Nashville, TN -- August 14, 2007

There are some states that got short changed in this ludicrisouly short period of time I spent touring our country and the one that got the worst end of the deal was Tennessee, where, sometime between six-thirty in the evening, when I left Bowling Green, Kentucky and two o'clock in the morning when I arrived in Birmingham, Alabama, I spent a couple of hours on the streets of Nashville.

When I first walked into the station, I was thrilled to see there were storage lockers. I could make better time if I wasn't carrying my pack. There hadn’t been lockers in bus depots since I’d left Minneapolis. It’s a security issue, boom!, the Niagara Falls agent had explained.

I prepared my small shoulder bag with camera, wallet, water and sweatshirt (I grew up in Montana and have a phobia of being cold...don't leave home without one, even if it is 100+ degrees). I pushed my backpack inside the locker, with the same verve I'm sure Hansel and Gretel pushed the witch--my pack was heavy and I loved being away from it--I inserted my two bucks, slammed the door closed and headed off into the night.

I followed the street down to a strip of clubs. Bands played in the windows, a wanna-be played in the shadows, already in a drunk stupor. As I walked on, the bouncers and drinkers beckoned me in.

I explained my mission—where would I find, within a ten-dollar cab ride, people waiting for public transportation, or, anywhere, reading? A bouncer with overly gelled hair told me, tucking his hands beneath the armpits of his black bar name emblazoned polo shirt, to take a taxi to Fido's, a trendy coffee house near Vanderbilt University.

At Fido’s, after interviewing the one reader in the house, the baristas gave me directions to Bongo Java. I found myself running down a wooded path, wondering if, when I tripped on a tree root and needed bandaids, if I could call the baristas at Fido's who had given me their phone number in case I got lost. Nashville gets points for friendly people.

There were no readers at Bongo Java, but I met another friendly person at a tiki-torchlit restaurant nearby, where, while there were also no readers, I was greeted by a charming host who was just putting the finishing touches on a poem behind his menu podium. This must be for you, he told me when I walked in, and he read it to me. It was a love poem. I wallowed in the tiki torches and the cotton softness of the moment--in the poem were descriptions of a favorite shirt--then, in a panic, I began running back to the bus station.

I got as far as two blocks when I realized that a)it would be better to call a taxi, as I had spent a good fifteen minutes in a taxi getting there in the first place and b)I was famished.

I devoured two hot dogs in a CircleK parking lot, waiting for my taxi, and people watched. I was there for an embarassingly short amount of time, so I 'm not qualified to make judgements, but humor me--the area had the hybrid feeling of a preppy New England college and a rodeo school like Montana State in Bozeman, near where I grew up. A giant truck with Alaska plates drive into the lot. Out hopped a beautiful woman in a low cut sundress and cowboy hat. Her boyfriend should have been carrying a guitar. My guidebook said not to expect the cowboy hats and all that, but here it was, to the extreme.

I got back to the station, even interviewed another reader, then, moments before the bus was due to leave, I ran to the storage locker to retrieve my pack. But, somewhere between the bar scene, the love poem, and the hot dogs, I had lost the locker access number.

Unlike almost every other of my connections, at this one, someone was expecting me on the other end at a certain time--my grammy.

Again, thank you to friendly people. A greyhound employee simply trusted that the contents of the locker was mine (without even checking i.d. or quizzing me on the belongings) and I made it on The Dog without having to chase it down the street.

In my bus seat, forehead pressed against the window, I watched the town roll away and reveled in the love of Nashville. Thank you Nashville! I could write a pretty good country song about you.


heather said...

great recap, plus the other nashville posts. i went to school there for a while, and while it's not perfect, there are so many things to love about nashville.

Che said...

Southern hospitality is one thing I miss in moving from Tennessee to California... but, clearly, the book scene is better in CA!