Nashville. I could have lived my entire life without ever seeing it. But then I wouldn’t have known that on Saturday at one in the afternoon there’s a sea of sizes shuffling down Broadway in fringe and boots and busting onto balconies. There are drunk girls peddling a booze bike down the middle the street while singing “I’m looking at the Man in the Mirror.” The man in the mirror? Get the penis straws out of your mouths, take a look at yourselves and make a change.
What the hell am I doing here! Oh, I’m in town to perform tonight at The Listening Room. Until then, I’d love to buy a book and escape, but I don’t feel like driving five hours.
I head away from the liquored-up ladies and pass a man with a stick and soul playing the crap out of a bucket (see video at end). I like him because he doesn’t look like everyone else in Nashville. He looks like everyone else in New York City. I enjoy his rendition of “I have no song, but I’ve got me a bucket, drop a dollar, won’t you please.” (I have a knack for interpreting music).
Blocks aways I breath without inhaling tequila fumes. A small sign in front of a colonial building tells me I’m at the office where the future president Andrew Jackson practiced law. I pass art galleries, largely empty, on my way to Walgreens to buy cough syrup. Another sign tells me that this drugstore was one of the many where, in 1960, young black students sat at the lunch counter until spat upon or arrested.
That’s what I like best about being a comic, seeing what makes people who they are – from the drunk to the sobering. You’ve got to be fascinated by a city that holds a pivotal place in the civil rights movement and has a channel devoted to the Fried Food Diet. Best to know how to round out that fried chicken and waffles with the rest of the day’s meals.
This is real life, real people, doing that they love. And apparently smoking is one of those things. Smoking has not yet lost its allure or found its restrictive laws. The bars/restaurants welcome you to enjoy that Pall Mall with your pulled pork and mac and cheese and, please, feel free to blow the exhaust into the face of a visiting comic. She’s on our turf.
That night at The Listening Room, the performances flip between 20-minutes of a country music band and 10-minutes of a comic. I’m the first comic up because I’m lucky. Beneath the low hanging, white, Christmas lights, I see bouncing blonde curls and flannel. There’s so much flannel I feel like I’m at a pajama party. As I take the stage, the on-deck band is setting up. Yes, I’m performing while a band is setting up inches from my mic, moving and tuning and sound-checking, oblivious to my take on the Kardashians. The music men eventually come to a stand still, in position, staring at me to finish my joke show so they can strum about drinking when not thirsty. To my right, a small fella with a big grin sits at an unidentifiable instrument with no keys, no board. I later learn “Darlin’, that’s what we call a steel gee-tar. ” To my left, an upright “gee-tar” rests on the protruding belly of a man named Word. He’s a happy chap, and I encourage him to keep playing so that when he’s famous he’ll get laid all he wants despite the Amish beard. If it can happen for Lyle Lovett, it can happen for Word.
This is not what you’d call an easy gig. But the audience turns out to be shockingly terrific – warm, responsive, applauding. Nashville, I had no idea. Now I feel bad about the book joke.
What is even more surprising is that I find myself listening and enjoying live country music. Not on purpose. It just happened. I hear the angelic voice of 16-year old Kelsie May, who I’m told was on The Voice. Ray Scott is a hulking man in a cowboy hat, the one who sings about drinking even when he’s not thirsty. His voice is deep and sexy. Chasin’ Crazy, has a fun sound, and one guy can FIDDLE! I’m impressed. I thought all country music sounded the same, but not tonight. There was something unique and alluring about each of them. No one is more shocked than myself. I’m not saying I’m putting up a Minnie Pearl poster anytime soon, but I am saying it’s cool to have ones’ eyes opened a bit.
Before I leave the following day, I try the fried chicken and waffles. Holy Moly was that good. Like the country music, I’m not going to make it a habit, but I’m glad I tried it. Now if only we had the Fried Diet Channel on Comcast, I’d know what to have for dinner.
Here’s the music man with a bucket: