chords and cadence

Another runner's writ

Archive for the month “October, 2012”

The Station Inn on a Sunday night

It’s the type of place where you’d meet the guys for a beer after your shift at the factory in your three-digit population town, and you probably wear flannel and it snows a lot, but there’s no taxidermy on the walls.

The chairs are mismatched and the tables are a little wobbly (got a piece of cardboard I could stick under here?) and almost every square inch of space on the walls and ceiling is covered in paper posters from past performances. The buzzing neon Budweiser signs are most definitely from before 1986, and the circa ‘60s wood paneling is the cherry on top.

Welcome to the Station Inn, where they serve cheap beer, cheap popcorn, and Tostino’s Pizza because they’re not really out to impress you with their culinary efforts (and no one asked them to anyway). This is where careers have started. This is where people are jolted with inspiration, joy, and utter awe on a nightly basis; where dreams are born, lived out, and re-lived simply by the reverberation, plucking, tuning, and bending of strings.

Stepping in from the glitzy, raucous honky tonks a few blocks away sways you into a notion of timelessness as you hear a mandolin melody made to make your heart melt. It’s Sunday night, and lucky you: You’ve just stepped into the weekly bluegrass jam.

A woman in a red, long sleeve button down is poised with a fiddle as she eyes the only other female in the round of 15 off-and-on pickers, a portly woman on guitar, waiting for the right measure to jump in. And suddenly you hear her part, and it’s like they practiced this. Except they didn’t. Someone just yelled out the name of a tune, and they all nodded in varying degrees of self-confidence. (Pro tip: If you haven’t memorized at least a dozen Bill Monroe songs, hop on that before trying to join in).

They play and harmonize with nary a microphone. If you didn’t get here early enough, you may not hear the best banjo solo picking in Music City right now, and bummer for you because it’s unbelievable. But if you stick around a little longer, you’ll probably catch the guy who has laid low whip out a harmonica and join in next to the seasoned veteran on Dobro. And by the way, he’s an actor; you just can’t put your finger on where you’ve seen him.

In a dizzying industry saturated with out-doing and overdone, the organization (or lack thereof)  at the Sunday night bluegrass jams is nothing if not refreshing; the ebb and flow of listening, playing a solo, learning a new lick and then teaching another in return is an intimate thing to witness. It’s a privilege watching a talented ‘nobody’ become the dark horse of the night, and then you realize you’re picking favorites. Is long-haired banjo man gonna lay down another slick jam? That kid on the fiddle can’t be a day older than 13 and he just kicked the other fiddler’s ass. And seriously, who the crap is the guy on harmonica, Google it for me.

Things speed up, they slow down. New players tune up and join in, while others bow out to go to bed before starting another week.

It’s just another Flatt and Scruggs tune and then I’m off, boys. Y’all have a good one; I’ll see ya next week.


Pancakes, balletone, and boundaries

One day a couple weeks ago, I woke up and really wanted pancakes. Like, bad. So, I took myself on a date to Cracker Barrel who, as we all know, has superb buttermilk pancakes. What, you don’t know this? …Go. This’ll be here when you get back. Did I mention bottomless coffee? Bacon? Go.


I’m as comfortable going somewhere and eating by myself as I am pretending I’m Carrie Underwood while driving around Nashville. That is, to say, very comfortable. (Jesus, take the wheel!) I hardly think twice when I answer “Nope, just me” when the host asks if someone will be joining me. I ride solo, y’all.

So there I am throwing guilt of gluttony to the wind, writing down some thoughts and making a “to-do” list when the girl who sat me timidly walks up.

“Are you here all by yourself?”

“Yup. Just me. Just wanted some pancakes.”

“What are you writing in…a journal?” …Regular nosy Sherlock Holmes over here.

“Yup. Just writing stuff.”

“Wow. Do you go eat by yourself a lot? I would be so scared. I always need someone with me.”

“Yeah well, I do it all the time. I take myself on dates, you know? It’s pretty awesome.”

“Maybe I should get a journal!”

“Yeah girl, do it! Do it up! Treat yourself.”

“Maybe I should go take myself on a date!”

“Go! It’s really nice not arguing over who wants what appetizer, really. And it’s cheap.”

She was so excited to think about taking herself on a date. She walked away without another word, and a smile on her face. Boom! Life. Changed.

Taking myself out for pancakes isn’t a big deal. I take myself on dates all the time because that is what you do when you’re single. But for this girl, sitting somewhere by herself was something she only did in the bathroom. Maybe. So I’d like to give myself a little credit for at least making her think about leaving her comfort zone.

Moving to Nashville on my own was a big deal, sure. But now I’m here. That part of putting myself out of my comfort zone has happened. Never one to sit still, I have to keep going out of my comfort zone.

In an effort to keep pushing my own boundaries, I decided to try a new class at the Y called “Balletone.” It’s like a ballet class that’s supposed to tone your muscles. I do not, and will never, have a stick-thin ballet body. I haven’t taken a dance class in years. I was hesitant to go, but once I realized I was hesitant, that’s when I knew: Go. Do it. Gotta ‘Balletone’ it up.

I discovered very quickly (as I’m sure the other girls did, too) I wasn’t as graceful as I (thought I) used to be. I was the most awkward-looking girl in class. I was wearing shorts when the rest were wearing yoga pants. Ugh. But I did it. I didn’t leave early. I stayed and felt awkward the WHOLE time, in my Soffe shorts and they in their hip yoga pants. And today, I’m sore. So, it was good. I probably won’t go again, but it was good.

Hesitation is one strong indicator of something that will push yourself out of your comfort zone. I mean, always consider your own safety (physically, mentally, emotionally, financially, blahblahblah). But ask yourself if you have anything to lose. If the answer rhymes with ‘snow’ you need to look at the man in the mirror. Ask him/herself to change their ways.

More good things will come out pushing your own boundaries. I can promise you that. And if not, at least you know now to not wear shorts to a ‘Balletone’ class. You’re welcome.

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