashville, examined the temporary dumping station at Edwin Warner park for the massive amount of storm debris being collected around middle Tennessee. Every day a fleet of trucks makes rounds collecting piles of house debris, appliances, drywall, just about anything you can think of, and bring it to this temporary holding station where it is then trucked off to landfills throughout the state.  I decided to take a drive by there today to see it firsthand. The debris is piled as high as the trees, on an area the size of a football field, and is a quite disheartening sight to see alongside some kids playing a game of soccer. Yesterday,  when I went to the local dump near my house in Cheatham County, I noticed three large dump trucks dumping there, obviously part of this debris removal. What I found disturbing, was the mile-long trail of dirt leaving the dump in either direction, obviously spill off of what must be a now constant parade of  trucks now dumping here from all over. More on that later.

I’ve also uploaded a new slideshow containing most of the flood and aftermath photos I have taken, with captions.

It’s been a busy week, and there have been many new developments I would like to share. On Monday, MSNBC posted an article I wrote about the flood on one of their websites, The Maddow Blog. My new contact at that website is urging me to continue reporting on the disaster, and submitting more articles. In the days since then, I’ve been conducting more research and compiling data for future writings.

I’ve also refocused my efforts toward completing my book. Right now my manuscript for “The Nashville Musicians Survival Guide” is sitting as one massive word document on my computer. As I have been away from the project for about a month, I have decided to turn it into a PDF and print out a couple of unformatted hard copies. I plan to read it cover to cover over the next couple of weeks to better assess where I’m at. I’ll also probably give a copy to a couple of my music industry friends to get some objective opinions. I’m pretty excited to have a copy, even a crude first draft, in my hand.

It’s been a pretty good week for musical activities as well. Earlier in the week I tracked a live drum session in my studio for a songwriter project I’ve been working on. I also spent some time recording guitar tracks and doing some finished mixing of the material. Last night I played with my classic rock and blues band, “The West End Rhythm Kings” at Cancun in Bellevue, and it was tons of fun, some much-needed music for the soul.

There’s also been one other exciting development this week. In my flood research for the Maddow Blog, I came across the website, I e-mailed the site’s editor, Dr. Joseph Romm, with some thoughts and questions about the Tennessee flood, as I have been wanting to talk to a climate expert ever since our extreme rain event. The result was some dialogue in which he encouraged me to submit a report on the disaster to post on his site, which just happens to be the biggest climate related website in the world. The article I submitted was a rewrite of one of my blogs from two weeks ago, with updated information, and a link to a photo slideshow that Kelly helped put together. In the coming weeks, I will be conducting more research to submit a series of articles to MSNBC and the Climate Progress website.

Not bad for a guitar player from New Hampshire.

For everyone that lived through the Tennessee flood of 2010, the flood is still here. While the water has receded from most areas, in general, the state is still a mess. Every day I continue to hear new stories about people and families affected by the flood, and some have still not received any help. In the absence of any real national media coverage, I have been making my own attempts to help this disaster gain further attention, and yesterday I may have caught a good break when the Rachel Maddow show on MSNBC put my reporting and pictures on their website.

Last week I submitted some op-ed pieces to the nation’s largest newspapers, and yesterday, I’m not sure if this is a coincidence or not, the Washington Post published an article that draws on some of the points from my letter. I also believe the fact I was able to have some of my writings and pictures posted on the MSNBC website is significant. I have been writing about this disaster since it began, and by steadily chipping away at it, I now have a contact with somebody at MSNBC who wants to help the story gain attention. I plan to continue my efforts to help inform the rest of the world of our plight in the weeks to come, and I urge everyone to do the same. I think it’s extremely important that the message is put forth that the state of Tennessee, not just Nashville, has been devastated by this flood.

Please follow this link to my report on the MSNBC website and leave a comment under it. This will increase the likelihood that Rachel will discuss this disaster on one of her upcoming shows.

This photo was taken on May 18th on Highway 70 in Bellevue, Tennessee.

It was about 9 AM Friday morning when I crawled out of my bunk and walked to the front lounge of our tour bus. I looked out the window to see a hotel parking lot, a very typical start to a day in the life of a touring musician (I often associate this routine with the movie Groundhog Day.) On this particularly hot and muggy spring day, we would be playing a benefit concert to help elect a new sheriff in Phenix City, Alabama.

Around 1 PM we headed over to the concert site, an outdoor patio attached to a plush clubhouse on the shore of a picturesque lake. The event coordinator greeted us and helped us get situated, providing us with stagehands for load in and our bus stock for lunch. The 95° southern air was stifling, like a heavy wet blanket clinging to our every move. Perhaps this would be the reason the local sound company was running so far behind, causing our sound check to start three hours late.

