Sunday, November 28, 2010

Nashville, the Music, and the Opry

It is well after 1 AM back home, an hour earlier here in Tennessee, and I just now got out of the shower, and really would love to collapse.  I  told Randy, however, that if I don't sit right down and write about this day, much of it will be "gone" from my memory by morning.  I've got to catch it while it's fresh.

We awoke at 8 AM, and by 9:30 were in the "music district" of Nashville, had parked our car at a meter, and were briskly walking down a hill.  Believe it or not, we still have some of that energy right now.

Nashville's Music District, mainly Broadway, is a busy busy place.  The street is populated with musicians either out of work, working, looking for work, or on their way to work.  Most of them are carrying a guitar case.  I really felt out of place with just a large purse over my shoulder. We each needed a guitar case, too! 

We also didn't have our cowboy hats and boots along, darn it. We did, however, wear our jeans, and I had on my fur vest which seems to fit into any environment I wear it into, so I wore my MSNBC ball cap instead of a cowgirl hat.  A few aspiring musicians seemed to think that I was from the press.  I heard one singer who caught sight of my hat yell out to the rest of her fiddle-playing crew to "give it all you've got!"  I hated to disappoint her, so I nodded appreciatively to their act and waved as I left.  I hope they are not waiting for the phone call from MSNBC.

One street musician into whose hat we'd dropped a bill sang for us (while his dog lay sleeping on top of his car) and then asked timidly if we were actually from MSNBC.  I answered, "You wish! But no, it's  a hat my son gave to me." (Thanks, Stephen! )

First we located the Ryman Auditorium where we had selected tickets for the 7 PM Grand Ol Opry show from    .We wanted to be sure we knew where we were going and how to get there for the show.

Then we walked slowly up and down Broadway for two hours until our parking meter had run down, then moved the car to an all-day lot with a fixed price. The parking attendant assured us that as long as we didn't move our car out of that lot, we wouldn't have to pay for parking again until long after the Opry let out.  A deal!

We looked at fabulously expensive Western boots, souvenirs, CDs of country stars we'd never heard of, postcards, tee shirts, and any other thing that you can imagine in those shops that cater to tourists.  We bought very little, but had a good time looking. We met a young man from Struthers, Ohio, in a boot shop. He knew exactly where I had lived in Poland and knew of our family!

We ate lunch at a place called Rippy's that served me a fried catfish sandwich and Randy a pork loin BBQ sandwich along with some twangy music performed by some of those musicians who have a job. Wonderful catfish!

Back on the street, we bopped in and out of bars and luncheonettes, took  seats, listened to the current performers, dropped them a tip, and wandered on to the next venue.  By the time we'd turned around and headed back up the street the other direction, the musicians had changed and we couldn't tell which bars we had already stopped into.  We continued up and down the street until about 3 o'clock when we went back to the car to freshen up for the Opry. We planned to have dinner after the Opry. 

However, when we checked our printed tickets from, we realized that we had tickets for the 9:30 performance instead of the 7 o'clock one that I had clicked on. I know you're wondering how I did not know this before then.  Here is my excuse:  I printed off the tickets, knew what I had clicked on, saw the bill was correct for the amount I had ordered, and went back to work as a teacher that day.  My own fault, for not checking immediately, but we did have a hotel and tickets for the show. We just didn't have the right hotel or the right showtime.  We also will not be using again, needless to say.  Our method of non-planning seems to work better for us.

Now, please don't call us "cheap," but we didn't want to lose our parking spot and have to repay for it!  So, because both of us are capable of  "winging it," that's what we did.  First we laughed, then we freshened up anyway, and went back down to the music district.

We roamed a little further away, seeing some other lovely buildings, and did the rounds of all the bars again (they all had different musicians by then, after all....) and then discovered Demos Restaurant at 300 Commerce Street. (  We had time to kill, seats at the bar, and a great bartender named Michelle who also was our waitress. We drank good wine, and Randy had a rib eye steak which he said was beyond wonderful, and I had a baked potato stuffed with an entire bowl of chili, cheese, and sour cream that was absolutely delicious.

We also made friends with a couple from San Diego, a group of people from Ann Arbor, Michigan, a young man who eats lunch and dinner at Demos every day since he works nearby in his first job, a man and his partner from Charleston, South Carolina, and were now best friends with Michelle and her co-bartender, Dustin.  The time flew.

By 8:30 PM we were in line at the Ryman Auditorium for the Grand Ol Opry along with busloads of people who had come from the Opryland Hotel that I told you about yesterday.  What we were not totally aware of is that the Opryland Hotel had just opened on November 15th, so it has a few glitches to iron out, we learned.  Too many people, high parking and valet fees, not enough places to eat...........these were what its guests were saying about it.  They all agreed it is beautiful and will probably get its act together shortly, though.

At the Ryman, we met a couple from Toledo and a group of five who had come a two-hour drive in Tennessee to take an older man in their group to see the Opry.  He had been saying for over fifty years that he wanted to see it, but had never gone the two hours to get there until tonight.

I expect that you think I would have slept through the Grand Ol Opry.  WRONG!  I'd had a cup of coffee after dinner, and the auditorium was so cold that NO ONE could go to sleep.  I have seen it all.

The Opry is a two-hour show.  Every half hour they close the curtains and an entirely different group of people take over the stage, except for this man who has a marvelously deep voice and does commercials every few minutes.  When I say "commercials," that is exactly what I mean.  He reads the same ads over and over again into a microphone that goes out to radio land, since this is all a live broadcast. The Opry audience has to listen to this spiel, too.  The only good news about this is that every half hour the sponsor changes along with the stage performers, and at some point the performers started making fun of the advertisements too, so it was tolerable.  Barely.

We saw some wonderful fiddle players, and some tap dancing square dancers.  Little Jimmy Dickens hosted the first segment.  He is nearly ninety years old, but he sang and played a guitar like a much younger man.  He was tiny up there with his bright blue spangly suit on.

Brett Eldredge was a highlight. He is an attractive young man with a great voice and lots of enthusiasm. Then a group called Riders in the Sky performed some country songs and told some jokes.

Crystal Gayle was the headliner.  Her hair is STILL down to her ankles, although it looks as if it could use one good blunt cut across the bottom. She sang two songs, neither of which I could name.  I was too busy watching all that hair swing back and forth as she swayed and moved while she sang.   I kept wondering how long it takes to dry when she washes it, how she can even shampoo it, and if she ever wishes she could have a different hair-do.  And would anybody recognize her without the hair?  I even wondered if she had already cut the hair and this was a long hairpiece that she tied on before the show so the audience would know it was she.

Oh well.

At eleven o'clock (Nashville time) we exited the Ryman Auditorium and drove back to our hotel.  My pedometer says I've walked five miles today. I think it must have gotten reset sometime during the day.  I walked a million miles today, saw a million happy people, and really loved Nashville. There are still a couple of places we want to see before we leave tomorrow.  I'd better hit the sheets so I can get up in the morning and do just that!