By Dan Valentine
I had a “Perfect Day” while in Nashville.
When you’re penniless even a fairly good day is near-impossible to imagine. Even with lots of money in your pocket, you’re lucky to have five or six “perfect days” in a lifetime.
It happened just a few days after having a perfect-storm of a night in and around Vanderbilt Hospital.
It began at the Music City Hostel with a freshly-brewed cup of coffee and a stack of free waffles, spread with Nutella.
Tracee, the owner’s wife, came in shortly afterward, with her French bull-terrier in arm: Google! Jumping up and down on me, tail wagging, paws forcefully tumbling me to the floor onto my back, licking my eyes and nose and ears, in a non-stop frenzy, as if they were covered with Nutella. Pure ecstasy! But, then: I love dogs!
Start of a Perfect Day.
I helped Tracee with some daily chores, folding bedsheets and pillow cases, etc., and was free to go enjoy myself, which for me (and for most everyone else at that hostel) is to write and finish a song. Most in Nashville work it out sitting, strumming chords on a guitar.
I walk, and work it out in my head.
This particular morning, I strolled down the street to Loews Vanderbilt Hotel. Picked up a free Wall Street Journal at the desk. Put it under arm. I love a newspaper! Better than a newspaper is a free newspaper. Better than a free newspaper are two or three free newspapers. And a cup of coffee. And a cigarette!
I strolled over to the Embassy Suites Hotel. Picked up a USA Today, poured myself a complimentary cup of coffee.
I strolled up to the Marriott. Picked up a New York Times left by a guest. Sat down on a lush couch in the lobby and flipped through the pages, in between finger-dipping between the cushions for change. Found 36 cents (two nickles, a quarter, and a penny.)
A Perfect Morning!
Now, for a cigarette. A cigarette would be nice!
I walked outside just as a beautiful woman lit up. Her cab came before she could have one puff. She placed the cigarette gently on the outside-entrance ashtray, still lit but now with an oh-so slight smear of lipstick on the filter. I picked it up. She got in her cab. I inhaled. She drove off. I exhaled. All as if it had been choreographed by Bob Fosse.
Perfect Morning. One cigarette, one sweet kiss.
In my head, I was working on a song called “Three Friends.” It was printed here on this site a couple of days ago.
I still had some minutes on my Net 10 throwaway phone. I called my dear friend in Houston. She was doing well, so were the dogs. Perfect Morning. I read what I had so far of the lyric:
“Three fam’lies together,
Fathers, mothers, daughters, sons and friends and wives …
Three fam’lies together,
Hearts in a near-crazed frenzy till their dear one arrives …”
She said, “It’s sexist! Mothers, daughters, wives. Why do they have to have a sex at all?”
Good point. Perfect Morning.
I strolled up the street to Borders bookstore (mumbling to myself, alphabetically, “dives, hives, knives, lives–LIVES!), and on the way, spotted a quarter and a penny on the curb by a parking meter. Total (so far): 82 cents!
By the time, I got to Borders I had rewritten the lyric to:
“Three fam’lies together,
Bonded by a war and intertwining lives …”
Inside, I browsed the bookshelves, picking up a book here and there, thumbing through the pages, putting it back on the shelf. I was just about to go when I happened upon Walter Kirn’s novel, “Up in the Air.” I flipped through the pages, reading a sentence or two, and then: “That’s it!” A phrase on the page caught my eye: “deplaning now.”
In the the lyric in my head, I had: “Three friends disembarking.” Disembarking! It fit the meter, though I knew, deep down in, disembarking ship term. Not a plane.
“Three friends now deplaning”!
Perfect Morning. Now, for lunch.
I walked across the bridge to downtown Nashville and the Renaissance Nashville Hotel. Took the escalator up to the second floor, on my way to the Bistro on the third floor. Many homeless people go to their local library for internet use. I prefer to use the complimentary internet stations in deluxe hotels.
But I never got to my destination.
There was a business luncheon in the meeting room directly at the top of the first escalator. I walked over to take a peek in the open doors and a fellow came over, hand extended, and welcomed me.
Looking around, as if searching for my associates, I said, “Dan Valentine. Imperial Corps.”
He introduced himself. We shook hands, and he said, “Come join us.” He didn’t say “Howdy,” but he must have been from Texas. No one is this friendly unless they’re from Texas. He led me to his table, introduced me to his fellow execs (“Dan Valentne. Imperial Corps.,” and, well …
A Perfect Afternoon.
My brother, Jimmy, had a similar experience when he was homeless. In Amsterdam. With nowhere to sleep, he went to the Marriott there, to the second floor, and slept underneath a banquet table, covered with a large tablecloth. He awoke the next morning to the clatter of dishes and the chatter of people talking business. He crawled out from underneath and found a full breakfast buffet awaiting him atop the tab.
A perfect morning.
After lunch, I strolled across the bridge, finding a nickel in a parking lot here, a dime by Coke machine here.
On my way back to the hostel, I stopped by the Hampton Inn. Filled an inside coat pocket with a bagel or two, filled my outer coat pockets with little packets of cream-cheese spread. Just in case of a midnight-snack attack.
But, anyway, by now I’m just about strolled out.
I’m a block and so away from the hostel, standing on the street corner, waiting for the light to change across the way from a mom-and-pop shop, owned-and-run by a Pakistani family.
I see a straggly-haired, gray-bearded man in a wheelchair come wheeling furiously out of the store with a bottle of wine on his lap. The proprietor of the store comes chasing out after him. (The old man had grabbed it off the shelf and simply raced out with it.) I could see a third man standing in the dark just a few steps from the stops’ entrance, with a 2×4 held firmly in his hand, ready to club the proprietor over the head, if need be.
I shouted, “Hey!” One word.
The proprietor stopped in his tracks and looked behind him, as the old man disappeared down the street. The man, on his blindside, dropped his weapon and ran off.
The proprietor shook his head, without a thank you, and walked back inside his store.
The light changed. I continued my stroll back to the hostel.
The end of Perfect Day. With a movie ending.
I helped an old man getaway with his much needed bottle of wine; saved another man, perhaps, from being arrested for assault or murder; saved a man’s life, maybe.
What more can you ask for on a stroll through a city?
I followed him inside for my pack of cigarettes.