Authors note: I am on a long distance road trip across America! If you comment and I don’t respond right away please don’t take offense! I will get back to you when I can! Enjoy!
Nashville is a happening city with BBQ joints and live music on every street corner. Proprietors sell memorabilia to eager tourists, bartenders pour shots of whiskey and Elvis could be heard in the air around me. It’s a beautiful little place with southern charm just bursting from its seams. Waiting to be explored by us New Yorkers looking for some respite from the hostile vultures up north.
I am writing to you from the Grand Van in a parking lot of a Super Wal-Mart in Arkansas. I tell you this because I feel pity for my people back home. There is a cloud of desperation hanging over New York. I’ve been on the road a whole five days and I can already see the difference. I can feel it. Picture a stationary tornado swirling with rage and a ferocious appetite for destruction. This is New York. When you get away from the epicenter, the winds begin to calm, the sky opens, birds chirp.
Down south the sky is clear. The majority of people I have encountered so far have been a pleasure. I’m sure I will run into a few ornery people while traveling the country, but for the most part, so far, so good. I feel like chum sitting here in my van with my out-of-state tags. Just waiting for the sharks to roll in and circle me. I feel like a dopey fish that swam into the wrong end of a lagoon and will now pay the price for his stupidity. But they don’t know I have a spray can full of ArmorAll sitting next to me and I am not afraid to use it. Who am I kidding? They would pick me off in a minute. Knowing me, I would try talking them down first and when this tactic didn’t work I’d start the van and head for God knows where, all the while throwing free stuff out the window to try and make amends.
I hope this is just another case of my imagination running amok. It tends to make mountains out of mole hills and it usually blows stuff out of proportion. Anyway, let’s get back to the story shall we?
I enjoy the slower pace and the friendly drawl of the locals. The way they tip their hats, the way they are willing to help with directions, the way women call me ‘suga’ and ‘doll’. This morning I was filling up the gas tank and when I was done, I happened to ask the nice young fella behind the counter if he knew of any good churches to attend. This being Sunday and all, I figured I would check out a service. My schedule is rather open at the moment so I took the time to listen. When I mean time, I mean twenty minutes.
I love people. But I am prone to frustration. Yet I generally love spending time with strangers because most of the time people just need an ear to listen, a kind word spoken, maybe even a pat on the back. We are creatures in need of bonding, we want to be understood and recognized. So I took the time and heard him out. I felt bad afterwards because I never actually went to service. I went to Graceland instead.
Many, many years ago before my father ran out of our lives, he had an obsession with Elvis, which in turn, led me to enjoy listening too. Over the years, I slowly put the king to rest. When I walked around the outside of his mansion I realized people still loved this dude. Fortunately for me I arrived during “Elvis week”. There were little shops selling souvenirs, tour buses shuttling people back and forth, cops walked up and down the boulevard, people moseyed around with mutton chops and big black glasses. To be honest I thought it all unnecessary and a bit touristy.
Then I walked the around the rock wall which guarded the mansion. Thousands of names and well-wishes were gingerly written in stone by marker, some wrote in paint. It was touching. This man brought joy to millions of people in the form of music. I think I saw someone crying about a hundred yards away. Elvis passed over thirty years ago, yet his legacy lives on. I went back to my van and sorted through my junk and pulled out a Sharpie. I wrote my name on his wall.
When I pulled the cap off my marker, I jumped head first into all the hoopla with everyone else. I felt like I was doing something grand, albeit unoriginal. This will sound corny but the whole experience was rather nice. A part of me lives just outside of Elvis’ doorstep forever. That rocks.
Tennessee is a wonderful state filled with beautiful flowers and arching mountains that appear like ancient gods bursting through the ground. While in Nashville I walked across the Cumberland pedestrian bridge and looked out across the water towards LP Field and realized how blessed I am to be able to experience such things. To be able to get up and move, to be able to read and communicate are a miracle in themselves.
When you leave your comfort zone and drive into unknown territories you will notice subtle changes around you. Landscapes, attitudes, food, weather. Yet one single, absolute truth remains; there are hurting people everywhere, they are hungry and lost and in need of friendship. They are in need of kindness.
Some kid is playing a flute about a hundred yards away from where I’m parked for the night. It’s a melancholy song but I like to think he is content. Reminds me of a guy named Ben I met while in Nashville. I had a chance to sit with this fellow wanderer and listen to him play his banjo. He too found it in his heart to leave home and travel across country. He is looking to be inspired and goes from city to city playing his music, playing his songs for free to bring happiness to others without a price tag. Sometimes we need to do things just because.
Well, my fellow bloggers and readers alike, it is late. It is hot. I am going to try and get comfy and get some shut eye. Who knows what tomorrow will bring? Be safe, be blessed and until next time, chow.