It's October, 2006: I'm on the plane to Nashville: AKA Music City, Smashville, NashVegas. It’s mercifully empty on this flight, and I have an entire row to myself. Across the aisle and back one row is a couple that looks pretty country. Fifties, Hillbilly hippies with turquoise jewelry. He’s got longish stringy hair and reading glasses. She’s got a Cocopeli bracelet and 30 extra pounds. They order Budweisers. It’s 10am.
Across the aisle and up one row is a woman I noticed in the airport. Short dark hair and a confused expression. Like she’s not sure what flight she’s on, or what era she belongs in. She’s wearing double knit slacks, a Mervyns turtleneck and expensive clogs. Maybe she’s an ex-nun. Once she got settled, her husband moved away from her to the seat at the window. She pulled out a thick legal pad with the reinforced cardboard back. She’s filled half of the pages. Maybe I pegged her wrong. Maybe she’s a successful novelist. Maybe why she can afford those expensive clogs.
I peeked over her shoulder. She’s making a meal list. Breakfast every day looks like cereal. Or cereal and bagels. Pancakes. Lunch and dinner are spotty. Vegetables and chicken. Pizza. Hot pockets. This can’t be a weight loss diet. Why would you track that food? Is she supporting the carb industry? She's definitely not supporting fashion or cosmetics.
She turns the page and writes. “Saturday.” Okay maybe she’s getting to her diary. No, it’s another list. A schedule by hour. Costco Advil. Water plants. Thelma argument. She's definitely the confused woman who doesn’t know what life she belongs in. Making lists helps her keep away the confusion. Boy am I judgmental. Clearly, I'm nervous about the job. When in doubt, turn one's critical eye on someone else, rather than oneself.
But I do know about making lists. When we are younger we have our futures ahead of us, to schedule, plan, or just fantasize over. But when you hit middle age and those fantasies didn’t materialize, (or they did, but they still didn’t fill the void) then you have little else to plan. Except scheduling meals and arguments with Thelma.
Maybe dieting will get easier when I stop hoping about the future ...
I haven’t given up hope just yet ... I’m on my way to Nashville to shoot the second of the Directv specials: Songs of Praise, a musical celebration of Christmas. I've written the scripts for both. It’s just a variety show: The two hosts tell the story of Christmas in segments and introduce the choirs which sing a song related to the story. That kind of thing. But Amy Grant is one of the hosts, so that’s going to be exciting!
The DirecTv people like me and are recommending me to rewrite another project they’re working on. Yea yea! Maybe this one has more story and plot. We shall see.
Larry and I just celebrated two months of marriage. It’s the first time I’ll have been away from him for more than 12 hours since we got hitched. I spent my entire life living alone, and it’s going to be weird to be separated. Married life is terrific. Well, it helps when you marry the right guy. I got a good one, that's for sure. But it’s also hard work! You don’t realize all your character defects, until someone ELSE has to live with your defects. And you have to live with theirs. Oh, and they come up every day. Especially in our place which is really small.
Here's the thing I realize: a guy is just a guy. The fundamental things apply. Larry's just a guy. A great guy. But if I had expected my life to radically transform because of him, I'd be really hurting right now. It has transformed, for the better. But Larry is not my salvation, nor am I his. Well, he is, in that we all have to grow spiritually or die. And he is helping me grow spiritually, let go of those character defects. And man it is really wonderful to have a ... partner. I don't know what word they said before "partner" got so politically correct. A bud, a lover and friend. Oh they used to say husband. It's GREAT to have a husband. I had some stressful days over the last weeks doing this writing gig and man, just to have him there. Marriage is good, I highly recommend it.
From the moment I landed in Nashville I heard that TWANG in the speech. Some really country ladies in front of me. Boots, cords, big hair and that twang. Of course I heard twang 90 miles out of LA in most directions. But this is really twangy.
Us DirecTv people are staying at the Loews hotel right across from Vanderbilt University. That campus is gorgeous. That's what you dream your college would look like.
While I was waiting to check in, I noticed a family with three teenager sons, and some fawning older man to the side. The eldest teenage son was wearing Nikes and a KILT. The older fawning man was wearing a "Tennessee Titans" sticker. I wonder if he's courting the Kilt Boy for their football team.
The church where we'll be filming is just a block away. Downtown Nashville is up the street but it's a bit of a hike. Not for the night time. Maybe I'll walk down there tomorrow.
The concierge warned me that this is homecoming weekend for Tennessee State University, and downtown Nashville bars will be crowded. Dang me. Good thing I don't drink and I dislike country music. Hey, maybe you're supposed to wear a kilt to homecoming. Yeah, that fawning man has to be a sports scout.
I really do not like country music. Well, I like Johnny Cash and Willie and Waylon. But I really can't abide the slick stuff, like Shania Twain. She lives in Switerland for the love of Pete; how is she country? Or who's this Pouty Boy at the left? The Brad Pitt of Country? I wonder if this guy even wears a hat when he's alone. Maybe a bowler.
I better keep these opinions to myself while I'm here. I'm about to meet Ms. Amy Grant on Monday, and she may walk in wearing a Stetson.
Ah, I miss Larry...
PS: 2009 ... when I wrote this in 2006 I knew only three people in Nashvegas. I now know about three dozen people, they're all terrific folks. And none of them wear cowboy hats. It's a beautiful place, too. Larry and I would consider moving to Nashville some day, if we could live in East Nashville or historic Franklin. Not Cool Springs, though. Cool Springs is a great place for a mall or a swanky office building or a nationalized upscale chain restaurant. But Cool Springs reminds me too much of Orange County, California, where I was raised and escaped from as soon as I was able. Not that there's anything wrong with beige...