It’s pretty darn smoky in the double-wide trailer that serves as a bar off the beaten path of Nashville. Cans and bottles of beer are the only drinking options, and the food menu is a few microwavable items scrawled on a piece of paper stapled to the wall. Cash only. Karaoke started an hour ago, but the only patron here is a trucker with a beautiful, deep voice singing country music ballads. It’s unclear how long he’s been there, but his presence seems natural as if he’s been there for a while. He sits next to the stringy KJ with long hair, and the two of them lean over the computer monitor, debating on what song to choose next. The trucker sings a couple more as we’re getting our beers and settling in, and asks if it’s OK to do one more before he has to hit the road again; he’s got 15 more minutes on his break and “singing is a good way to keep this trucker happy and sane.” Unlike him, we have all the time in the world, so he entertains us with some Waylon Jennings. Then the bartender sings something from a lesser-known country artist and the trucker asks him about the artist. They discuss him and other good country options to try in the future.
It’s clear the trucker isn’t in a hurry to hit the road again, and so he goes back to the stage and asks us if we knew Wildfire; two of us do. He lets us know somewhat apologetically that he’s never sung it before, and it shows a little, but he chose it because the song “makes me weep like a baby when I’m alone in my cab.” As I listen along, I realize the tune is also more unfamiliar to me as I would have thought.
I decide I’m ready to sing, and the trucker sticks around to listen, then shakes our hands, and leaves. His hand is at least twice as big as mine, but his grip still gentle. The only ones left are the three of us and the people who work there. I mention to the KJ that he should sing more, but he said that last night was slow as well, and he had to sing a lot, so tonight he’ll be taking it easy. This leaves me and the bartender as the only ones singing. I put in another song, and follow up with another while I’m up there – songs that aren’t a usual part of my rotation. I fumble through parts of them out of unfamiliarity but it doesn’t matter at all. Slow nights lend themselves to slow songs and experimentation.
An hour later and still no one else is here. A group of three women did come in while I was singing and exchanged words with the bartender – no idea what it was about, but Dave heard him say “That’ll be a thirty-five hundred dollar fine if you do that,” as they walked out the door.
I promised a friend I would sing Barry Manilow while I was on this trip, and tonight seemed like the only time I would actually live up to my word. I sat on the stool, and then apologized into the mic for what I was about to do. I sang, and laughed as both Dave and Steve filmed me for proof and probably later blackmailing purposes. A couple of others walked in during that song, of course. While it wasn’t pretty, it was good fun, and I always feel better when I follow through on what I say, no matter how small or silly. As we get up to leave a bit later, one of the patrons is standing out on the balcony. He waves goodbye and compliments my “bold song choice” for the evening without knowing the back story. I thought about explaining myself; instead I thanked him as we drove away.
- Location: Santa’s Pub, Nashville, TN
- Miles traveled: 424
- Songs sung: Desperado (The Eagles), The Theme From Mahogany (Diana Ross), The Name of the Game (ABBA), Weekend in New England (Barry Manilow).