After the 8-mile bike ride to/from Parnassus Books and the 2-mile hike to/from the Country Music Hall of Fame, I returned to the hotel for a much-needed nap.
I am not what you would call an active person. I am a person who aspires to be active—usually about two glasses into a bottle of wine. By the second glass, I think things like, wouldn’t it be nice to be someone who exercised regularly? People do that. I could totally be one of them. And I could start tomorrow because tomorrow is great for things like exercise and discipline.
The me of tomorrow always has herself so together. I really admire that girl.
Anyway, that aside was intended to explain why I desperately needed at nap at 5 p.m. on a Saturday, when I should have been researching dinner options for later. I set my alarm for 8 p.m., thinking there was no way I would sleep that long, but that it would be good to have the alarm on just in case.
I fell asleep the instant my head hit the hotel bed’s freakishly tiny pillows (is that becoming a thing? Please don’t say that’s becoming a thing…Big pillow-lovers, unite! Let’s put a stop to this madness! [They were all seriously the size of throw pillows]). When my alarm went off, it felt as if I’d only just shut my eyes.
There was a very real moment when I considered just hitting “dismiss” and going back to bed. Who needed to see Nashville by night, anyway? A bar is a bar is a bar, when it comes right down to it, and we had plenty in Dallas.
But…hadn’t I booked this trip mainly to hear some live country music in the city known for it? I had. Ugh.
I got up, splashed some cold water on my face, and looked groggily in the mirror. I half-heartedly ran the blow-dryer through my hair, then pulled on on boots and a black top with jeans. I put on my makeup and added red lipstick that I hoped would distract people from the circles beneath my eyes that my concealer couldn’t quite hide, then I walked out into the cool night.
There was one place I wanted to go first for a sort of toast to the whole trip. I’d gotten a tip from a friend that there was a bar in Nashville where you could order a bacon old-fashioned. Yes, you read that right. A bacon old-fashioned.
Now, some of you reading this may not know what an old-fashioned is, and that’s OK. We all walk different paths in this life, and it’s possible that thus far yours hasn’t included this ambrosial concoction. Don’t worry, it’s not too late for you. For now, here’s all you need to know: an old-fashioned is a classic cocktail—one of the first ever invented—that includes some combination of whiskey+muddled sugar and bitters served with a twist of orange or some such.
So, a bacon old-fashioned, one could assume, would somehow throw that most delicious of breakfast flavors into the mix. It sounded like it could be one of those things that was either truly amazing, or truly terrible. I couldn’t wait to see if they pulled it off.
At this point in my trip I was pretty over being a pedestrian and was more than willing to order a cab for my bacon old-fashioned expedition, but as luck would have it it was actually just three or so blocks from where I was staying.
When I got to The Patterson House the hostess told me that there were no single spots at the bar at the moment, and that it would be a few minutes, so I stepped outside to wait. The bar was packed with people waiting both inside and out, but I thought that it couldn’t take very long for a single bar stool to open up, and, there was a bacon old-fashioned beyond that velvet curtain, so I settled in, lit a cigarette, pulled out one of the books I’d picked up earlier that day, Parnassus on Wheels, and started to read.
A few minutes later, a funny thing happened. I could overhear the couple in a corner across the way talking about me. I got the sense that they weren’t a serious couple, and that this was like their second or third date. They were grasping at straws, searching for things to talk about, and had both grabbed at me like a life raft.
I can’t remember the wording, exactly, but she mumbled something like, “I don’t get people who bring books to bars,” and he replied something like, “well, it’s because now she really looks too cool to be here.”
I was flattered. I hadn’t had the courtesy of being talked about behind my back less than three feet away since high school, and it was exhilarating. I tried to concentrate on my book so that I could continue to politely pretend like I couldn’t hear everything they were saying, but someone inside knocked against the outside light switch, and after that I couldn’t see the pages anymore, so I had to set the book down. It didn’t matter much, though, because by that point they were talking about other things.
