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The Terridactyl on Travel

Installment 4 - Nashville

Hoping to bring the new year of 2006 in right, I decided to treat myself to a trip I had always wanted to take and set about hustling my bustle over to the country's midsection and Nashville, Tennessee. I've been a fan of country and bluegrass music my whole life and have done my fair share of boot scootin and honky tonkin over the years but had never actually made it over to the mecca of twang. You hear a whole lot about the place in the country songs of course and I had a picture in my mind of what it would be like. And while some of it was just like I imagined, some of it really wasn't.

The sign says "Welcome to Nashville"
From whatever road you've been down
It seems like the first of the milestones
For here is the city, the town

It's a quaint, old mystical city
Where legends and idols have stood
It's a place, where dreams come to harbor
A country girl's Hollywood

But it's lonely at sundown in Nashville
That's when beaten souls start to weep
Each evening at sundown in Nashville
They sweep broken dreams off the street

The trip started off sort of half assed and last minute in the first place but the one thing I figured I had going for me was that I would likely be able to wrangle a free place to stay since my cousin Ellie and our aunt Magdalena have been living there for years. And even though I haven't seen either of them in a raccoon's age, I figured they wouldn't mind me kicking off my boots under a bed in the spare room for a few nights while we celebrated the start of 2006. However I didn't actually get in touch with Ellie until it was already the day I was leaving and when I told her I was coming she seemed a bit at a loss and stammered out that she'd been working as a model of late and hadn't really been paid all that much yet so she was living in this place that was kind of small. If she'd have told me that it was basically a crawl space and that Aunt Magdalena was living there as well, I might have made other arrangements.

When I landed in Tennessee it was still a day on the other side of 2005 and late in the evening. Ellie was waiting for me at the gate and gave me a hug while explaining that we had to go straight to this spot called the Station Inn where she had designs on a dobro player. He was reportedly a picker of some local renown who Ellie had been stalking around town but who thus far hadn't felt inclined to give her the time of day. She admitted, as we waited for my suitcase full of wranglers and boots that I never get a chance to wear otherwise, that she should know better than to get involved with more musicians after all the lame boyfriend guitar players she's had (Not to mention the string of loser songwriters and jack ass vocalists she's hooked up with over the years I thought to myself). Anyway she'd been watching this guy from a distance apparently and assured me that he seemed different than the rest. She explained that with me along as her wingwoman, one of us should be able to catch his attention and we could tag team and she would move in for the kill after I was safely out of town again. I was a bit skeptical of this plan but said I was up for anything since I don't get to go on vacation very often and need to have some stories to tell now that I'm a Goliard staffer and all. 

The Station place had a sit in jam session of some kind scheduled for that night and Ellie's plan, which she explained to me on the drive in from the airport, was that she was going to dust off a fiddle she had sort of learned to play back when she first moved there and pretend she wanted to sit in to see if she couldn't get this guy to notice her. Since she was wearing a shirt that was basically see-through with clusters of purple rhinestones around the nipples, it seemed like a plan that just might work until I asked her if she played any bluegrass and she waved me off and said from what she could tell it was just a bunch of racket anyway and she was pretty sure she could fake it. When I heard that, I figured that this fellow was going to end up noticing her alright. One way or the other.

    Just for some background on the family situation, Ellie is my first cousin on my mother's side and we haven't spent much time together since we were little girls back in Maine. She's called me once in awhile to chat over the years and usually ends the conversation by asking me to come visit so I didn't feel bad about dropping in on her without much notice. She's also been out to CA a few times with various boyfriends so we've stayed semi in touch. People always thought we were sisters back in the day because we looked somewhat alike but even then Ellie had a wild streak that let people know up front that we were different breeds of cat. At least I hope they knew. I was a pretty straight laced and well dressed little girl as you can see in the photo to the right and Ellie wasn't. Plus she used to do things like pull down her grubby cut offs and hang a moon out the window of the church bus with a big Quahog Bay clam wedged between her little butt cheeks for everyone to see as we were pulling into the picnic. I was also just remembering on the plane this other time when Ellie threw a water balloon filled with red paint into a nativity scene that hit the Virgin Mary right in the left breast and splattered all over the baby Jesus so the little guy looked all blood soaked and wounded. A lady had fainted the following morning at the sight of it. Not to mention that she was always getting caught playing stinkfinger with the town boys after catechism. I don't really blame her since we spent way too much time at church functions back in those days. That's her to the left there as well in a picture from one of her recent modeling jobs. She can look okay if she wants to but usually doesn't try to hard. Unless of course she's got her eye on a dobro player.

