Archives: October 2013

Nashville, TN, February 7, 2012

This afternoon I spent a long time at Vanderbilt’s gym. Working out, I often catch myself thinking that I’d like to look like a Greek statue. However, like many things in life, extending this line of thinking to its logical conclusions renders it absurd. The amount of exercise and special dieting required to actually look a Greek statue would mean that this one objective would consume my life. And, furthermore, once attained, it’s arguable that I would only be marginally more attractive, or even less attractive. In this manner I have a small or even sometimes large inner struggle with myself when I’m pumping iron.

After working out, I napped. Sometimes it’s a god-send just to lie down. Consciousness is sometimes simply too much of a burden. My thoughts in particular are tiring, though other peoples’ can get to me too.

That afternoon I had an interview scheduled for a dishwasher position at one of Bongo Java’s partner restaurants. It proved to be irritating, like so many things. I arrived at the place and one of the employees pointed out Rusty, an unremarkable man in his late twenties or early thirties standing in front of the register speaking to a middle-aged woman. Restaurant managers are often unremarkable, I’ve found. Wait, I do like some of them. He told me he would just be a few minutes. I sat and waited. I was wet from the rain outside. I forgot to mention that it was raining. I had chosen to wear my bright red sweater, which sometimes people compliment. At a table near mine there was a skinny, pretty co-ed eating vegetarian food. Another pretty, skinny co-ed joined her. I eavesdropped. The first one made a remark about how terrible her outfit was. Honestly, I thought she looked pretty good, and I don’t ignore outfits. I wanted to interject this comment. I thought better of it.

Rusty called me over and I went to his office. He asked me about myself. Unlike Brandi, I could see it was a perfunctory question. Wait, who’s Brandi? My manager from the other place. These interviews are ludicrous. Considering the nature of the work, what is the point of them? I had assumed it was just a formality, and I was going to get the job. But Rusty told me he was interviewing other people. I wondered if that was really the case, or if that was just something he could say to feel some psychological leverage over me. He was really rather dull. I was becoming indignant. I don’t think it showed, but, how shall I say, I wasn’t radiating enthusiasm. I was feeling generally out of sorts, due to some water in my ear from the pool that was impairing my hearing.

That night Lewis and I decided that we would see some music. It seemed like the thing to do, or anyway, a thing to do. We biked to the Basement, a popular venue on 8th Avenue South.

When we got there a young man with a guitar was doing his bit, a sing-songwriter kind of thing. This was followed by my favorite act of the night, Megan McCormick. She had short, trendy hair, with a wave of it carefully streaked across her forehead. Again, southern chic.

I had many profound thoughts throughout the show. That always happens to me when I hear live music. I can’t remember any of them now, otherwise I would write them out in great detail. I also checked out the girls, what do you expect. God knows some of my thoughts had to do with them.

Nashville, TN, February 5, 2012

I arrived at Bongo Java twenty minutes early and ordered a tea, which I sat and drank while I read. The barista recognized me from the day before, though I did not recognize him. When I asked for a small tea, he said, “are you sure you really want a small? I think what you really want is a medium.”

I got the job, though my manager is going to check my references. I’m afraid I may get caught in some of my lies. I filled out the online application weeks ago, and I can’t even remember what they were.

I was left with a whole day ahead of me. I considered exploring the city more, but I opted not to. I reasoned that I should use the time to read or write instead. All the same, even in view of all the projects I supposedly wanted to tackle, I felt a looming sense of aimlessness. Boredom works in strange ways, apparently. What do people do with themselves that is meaningful, as opposed to merely passing the time? I wondered. There’s a question that never goes away.

These were my thoughts, pondering over how I should spend my free day, made even more free by the fact that I could stop worrying about finding a job. Free time, it seems, is never as good as it would seem.

Nashville, TN, February 1, 2012

I took a long time getting started this morning. Too much beer the night before. I was irritated with myself for drinking so much, but I suppose one can’t always be pleased with oneself. There is a risk of complacency. But at the same time, I see that this attitude in itself could also lead to complacency, in its own way. This is a dilemma for which I have not been able to find a satisfactory solution.

After finally leaving the house, I followed up with some coffee shops I’d visited the day before and secured an interview at one of them, a place called Bongo Java across the street from Belmont University’s music school. It was filled with hip-looking college students, most of them sitting on the porch smoking and drinking coffee. It smacked of being a self-conscious scene—deliberate surfaces, empty interiors. I could smell this in the haze of cigarette smoke.

Among these Belmont alternative types, alternative being a relative term, there were many attractive girls. I, too, can be taken in by surfaces, skeptical as I am.