So while we waited, and waited, and waited for the owner of molasses audio to finish setting up the PA, Rhett went fishing for a spell while we watched the grass grow. Finally the sound check commenced, we had some dinner, and went back to the hotel for showers. By the time we arrived back to the party, an hour before show time, the place was wall-to-wall. An opening band was suffering the old “this is a private party and we could care less about a band” syndrome.

A short while later, after a brief introduction rallying support for the new would-be sheriff, we hit the stage running, or crawling is perhaps a more accurate term. Still hot as hell, the night felt like an uphill battle from the get-go as we relentlessly worked the audience. As a master showman, no crowd is a match for the wit of Rhett Akins, and he gradually won over the crowd of locals with a mix of originals and rarities.

Within five or six songs, he called up the future sheriff elect to sing a couple songs. Before the man could decide on a song, Rhett suggested “I Shot the Sheriff” by Eric Clapton, and the crowd was in stitches. We settled on Lynyrd Skynyrds’ ”Gimme Me Three Steps” followed by “Family Tradition” by Hank Jr. A little while later, we finished our set with an encore onslaught of “Last Chance for Mary Jane” interspersed with some assorted Led Zeppelin diversions. We then loaded out our gear and, after a little chill time in the clubhouse, headed down the road. The night’s sweat now drying to a thin protective coating upon us, we joked around for a bit while winding down in the air-conditioned front lounge. Nichols, Georgia here we come!

If you’ve been following my blog over the past week and a half, I’m sure you’re aware of what’s happened here in Tennessee. While I consider myself extremely lucky to not have lost anything in this flood, the experience of it all has, nevertheless, been exhausting. Being trapped in our home without power for three days, seeing the raging waters come within a half-mile of my home, watching the totality of this horrifying event on the local news in the days afterwards, and then observing the devastation in my community firsthand. And I have it easy. Some of my friends have lost all their musical equipment that was being stored at the Soundcheck rehearsal facility. For others across the state of Tennessee, losses go well beyond musical equipment.

Even though my family, home, or possessions are intact, being on the cusp of a disaster of this magnitude will inevitably change a person in some ways. We had several days of sunshine, thankfully, in the days immediately after the rain stopped. But then, rain was forecast for the weekend. Even though it was only predicted to be an inch or so, the thought of any rain at all, is now disturbing. I have awoken a few times in the middle of the night to visions of the brown murky floodwaters. You can’t drive very far in middle Tennessee without seeing flood damaged buildings, roads, and other ominous reminders. It’s been difficult to focus on many daily routines and tasks, but I am fighting my way back, and it is slowly getting better.

The main goal of this blog, initially, was to focus on the music business and other music related topics, as I am a musician by trade. But it’s been a battle to get my mind out of the storm, back to the business of music, and back to my nearly completed book project “The Nashville Musician’s Survival Guide”. It now seems so ironic that my book is about what it takes for a musician to survive the music business of Nashville, and now Nashville itself is faced with a plight for its own survival.

I will say that writing this blog over the past week and a half has been therapeutic for me. Kind of my own rebuilding process. I’m still thoroughly disappointed in the national media, and feel like we’ve been robbed. First we were raped and pillaged by the storm itself, and then to add insult to injury, ignored by the national media, as if our dire situation was insignificant. In the absence of a media based on real, Edward R. Murrow style journalism, I think it is now extremely important for all concerned citizens to help spread pertinent news stories that aren’t getting told. I have submitted my article “We Are Tennessee; Surviving the Flood of 2010” to several local and national print publications in an attempt for this story to gain further attention. And I will continue to write a few more blogs about our situation, as the struggle for Tennessee to rebuild will go on long after this story fades from the news.

In the days and weeks to come, I will also be working towards getting my head back into music, as well as tackling the seemingly impossible task of completing a book that is 95% done (it feels like the last 5% will drag on longer than the health care debate did). I will finish this book, as I feel compelled to do so, and know it will help many musicians. Of course, I will now have to add one more chapter about flood survival. In the meantime, I will continue working on getting back to normal.

