Soaked in Nashville Tennessee
Chris and I finally aririve in Nashville after a long quiet eight hour drive south from Michigan. The drive was plagued with detours, strange over the phone news causing a stressful atmosphere and vacant construction sites. Gorde led us by her example of extreme patience. I could tell thought that she was a ticking time bomb. All this boring time in the car would make her extra excited when we let her back into the open world. She had slept practically the whole way down and passed on food and water during the trip. I think the car ride stirred up a bad stomach. She choicefully lodged her face between the handle of the car door and slept that way most of the trip. As we checked into our hotel Gordie began to liven up. She is very cute which excited the people aruond us which in turn excited her more. In the hotel room she drank two full bowls of water and after eating a bit sprang back to life. I took her outside and ran around the block a few times with her and then I picked up her poop.
The rain at this point was like a mist. A heavy grey wall surrounded the city encroaching on its skyline and trapping my view of Nashville to my immediate area only. Chris and I catch a shuttle downtown and on the way I enjoy the way this grey fog mingles with the tall buildings. We are dropped a few blocks from our destination, broadway street, which is Nashville’s downtown tourist nightlife scene. Nashville itself appears as any normal city at first. Large buildings and quiet streets during the nigt. The moment we hit broadway everything changes.
This part of town stretches on for about five eighths of a mile in four directions. The district is large block with Broadway street itself the most lively and lit up. Large neon signs hang from virtually every bar which are stacked next to each other one after the other. Live music comse from every bar and in the streets there is no escaping the muffled sound of various songs being played together with the chatter of excited peoples going in and out of them. I enjoy the way the cowboy themed neon bar signs look in this thick grey weather. The tall buildings surrounding look ominous as part of their higher levels fade completely in the night sky. I wonder if Batman and Tim Burton set the mood here. Any moment now and the caped crusdor could come crashing down and wisp some do wronger away.
It’s Wednesday night and the streets are full of people shuffling from one music filled watering hole to the next. It is relentless at eight in the evening as it seems people have been partying since noon but really they are just getting started. This is home to the Johnny Cash Museum, the Patsy Cline Museum, museums of rock and roll, of country music icons and entire monumental buildings are dedicated to the history and preservation of music and art. Cowboy hats, boots, jean jackets and two stepping characters wearing the afromentioned wardrobe are spotted everywhere. You can fit yourself out to be a real cowboy as there is an endless supply of apparel for you and your horse. I notice a sign that reads “No dancing on tables with your spurs on.” and think its a fair rule. Every bar is lively and actively promoting drinking and a nod to the American version of a proper country party night life. The scene is very committed and I like that because it so clearly and honestly delivers what it intends to. I become a bit infactuated.
As picturesque and vibrant as the scene is the anti social butterfly in me begins to stir and my infatuation begins to slip into a strange fear. A twinge of what I would call anxiety begins to reverberate inside me and the ‘asshole’ lounge of naysayers in my head begin to form at their table. Chris leads us off broadway to a less packed bar. We are attracted to this particular bars music. An acoustic guitar player and a soulful singer that gave off both an inviting and exciting sound. Inside we order drinks, ginger ale for me. We sit in front of the duo as at this point there are only a few of us in this bar. The duo are playing americna rock and folk standards by request. They are very relaxed, harmonized, and, quite obviously very experienced. The singer is belting out the tunes and keeping the audience enaged. Her voice is full and strong somewhere between Amy Whinehouse and Adele. The guitar player plays both fingerstyle and picking standard at the same time. His chord hand changes and moves up and down the neck from song to song like he had been doing it for twenty years which undoubtedly he had. A tip jar sits in front of them and from time to time people dancing by put in a few dollars. Chris and I contribute as well and it feels very much worth it. The singer eventually stands up and crawls out the window behind her taking her wireless microphone out into the streets. She sings there while haning out the window the the passer bys drawing them inside. This is all very natural to her and when she climbs back inside I realize I am in a part of the world that is very special to me. My gratude for Chris taking me here and being so available swells up inside me. Unfortunately my anxiety is also making a steady stand and when asked to make a request by the band I find myself speechless and dumb founded.
After a few songs we decide to try some other place. We make our ways towards Broadway again and on the way Chris asks two gentlemen standing outside if the know where to buy smokes. “At the bar.” one of the says but the other says that bars dont sell smokes anymore and suggests we let him take us to where we can buy some. He leaves his friend and joins us and we begin to walk a bit out of the broadway area. Our new guide explains that bars ahve not sold smokes here in a while and its a bit of a walk to a store that does. “Strange” I think but also I don’t really care about it. I welcome the jaunt because I was beginning to feel trapped by the overwhelming vibrance of this crazy city. After a few turns the guide points to a gas station type lit up roof off in the distance. It looks like a ten minute walk and also adds to the suspicion. Our guide explains it looks further than it is because the trees in front blur the sign. I try to figure out how that makes sense but I can’t so I just pretend that it does. At this point Chris and our new friend are chatting adamently and my muteness has nearly fully taken over. I laugh once in a while and interject a few words now and then - just to let the party know I’m still alive.
Along the walk our new friend does most of the chatting. I find out his name is Loheen and he is from Morocco and now works at an assembly plant. The friend he was with earliar just got out of jail and that is why he thought we could still buy smokes at the bar. That law had changed nearly four years ago. Laheen explains to us that his friend is a great guy but has a weird obsession with breaking into cars. After about fifteen minutes we are closing in on our gas station and the rain is in full effect. All three of us are soaked from head to toe and two of us are getting a lesson in Nashville’s weather systems. Laheen turns out to be quite knowledgeable - maybe as much as he is boisterous. At the station we buy him a can of beer and a pack of smokes for his troubles. Laheen suggests we wait ten minutes because the weather is likely to change. The rain is coming down like a movie scene when some newly realized hopeless romantic is risking everything to have it all work out. “I’ve not seen rain like this in a long time.” I say and Laheen replies that “This ain’t nothing.” and goes on the point out and explain all the local flood points. We collectively decide the rain is only getting worse and we begin to head back to Broadway continuing our free nature shower.
