waybacking: the hazards of nashville

[I recently used the Wayback Machine in order to pull up my old music blog, which I had accidentally deleted early in 2010 while stupidly trying to do nerdy FTP-related junk that I had no business attempting. Since I’m currently spending time with my folks in Florida, I figured I’d fill some space here by re-upping some of my favorite posts.  The following was written in May of 2009 – it’s been edited slightly in order to reduce suckage.  Enjoy.]

On Friday, I made my way over to my local coffee shop for my usual weekday ritual, which involves ordering a large cup of coffee, doing a little bit of writing, and then spending the remainder of my time reading. Once the coffee is finished, I head on home. Sometimes, if I’m feeling risky, I get a refill before leaving. The coffee in this place is fairly strong – after a second large cup, I swear I can run through a fucking wall.

As always, the coffee shop was fairly full. Like every other coffee shop in town, it’s not large enough for the crowd that it attracts. The problem, of course, is that if they were to expand and make room for all, then the place would lose its quaintness, which is what keeps us coming here to spend exorbitant amounts on coffee when we could be making the same stuff at home for pennies. It’s not too bad this time of year, when the weather is nice enough to permit seating on the four tables they keep outside. On some winter days, though, it can be difficult to find a seat, especially when the Vanderbilt kids need a place to study.

Because of the nature of the town and the nature of its location, this particular coffee shop is regularly patronized by various singer-songwriters. Some are relatively well known around town, some happen to work there, and some (*cough, cough*) toil in anonymity. If you were to eavesdrop on conversations here, you would pick up plenty of chatter about music: talk of studio sessions, upcoming shows, and whatnot. Usually, this talk is restrained to the tables and booths in which these folks happen to be sitting. No one is conversing about this to brag – they’re talking about this because it’s what they love. For the lucky few, its their career. The only time that I’ve noticed people bragging about their musical achievements is when they’re talking about touring Europe. People here seem to speak extra loudly when they’re talking about touring Europe. It’s exotic, ya know?

Unlike other coffee shops, this place doesn’t book any shows. I like it that way. No one has to worry about coming here to study, then having some dolt show up and start playing Radiohead covers. There’s no fear that a writer’s night – which, in case you’re unfamiliar with them, are worse than death – is gonna start when you’re reading the last amazing chapter of a new book by your favorite author. There’s plenty of talk about music, but the only music you end up hearing is whatever tunes are coming out of the barista’s laptop at a low, innocuous volume.

But this is Nashville. And in Nashville, you’re never totally safe from some prick with a guitar.

On this particular Friday afternoon, I think there were at least 5 singer-songwriters in the shop, all minding their own business as usual. On a booth in the back, though, there were 3 people talking about music. One guy was more animated than the others. I was sitting across from them, busy writing some rambly story about my bicycle (deep!), when I heard the animated guy say, “hold on”. He left, then came back with a guitar case.

The collective thought amongst those in the coffe shop was as follows:

“He’s not, is he?

He wouldn’t.

Oh God, he is.”

He opened the guitar case, took out his guitar, started strumming hard, and began singing at the top of his lungs. Sensitively, of course, as is the singer-songwriter’s wont. And with just enough of a twang to make sure that everyone knew that his little tune could also be recorded as a country song.

Again, this place has some seats outside. And the weather was nice. He could have done his performance out there and no one would have cared too much. But no – he believed that his song was so good that he didn’t need permission to play it as loud as possible. He thought we would cheer once the song was over, egg him on to play some more, offer to buy his CD’s, and – if he didn’t have a CD – offer to pay for studio time so that he could make a CD, then we could buy it, and finally – FINALLY! – have the privilege to listen to his majestic tune over and over again, in the comfort of our homes, where we could lose ourselves in the orgasmic glory of his voice and his music.

He thought wrong.

I poked my head up from my notebook and its interrupted bicycle story. Everyone I looked at had the same look of horror. We were all jolted from our work by the bland warbles of this fucker. No one was happy but no one seemed to know what to do. We were too shocked by the brazenness of the act. Either that, or we were too pissed and afraid of what fantastic bit of violence we’d do if we were to react. I think most people were the former. I was definitely the latter.