She was saying something about a guy friend they both seemed to know and how he’d tried to sleep with her once. I wondered if she thought that would make her sound desirable…but I couldn’t blame her too much for the reach because date conversations have a way of crossing from normal to cringe-worthy in a matter of moments. Things can tend to do that when you’re trying to get to know someone over the span of a couple of hours, desperately grasping for some semblance of intimacy.
There was another group of people outside who had been waiting over an hour. I knew this because they were very vocal about it. The guys and one girl were all cold, but the other girl with them didn’t like crowds and didn’t want to go inside, and they were all very vocal about that, too, for about twenty minutes. Finally, the cold girl had had enough. She retreated inside bringing most of the entourage of men with her, save for two gallants who promised the other girl who didn’t like crowds that they “wouldn’t leave her alone outside.”
And I had to laugh, because that’s such a normal thing for us to do in our society. A knee-jerk kind of courtesy. You should walk a woman to her car, wait for a woman outside—you shouldn’t ever leave her by herself, alone.
Being alone is dangerous. Women are taught that all of our lives. The dark is dangerous, too. Never find yourself alone and in the dark if you don’t want to be murdered or raped, or both.
Because that group was now closer to the door, everyone naturally started talking, the couple, the chivalrous group, and me. We were all friends in the same waiting room.
It was one guy’s birthday, the one who wouldn’t leave that girl outside in the dark alone. He was a Navy man and he had his brother and cousin in there and they had recommended the bar, but if he didn’t get a fucking drink soon he was leaving. I mean, in a couple of hours, it wouldn’t even be his birthday even more, you know?
“So…who are you even here with?” The birthday boy suddenly asked me. “I mean, you’ve just been out here all night.”
That was an exaggeration. I had been out there for forty minutes, two sets of twenty, if you wanted to be super accurate about it, because after the first twenty minutes I’d gone inside to check on that bar stool with the bacon old-fashioned access that I was so interested in, and the hostess had said she was sorry, there still wasn’t a single available yet, but that one woman had been drinking there for about three hours and she had to get up eventually. At that point I was invested, so I’d gone outside determined to wait all night if that’s what it took.
A voice in my head told me that I shouldn’t tell a stranger that I was in a city by myself for the same reason that children don’t tell strangers on the phone that their parents aren’t home, and the same reason my grandmother once told me that when I was traveling when I left the hotel room I should leave the TV on to a sports channel—or the news—something with men talking, so that if someone walked by they’d think there was a man in there. But I hated that reasoning because it equated me, and all women, really, to children unable to take care of themselves. So I told him, “I’m here by myself, just passing through Nashville, and someone recommended this bar to me so I thought I’d check it out.”
“So, you’re in town on business?”
“No. Just in town. I’ve never been to Nashville and I wanted to go, so here I am.”
After some prodding and him telling me that there must be more to it than that, I explained a little more about my mission to visit someplace new one weekend of every month in 2014.
“Shit,” he said, “What am I doing with my life?” That wasn’t a question I could answer for him.
“Maybe I’ll walk to Cali. What do you think, guys? Should I walk to California?”
“You have no balls,” his friend answered.
“FUCK. You’re right. I have no balls.”
And that’s how I learned that in the military, if you tell a soldier he has no balls, you’re basically saying “I dare you.” And if they don’t take the dare, well, you get the gist.
The more you know.
Their table was ready and we said our goodbyes. The lady with them was safely ushered inside, away from the scary dark night. (I added that in there because I know you all were concerned on that score.) And, only 45 minutes after my arrival, I was told my bar stool was finally free.
I sat down and instantly had the feeling that the wait would be worth it. It was one of those awesome bars with books lining the walls, and I am never more at home than when I am surrounded by books and booze.
The bartender started to say something about giving me a few minutes with the menu but I cut him off, “Do you have a bacon old-fashioned?”
“That’s what I’m here for.”
“Coming right up. I’ll leave this here for you in case you want to look at the food.”
Food. That’s right. I’d nearly forgotten all about food, but suddenly I was ravenous and everything on the menu looked amazing.
He set down my glass. It was filled to the brim and included one of those spherical ice cubes that are becoming all the rage because apparently they melt more slowly than regular ice cubes and somehow keep your drink colder because of science. I thanked him for the drink and ordered goat cheese balls and truffle deviled eggs, a fancy-lady appetizer dinner.
