A Noteworthy Visit.
I was living in Southern California, working at a Cafe down the street from my folk’s house. I was twenty six and living at home. I spent the days at the beach or at cafes downtown reading and writing, but with my curious nature I soon became bored and I needed a change of scenery, so I moved to Music City. I had a brother there and he told me to come out for awhile.
I arrived to Nashville in a snow flurry. It was Ground Hog’s day. My brother picked me up at the airport. He stood in the waiting area at the end of the terminal. We got on the Interstate 40 towards Green Hills.
The morning came and my brother and I awoke in a small room in the upstairs of an old house. The ceiling was slanted with age, and the window panes let in the yellow morning sun. We proceeded downstairs to the kitchen. In the living room, a young man slept on the couch. Breakfast was made in silence. Oatmeal, fruit and coffee and the long table in the living room. The young man snored behind us.
My brother and I drove to a coffee shop down the road, in the Twelfth South District. It a quiet place, full of individuals reading and writing. It was not the kind of cafe I was used to, like the one I spent all my time at back home. Where people were loud and curious as to the environment around them. I pulled out my notebook and paper and I began to write a story.
The days passed quickly in Nashville. My brother and I filled our days with coffee, trips to the National Parks and parties. Sunday mornings would be spent at a church in downtown, where the congregation was young and they all dressed in black.
It was not but a month after I arrived that my brother departed. He was to drive a Volkswagen van across the country to California. And so, I was left alone to my own devices. I began working at a burger joint around the corner from my house. From the outside it doesn’t look like much, but when you step inside there is a certain feeling of establishment and community. And so I stood at a small stand near the front door and greeted folks and led them to tables. It was at this time I met a folk singer who worked there. He was quiet and nervous but would come talk to me at my stand and ask me about my weekends.
One night after work at the Burger Joint the staff decided to go the bar up the street for a drink. We arrived and we settled around tables and soon I found the folk singer next to me.
“People say you play good music” I say to him.
“People say a lot of nice things here” He says to me.
“What do you want to drink?’
“A pale ale” I say.
After he returned with my beer our conservation faded into a larger one as the staff shouted and sung into the night, and all our words became a unified state of cacophony.
Not long after I also began working at the Contemporary Art Museum on Broadway Street, in the heart of music city, a hundred feel away from the honky tonks. I worked in the children’s gallery upstairs. I operated a printing press and managed a water color painting station. Children were delighted most of the time, when they were not tired and hungry.
I worked with a young artist there who had considerable talent. His doodles and prints were evocative and interesting. I also befriended a security guard who talked too much and never watched the artwork. It wasn’t long before he was fired.
My days were spent between the hostess stand, the gallery and home. I passed hours in my small room above the stairs, drawing pictures of flowers, people and animals. I took to my camera and filled it with black and white film and took pictures of people and landscapes.
Some weekends I took off work to go backpacking or to a music festival- at one, Paul McCartney was performing and he was a lovely and peaceful as the sun is constant.
I passed some evenings with a married couple that I met at church who would invite me over for dinner and afterwards we would play music till late in the night until the men would retire on to the patio to smoke cigars and the wife and I would sit in the living looking at her wedding photos.
As the never ending Winter finally turned into Spring in early May, and a few weeks after a merciless Southern summer, I was consumed with work and the free time that laid in between was spent at an artist’s studio. He modeled clay and cast it in bronze. I attended some of his courses and would come to the studios in the morning to work on my pieces. He was a kind, quiet man who provided me with artistic instruction. During this time I also began to paint every night in my room. I produced abstract work focusing mainly on figures and bright colors that would warm my heart. It was also during this time that the fire flies came out. The warm evenings I spent on my porch with a friend sharing a beer or by my lonesome were illuminated by the small magical lanterns that flickered in the velvet darkness above the leafy foliage that surrounded the square southern homes that stretched along the long, wide streets of Nashville.
It wasn’t until later in my stay that I befriend some of the workers at the Burger Joint who were kind and also ambitious with their music careers. Some were notable performers in the community, but more importantly they were wonderful individuals. One day our boss decided to take us out on the lake and she rented pontoon boats and we sailed the day away with our laughs escaping into the summer breeze.
The next day I attended a baseball game where my dear friend sang. The crowd went silent as she sang God Bless America. As the game unfolded, a storm brewed over head, and the crowd cheered with beer and hot dogs in hand. As walked back to my truck, the sky broke and rain fell hard.
Later that night my friend called me from Manhattan, I hadn’t talked to him in months but we caught up, wished each other well and made plans to see each other.
At one point he he asked me,
“Is it the kind of place you could settle down in?”
“Yeah, but I’d have to find some one to settle down with.”
“Come to Manhattan.”
The rain continued to fall into night and into the next day, the fourth of July. Not long after I got on a plane to California. I walked into my old Café, the kind of place I was used to.