It’s a couple years ago, and I’m new in Nashville. I’m back from another leg of the Never Ending Tour, hungover, feeling sorry for myself. There’s no food in the fridge, a lone mustard bottle standing guard over rotten eggs. It’s grim, and I self-sooth the way most vagabond hipsters do- pay outlandish prices for mediocre tacos.
I slip past the host stand and find an unoccupied bar stool, opting for limeade and tearing my cocktail napkin into tiny pieces of travel fatigue and vague, existential dread. It’s in moments like these every cliche born from a privileged existence says howdy-do: who am I, where am I going and what does it all MEAN, man? I’m surprised a drum circle doesn’t spontaneously form.
I’m not looking for conversation, but someone sits next to me and asks what I’m drinking. Upon grumpily half-rotating my aching head, I’m met by a smiling woman in her fifties. Despite my making fun of drum circles earlier, I do believe in energy, and this woman exudes a calmness and patience that immediately clears my hangover fog. This is going to be a nourishing conversation. Given that my mind feels like the ball in a pinball machine, I could use a little kindness.
She tolerates my initial fumbling for words and nods along with my Story So Far, sensing it to be the well rehearsed small talk it is. Her name’s Donna. She’s a successful songwriter in town and her husband’s a well-regarded steel player. We quickly get to talking about music, our favorite records and songs. We acknowledge my being the only Bar Taco patron in a black hoodie and untied shoes. We laugh, poke fun, and I’m slowly brought back into the real world.
Zane, her husband, arrives and, in a low-key Arkansas drawl, mentions he’s “heard of my band,” having been prompted via text by Donna to check out some tunes on his ride over. We settle into a familiar guitar nerd rapport while Donna surreptitiously picks up my tab. In subsequent dinners together, they’ve never let me pay, despite my repeatedly insisting.
And so a life-long friendship’s born. Donna and Zane King, ladies and gentleman. Her chili’s revived me numerous times post-tour, and his pool sharking’s repossessed left over per diem more than I’d care admitting. Donna and I’ve written several songs together that are truly beautiful. They’re the first people who made Nashville feel like home.
So, when in doubt, go out. Be morose, detached and generally emo, but not so much that a smile goes unnoticed or a helping hand unclasped. We are all lost from time to time, then mercifully directed back on track by an unassuming angel’s nudge.