For many inmates, time seems to stand still. The outside world races onward, but prisoners remain stuck in neutral. Recently, photos sent by Gideon’s daughter reminded him that time continues to fly by on the outside. As his hometown, Nashville, has sped along, he has stagnated.
Pictures serve as a window to a world Gideon rarely gets to see—his hometown. The photos from his daughter—a new restaurant, several high-rise apartments, a shimmering office building—provided close-ups of some of the features added to downtown Nashville since his sentence began. There were also shots of Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, where Gideon’s father played drums for Little Jimmy Dickens.
Gideon sometimes sees brief shots of Lower Broadway, known for its honky tonks and bars, on the news, but they are mere glimpses. After seeing the shots, Gideon has often wondered how the city held its New Years’ Eve celebration, which draws nearly 200,000 people, in the small area for many years. “It’s hard for me to understand,” he explained.
Outside the walls
Gideon used to leave the prison for occasional doctor appointments for a leg condition. Sometimes the route would take him through different parts of Nashville. One visit required him to go through the Gulch, a once-neglected area of town that has been transformed into a trendy cluster of condos and apartments. “They’re building hotels all over the place,” Gideon remarked.
Even though they were infrequent, the trips outside allowed Gideon to see part of his hometown’s renewal. But the trips stopped a while ago when the prison ceased providing treatment for his leg condition. The lack of treatment has done more than cause Gideon pain; it has also denied him a view of the “regular” world. Gideon said, “I ain’t been out in over a year.”
Before he was incarcerated, Gideon hung out in west Nashville, particularly the Nations, a neighborhood nicknamed for its unique road names. In Gideon’s day, the area was a rough, poor part of town. “It used to be nothing but those little shotgun houses,” he recalled. Like much of the city, the Nations has experienced a revival in recent years and now includes several new housing developments.
Time stops for no one
Since Gideon’s time in prison began, new attractions and buildings have transformed Nashville into the new “it” city. The additions to downtown include professional football and hockey teams, a new minor league baseball stadium, several skyscrapers, dozens of new condos, and a massive convention center. An amphitheater beside a new pedestrian bridge has replaced an old music venue on the southeast side of the city. In the late 1990s, an expansive waterpark opened at a nearby lake and a mall replaced Nashville’s beloved theme park, Opryland USA.
Perhaps the most prominent change is the downtown arena, which was under construction at the time Gideon was locked up. “It wasn’t near open,” he explained. “They had just broken ground on it. I remember going by it in a jail van going to the hospital.”
Gideon added that he would be totally lost trying to function in today’s world of technology. The last time he was free, cell phones were rudimentary and home computers were considered novelties. “It trips me out how different things are now,” he reflected.