Sunday, April 6, 2008


It has pretty well taken me a week to recover from the four days we spent down in Nashville last weekend, and in that time, I've been trying to come up with a new and not-so creative way to depict the events that unfolded. And what I've settled on is a blatant rip-off of the Siskel and Ebert, Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down schtik. I'm pretty sure that it'll work for these purposes, so bear with me as I fumble my way through it.

The 13 Hour Drive - Thumbs Down

Sandra, Little Buddy and I left Oakville shortly after midnight on Wednesday night/Thursday morning, basking in the glow of the OTHL Bruins' gutsy 2-1 elimination game triumph, hellbent on getting to Music City even if it meant driving all night and most of the next day (which it most certainly did). There was a minor incident at the Detroit-Windsor border because Little Buddy has nothing but a British passport (he's under the impression that chicks dig it) even though he was born in Canada, and because he didn't have anything to prove where he was born, he was forced to fill out a 3-month visitor's visa at four in the morning. Luckily for us, we didn't have Sully and his stash of weed with us, so there were no further issues.

It wasn't long after crossing the border that Sandra fell asleep in the backseat, leaving Little Buddy to keep me entertained as we drove through Michigan and Ohio (Little Buddy has to be commended on his refining the art of discourse, as I would have probably driven off the road if I didn't have him to keep me going). By 8 o'clock in the morning, I was absolutely zonked. We pulled over at a truck stop and slept for 45 minutes, and when Little Buddy woke me up to say that he was ready to drive, I was suddenly reinvigorated, rationalizing that if we were going to die in a fiery autowreck, I wanted to be the one behind the wheel (the truth is, I can't sleep when someone else is driving my car, and Little Buddy hasn't exactly been doing a lot of highway driving in the past few years, so I took it upon myself to take us door to door).

After a stop at a Dunkin' Donuts in Kentucky and about 15 work related calls on my cell phone (did I mention that I was technically "working" Thursday and Friday?), we eventually pulled into Nashville at about 2:30 central time. For those of you keeping score at home, that is about 15 1/2 hours after we left. Not exactly record time.

The drive home Sunday afternoon was more of the same (it was only Sandra and I on the way back, with Little Buddy and Ronnie driving back in Blake's Volvo), except we were ridiculously hungover. It was at about hour number ten on the drive home that I finally realized that I'm at the point in my life where my time is more valuable to me than my money. It took countless hours wasted in cars over the years, and it took me until I was thirty years of age, but I honestly feel like I'm there, meaning that I will almost certainly be flying down to NashVegas next time around... you know... if I can get a cheap enough flight.

Southern Hospitality - Thumbs Up

I really can't say enough about how great my sister and her boyfriend Blake were as hosts. When we arrived at their pad, there was a fridge full of beer and a platter full of food, to say nothing of the guest bedroom that I made immediate use of, crashing out for a solid three hours. My sis made us a huge Spaghetti dinner Thursday night, and we felt at home every minute we were down there. We owe you guys huge.

Gary and Steph were also phenomenal, putting up Ronnie and my parents, who came down Friday night. They were kind enough to have us over for dinner and a kegger Saturday night, and managed to put up with the frat-house level of debauchery that ensued.

Tennessee Basketball - Thumbs Down

So, having watched almost no college basketball this year, I based my bracket around our trip to Tennessee, taking three of my final four teams based on geography alone (Tennessee, Vandy, and Memphis). I can't even talk about Vandy's shitting the bed in the first round, but at least we were going to be in-state for Tennessee's run to the final four this year. So we ended up at a sports bar downtown for Thursday night's Vols-Cards game, only to have Bruce Pearl and the boys mail in one of the all-time stinkers. The only consolation was the fact that The Money Shot was sitting next to me and having a tourettic aneurism everytime Chris Loften jacked an ill-advised brick (he was 3 for 15 on the night).

Nashville Nightlife - Thumbs Up

We hit up three fantastic bars in our two nights along Broadway.

