It was Nashville, yesterday.
Dawg and I roared into town around noon, except you know what? We changed time zones mid-morning, so I had a whole extra hour that I hadn’t considered. Which was good, because my day was full. I got Fletch settled and drove directly to Hatch, my number one priority and financial sinkhole in Nashville. I had already decided to spend the bulk of my souvenir cash here buying prints for my new gorgeous office. That part of the plan was a total success.
Actually, I had planned to buy several small prints to frame, but ended up with a giant one instead. A giant airstream. And then I also got several small prints to frame. And then I left and came back, and bought more.
This place is a really cozy jumble, the way all of my favorite places are, and I’d love to pull up a stool and hang out here for a morning and watch them make things. I’d even put up with the cats in the window, if they’d let me.
I wandered around the neighborhood on foot, loving all of the neon signs,
and musical tributes,
and then I went to the Country Music Hall of Fame. They had Elvis’s gold piano, and Dolly’s pink dress next to her handwritten lyrics to Jolene,
and Johnny’s black suit, and a three-story wall of gold records.
And Patsy Cline’s earrings. I loved Patsy Cline’s earrings. She and I would totally have been friends.
I was telling Dawg about it before I went out again for the evening, and he agreed that Johnny Cash’s black suit is quite something to see, and wanted to know why I didn’t buy him anything from Hatch. “Because you are an expert paper shredder,” I told him. And then I went to the Bluebird. At this point, I would like to state that visiting the Bluebird Cafe was on my life list LONG before the television show Nashville came out last fall and took it over. I did NOT go to the Bluebird Cafe just because I was some Nashville tv show groupie. I was afraid the Nashville tv show groupies might have ruined the Bluebird, and I would never be able to get in.
Also: I am a huge Nashville tv show groupie. I want Rayna’s hair and everything she wears except for the hats, and I think Scarlett and Gunnar are adorable and I could listen to their duets all day, and I have a huge crush on Deacon and think he should throw me against the wall of the elevator and say I AM DONE WITH THINKING and then…..oh wait. My mother is reading. Anyway. Deacon’s yellow lab puppy would get along great with Fletch, and he can come play guitar on my porch any time and I will not string him along pointlessly like Rayna has all of these years. Everyone on the show is deeply flawed and also redeemable, and I just love a redemption story. I can’t get enough.
I digress. Bluebird. It was open mic night. I chose that because it happened that I was in Nashville on a Monday night, and that is what they do on Monday night. I’m assuming it’s also much easier to get in on a Monday, but it was still a long, long wait in the sun, and I was none too early. I got the last seat at the bar before the music started. The rules are: no long introductions, no long instrumental solos, one song only, no playing along to recorded tracks. Also, nobody is allowed to talk while the music is playing. I love this place.
So the music started, and somebody pulled Scarlett onstage and Gunnar just happened to have his guitar, and Liam was standing in the audience finding the next big thing and offering to produce people’s records, and I saw Avery in the back with his jaw clenched and radiating regret, and then Rayna and Deacon got up onstage and did a number from the old days when they were in love.
It wasn’t like that at all. One by one, people got up on stage and belted out songs, or barely made it through songs with trembling voices. Some were parodies of real songs; some were just plain silly; some were earnest and painful with places where the harmonies were a strain. One was a couple in costumes, announcing that they usually perform for small children, and then they did one of those songs. More than half the people were from out of state, and just wanted to sing a number at the Bluebird. The kid from London who’d been standing in line behind me was the best I heard. I’m not sure anyone in that room will go on to write songs that will sell, and I’m not sure that anyone in that room is destined for greatness as a performer.
Open mic night is for beginners, though. They said so. It’s where people get up on stage and learn to look out at an audience, and feel terrified, and keep singing anyway. Even if your voice shakes and you can tell you were flat when you sang harmony. No judgment here, and nothing but respect. The one time I even did karaoke, I believe I mentioned, we were all the way to Salinas before I opened my eyes while singing Me and Bobby McGee. It takes a lot more steel than I’ve got in me to stand on stage and sing to a crowd of strangers. It wasn’t the night at the Bluebird where all the songwriting greats come to share their music, but it was probably more real than that.
Nashville would be a fun place to live, as long as you were nowhere near the music industry. Then I’d imagine it could get pretty harsh, and competitive, and disappointing. I’ll bet there aren’t any overnight successes, when you hear about the decades it takes for people to get good enough to make it here. And there are so, so, so many people trying to make it here, and all I had to do was watch one open mic night at the Bluebird to see how soul-shakingly hard that is.
And so: I think Nashville is mostly a place of dreaming, for most people. That’s a great thing, too. In the Country Music Hall of Fame, just outside the rotunda with plaques for everyone ever inducted, there’s a sort of wishing-well fountain that runs the length of the grand staircase. It’s kind of nice to go look at the faces of all of those people who have worked hard to make their dreams come true, and then think about what your own wish might be.
That shiny penny on the rock in the middle is mine.