Archives: November 2013

Nashville, TN, a night in February, 2012 (Tender Moments)

At work yesterday a woman came in and invited everyone behind the counter to a gallery opening called “Tender Moments.” Her easy familiarity with my co-workers led me to infer that she was a regular and knew the staff well, except me, naturally. She explained what it was: Polaroid photos taken by her boyfriend of parties and things like that. Polaroids, I thought, were more or less played—didn’t they know that down here? But I told her I would come. I didn’t have anything else to do, and there would be free booze and snacks.

It was a short distance away, so I took my bike. Cruising along, I hardly felt I was in a city. But I was, I was in an urban sprawl. I took Edgehill to Chestnut. These are real roads, believe me, and they’re probably still there. Chestnut was barren and silent, with a few warehouses here and there and some light traffic. The road was slick with rain. The gallery space was a small building on a corner next to some train tracks. It was like a David lynch movie, perhaps Lost Highway. Pick-up trucks and SUVs were parked outside and some people were standing around smoking cigarettes.

Inside there were only a few people milling about. There certainly wasn’t anyone I recognized, other than the girl who had invited me. We greeted each other, exchanged pleasantries. I got a beer and some snacks. Holding my plate and the beer while also looking at the photos proved too difficult, so I snacked a while before I took a serious look at the art. Everything in due time. What are you supposed to do at an opening anyway? I wondered. I did my best to look thoughtful.

The photos proved to be more or less what I expected. With a few exceptions, I’d seen it all on Facebook before, mostly during 2006 and 2007. However, some of the staged photos were surprising, such as one that featured a little girl with blood splattered over her face. I’d never seen that on Facebook.

People were steadily arriving. One of the girls from work came up and greeted me. I was slowly becoming drunk. Still more people arrived, including Jay, you may remember him. I reached the state of inebriation where, how should I put it, libidinous considerations began guiding my thinking. God knows it doesn’t take much. There were a lot of good-looking girls walking around admiring the photos.

Mingling around the crowd, occasionally talking with Jay or Sam, and smoking cigarettes outside, I began to feel awkward. Was I imposing myself on these strangers? One might say, this was a great opportunity to meet people. I did meet a few people, and if they had made future appearances, in the story of my life that is, I would have remembered them (but none of them did, I can tell you now). The following Intimate Thought occurred to me: my lonely and lascivious soul was making it difficult to feel like my friendly small talk wasn’t charged with insidious motives. I was what they call a loaded gun, forgive the vulgarism.

I realized gradually that this was a hip event, that important people were there, and that I was hanging with an elite, artsy crowd. Sam informed me that two girls – two girls who I noted were among the better looking girls there – were a popular local duo that played comedy music. Of more note, a pink-haired woman turned out to be Harmony Korrine’s wife; she was there with their daughter. It was a moment where Nashville became very much a “somewhere,” as Walker Percy would say, rather than an anywhere.

I left, unceremoniously, why would there be any ceremony, it’s not as if anyone particularly cared whether I was there or not. I had been talking with two girls about writing, but when I went in to pee, they must have left, because they weren’t there when I got back. Had I made a bad impression? I tried not to worry about it. I wanted something exciting to happen. If I had had drugs I would have taken them to make things interesting.

I rode my bike to the Villager to have a drink, a last ditch effort for some entertainment. I took a seat in the back and watched people playing darts.

Closest to me was a middle-aged man and a girl in her twenties who, come to think of it, was the girl from the vintage store. Not the pretty one, but the unremarkable one, except for the red hair. A track from Brian Eno’s Here Come the Warm Jets came on and the man wondered what it was. I called out to him that it was Eno. He hadn’t heard of Eno’s solo stuff. I sat there, realizing that it had been a stupid idea to come. I had expected that someone would notice me there, looking lonely and introspective, and strike up a conversation. Nothing of the sort. Later on “Baby’s on Fire” played on the stereo, and I told the same man that this was one of my favorites and that it featured Robert Fripp. He recognized Fripp’s name—did he play with King Crimson, he asked? You better believe it, I said. He gave me a fist pound. “Do you like Eno?” I said to the girl. She didn’t know him. She responded off-offhandedly, even dismissively, not only as if she didn’t already know me from the vintage shop, but as if she didn’t care to know me. I burned with indignation.

