A few years ago I was in Nashville, Tennessee for a book festival. Nashville is, of course, a mecca for would-be country music singer/songwriters and almost as many kids walk around with guitar cases as with cell phones.
Their faces are full of dreams of making it big, of playing at the Ryman just like their heroes did before them. Waylon, Dolly, Johnny, Willie, Merle, Hank, Loretta, Patsy -- and me . . . you can almost hear them thinking it.
One morning I was witness to a little taste of that dream. And it's stuck with me but I haven't found a place to use it --till now.
I was having breakfast in a bustling restaurant on a busy street corner. The owner/cook was a angry-looking Greek who tended to yell at the waitress in his native tongue. (But it was his Greek omelet that convinced me to skip the free pale coffee and greasy pastries offered at my hotel.) The place was packed with people who had the look of regulars.
My table was by the window and I looked up from my eggs with feta and onion and green pepper to see a young couple, both toting guitar cases and knapsacks, standing on the sidewalk deep in conversation.
They had that rumpled, sleepy, all-night-on-the-bus look and I was immediately convinced that they'd just arrived in search of their dream.
They talked a little longer and then the girl put down her stuff on the sidewalk. She smoothed her hair, tucked in her shirt, and gave a little shake as if preparing for something. Leaving the guy in charge of their gear, she came into the restaurant, marched up to the angry Greek (no question about who was in charge in this place) and asked for a job.
Oh, I was holding my breath. The A.G. looked down at her in some disdain but she stood her ground.
He motioned to the grill top. "Cook egg over easy."
Still intently following this unfolding drama, I watched as, with apparent total confidence, she moved behind the counter and began.
I couldn't see the grill top so I don't know exactly how it went.
But it evidently didn't go well because in less than a minute, the A.G.shook his head and pitched the egg into the garbage.
The young woman squared her shoulders and left the restaurant. Outside, the two young people pulled back on their knapsacks, picked up their guitar cases, and moved off -- out of my sight, but they've never left my mind.
Somewhere I could hear the music playing ... something about a boulevard of broken
But that's a punk rock song. Here's a good old bluegrass song about how many guitar pickers there are in Nashville. (1,352.) -- You can go HERE for lyrics.