Gordie and I take a few walks and runs during the late hours of the night. We do a few laps at a grocery store parking lot. I try to explain to her that she may need to calm down when meeting new people and that her excitement might cause new friends to not trust her. She doesn't seem to notice I am talking to her. Her eyes dart about the parking lot with every subtle movement she picks up. I pick up her poop and we go back to Chris’ hotel. I will sleep here in Greenville South Carolina before heading back to Nashville Tennessee.
In the morning I do not notice Chris leaving. Gordie and I go outside to run and poop. I take Gordie back to the room and try to formulate a plan. There happens to be a TD bank in Greenville so I head there to get some cash. I’m not sure why but I only end up taking half as much as I had planned to. This causes problems for me later because I end up charging everything to card and paying for it with exchange fees. The teller at the bank tells me to call the number on the card to complete the cross border banking process. I nod at her and leave the bank to head to Walmart. At Walmart I spend five percent of my budget on SIM cards. They don’t work in my phone though so I stuff them in with my dirty laundry.
Back at the hotel Gordie’s pleading eyes convince me to go for another walk and run. She poops, I pick it up and then we say our goodbyes. I kiss her skull and she looks up at me kind of sad like. Since the SIM cards do not work in my phone I assume I have no GPS. I use my memory about how to get on the highway towards Nashville but feel kind of hopeless. I have become frustrated with not moving though so I pack the car and hit the road.
Somehow my notoriously bad sense of direction gets me back on the highway. It was not that difficult. I head west assuming I can find my way back to Nashville based on signs and intuition. The freeway soothes me. My anxious mood feels like something is being accomplished, I guess, while driving down the highway, and this notion calms it. An hour into my drive I stop for gas.
The change in lifestyle recently has put me in a bad mood for a couple of weeks now. Growing pains I guess. Sometimes I remember that bad moods are brought on by choice. At least that’s a theory I have picked up. I choose to feel bad or good or however and that is how I get in the mood I am currently in. I have conversations about this with a few different friends recently. A new theme came up that was shared amongst them in one way or another. The shared idea is that we do not have any control over our lives, really, that we are just along for the ride. I have mixed feelings about this. The idea is that there is no free will, just experience.
When I am in a bad mood I tend to avoid people, even gas station attendants, which I have no way around since my card does not work at the pump in the United States of America. It doesn't work because I choose to not call my bank to finish cross border banking. Which I choose to do because I’ve been choosing to be in a bad mood. The result is I have to go inside each station to pay at the teller. The woman inside is bright eyed and cheerful. She is in such a good mood that it is infectious. I remind myself to be in a better mood. I remind myself that things are awesome. That I am on the road in America on a solo adventure of a lifetime. That I completed a long list of remarkable things to afford myself this great trip. I remind myself that life is awesome when we smile and choose to enjoy ourselves. I choose to be grateful at the fact that I am very fortunate to be living this lifestyle. Oh, the things that human interaction can accomplish.
Eventually I am lost on the highway. I took a few random turns on bases of my intuition while driving through the Nantahala National forest. I end up in a sort of rolling hills country town and the unfamiliarity weighs down on me. I explore a bit for some reason and get further and further away from the interstate. Through a few twists and turns, bumps, roundabouts and dirt driveways I find a McDonalds. They are everywhere as far as I can tell. They offer free wifi and to me that is a GPS update. I pull in and connect and this is when I learn that google maps can download directions that can be used offline. Looking back I overused google maps and probably should have got lost more. Lessons learned. I plot a course to Nashville, find the interstate, and engage to lightspeed.
With a newly adopted positive mood and GPS directions I enter the big city of Nashville. I become excited to explore the music scene again, this time on my own, and, to try to meet new people. I let my concerns go and tell myself that no matter what I will have a good time. I think about searching for guitar stores so I can get some equipment to beef up Chris’ fender stratocaster. I think about dancing to blues music and with that comes the idea that maybe I can have a beer while I do it. I turn it over in my head and the freedom of choice ignites. It’s been over two years since I’ve had one and I do not feel bad about the decision. “I am going to find a blues bar, drink, and have a good time.”
I check into the downtown music city hostel in good spirits. As I have often found in southern USA the staff at the front desk are very friendly. They go on and on with information about the hostel and the city. I barely listen because I am wound up from the drive and eager to go explore. The common area of the hostel is massive. It is a large hall filled with couches, chairs, a lounge area and a big restaurant style kitchen. There are guitars and ukuleles hanging from the beams of the room and a piano sits in the far corner of the room. “Our piano is tuned!” says the counter attendant while I stare at it. “Are you a musician?” I turn to face two women who are also checking in. “Not really.” I say. “I can play guitar a bit.” I learn one of their names is Robyn who says “Cool!”. Her counterpart, Mary-Ann, tells me that Robyn is an amazing singer and that we should all jam later. “Sure.”.