Anyway, we rolled in to the Station Inn which is supposed to be some sort of home to Bluegrass and even has seats from Earl Scrugg's tour bus inside. As far as decor and ambiance however they don't really have much to offer to compliment the awesome music particularly in the way of food but since I was hungry from flying all day I ordered me up a little frozen pizza and started pounding down the Rolling Rocks. After Ellie chickened out on the jam session and went to put her fiddle back in the car we got seats up front for this bluegrass band called The Sidemen. This nasal guy appeared next to us and explained that The Sidemen were real sidemen and actually some of the best studio musicians in Nashville. He honked this information through his beak continuing that the band got together to jam some grass and pour back some swill once or twice a week and added that he usually came down to listen. Ellie said that was great and told him to get lost and we crowded up to the stage to watch the show.

Well swill and jam they did and the picker in the white tee shirt got so stumble drunk during the first set, that he sang and slept through the second half of the show with his fly open and the tip of his cod peaking out. Aunt Magdalena joined us after awhile and immediately developed a crush on the 19-year old mandolin player and Ellie kept trying to keep the dobro guy's eye by flashing her rhinestones in the light. After six or seven RR's, I was growing partial to anyone with some kind of instrument who would also show me a bit of attention. That's a sad situation I know but I was new to this groupie thing and didn't really have any expectations or know how to act. Finally I decided I just didn't care that much and threw my legs up on a table and sang along to any tunes that I knew the words to. I suppose, if you really want to be a groupie, you're supposed to go back stage and start dolling out blow jobs or something but I wasn't nearly that drunk and there wasn't really a backstage in this place to speak of anyway. And it's not like these guys were Dwight Yoakum or Todd Snider or anything. We eventually did manage to get a personal invitation from the lead singer in blue to make the Feb 3rd show. I think he had designs on getting behind Ellie's rhinestones when he invited us but she didn't seem to mind and I didn't either since I wasn't going to be around anyway.

The guy in blue turned out to be Terry Eldridge who is now touring with his new band The Grascals. They have their own website and video on CMT and stuff but seem pretty packaged when you see them on TV compared to what we heard that night on the stage at the Station Inn. Terry in blue had also seemed somewhat interested in me until he found out I live in California. Apparently telling people back there you're from the Golden State is like telling them you've been walking around with a big load of crap in your pants all day.  Anyway, Ellie said the word around town is that he's a pipe smoker and a bit of a rough rider, and I know better than to get mixed up with one of those.  Another picker on stage was one of the McCoury sons from the famous Del McCoury clan. He was the banjo player and Magdalena was teasing me because she thought I wanted to get my paws on him just because she noticed me perk up quite a bit when the banjo solo kicked in. What she didn't know is that I'm not likely to get turned on by a man who looks like Fat Bastard, minus the fat.  My favorite was the guy in red because of his voice and expressive fiddling.  Too much of the drunk white tee shirted picker and not enough of the gem in red is my review of that show so nothing much ended up happening and my groupie days came pretty much to a grinding halt before they even got too far off the ground. We ended up careening home in Magdalena's old car after going to some diner over on the wrong side of town for grits and greasy eggs

Ellie's apartment, if you can call it that, is really very small but I was too travel tired and punch drunk to care much about that at least on the first night and just passed out under a comforter with my head on a piece of my luggage. Ellie and Mags slept in a heap on this futon in the middle of the floor and when we all woke up we decided to cook some pancakes just like we used to back at church camp. Ellie somehow ended up in half of my sweat suit which I can't really explain but we had fun squeezing orange juice and griddling up some cakes. While we were eating, Ellie asked me what I wanted to do while I was in town and I said of course I had to see the Grand Ole Opry and Ryner Auditorium and the Country Music Hall of Fame. I also wanted to make sure I headed down to Broadway and listened to some of the talent in the smaller bars. Ellie said that Nashville is like Hollywood for musicians meaning that for every famous star who makes it, there are a hundreds more talented waitresses and bartenders that just never got a break but still play awesome stuff at night down in the clubs along Broadway. Just like all the fake titted beauties that stroll up and down Rodeo Drive everyday hoping somebody will notice and cast them in something, these musicians keep plugging away and singing their lonely songs into the night. I was thinking that sort of described Ellie herself except she was more of a person who just wanted to be around the scene and ended up in Nashville when Magdalena landed some house sitting gig there.

We got organized and made it over to the Opry and the museum which was pretty interesting with all the Patsy Cline and Minnie Pearl stuff and it was fun just to stand there and think about all the greats that had walked the halls before. Some washed up musician I hadn't heard of was signing stuff in the lobby but I didn't bother to wait in line to get him to scribble Doug Karshank or Tennessee Hacksaw or whatever his name was on some crappy trucker hat since I didn't recognize his name in the first place. Then we took a cab over to Ryner and snuck in a side door just so we could see the place. They were setting up for a concert that night and Ellie ended up giving her number to one of the roadies after he offered us a personal tour and then got hollered at by his boss who told him to stop playing grab ass and get back to stacking speakers which is what he was being paid for.