Halfway back to town and both Chris and Laheen decide to take a pee break behind a dumpster. I take refuge from the rain under a closed building awning where three gritty grungy looking travellers are standing. One of them looks particularly scary. “Hello.” I say and I sort of get a response from them. Laheen and Chris come back and I wait while everyone smokes. The rain at this point is a deluge. You could not stand in it for five minutes and not get wet, unless you had the footwork of Muhammed Ali. The rain is my favorite part of the night. I somehow find it more interesting than all the other random shit I am surrounded in. The other party of three takes off and Laheen explains they are train hoppers. They take freight trains all over the country. Laheen remarks that he doesn't understand their lifestyle but he is quite impressed by their working knowledge of train schedules and maps. “They got that shit down, hard.”. I don’t quite know what to say so I tell him “That’s pretty neat!” and we continue on.
Laheen is only wearing an undershirt and is the most soaked of all of us. He tells us we are going to take a small detour so he can get a jacket. Two alleyways later and we are under a bridge where it is dry and inhabited by about four people. One is sitting on a bucket and the others are laying on the concrete floor huddled in their individual sleeping bags. The women laying at our feet asks if we have any smokes and Chris hands her three. “Bless you!” She says. Her smile is bright, wide and infectious. It seems to light up in the boarder of her dark matted hair. The guy on the bucket talking to Laheen stands up, flips the bucket around and pulls from it a thick checkered wool jacket and hands it to Laheen. Chris and I exchange blessings with the woman and Laheen takes us back into town with the promises of a bar so cool we will have to fight the women off. “Neat.” I say and off we go.
Back on Broadway nothing has changed except for the density of both people and rain. There is more of each. At this point I am tired, soaked and a bit annoyed but I decide to stick it out longer. This will be our only night in Nashville before we head further south to Greenville. Plus I have been enjoying the scenery and promises of women. Laheen leads us to a huge bar filled with chucky cheesey type game machines. There is a live band and a massive kitchen and it is filled with transiet drinkers having a good time coming and going. Laheen explains they may not let him in because they caught him selling dope here a few times. That is pretty unfair we all agree. They do let him in though and we buy a pitcher together. Laheen continuously hands me a glass of beer which I “cheers” with and then put down without drinking. Laheen seems to be having a good time. At this point he has taken off a few times with what seemed to be pretty important phone calls. I think it is important to mention here that not one did Laheed solicist us in anyway. Our communications with him was nothing but mirth and his directions although long routed where fruitful. He disappears one las time and Chris and I agree he is probably gone for good now.
We decide to hit one more bar but at this point I am crawling with anxiety that is no feeding into downright nihilistic depression. Outside I am smiling and cowering my shoulder from anyone looking at me while inside I am tearing apart all my life choices and really criticising myself in a negative way. Chris is concerned but I continue to tell him “its fine, im fine” I can tell he does not believe me but I insist we stay a bit longer. The crown is really drunk and dancing to the music. The band is trying to get everyone to chant “U S A, U S A!” and my mind now has full reigns to my feelings. I have to escape and I do. Outside I lean against a lamp post and become a fixed statue in a scene of fluctuating party goers. A man approaches me holding daffodils in his trembling hands. He is old and trying to sell flowers but I am locked inside and when he asks for help I turn him down. Chris finds me and again probes at what is wrong. I tell him “I am quitting music.” and he actually takes it quite hard. The daffodil man approaches us again and Chris says “Jesus Christ man! You are freezing!” I jam my hand in my pocket and give him all the coins I have. “Bless you! Bless you” he says “Take care of yourself man!” Chris says emphatically and the stranger walks off.
The cab ride home is a bit silent but back at the hotel Chris continues to probe. He is genuinely concerned for me and this makes me in turn concerned for him. “I dont want you to say shit like that.” “Don’t worry” I say “I can’t quit music, there is nothing to quit.” I try to use the words to twist the meaning to an even more cynical degree while masquerading it as something else. I do calm down though and in the room I explain I became full of anxiety because I was a bit overwhelmed. Chris understands but is still concerned. Gordie is going nuts so when Chris goes to bed I take her back outside in the pouring rain. We run around the block a few times and I pick up her poop. I wonder if running with her was a good idea. She looks even more excited and extra goofy. Like an over excited kid who slept for three days and was now was past their bedtime. When we get back into the room she instantly jumps on my bed and rolls around in the sheets drying off. “Neat.” Her excitement goes nowhere and she whimpers and stands in the window looking outside whining. She comes to the edge of the bed to rest her bottom jaw on the mattress while staring directly into my soul begging me to take her out again. So I do, of course and we run around the block some more at three am. To my surprise I end up picking up more poop. We go back upstairs and she dries off in my bed again. I close the blinds hoping she won't look outside. She cries for about an hour and I fall asleep.
The next morning we make our way to Greenville. It is about another seven hours on the road and very scenic. I sleep a bit in the passenger seat and choke on my snores. We listen to war history but only get two thirds through the podcast until Chris needs to take a break from the drooling narrator. I feel kind of upset about it but I sympathize with the guy who had been driving the entire way from Michigan. Gordie sleeps with her head wedged in the arm rest. Later at the Greenville hotel I take her for a run and more poop. At this point I am feeling apprehensive about the whole travel thing. I go through some dark mind travels and hope that this darkness passes soon. My plans are to return to Nashville tomorrow on my own as I did not quite feel like I had soaked it in properly. Soaked in Nashville.