It was time to leave. On my way out I overheard part of a conversation about group sex and that got me even more riled up and frustrated. On the whole, the night was underwhelming, like so many nights.

Nashville, TN, night, February 16, 2012

That same evening after my fatuous flirting on the terrasse, I met with Abe for the second time. Most of the night we commiserated over not understanding people from the south, or people in general.

We went to The End, a place near my apartment, to see some live music. When we arrived a heavy metal band was playing. The lead singer did that thing where he puts his hand over his mouth and makes guttural, growling noises. He thrashed about the stage, flailing his arms (or arm, when he was using one of them to cover his mouth). Periodically he lay down on the stage, still flailing of course, as if he were a child having a temper tantrum. It was entertaining.

Afterwards Abe drove me to one of the only restaurants open 24 hours in Nashville, Cafe Coco. He warned me that the place was strange. In the front there was a counter where you place your order and take a little flag thing to put on your table so the server knows where to go. This half table service thing is a common feature of places in Nashville, I’ve noticed. I wonder how they decide that half is better than whole, of full, I should say. The place was divided into a number of rooms, all totally separate from each other, so it was a little like being in a big house rather than a restaurant. A big house with an inordinately high number of tables, of course. I took note of the patrons, a few hip-looking, southern chic types, some more or less normal looking people, and an obese couple. There was no music playing in the background, which added to the strange ambiance. When we were about to take our seats Abe saw one of his friends, a man sitting alone with his lap top, looking a bit strung out.

They were fellow grad students. Are you in the thinking business too? he asked. In a sense, I said. The Intimate Thinking business, I might have said, had I known what I know now. If only! He started to complain about his students and how they obsessively emailed him to find out exactly when their papers were due. He spoke with fervor. He was most certainly sleep deprived. He also was irritated with some of his logic students. “They bring up good logical points, but they don’t understand that some points are better than others,” he said.

In retrospect, I wish I had asked him to elaborate. It would have made a great little passage here. But instead we retired to our own table and after eating Abe drove me home. The evening, it seemed to me, had felt charged with the possibility of some excitement, but ultimately had proved uneventful.

Nashville, TN, morning, February 16, 2012 (A Flirtation)

I was actually looking forward to my second day of work. What a feeling, to look forward to work. I needed the socializing, perhaps, and jobs offer that, for better or worse. A new job in particular can even be entertaining, so much is new, but I know things can sour quickly, like bananas, which I’ve noticed spoil so fast.

I worked with Brianna, a young, attractive college girl, and Jay, a guy in his late twenties. I took to them both. Brianna was friendly and out-going, and when I found out she was considering transferring to my alma mater, naturally I had a thing or two to say. Funny, I wasn’t sure whether to encourage her or not. You might turn out like me, I said. Is that a bad thing? she said. I wasn’t sure. I noted to my sorrow that she was more together than I was at her age. Precocious, even. I wonder often if I’m a late bloomer. Maybe now I’m having realizations that others have had years before. If only I had gotten laid in high school, then everything would have been different. That’s what I tell myself.

While Brianna was young, eager, and in general radiating with enthusiasm, Jay was more wry, ironic and dead-pan. Everything he said seemed a little bit like a joke, or a lot.

After work an event occurred that engendered some auto-criticism on my part. Many events like this occur, in the future I will take more careful note of them and list them here. Jay had spoke in his wry way about a girl sitting outside smoking. She had on a pair of Ray Ban Wayfarers and smoked her cigarette like she was in a fashion shoot. Jay had met her at a party somewhere, and reported to us that she was just too much—her affectations, etc. It was apparent what he meant.

Nonetheless I confess to you—you, to whom I would confess anything!—that I thought she was pretty. I felt guilty thinking this (guilty of what?), but I thought it, or rather I didn’t think it, but I felt it, in my loins, as they say. On my way out of work Jay and I had a cigarette together and I used this opportunity to ask her for a light. She proffered her lighter, which was attached to her belt by some kind of leash. That was cute. It could have been a scene in a Sundance movie. I laughed, and she explained that her friends gave her the leash so she would stop losing her lighters. Her southern accent was thick. I made some remark about how lighters and pens are always getting lost, and some other common item, I forget what. I also said many other clever things, you better believe it, but I’ll spare you the details. Talking to her it didn’t take too long to see that what Jay had said and what I’d inferred was true. But I was flirting with her, and Jay was there to witness the ignominy of it. It was as if there was a scarlet “F” emblazoned on my shirt. Don’t worry, I didn’t go so far as to get her number, or anything of the sort.