The news of this disaster is getting out there. Volunteers are arriving from all over the country to help rebuild our communities, and we are truly grateful for this outpouring of goodwill. To help rally more support for the relief effort, I have rewritten my blog from last Wednesday, “We Are Tennessee”. This version paints a more total picture of the flood event and how the emergency response and recovery efforts have been handled so far. I realize it’s a bit long for a blog, but it’s a big story. Please help continue to spread the word. Peace

The rain began falling on the morning of Saturday, May 1st, 2010, and by the time it finished, just under 48 hours later; it had dumped between 12 and 20 inches across Middle and Western Tennessee, rendering 52 of Tennessee’s 95 counties disaster areas. Rivers that normally spanned 100 feet across swelled to widths of a half-mile or more, flooding cities, towns, and roadways, washing away homes and bridges, destroying businesses and infrastructure, and leaving thousands homeless. People died in their cars while trapped on flooding interstates and thousands more were stranded in remote communities without power or communication for days. Water plants were decimated, the Grand Ole’ Opry and many other historic buildings and icons damaged or destroyed, and more than $1 billion of damage had been sustained in Nashville alone. And where was our national media in all of this?

It’s now more than a week after this catastrophe began, and I’m still having a hard time grasping the totality of what has happened here. Each new conversation with family members and friends back in my native New England leaves me dumbfounded as to how little they’ve heard about this epic 1000-year flood, many first hearing about it from my phone calls and e-mails. Even a friend that I spoke with in eastern Tennessee was completely unaware that the western half of the state had just experienced what is likely to be the costliest non-hurricane water related disaster in American history. During the flood, and in the days that followed, mainstream news stations like CNN, MSNBC, and Fox, provided minimal coverage of this disaster, dwarfed by the Gulf oil spill, and the New York City car bomber. While those stories are certainly important, an event of this magnitude surely warrants more than just a sentence or two in the national spotlight.

Maybe there’s another reason the media paid so little attention, that being the efficient manner in which this disaster was handled. This disaster, which caused evacuations, power outages, and gridlock all over the state, was not accompanied by looting or other kinds of chaos that might otherwise have drawn the media in. The storm came quickly and without warning, decimating communities and infrastructure statewide, and all levels of government combined with an army of volunteers quickly began to mobilize.

“The President was on the phone to me before the sun came up practically on Monday morning” stated Governor Bredesen. “Slightly after it came up, other people from the White House had called and checked in. I’m very, very pleased with the response we’ve gotten from the administration.” he continued. FEMA administrator Craig Fugate, along with Bredesen and Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, toured flooded areas later in the day. By Tuesday several counties had been declared federal disaster areas, which began to allocate necessary funding for the relief effort. Approximately 80 members of the Tennessee National Guard, manning 19 light to medium tactical vehicles engaged in water rescues and evacuations. The Red Cross was here helping organize relief efforts early on as well. Citizens interacted with local media to help present 24 hour news coverage during the event, as local Nashville and Memphis television stations received 40,000 photos and videos from viewers in the first 48 hours.

In the center of this immediate and massive effort were the people of Tennessee, with thousands of volunteers engaging from the onset, working as one unified collective with the various government agencies. From the very beginning of this disaster, a spirit of goodwill was evident.

One of my neighbors informed me that on Sunday, day two of the flood, the Publix in Bellevue used generator power to open the store, despite the electricity being down in that area. In addition to making food, water, and ice available, they also set up a long line of tables on which power strips were placed for local residents to charge cell phones. During the flood event, thousands of volunteers responded to different newscast announcements, showing up at multiple locations to help fill sandbags, assist with boat rescues, as well as a variety of other relief efforts. Community centers and churches across the state became havens for families who lost homes. Schools became water distribution centers. A local construction company owner who was being interviewed on the news said that he already began fixing the roads in his area, as the county road crews were overwhelmed. When officials announced the need to conserve water, water usage almost immediately decreased.

Wednesday, just four days after the flood began, marked the beginning of a three-day flood relief telethon in which many volunteers, including Titans head coach Jeff Fisher and several country music stars, came together to man the phones and help raise money for flood relief. Taylor Swift donated $500,000, with Vince Gill and several others making large donations as well. Benefit concerts are being announced daily. Nashville Mayor Dean announced that the demand for volunteers was going to steadily increase in the weeks and months to come, and people are responding.

This tragic event of epic proportions is the worst disaster to hit the state of Tennessee since the Civil War, yet our communities are working together. Under the exemplary leadership of Governor Bredesen, combined with the full cooperation of a wide range of local, state, and federal government agencies, the people, the ordinary citizens of this great state are having a huge impact. Neighbors are helping neighbors, people are donating and volunteering, and this event has helped create a sense of unity that is truly magical.

