Sunday dawned bright and hopeful: I would put more steering fluid in the Subaru and it would work fine, and I would have a peaceful Sunday morning in the coffee place of my choice.
Neither of these things happened.
First I packed up my stuff — it was time to leave the Airbnb for a stay at a friend’s place near Belmont — and when I brought it all out to the car, there was a large patch of steering fluid on the driveway. Add that to the list of annoyances my hosts were toting up: “and she leaked fluids everywhere!” (standard hotel guest behavior but rude when it’s not anonymous.)
Another trip to AutoZone and then maneuvered into the parking lot at Frothy Monkey – oh my God,there was a line from the counter, out the front door, down the porch steps and along the sidewalk. Same thing at Bongo Java. But it was 9:15 AM on a Sunday morning! What, do these people go to church or somethin- oh right, I was in Nashville. I remember being asked at my daughter’s school back when “Have y’all chosen a church yet?” and well-meaning parents bringing my heathen child to service…on Wednesday night!
I managed to maneuver the car out of a parking spot and drove to my friend Joy’s. She’s a great country singer who’s been laying low for some years. We walked her dogs through the neighborhood, gaping at graceful old cottages turned into three story behemoths. It’s still a beautiful part of town, Belmont. I love this time of year for looking at the bare bones of peoples’ gardens and landscaping, much easier to see how they do it before the leaves and flowers fill it all in.
So I was not going anywhere for a few days, except on foot. It was fun anyway, if a little stressful. I went to a yoga class at this incredible new community center for three dollars. Had to cancel my writing date with Bill Lloyd which sucked, he and I have written some good songs together. Joy and I sat talking for hours about the old days, I pictured us in another ten years, my car now on blocks outside, busting out songs and albums and photos for each other, a regular alt-country Grey Gardens “And then that guy, what was his name, y’know, that song plugger back in aught-three…”
Joy hooked me up with her mechanic Johnny, who assured me “You just sit tight baby and we’ll get you rockin’ and rollin’ in no time.” AAA paid for itself with a tow to his place and much quicker than he said he would, he called and said “Where you at? I’ll come pick you up.” He was blasting Led Zeppelin from my Subaru’s radio. What a sweetheart, Johnny. He told me to give the last garage hell for not tightening things properly and barely charged me.
I drove away from his shop and just around the corner was my daughter’s high school: Nashville School of the Arts. This was too good, I really wanted to take a picture to send her. My timing was a little weird – it was exactly three PM, the end of the school day. All of a sudden I was stuck in a line of cars picking up disenfranchised, creative teenagers — hair dyed in unnatural colors, black t-shirts, fingerless gloves, loose plaid shirts, Converse — as if the last ten years hadn’t happened. I was like a Mom who’d been put in the deep-freeze and comes to one weekday afternoon: “Must…make…school…run. Offspring…is…waiting, for…meeeee.” I felt kind of creepy sitting there in the line, trying to surreptitiously snap a photo, being careful not to aim my phone at any living creature for fear someone would notice I was just cruising by without there being a teenager waiting for me.
When I stopped for a coffee (whee! I seem to be one of those people who just goes around on foot or now by car getting coffee all day) I heard “Amy? Amy Rigby is that you?” It was like a TV show, “Steve Allen, what are you doing here?” My old friend and sometime guitar player Steve, who used to always joke that my life was a TV show. We had a lovely chat, and again it was that feeling of I know it’s all changing and being over-developed but I love this town (from a safe distance, as a visitor).
I said goodbye to Joy and decided to hang around in town a little longer – I’d really wanted to try writing something. I got together with Bill DeMain, who I wrote “Keep It To Yourself “with. It was great to see his new place and we sat talking for ages, and I kept thinking “it’s fine if it doesn’t happen.” But then, just like the old days, he said he had some chords and a melody on the piano and I said I had this feeling/idea and an hour later we had a song. I told him we were like Rose Marie and Morey Amsterdam and part of the magic of me and Bill is he knew exactly what I meant.
Met up with friends Trip and Nancy and it was so cool how we were drinking cocktails in a bar called Duke’s and I heard this really familiar voice coming out of the speakers. “What’s that song…wait, it’s Eric/Len Bright Combo “You’re Gonna Screw My Head Off”! I think they play one of Eric’s records every night in this place. They make fabulous cocktails too and even serve deli sandwiches at all hours.
