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.