I’ve only made it into the paper once that I know of.
For years, I drove down Granny White Pike on my way to David Lipscomb. On the front porch of a house just past the intersection at Tyne sat a three-foot tall head. The head was white with colorful tattoos all over it.
More pieces of bizarre modern art were scattered around the lawn.
My freshman year of college I finally decided to do something about it. I alway signed out on the weekends to my parents’ house to get around the 1:00am curfew. Most of the time I’d sneak through the window of Justin Chunn’s and David Lavender’s first story dorm room, and sleep in my bed in High Rise dorm.
This weekend I’d decided to crash at home. My dad had agreed to let me borrow his ’98 black 4Runner. I picked up some friends, and we all went to Rites of Spring at Vanderbilt. Guster played. They were one of my favorite bands. The music and the rich, blond girls in their North Face jackets were making my head spin. Emily Waddell asked if I had been drinking. Nope. Just high on life, baby cakes.
After the show, we were looking for some mischief. The time was ripe.
We drove to the house on Granny White.
In retrospect, we could have been a bit less brazen. I backed down the driveway, then Marshall, Justin, and Mike walked up to the front porch of the house, hoisted the head, and carried it back to the 4Runner. We loaded it then drove down the street 50 yards to the intersection. We then unloaded the giant head and positioned it in the middle of the intersection. Easter Island had come to middle Tennessee.
I parked on a side street near my cousins’ house.
Five or six of us hid in the honeysuckle bushes and watched the glorious confusion. The head acted as an impromptu police officer. It was about 1am at this point, but we weren’t seeing any roll-through stops, no sirree. The cars stopped, rocked back on their tires, and inched forward. Drivers rolled down their windows and leaned out to better understand this visitation. Their noses were a foot away from the thing.
A high school couple drove through the intersection and parked their car. She hiked up her prom dress to walk, and he carried the camera. A third friend hurried up to take their picture. They stood on each side of the head grinning.
A guy I knew from Lipscomb named Ross showed up with another guy I didn’t know. They leaned out like everybody else. Something must have struck their fancy because they parked, walked back to the head, and began to carry it off.
This could ruin everything.
Summoning my best God voice from Vacation Bible School, I yelled, “Ross! Put the head down!”
They dropped the head then turned circles in alarm.
I started to feel bad.
“Hey, Ross, it’s Austin. Put the head back. I’ll explain later.”
“Oh,” he said to the honeysuckle bush. “Okay, dude, no problem.”
They drove off.
This went on for fifteen or twenty minutes and then came the climax.
We heard somebody walking down the street from the direction of the head’s house.
A skinny middle-aged woman stomped to the middle of the intersection. She glared all around her. Bent at the waist with her chin stuck out, she unleashed her fury:
“I don’t know who you are, but I know you’re still here, and you’d better leave because the cops are coming and if you’re still here, you’re all going to be in huge trouble.” She continued on like this for awhile, with an even temper at first but crescendoing until she was really mad.
Apparently, we had just been introduced to head’s owner. If I were her, I probably wouldn’t have appreciated it either. One of her friends must have driven through the intersection, seen the head, and given her a call. The head must have been too precious, too steeped in sentimental value, for her to appreciate the hilarity of the situation: a giant white tattooed head sitting in the middle of an intersection in a suburb on a quiet night in spring. That’s what I call good humor.
We walked back to my truck, I dropped my friends off at their various places of residence, then we all went to bed.
Matthew Netterville was reading The Tennessean the next day when he saw the headline: “Lady lost her head.”
He’d walked over to join in the fun the night before. He told us all about it later.
Whoever wrote that headline, I want to shake your hand. Thank you for getting it. Thank you for supporting random acts of unkindness. Thank you for taking a stand against bad art.
Thank you for joining us in our quest to disrupt suburban complacency and irritate comfortable middle-aged Nashvillians.
As for the head, well, it found a new home in the lady’s garage. We never saw it again.
Head, you are gone but not forgotten. Your fame was short-lived but your legacy will touch posterity.