The Big Bang is a duelling pianos bar in the ilk of the Ink and Paint Club from Who Framed Roger Rabbit. We scored a pretty good table and began ordering rounds of Miller Lites as the two dudes went toe-to-toe, taking an endless array of requests written on napkins. The guys tickling the ivories know just about anything imaginable, but you have a better chance of having them play your song if you include a tip. You also have a better chance of having them play your songs if you don't request any Springsteen, because apparently he's not on their playlist. We requested Thunder Road, to no avail, but the blind guy on the piano more than made up for it because when he wanted "Sean from Toronto" to come up on stage, he responded to my absence by declaring: "He must be up on the Davenport!" How the hell a blind guy from Nashville knows about Davenport Road in Toronto is way beyond me.

The Cadillac Ranch is one of those bars that has something for everyone. We hit it up Friday night with Ronnie and my mom in tow (my dad stayed at Gary and Steph's because he was exhausted from the drive), and had an absolute blast. Sandra and my sister dominated the Karaoke portion of the evening (highligts included You Ain't Woman Enough to Take My Man, with some crackhead girl getting down and dirty up front and Sandra's last call, showstopping duet of Loveshack with some random dude). The bar also had a mechanical bull which just about every girl in the place lined up to ride (but not my mom or my sister), including one trooper who must have been weighing in at 320 pounds. The fact that she was wearing the most low-cut dress I'd ever seen made her the runaway fan favourite.

The Beer Sellar was a bar that Blake had been raving about for months, with his assuring me that I would absolutely love it. The man couldn't have been more right. The Beer Sellar is located in the bowels of Hooters, and the place felt a lot like The Beacon Hill Pub in Boston, with that same subterranean grungy vibe and an almost identical interior (where do they get those floor tiles from anyway?). The crowd was sparse (it was 2:30 in the morning on a Thursday) but unpretentious, the tunes were solid and came from the jukebox's commendable selection, and there were over 50 beers on tap. But perhaps best of all, you could get yourself 4 pints of Miller Lite for $6. Truth be told, I'm more of a Sam Adams man myself, but my affections can always be bought. And my price is generally in the neighbourhood of $1.50 pints.

Which brings me to my next selection:

Cheap American Beer - Thumbs Up

On Friday night, at the stroke of last call, we stumbled into a bar which may or may not have been the Cornerstone. Feeling pretty good about life and the way the night had gone, I took it upon myself to buy a round of drinks for the group of us. The bartender was from Kansas (and wearing a "Rock-Chalk-Jayhawk!" T) and was kind enough to serve us even though it was after 2:30. So I ordered the round of 7 drinks (Yuengling and Blue Moon), giving her my credit card before she rang them in. When she brought me the bill to sign, I told her that there must have been a mistake, because I was getting their drinks as well (pointing to the group of rowdy drunks behind me). She told me that she knew, and that was the total: $16.75 for 7 pints of beer.

God Bless America.

Hangovers - Thumbs Down

We were too hungover to drive to Memphis on Friday. That sucked. I will be flying directly to Memphis the next time I'm contemplating a trip to the Volunteer State. Come hell or high water, I will carouse on Beale Street, walk the hallowed grounds of Graceland and The Sun Record Studios, and spend an educational afternoon at the Mud Island River Park and Museum. So help me God.

Dotson's Restaurant - Thumbs Up

I was a little hesitant to bring everyone to this little hole in the wall out in Franklin, TN. I'd only ever been there once before, and it's the kind of place that doesn't have anything on the surface to suggest that it's any different from any of the other two-bit diners you come across. But once inside, you can't help but to be captivated by its endless charm. The waitresses are the most friendly I've ever come across, and the people filling the booths will be only too happy to talk your ear off if given the chance. And apparently there are a few country singers who frequent this place, because just about every menu was autographed by someone.

And the food is as down home Southern as it gets. The biscuits and gravy are to die for. The four different varieties of homemade jam on the table are out of this world. The fried chicken is borderline melt-in-your-mouth and unlike any other I've ever had before. And the list of sides is almost endless: fried green tomatoes, mac and cheese, black-eyed peas, fried okra... All of it phenomenal. To top it all off, our waitress hooked us up with a free piece of chocolate pie because she knew we were from out of town. It's just that kind of place. A true hidden gem.