Later at my apartment, I felt quite alone and tired out, even though it was only early afternoon. The guy installing our cable internet proved to be an unexpectedly agreeable and pleasant visitor, with whom I could commiserate. He asked me about my roommate’s classical guitar, wondering if I was a musician. He also must have took note of the classical music playing, which was only on because there are a few classical CDs lying around, and it’s pleasant to have them playing in the background. I told him I was not a musician, and asked him if he played music. He had studied music in college, though it did him no good, according to him. I asked a follow-up question, I forget what. He had later studied at the New York Film Academy and worked in the film industry for a number of years. At times, I am rather inquisitive. We talked extensively about cinema, and he asked me what I look for when writing about film. All in all, he was good company. He let slide a few remarks about his ex-wife in New York, for whom he didn’t have warm feelings.

I ate dinner with Lewis that evening and deliberated over the different jobs I could potentially accept. After allowing time for sufficient digestion, I borrowed his student ID and went to the Vanderbilt gym. I felt a little nervous swiping the card in front of the monitors, but they didn’t say anything to me. The place was resplendent with fit, attractive students, toning their muscles and tightening their asses. I toned and tightened too, while I admired the girls surreptitiously and felt in general like an intruder in their collegial, sealed-off world of affluence.

Nashville, TN, January 31, 2012

Yesterday I spent most of the morning replying to a long, convoluted e-mail from an old friend. We hadn’t corresponded in a while so I allowed myself to be especially elaborate and self-indulgent in my response, which primarily recounted the highlights of my recent mental life, along with a few key events. What a pleasure, to be able to talk about one’s self so extensively! I told my friend that I felt as if I was getting back to “my roots” in living with a friend from my hometown. But later, after I had sent the missive, I regretted saying that; it seemed to smack of a pseudo, cliché sort of insight.

After going to the library to use the internet, I went to a Bruegger’s Bagels across the street to eat lunch. It was slick and sterile inside with carefully calculated lighting. I watched the people working behind the counter and felt depressed. I imagined their sadness there. Like a good student of the liberal arts who’s had his consciousness raised in all the right ways, and then some, I found the corporate ambiance sterile and generally distasteful. After handing me my sandwich the woman behind the counter called after me, “do you want a pickle?” She sounded so kind. The southern accent sometimes has that effect on me. I did want a pickle and I told her so.

Again I went out hunting for jobs, this time in the area around Belmont University. When I walk into places and introduce myself I’m sure to mention that I came from New York. I say it humbly, as if as if I am humble—which, from a certain point of view, is debatable. It gives me something to feel superior about. You gotta hold on to that sometimes, especially when you’re unemployed.

On Belmont Boulevard I walked into a restaurant called “Cha Cha.” The sign said it was closed, but I assumed a manager or the chef would be there. Indeed there was a small man sitting at the bar looking over some papers. He was the executive chef and owner of the place (I later found out he was on “Top Chef”). I introduced myself, gave him the usual spiel, I was wondering if you’re hiring…I just moved here…etc…and he took my resume. I saw that his interest was piqued. I realized I would have to lie and make it sound like I knew about fine dining. He asked me where I worked in New York because he had went to culinary school there. “How do you palette things?” he asked me. I didn’t know what he meant by that. “Modestly,” I said. “I cook modestly, palette modestly.”

“We’re losing a sever. She’s moving to New York actually—she’s going to eat her way through New York and come back in a year knowing a lot more.”

“Cool, good for her,” I said. Foodie talk. (I might have said, ‘she’s going to gain a lot of weight!’). I wanted to ask him more about why this young woman was going to New York, but I thought it best not to get into it. In general, I didn’t have a good feeling talking to him.

I was offered the job, the condition being that if during training they find I’m “not a good fit,” then we’ll part ways. The following thoughts occurred to me: the world of dating has striking parallels with the word of work and job-hunting (I’ve already alluded to that); here it was as if I had scored a date with a beautiful woman, and I’m always skeptical when that happens, because usually it amounts to nothing.

I also walked into a vintage store on the other side of Belmont. I legitimately have some experience here, at least in so much as I stood around in a vintage store in New York for half a year and collected pay checks. The owner, an effusive middle-aged woman from Missouri, sat behind the counter, and in front of the counter was a young art student at Belmont. I know these things because I’m a sociable person, and sometimes people like me and talk to me. The art student had a kind of southern-chic punk look. Her blond hair was cut short on the sides and long on the top – a sort of faux hawk, but not quite. A faux-faux hawk, if you will. It was a novel look, a little sensational, but I was into it. She seemed to emit sensuality, like I could have planted one on her, right then and there, and she would have returned the kiss with equal passion.

The owner said she’d be interested in hiring a man, and I left with hopes of securing an easy retail job and perhaps a date with the art student.