Robyn and Marry-Ann are bright eyed and vibrant. Marry-Ann is an art teacher and Robyn does multiple jobs as far as I can tell but primarily does music with children. We make loose plans to meet at a diner. We are all very anxious to get to our rooms and so we depart for now. To get to my room I go through multiple locked doors and an elevator. This is comforting. I did not know at all what to expect here and it has proven to be safe, clean and secure.
I do not care much to ‘get ready’ to go out so I drop my bag and make my way outside. I am not quite sure what part of town I am in. I know that I am close to broadway street, Nashville's tourist nightlife core, but I am not sure what direction it is in. My hope is that one day I will start asking people for directions. I head off in a random way and quickly get lost. Earlier while eavesdropping on Marry-Ann and Robyn questioning the hostel attendants about where to go I gathered enough information to find my way to “Puckett’s”. Puckett’s is where we all sort of planned to meet. It is packed though so I turn around and start peering down alleyways.
Darkness has completely set in now. I see a large banner stretching across the street that reads “Printers Alley”. I make my way past a few bars and find myself on Broadway Street. It is characteristically busy so I turn away and lead myself down a less populated street. I see a sign that reads “B.B. Kings Blues Club” and I tell myself that this will do.
Inside there are three hosts behind the podium and a party of two between me and them. They seem to be negotiating the cover charge of ten dollars. The delay in line gets them nowhere and they end up paying the charge. A host leads the party inside as I approach the remaining two matradee. I talk a bit quietly and they don’t understand, I don’t understand their responses, eyes shift around a bit, they charge me five dollars and I am led in and sit at the bar.
As I’m led inside I hope to myself that this is not a gimmick bar. The lights radiate off the decor in a red hue. There is also somehow a trace of a blue in the air. It feels like people are smoking but no one is. There seems to be some sort of perpetual haze here. The whole scene is romantic, classy and raw. It’s saturated in things I find cool. There are paintings of famous musicians covering the walls. Leading from the welcome area there is an elevated seating area. This area holds twelve tables and overlooks a stack of guitar amps next to the guitar and keyboard player, stage right. Beyond this leads to the main dining area which is in front of the stage separated by a dance floor. There are about forty tables here between the dance floor and the bar. The place is much bigger than I thought. It does not seem gimmicky at all.
There were not many bar stools left but I was happy with mine. Servers pick up drink orders here, which is where the tender makes them. I did not have to vie for attention and that suits me. Everyone in here is dressed up. Suits, ties, fancy shoes, gowns, fedora’s, flower hats and swing dresses are all common place. I notice one man at a table in front of me who has his eyes clothes, his fingers snapping and a grin dominates most of his face. I get it man. The band was really good. Every band I’ve seen so far in Nashville was really good but this band was top notch. A lot of people were dancing and everyone seemed to know what they were doing. I think I saw Billy Jean on the dance floor. Many partners came and went to and fro her. I don’t think any of them was the one.
I really dig the style the jazz brings it out. It evokes words like ‘dig’ and demands class yet it can be as dirty as music gets. The band was full of class and had the obvious swing of decades in experience. The songs were mostly standards but sounded fresh and alive. Myself and a few others I observed had a common look on our faces that are often described as ‘shit eating grins’.
After a few songs and beverages to go along when the mood had been set high I listened to the front man of the band invite someone to the stage. I try to see but my view is blocked by the scene. It seems pretty routine at first but soon a new height of electric energy lights up the air. Five women dressed in long blue gowns enter the room from the entrance way right side of stage. They are all holding up large signs above their heads each donning a word to the message, one with a question mark “Will you marry me?”.
The crowd is gasping and cheering as my own heart jumps to my throat. I peer around to see everyone’s widest and brightest smile. Men and women are cheering, some of them holding their mouths, others hugging and many crying. All of our eyes sparkle with tears. I hear the bride to be let out an ecstatic yelp and the band moves into a heartfelt slow ballad. The sax player carries the tune and romances us all in only the way that a saxophone can. Through a sea of guests wiping their tears and the thick gloss of my own wetted eyes I watch the bride and groom to be hold each other like only lovers can. They dance slowly to the number played just for them. The openness of their hearts bathes the room and I thank my lucky stars that I am here to see this couple married in Nashville.