The Pita Pit... In Nashville? - Thumbs Up

Honestly, who would have ever imagined that from the humble beginnings of that first storefront on Princess Street in Kingston, ON, the Pita Pit would have exploded to become the multinational conglomerate that it is today? In talking to the burnout behind the counter, apparently the Pita Pit has a veritable monopoly in Idaho and Montana with something like 10 locations in each state. I have no idea why anyone would pay the franchise fee for a pita joint, but I guess it must be working on some level.

For the record, my falafel pita was out of this world. I could have sworn I'd just stumbled out of The Brass after a night of rocking out to The Foos and The Verve Pipe in first year.

The Piss Alarm - Thumbs Up

So, we were walking along 2nd Avenue on our way back from the Beer Sellar on Thursday night, and Blake and Little Buddy decided to duck into what looked, for all intents and purposes, like the perfect place to relieve oneself. Well, apparently they weren't the first people to have this idea. Because as soon as they stepped inside that dark little alcove, this ridiculously loud and piercing alarm sounded, continuing to scream for a good 20 seconds as the two of them came running down the street trying to pull their pants up, laughing hysterically the whole way down 2nd.

This was obviously too good to pass up, so I made like I was going to find relief in that darkened entranceway as well, only to have that same alarm explode in my ears. It was so loud and offensive that I couldn't help but run away, destroying my original plan which was to sit tight and wait until it ended, and then to come walking out doing up my belt like I hadn't even noticed. But I'm telling you, if you didn't know it was coming, that alarm would be the most terrifying thing that could ever happen to you, and you have to wonder how many dudes actually pissed themselves because of the alarm. (For the record, the little alcove absolutely reeked of urine, meaning that there were more than a few people willing to brave the siren).

Anyway, my question is this: How many times would the building owner have to have his doorway pissed on before he decides, "That's it. I've had it. I'm installing a piss alarm."? A hundred? A thousand? And where the hell do you go about acquiring a piss alarm anyway? I've been searching for days on the internet, and the words "piss" and "alarm" are bringing me no relief.

Phonoluxe Records - Thumbs Up

One of DJ Eric Foreman's favourite things to do in an American City is to hit up their record stores to see what he can pilfer for his collection back home. The stores down in the U.S. always seem to have an abundance of old Soul and Blues records that you have a hard time finding in Toronto (and when you do find them, you wind up paying through the nose) The last time I was in town, we hit up The Great Escape on Division St. and made out like a bandit. This time around, Blake had this new joint picked out, and it more than exceeded my expectations.

My dad, Blake and I spent well over an hour in that place, digging through their supreme collection of vinyl. I was able to come away with something by Elmore James, Dr. John, Sonny Boy Williamson, Percy Sledge, Howlin' Wolf, a rare French pressing of Chuck Berry's Golden Decade, Ike and Tina's Too Hot to Hold, Steve Earle's Guitar Town, Phil Spector's Christmas Album, and an Atlantic Rhythm and Blues Compilation (which includes a version of Ray Charles' Mess Around, made famous by John Candy in this perfect scene). And all of it cost me less than $60. Phenomenal.

Beirut Tournament - Thumbs Up

Have yet to come across one I didn't like.

For the record, Steph's Dad was a force of nature on the dining room table.

Funnelling - Thumbs Up

Always good for bringing a Saturday night house party in the hills of Antioch, TN, up a notch, particularly when it indirectly leads to Ronnie allowing a hyperactive stray dog to run around inside the house, much to the dismay of Steph's three cats. Also a bonus if it leads to a neighbour coming over with a bottle of Absinthe in order to get in on the action.

Arbitrarily Deciding to Funnel Until Somebody Pukes - Thumbs Down

At some point, things just got out of control. I don't think this would have been such an issue if Steph's parents weren't trying to sleep upstairs, we weren't living in an age where everyone has a camera capable of taking video, and I was 10 years younger... Needless to say, the results were ugly.

All in all, it was a fantastic weekend. Lisa, Blake, Gary, and Steph, we all owe you huge. Looking forward to returning the favour in the near future.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I can't believe it's over already! We did nothing - I owe you guys tons for making the trek down... bvvv....

May I recommend you put the picture of Dotson's food up on your blog? It's enough to make amyone's mouth water. By the way, when I took Mom and Dad there the following Monday morning for breakfast, I saw our waitress and she gave me a hug on the way out. Now THAT'S SOUTHERN HOSPITALITY!!