That evening I met my friend Abe for drinks. He’s a figure from my past who happens to be in Nashville; all night he told me about his experiences there attempting to understand the ways of the south and its people. Without really intending to we drank continuously all night. Our conversation devolved from things of a higher order to things of a lower order: we started talking picking up girls in Nashville. An attractive one had put her hand on my shoulder, thinking I was her friend. Apparently I resemble a popular Nashville musician (I resent this person, whoever he is). We speculated that she was hitting on us and later on in the night struck up a conversation with her and her friends.

Abe had mentioned to me earlier that I would be surprised at the amount of serious Christian college students in the area, and I wanted to see if this was true, so I asked her if she was a believer. “I was Catholic, and then just Christian when I came to school. But now I’m just spiritual,” she explained. I quote more or less verbatim. “So you believe in the man upstairs?” I asked. “Why is he a man?” she said. I wonder if she failed to see I wasn’t being sincere. Abe laughed and I corrected myself. “I mean, the landlord upstairs?” Abe laughed again. At least someone was laughing.

After they left, we found ourselves chatting with a group of Vanderbilt girls (when you’re drunk you often find yourself doing things, as if it has nothing to do with your own volition). I was almost up to ten beers and I had a moment of clarity. I remarked to Abe: “I’ve realized that we’re just a couple of older, drunk dudes, hitting on undergrads.” “That’s right,” he said. It was a sad realization, and we left shortly after that.

Nashville, TN, January 30, 2012

Today was spent biking around Nashville applying for jobs at restaurants and handing out resumes where they were accepted. It seemed to me that I was repeating myself, perhaps because it was more or less like when I walked around applying for jobs in Manhattan last spring. Get ready, an Intimate Thought is on its way. I felt perfunctory, if one can feel perfunctory. I was only re-performing a familiar scenario, and it is disheartening, in a sense, to think that there can be so much artifice in a quotidian yet essential thing like looking for a job (the same applies to going on dates). But life is filled with many beautiful things, and sometimes it’s entertaining.

While biking around, I thought: the job search is a kind of detective work. People give me leads and suggestions, I investigate, news tasks come up, more suggestions and leads are proffered, and so on (on this note it’s kind of like some of the video games I used to play when I was in middle school). It’s an exhausting effort, like so many things. It’s not unlike chasing after a girl you actually don’t want to sleep with, but who will have to do.

Before the job search I had lunch with Lewis and two of his friends from divinity school. I was struck with how nice they were. If good-naturedness has a scale from 1 to 10, they were way up there at 8, 9, or even 10. I’m at best a 7, more likely a 5 or 6. Passable, but nothing remarkable.

In the evening Mitchell and Andrew, more of Lewis’ friends from divinity school, came over for dinner. Just the idea of that struck me, getting together for dinner. Maybe it’s something I need to consider doing more often. Since burgers were on the menu, when we finished eating there were two empty pickle jars on the table. I mentioned a drink I’d heard about that involved whiskey and pickle juice – the Pickle Back. You take a shot of whiskey, and then a shot of pickle juice. In this case, it was bread and butter pickle juice, which I prefer. When Mitchell did it, he exclaimed, in his southern accent, “that’s damn good!” Sometimes someone can utter just once sentence, with a certain intonation and expressiveness, that it is really charged with their personality. That’s what I got from Mitchell’s “that’s damn good.”

Nashville, TN, January 28, 2012

This morning I woke up at 8 and started my day as I would have before. I enjoy the routine: coffee, a little food, a shit, some writing or reading, etc. In the afternoon Lewis and I did a few errands, then he took me to the Vanderbilt library. After showing me how to use the printers, I was left alone to my own devices.

I set out to start exploring the city and think about job prospects. First I went to a coffee shop where I ran into the same guys from the night before, only the unlikely girlfriend wasn’t there. We exchanged pleasantries. I wondered what they thought of me, and if it showed that I was older and not from around there. I made a remark or two that had them laughing. I hoped they held me in high esteem. Vanity, in short.

Another observation: at the same coffee shop, I saw another incongruous couple, comprised of an attractive woman, and a much less attractive man.

After leaving the coffee shop I was alone, with myself and my thoughts. A great pair. I rode my bicycle down 21st Ave, one of Nashville’s main streets, apparently. I had little sense of direction, and tried my best not to worry where I was going, but just to explore. But it’s hard not to worry about where you’re going, especially when you can just look it up on a smart phone. And anyway, I’m not one for wandering aimlessly, and I prefer there to be a destination, or some goal in mind. It seems to me that since one’s intentions are nearly always subverted or interrupted, intending to have no intentions is servers little purpose.

I knew, vaguely, that I was approaching downtown, or what is known as downtown; calling it that is misleading, because in relation to where I’d started, it was up, not down.

When I began to see gaudy lights and even hear country music, I realized I was in the tourist area. I got off my bike and walked; it was getting too dark to ride and I wanted to take things in slowly.