After my cigarette was finished I left. On my way home it occurred to me that I’d already forgotten her name.

Nashville, TN, Valentine’s Day, 2012

Yesterday was February 13 and when Lewis got home from work he asked me, “so did you get any dates for Valentine’s Day?” I hadn’t. “And you?” I said. He hadn’t either.

I spent most of the morning and the afternoon of the 14th writing. Not this, but something else. I am starting to feel as if I don’t get out enough, but I’m not sure of what to do instead of staying in. Don’t worry, there have been times in my life when I faced the opposite dilemma. Whichever way it is flipped, it remains a dilemma. If only peace would just enter my soul.

Before heading out to run errands I wanted to take another stroll up Lover’s Park and have thoughts about loneliness, but there wasn’t enough time. Now you’re spared from those thoughts.

My errand was to ride my bike over to 12th Ave South and visit Savant Couture, the vintage store where the pretty girl works. Ostensibly I was there to follow up about employment. There were two young girls there, among them the girl from last time. The other girl warrants no special remarks, other than that she had bright red hair. The owner wasn’t around. The first girl, the one from last time that is, reminded me that her name was Anna and greeted me pleasantly, shaking my hand. She was happy to see me.

I had schemed, admittedly (why wouldn’t I admit it?), about asking her out, but I didn’t have a plan. The presence of someone else disconcerted me. I didn’t, and still don’t, want other people to see me flirting and playing my games. I see myself through their eyes, and their eyes see a fatuous, indelicate person with his head in his ass.

Since the owner wasn’t there, I wrote down my number on a piece of paper and handed it to the the other girl. Perhaps I should have handed it to the first girl. I said, “how is everyone? It’s valentine’s day.” I knew I could use this to start up a little banter. “I’m okay,” one of them said halfheartedly, I can’t remember which, which seems like an important detail. The other responded in a similar manner. “How are you?” Anna said. “Oh, I’m fine,” I said, as if it didn’t bother me at all that I was alone on Valentine’s day. The thought occurred to me that they might have assumed I was fine because I wasn’t single. I dropped the bomb, so to speak. I considered about running with the whole V-day thing some more, but my store of clever things to say was empty; and besides, the other girl was there, still disconcerting me.

Instead of simply leaving I went upstairs to look through the men’s clothing, where perhaps, now alone, a witty remark or a charming line would come to me. But my store was still decidedly empty. I need to work on restocking it. I looked at myself in the mirror several times and fixed my hair. I looked okay, but would have liked to look better. When I got back downstairs I said goodbye and stood there a few moments, hoping for a last minute flash of inspiration. Nothing. Then outside I stood in the fresh winter air, contemplating the matter. Did I even want a date, after all?

Nashville, TN, February 10, 2012

Today was my first day of work. Or not today, rather, but the day when I first wrote this, I can’t remember when. I felt like a young school-boy on his first day of school, nervous and giddy. When I arrived at the shop the front door was locked. Through the window I could see that there wasn’t anyone up front so I assumed they were in the kitchen. Not an unreasonable assumption, if you ask me. Around back I found a door that said “employees only.” The door had no handle, but it was slightly ajar so I was able to open it. This decision, to open the door I mean, was a lapse in judgment, I’ll freely admit that. But life is often a series of lapses of judgment, in a sense. “Hello,” I called. No answer. The phone started ringing and a keypad next to the door was flashing. There was also a sign on the other side of the door that said “emergency exit only alarm will sound.” I inferred based on these three things that I had set off the alarm.

When it comes down to it, I’m not always clever. I didn’t panic, but I wasn’t feeling very good about myself, either. I quickly saw that no one else was there so I prepared excuses to whoever was on their way.

