A mans' character is the reality of himself; his reputation, the opinion others have formed about him; character resides in him, reputation in other people; that is the substance, this is the shadow.
- Beecher, American Preacher, Orator, and Writer (1813-1878)
Arriving on the plane in Nashville, exiting, rolling through a quarter mile of the hallways of the airport, you don’t feel an ounce of difference in climate until you pass the automatic doors that open their way to the open air of the city and then it hits you, it feels like you just dove a couple dozen feet down, down into the ocean – the pressure, you can feel the pressure of the atmosphere, bearing down on you. This, for the So. Cal. boy, is a place far removed from that nice dry heat you took for granted as a citizen of the desert lands.
Keven is the beautiful wife of my best friend’s dad, the legendary country music singer, Jim Seal, and immediately, her down home southern drawl has me thinking, God bless southern hospitality, and it’s been a while and it’s so good to hug her and see her and she drives us back not too many miles from the Nashville airport to the House of Jim.
We spend the next three days hanging out and building his website and for the most part, I’m just listening to Jim spin an unending series of yarns about life on the edge of superstardom and I start to think, if my life had half as many stories to tell as my buddy Jim and his unending stream of tales, that would be one hell of a life to live.
So come Sunday, after three days of shooting the shit and working on the website, we’ve got a basic framework posted, we’ve got Jim’s music up on iTunes for the very first time and we’re looking to get out of the house and cut loose just a little bit. I’ve got a little money on the US women’s team in the World Cup Finals, and I’m thinking whiskey and soccer might make for a nice combination, so Jim drives us to the liquor store, which says, “OPEN”, but when we get there, there’s a freaking bicycle lock on the front doors, and I say, “What the hell is this?” and I guess it’s been a while since Jim went looking for a bottle of whiskey on a Sunday because all of a sudden it dawns on him – oh yeah, liquor stores are shut down on Sundays here in Tennessee.
“WHAT?” What the hell kind of Bible Belt joke is this? Are you kidding me? Well then, let’s just go to the grocery store and pick up a bottle there and come to find out they don’t even sell the hard stuff at the grocery stores – not any day of the week!
My God, what kind of southern fried teetotaling hell have I gotten myself into?
So we roll into the convenience store next door to the Sunday shuttered liquor store and I see my favorite brand of beer, Steel Reserve and I feel I’m back in civilization as I grab a twelve pack. We get back home and start slugging a few beers in the driveway (my reputation preceeds me, so Keven has laid down the law – no drinking in the house) and Jim says, “Hey, I’ve never had this Steel Reserve before, this stuff’s pretty good.”
“You wanna know why I drink it? Right here, it’s that 8.1% alcohol listed right here on the can . . . ” and as I point to it, I point to it, incredibly, unbelievably, the can belies my faith, showing a 6.0%!
Liquor stores padlocked on Sundays, no hard stuff at the grocery stores and my favorite beer watered down to 6 percent . . . Good Lord, we really are in a different world here.
So we’ve got a few of our watered down 6 percent Steel Reserves in us, I’ve got some money riding on those US women in the World Cup and we head out to the sports bar to catch the rest of the – what’s the word in soccer? The “match”.
We grab a couple seats at the bar, watch the girls kick the ball around a bit, and lo and behold, I see a guy sitting a couple seats down from me, smoking a cigarette, IN THE BAR, he’s puffing on that cigareete IN THE BAR, as if it’s the most natural thing in the world to do! I can barely wrap my California brain around the concept. Are you kidding me? Is this legal? This man is smoking a cigarette – IN THE BAR!
And I light up my own, and I’m having this surreal experience, thinking to myself that there’s no freaking way I’m actually smoking a cigarette in a bar without someone calling the police and getting thrown down to the ground and yet it’s true, I really am smoking my cigarette and enjoying the game and thinking, I FREAKING LOVE TENNESSEE!
And so it goes, you may think you’ve landed in the most puritanical, liquor store padlocking state in the nation, and the next thing you know, you’re smoking a cigarette in a bar without a single California health nazi anywhere around to cry their health nazi eyes out about second hand smoke and it hits you that it’s been too long since the days of road tripping halfway across the nation once or twice a year and you realize, there really is nothing better than getting out from the home to experience some different climates, different rules, different places, different people . . .
Oh man, don’t even get me started about the guy we met at the bar who tried to convince us the moon landings were faked.