In this calmer state, off my bike, ambling along, I began to ruminate extensively over questions concerning my departure from New York and my move to Nashville. As often happens, the same thoughts of varying profundity and insight occurred to me over and over again, with subtle variation. Here are some of them, in question form:

1. What makes a city a “city” as far as my understanding of the word is concerned? What is my understanding?
2. What does it mean for a modern person to live in a city? (Am I a modern person?)
3. What does it mean to live anywhere that isn’t where one grew up?
4. How does a modern person, as opposed to a non-modern person, orient himself in the space of a city?
5. What constitutes an authentic “urban” experience? Have I ever had one?
6. Am I cosmopolitan?
7. What activities should I engage in to feel the most urban/cosmopolitan?
8. How does one internalize a city? Besides the city of my birth, have I internalized any places?
9. How does a city or a town structure ones experience of the outside world?
10. Does it matter anymore, where one lives?
11. What sort of aspect, if any, will be bestowed upon me if I remain in Nashville for six months? A year? Two years? etc.
12. When will Nashville begin to seem small?

My walk home was long and I passed through the business district, which was desolate and empty. After that, I crossed over at least two bridges that overlooked non-descript, industrial areas. It was not picturesque. Also of note: I passed by the Hustler store, but did no more than look curiously in the window.

Back at home the solitary nature of my situation really hit me. Lewis was at work and there was nothing to do but spend more time with myself. The apartment has a sombre feeling about it. In the kitchen and in Lewis’s room there are photos of his late friend Bradford. It is eerie looking at these photos of a guy I saw less than two years ago; I can recall us smoking a cigarette together and talking about books.

A part of me relished these heavy feelings (one needs heavier feelings now and then) – I was restored to myself.

Nashville, TN, January 26, 2012 (A New Beginning)

Today I flew to Nashville. In the morning I had an Everything Bagel with lox spread on it from Johnny’s Bagels. I was disappointed. They didn’t get it right.

Eric Santana was going to drive me to the airport. I predicted that he would run late so I told him to come a half an hour earlier than he needed to. He still ran late and I had to call him. His alarm hadn’t gone off. When he finally arrived, I wasn’t angry with him, because he was one of the guys with whom you can’t get angry. Someone once remarked that Eric might be one of the happiest people. I normally didn’t like happy people, at least those meriting a superlative like that, but Eric wasn’t self-satisfied, which made all the difference. Happiness and self-satisfaction, that’s when it becomes contemptible.

The car ride went smoothly. I would be on time for my flight. Eric and I discussed the difficulties of going without sex. We said some unromantic things. I said that, in a sense, it was a spiritual question. How so? Eric said. In so much as one’s life force, the basic drive, is frustrated, I said. That’s funny, Eric said.

The first part of my flight passed uneventfully. On the second flight I found myself seated next to a young girl, approximately my age. While I struggled to take off my coat without infringing on her space, she remarked: it is hot in here. So I made polite conversation with her and told her I was moving to Nashville, etc. She had moved there four years ago from California, etc. Eventually she nodded off and I put on my headphones. I schemed about getting her phone number when I had the opportunity to talk to her again. That’s Dan all over.

I never did get her number. By the time we’d landed, I felt uninspired.

Lewis drove me to his apartment, the top floor of a small house on a suburban-looking street near Vanderbilt’s campus. It was as I’d imagined it, which was strange because I didn’t expect it to be as I’d imagined it.
After running errands and eating (Pork BBQ), we walked towards a strip of shops and restaurants that Vanderbilt and Belmont students frequent. We discussed our literary ambitions. Lewis pointed out a place called the Villager he’d never been to, so we stopped in for a beer. There was a narrow space next to the bar, made even narrower by the jukebox and an old Ms. Pacman arcade game, and past the bar an area for darts. I found it a little incongruous to see attractive, well-dressed girls playing darts, holding cheap beer in their hands. That made me feel like I was in the south. We sat at a table on the other end of the dart area and watched. I noticed a beautiful girl with dark complexion and brunette hair playing with a group of slovenly dudes. Lewis knew some of them from work. They were college students—they had that air about them.

The girl, whom I really couldn’t stop looking at, was hanging on one of these dudes—her boyfriend, I inferred. He was the slovenliest of the bunch. Slovenliness, I supposed, had a certain charm. But nonetheless, she was way too good-looking for him. I felt superficial (spiritually impoverished) having this thought, but I couldn’t stop it.
I caught her eye once or twice, while she hung on the guy’s arm, and it was if she was saying, forget about it, I’m unavailable. To be unavailable.

They offered us beer from their pitcher, but we declined. I thought about boozing it up with them and seeing where the night could take us, but it seemed more prudent just to go home and go to bed.

On the way back, I hesitated to mention my observation about the couple to Lewis. But when I finally brought it up, I barely had to finish the thought before he told me that the same thing had already occurred to him.