A few minutes passed and some people arrived. A tattooed man with a scraggly beard and long hair asked me who I was and what I was doing. There are many more tattoos in the south, I’ve observed. The question ‘what are you doing?’ is always difficult to answer, when you truly think about it. He could have been in a biker gang, with the gruff aspect, the southern drawl, and of course all the tattoos. I later found out he is in a cyclist gang. He wasn’t pleased to see me. I thought about how things must have looked from his perspective. They didn’t look good. I tried to say, as deferentially and timidly as possible, while also standing up for myself, naturally, that I was here to train and I’d entered through the back, which I’d immediately realized was a mistake, but what was I supposed to do? I thought of also saying: I should have known that entering from behind can be messy. I kept that to myself.

He responded curtly, gruffly. It occurred to me that I could be in for a day of constant admonishing and reprimanding. Restaurants can be like that, it’s a horror. But I suppressed my indignation; these things will smooth out in the end, Dan. In fact, they smoothed out rather quickly, and as soon as the alarm issue was resolved the mood lightened and the scraggly guy started joking around with the other person on the shift.

That other person was a young girl named Annie, who had the great fortune of being assigned to train me. I had seen her before at the shop when I went in to apply and had remarked to myself that she was good-looking, though a little surly seeming. I was wrong in this impression (perhaps it was truly me who was surly, and I was merely projecting). She was patient, helpful, and warm. She had the habit of touching me on the shoulder when she talked to me, a gesture I was not opposed to.

The rest of the day was eventful, but I’m not going to write about it. I met another manager, who just laughed off the alarm incident and made me feel right at home. I left feeling good about my new job. But I will let fall the following remark, in an effort to bait the reader: there was actually—no, I can’t go on.

Nashville, TN, early February, 2012

I considered the long expanse of the weekend, and what I would do with myself. It occurred to me how much work simplifies life by putting free time into perspective (yet Roth said, in one of his books, there is no real perspective, and that is an idea perhaps worth looking into. I might also add that whether time is free is also a matter of perspective). This Intimate Thought came to me because it was, or would be, I’m not sure of the proper tense, my last weekend of true unemployment. No, it wasn’t truly my last weekend of unemployment, but within the confines of this narrative, as far as I know, it was.

I walked to an old fashioned diner with Lewis for breakfast and had biscuits with gravy, one of my favorite southern delicacies. It was a pleasant start to the day. One of the servers complimented me on my glasses.

It was cold outside. After I returned to the apartment, I didn’t feel disposed towards leaving it again. I don’t know what it was, but suddenly I felt out of sorts. Wait, I think an Intimate Thought is coming. I wasn’t too out of sorts, but out of sorts. But I am rarely actually in my sorts, when I think about it, and I think about it a lot. It seems to me that part of what keeps me going is a constant sorting out (of my sorts) and then a resorting, etc., to find the best assortment. I like the word “sort” in the context of this locution, it says so much more than what I first intended.

I spent the day watching movies and writing, I forgot what else, the time passed.

On Sunday I also stayed in, doing some writing here and there. Again it escapes me what else I did. My next post will be an hour-by-hour account of a day. In the late afternoon towards sunset I felt drowsy sitting in front of my computer so I decided to take a walk. My street is on a rising slope and it seems to be headed towards some vantage point. Forgive the shifts in tense here, sometimes I’m not sure if what I’m looking for is the past or the present. I wanted to confirm this suspicion, about the vantage point I mean, and see what it was all about. I followed it up, took a turn, and discovered a small street that circled around a hill. On the top of it there was a small park called “Lover’s park,” which is really just the top of a hill flattened out with a some electrical machinery fenced in (this kind of thing always seems to turn up in what would otherwise be a picturesque scene, like a big red pimple on clear, smooth skin). From the top I could see downtown Nashville. The sun was setting. In the opposite direction I looked at the orange glow on the horizon. There were in fact some lovers holding hands, talking and enjoying the view. I heard a woman say, “can I bring up something disagreeable?” I liked her use of that word, ‘disagreeable,’; it’s something I would say. Her tone suggested that it actually wasn’t disagreeable, whatever it was. I didn’t find out, though you know I tried. I felt at peace, momentarily. Then quickly I felt uncomfortable since everyone else there was a couple. The following thoughts occurred to me: People seem to persecute themselves so relentlessly and mercilessly for being single. Then they persecute the couples too, for their stinking complacency; or better yet, they predict the relationship’s inevitable ruin, another form of persecution. I strolled down the hill back home, happily, happily.