I caught the eye of the barista, a wonderfully nice guy (also a singer-songwriter) who did not deserve to have this happen on his shift. He looked as shocked as everyone else – didn’t know how to make the guy stop. As the song kept going and going, I looked at the barista and did the only non-violent thing I could think of doing: I formed my left hand into the shape of a gun and pretended to blow my head off. This seemed to spur him to take action: he nodded his approval, then walked over to the guy and told him to stop.

It was over. Our torment finally ceased. Though only a few minutes had passed, we had suffered greatly. It would take some time, and tears would be shed, but we could once again get back to whatever-it-was that we were doing before being so cruelly interrupted. I could resume my bicycle story, which wasn’t great to begin with (at least, not great enough to recite loudly without permission), but was good enough to warrant further attention.

But I couldn’t continue. I was still confused, angry, and – yes – a little scared that it could happen again. My bicycle story lay there in front of my eyes – wounded, incomplete. At the booth across from me sat the thief of my concentration. There was no doubt in my mind that – in his version of this story – he would tell his friends about the time he played a song unannounced at a coffee shop and won everybody over.

What a piece of shit.

common grounds coffee house – brooklyn

Amanda and I sat here – her drinking a coffee with plenty of half and half, me sipping on some orange juice – for about an hour, watching a program on some murders in Austin 20 years ago. The only employee in the store sat across from us, crocheting something with blue yarn. He said he didn’t know yet what he was making, but he was breaking a sweat making it.

coffeeshopping: ping

A guy at the counter describes a gynecologist who has changed her hair color. It is absolutely necessary for the barista (and the rest of us) to be aware of this information. He is in a post-Memorial Day wardrobe of white, following proper fashion conventions.

I bet he is happier than me — falls asleep with his Ping hat on and dreams of raven-haired gynecologists.

coffeeshopping: the nashville scourge

There are too many musicians in this place — talking about, “I know all about the power of feeling in a song”, and about how great things were in ’73. Vomiting nothing. I am pessimistically hoping this book and this coffee will be enough to tune it out.

coffeeshopping: sunday morning

Coco’s coffee is not enough — deceptively small when you order it ‘for here’, but only a dollar at this time of day.  This is when the only customers are nursing hangovers (like myself) or post-coitals (sadly, unlike myself) still awake from the night before, assessing the night before.  There might be a student or two as well.

I outgrew this place.  When I lift my head from my notebook and look across the back patio, memories from all the hours I’ve spent here should overwhelm my ability to do anything else.  But the memories don’t come — just a desire for my head to stop pounding.  I go back to quiet drinking and the scribbling of anxieties.

coffeeshopping: taste

There’s a surreal taste in my mouth:  a combination of tilapia cooked in sesame oil with soy sauce with chili powder; garlic fries; and dark roast coffee.  Oh, and toothpaste, as I brushed my teeth between the garlic fries and the coffee in order to get the strong garlic smell off my breath (it did not work).  The taste, which comes through every time I swallow a sip of coffee, feels artificial — very chemically.  It is definitely a taste that shouldn’t be replicated — a taste that was never meant to be.

It is a large cup of coffee and I drink it slowly.  I will have to contend with this taste for quite some time.

coffeeshopping: hudson

Puppy lovers with bad fashion sense finally let the raindrops declare victory. These same raindrops are heading my way. I have yet to broadcast my intentions — more inclined to leave due to the girl sitting across from me babbling about how much she loves Paris than by any amount of creeping precipitation.

Another girl sits in front of me with two pugs who apparently aren’t pugs – some kind of poodle or something (I failed to fully overhear her explanation to the retired nurse who inquired about them).  She stands her ground as well.

One of the non-pugs is called Hudson.  She has not said the name of the other, but I would give her anything she could ever desire if the other one was called Ernie.

coffeeshopping: silver lake

She can’t stop talking about Silver Lake — needs everyone to be aware of her upcoming move and the cheap place she found in a part of town where cheap places aren’t usually found.

Patti told her she looked beautiful. I think she looks like a fish.

Have fun at Silver Lake.