Anyway, by that time it was getting towards late afternoon and Ellie said she could use a drink so we headed down to Broadway. It was new year's eve so everyone was all atitter and most of the watering holes were in transition gearing up for the big night. Magdalena got off work at the scullery or wherever it is that she toils these days and joined us at a place called Robert's to begin the celebrating. The waitress came and Ellie said she was going to pace herself with a Corona and Mags got a scotch. I stuck with a Bud Light. We listened to a plain looking girl with an incredible set of pipes as she wailed out lonesome tunes until a manager type came out on stage and told her to get off to make way for this scraggly looking guy who a whole lot of the local people seemed to know. He was very talented but kept taking requests from the flousy women up front and singing Billy Joel songs which wasn't really what I wanted to hear in Nashville. We were thinking about going somewhere else until these three banjo playing mommas came out and set about out dixieing the original Dixie Chicks so we stuck around.

Suddenly though, and it didn't seem like very much later at all,  some cowboy in sequins was sending us a round of shots and Ellie had to suck one of them out of his belly button and then before we knew it, Ellie and I were up on the bar singing "Don't Take Your Guns to Town" and Mags had ensconced herself on the lap of some trucker named Tucker. I then got asked to dance by Larry Puckman, a 300-pound local drunk reveler and I now know what it feels like to be pressed air-tight against the Pillsbury Doughboy. I must have looked a little pale after the song so he bought me a water, which I believe is the first stranger to ever have bought me a drink at a bar. Next I was being flirted upon by a man in his 80's....until his daughter got pissed and made him leave. He was just telling me when she whisked him away how we'd show everyone else up on the dance floor if I could figure out how to clear it first so he wouldn't break a hip. 

The whole night ended badly when Ellie got mad at me when she thought I was trying to hone in on the man she was making out with just because I tapped her on the shoulder to see if she had a tampon with her that I could use to stop the bleeding in this drunk guy's nose. Nothing else was going to do the trick for this fellow I can tell you since he had somehow impaled his nostril with a swizzle stick and then promptly passed out at the sight of his own blood only to fall right on his face and crush his nose on the corner of the stage. He looked horrible when he came to as if he'd been in a motorcycle accident without a helmet or something and I was trying to help him by putting the tampon in his nostril when he asked me to lean closer as if he needed to confide in me a dying wish. Instead however, he grabbed me by the back of the head and tried to cram his tongue down my throat. I recoiled and pounded him in the balls until he let go but it turned out this was all happening right at the stroke of midnight so I didn't get too angry and finally let him kiss me on the cheek even though he was all sopping with blood and his voice had gone all squeaky because of the blows to his gonads. Then I was headed to the bathroom to clean up and Ellie's new man saw me and thought it was my blood I was covered in so was asking me if I was alright and Ellie saw us talking and stormed off somewhere so Mags and I weaved home through the streets and went to sleep until Ellie came stumbling in and a big wrestling match broke out to see who would get to sleep on the futon. A bunch of crockery got knocked all over and we smashed some vases and plates before I rolled out of the fray and left them to claw it out. Finally, since Ellie was being all snippy to me, I just locked myself in her bathroom and think I passed out on the toilet eventually. I know I ended up just sleeping on the bathroom floor with the shower curtain wrapped around me to sounds of Ellie yelling that if I didn't open the door she was going to squat over my suitcase and do some serious pissing. She didn't as it turned out but it was an unpleasant scene all the same when I emerged the next morning and I certainly hope the whole evening wasn't a harbinger for the rest of 2006

I was supposed to fly out a couple nights later and since Ellie wasn't speaking to me it hadn't been all that comfortable around the crawl space so I had been doing things like hiking around the Vanderbilt campus and eating bagels while I checked out the college a bit. By the time I was ready to go, Ellie still wouldn't acknowledge me so I said goodbye to her turned back, thanked her for her  southern hospitality and took a cab over to the Station Inn since I couldn't really think of where else to go. It turned out they were having amateur open mic day and I eventually met up with these raucous bluegrass librarians who were in town for a meeting and had ducked out to kick up their heels. The ringleader seemed to be this Portlander named Rachel Berrington (left) who took the stage and mesmerized us with her fingerwork on the mandolin for about a half hour until she suddenly became violently ill and blew chow into an old guitar case at the side of the stage. She ended up being confined to the bathroom for the rest of the afternoon and I talked to her a bit while I was getting ready to go to the airport and she was sitting there on one of the pots reading some sort of travel book. She seemed to be taking it pretty well and explained that she was allergic to green olives and the cook must have snuck some in to the burrito she had eaten before coming over. I said I hoped she felt better and got a cab to the plane and flew out of Tennessee a little the worse for wear but having had a good time all the same. My adventures next time are going to involve dating married men so you'll want to stay tuned for that.

Tata for now. - TD

Past Terridactyl Travels

TD 1 - Mexico
TD 2 - Bay to Breakers

TD 3 - Yosemite

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