There is something so wonderful about a truly well-mixed cocktail. I took a sip and was instantly transported to a land of bliss. It wasn’t too sweet, had just the right amount of whiskey, and after reading the description, the bacon bit (ha…ha…) was all about the whiskey they used, bacon-infused whiskey, which added a hint of smokiness that wasn’t at all offensive.
Then the food arrived and I was really in heaven. Everything was just amazing. So tasty. Not overdone. Light, fantastic combinations of flavor in every bite.
It was just all damn good. I could have stayed there all night, but I paid my tab and left because I still had one more thing to check off my list: live music in Nashville.
At that point, I’d decided that any nearly bar would do, it just had to be nearby (my poor, inactive, overworked legs!) and have a live band. Considering I’d seen this sign earlier today outside of my hotel, I didn’t think that would be difficult to find.
I was right. Just a couple of blocks away was a bar called Tin Roof. I showed my ID to the bouncer and walked inside. It was still pretty early by Saturday night standards, so I had no trouble finding a seat at a table near the band. They were good and having a fun time. There was this awesome bearded guy the ladies were in love with. Here’s a picture of Romeo:
People were dancing, and singing along. I loved it. My only disappointment in the band was that they only played covers, and I’d wanted to hear some original tunes.
Another disappointing, or maybe more disconcerting, thing that night was how very young everyone in the bar seemed. At 26, I was easily the oldest person there. I don’t normally feel old, because I’m not, but I did a little that night.
Later when I looked more closely at where I was staying, I saw that Vanderbilt University was nearby and it all made sense. These were college kids at their college bar.
I need to go somewhere off the strip the next time I visit.
The whole college bar thing also explained why, at one point, this happened:
I was waiting to order another drink at the bar, and this…boy…possibly 21 years old but more likely younger (maybe a fraternity brother had loaned him an ID), turned to me and said, “So, what kinda drink ya buyin’ me?”
Jesus. Have pickup lines really come to this? I’ve had some horrible ones in my day, but this one really took the cake, and not a good kind of cake, either. Some sort of terrible, Heath bar kind of cake.
I looked at him with eyes I hoped said go to hell, because I didn’t feel like his question was worthy of verbal response. He must have gotten the message because he replied, “Guess not, then.”
Not is right. Not now. Not ever. God. I hope this kind of line doesn’t work for college women today, but having been one…I can’t be too certain. There should be a class on how to demand to be treated like a human being with a 3-hour minimum course requirement. Also, one for budgeting…but that’s a rant for a different day.
OK, one last story about the bar before I end this long-ish last Nashville post:
There was also a DRUNK girl there (there were many, actually, but she’s our focus for the purpose of this story). I was outside at one point toward the end of the evening enjoying the nice weather from a table on the patio. I’d just gotten my last drink, was smoking my last cigarette and was about to go back to the hotel.
She must have decided the floor was lava or something (because what else could explain her actions?) and so she got up on the table. In doing so, she kicked over my beer, knocking the bottle to the concrete ground and shattering it to pieces, which was pretty unfortunate and shitty.
I looked up at her to see if she had any idea of what she’d done. She didn’t, and she wasn’t exactly in any condition to make the polite gesture of buying me a new drink if I called her on it. So I said to her guy friend sitting next to me, “Hey, your friend broke my drink.”
Well, no help there.
I went inside and decided to take my case up to a higher level: the bartender. I had a couple dollars left for tip, but not enough for another drink. I thought maybe I could appeal to his sense of entrepreneurship. “So, this girl out there broke my drink,” I said, only at that moment realizing that I sounded a little like a kid crying over a broken toy. “It was a Yuengling. Can I tip you for another?” I asked, waving the cash.
He winked at me and said, “I’ll just put it on her tab,” then handed me a new one.
(Moral: Ladies, there are good men in the world.)
I left the cash anyway and headed back to the hotel, beer in my coat pocket.
I walked back alone, at night and in the dark. And I made it just fine.