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.