We are not begging the world for help, but to rebuild the communities across this state now shattered by this catastrophe, further assistance will be necessary. Thousands of the homes that were damaged or destroyed were in areas not in flood zones, leaving many homeowners with mortgages on homes that no longer exist, and without insurance money to rebuild. The same is true for many business owners as well. Many schools, hospitals, nursing homes, water treatment facilities, roads, bridges, rail systems, and other infrastructure have been damaged or destroyed over an area that spans thousands of square miles. This kind of damage can’t be repaired with just volunteer organizations alone, it’s going to cost billions of dollars and the money has to come from somewhere. In addition to losing their homes and all their possessions, thousands of Tennesseans have also lost their jobs and livelihoods, and this will inevitably put further strain on already stressed entitlement programs. This event has affected over half the counties in the state of Tennessee, not just the city of Nashville as the national media has implied, and it is this message that should be put forth.

Perhaps some good can come out of this catastrophe. This disaster has not just brought us closer together as a community, it stands to be a model of how our government can, and should work. A reminder of why government exists in the first place. With so many mounting problems in America today, it is encouraging that our leaders acted so quickly in this moment of despair, and the spirit of community and compassion this event has ignited should be a reminder of all that is good about America, and what we can do when we put our minds together.

So while the people of Tennessee are rebuilding, most of the nation has yet to learn of our predicament and it is unlikely that most will ever know the full extent of what has happened. We will survive, rebuild, and emerge from this wreckage, but as this news has been slow to reach the masses, I urge you all to help spread the word.  Natural disasters on this level affect everybody as we are all interconnected. After Katrina, thousands of hurricane refugees relocated to neighboring states, Tennessee among them, and this flood event will inevitably have its own unique set of social and economic impacts that will be far-reaching as well. For many that lived through it, it’s possibly the single most important event of our lifetimes, its significance monumental. In the difficult weeks and months ahead, the people of Tennessee will continue to live, work, and reach out to those in need, because we are all in this together. We are Tennessee, and we are America.

If you need flood relief assistance or would like to volunteer or make donations, please visit the following websites:

Tennessee Emergency Management –

Middle Tennessee Red Cross Chapters –

Hands on Nashville –

You can also dial 211 for volunteer opportunities if you live in Middle Tennessee

Yesterday, my wife and I took a drive to Percy Warner Park, one of our favorite spots in middle Tennessee. The Warner Parks are over 3000 acres of exceptionally maintained nature reserves, with a nature center, miles of hiking trails, playgrounds, and picnic areas. Unfortunately, neither the Percy Warner Park nor the adjacent Edwin Warner Park escaped the wrath of this terrible flood.

As we drove into the Highway 100 entrance, the first thing we noticed was the road to the main parking lot was blocked. We were encouraged to see 20 or so cars parked alongside  the entrance road, and several families picnicking in the immediate area, attempting to return to some kind of normalcy after such a horrific week. Upon walking past the barrier and down the main entrance road, we noticed caution tape around the playground which had been damaged by the waters. A little further down the paved road, we came to the open sided shed at the beginning of the trailhead, upon which a sign had been placed notifying us that the hiking trails are now closed due to dangerous conditions. A few feet beyond the shed we could see large sections of trail washed away leaving a twisted maze of root structures now exposed. A little ways up one of the paved roads we saw damaged trees, a few random piles of sticks and twigs, and gullys carved by rushing water along the sides of the road.

We couldn’t help but feel a little bit selfish in our newfound sadness. As so many families and individuals lost homes, businesses, and even loved ones, our thoughts of remorse over damaged hiking trails and playgrounds seems insignificant. But the Percy Warner Parks, like many parks throughout the state, represent a certain faction of daily life for many in middle Tennessee, and their preservation is a part of our heritage, so it was still painful to see the destruction. I know the parks will be fixed in time, but I’m sure their priority is lower, understandably, than the dire need to rebuild lives, homes, businesses, infrastructure, and communities across the state.

On a brighter note, the Steeplechase was held in the equestrian center area of the park this past Saturday, and thousands turned out for this annual event. While some have criticized the event for still moving forward, stating people shouldn’t be out having fun when so much cleanup is still needed, these critics were obviously unaware that the proceeds of this years steeplechase were being donated to relief efforts. It also helped many to begin to feel a little normal again.

The funny thing is, that the park, in reality, is fine. The trees are still growing, the streams are still flowing, and the birds are still singing, and they will continue doing so. It is our access that has been cut off. In the meantime, there are still some areas of the park that can be enjoyed, and I suppose we should at least be thankful for that. It was still a sad day at the park.

To see some more photos of park damage, follow this link to where another Tennessean has posted a photo journal of what he saw shortly after the flood.