I was staying at another Airbnb now, a perfect entire home/apartment option. I had the odd experience of pulling away in the car from my little cottage and passing this kindly-looking couple out for a morning walk. “Do I know those people?” I thought. “They look so famili- oh shit, they’re the people from the Airbnb I stayed at last time I was in Nashville.” I practically ducked down as I drove past, not that I’m not allowed to stay anywhere I want but they were such nice people and I guess I could lie and say it’s a friend’s I’m staying at but – don’t you hate the new transparency sometimes? I can’t imagine ever having to explain to Mr. Howard Johnson that Mr. Hilton has more what I’m in the mood for. I’m sure they wouldn’t care, really. But sometimes the world is just too small.
More nice times visiting with friends, hearing music. I stopped in at Alex the Great where I recorded The Sugar Tree with Brad Jones. I went straight to the Fellini/Francoise Sagan sixties photo book of sexy ladies that sits on a shelf in the control room, like a kid at grandma’s house checking that the Hummel figurines are still standing guard. “They’re still here…I dream about this place.” Brad gave Hazel her first bass when we lived here, and I got to play him some tracks from her Outside World album, proud mama.
I’d stretched it an extra day because when I arrived in town I’d been greeted by a billboard advertising Burt Bacharach with the Nashville Symphony. Marc Nathan, a super-sweet music guy who’d done the convoy with my faltering Subaru, offered me a ticket – it really felt like the only chance I’d ever have to see Burt.
When I was leaving for the show and thought out of sheer habit “It’s time to hide the tour money”I realized what it is to be on vacation, not on tour because I HAD NO MONEY LEFT. On tour the wad grows and on vacation you get down to zero (or below). Economics 101. Still, I thought it had been really worthwhile, and I hadn’t even seen Burt Bacharach yet.
So I’m trying to drive down to lower Broadway in a massive traffic jam because it’s also March Madness AND probably Keith Urban playing. A couple police cars come through sirens and lights blaring and I’ve pulled over to let them through. When I try to get back in the lane of traffic (the other lane is the on ramp for the interstate), a big black Range Rover won’t let me back in. I try and try and the guy keeps inching in front of me. I roll down my window and say “Could you please let me back in?” He gives me a pitying look and sort of chortles, shaking his head. I couldn’t help it, I leaned out the window and said “You are a cunt.” Too many trips in the passenger seat on the M25 or the A11. When a light changed and the opportunity came, I shot in front of him.
I’m not proud of myself. He probably thought I said “you are a coot” but he deserved it.
Marc and I meet up, late cause of the traffic but we take our seats in Schermerhorn Symphony Hall, two rows back from the stage. When Burt walks on, he is as cool and suave and as much the man of my mother’s dreams — which was the beginning of my love for him, that album Reach Out with him in action on the cover — as he could possibly be. And the symphony sweeps in:
“What the world, needs now – is love, sweet love – it’s the only thing, that there’s just too little of.”
Oh why did I call that guy a c**t?
Because he was acting like one. But who cares? He’s not thinking about me. And I’m at Burt Bacharach! I’m on the edge of my seat and on the verge of tears for however long he plays, sings, conducts. talks to the audience.
“This is just what I do, play music,” he says at one point. “Try to make people feel something.” He is eighty-eight years old.
Who said, this is a marathon, not a sprint? A moment like this is a paper cup from one of those big orange plastic water jugs along the road to as long as I can keep going. Thank you Marc! Thank you Burt!
I felt so sad to leave Nashville. Jon Graboff said he was playing with Iris DeMent opening for John Prine at the Ryman on Saturday. And something great after that I’d have to miss. And something else. But I knew I’d be back.
Driving out of town, I popped the Lovin Spoonful cassette I’d bought into the player. Whoever had gotten rid of this Greatest Hits left it cued up to the middle of the tape:
“Nashville Cats, play clear as country water
Nashville Cats, play wild as mountain dew
Nashville Cats, been playing since they’s babies
Nashville Cats, get work before they’re two”
Right? As Steve would say, “Put it in the show.”