October 8, 2013 – The Tennessee Stud
My uncle once told me he was going to sing The Tennessee Stud at my wedding. It’s this song that’s on my mind as I head out of Oregon—by foot, bus, train, car, plane—towards Nashville.
I'm on my way to meet a friend for the first time in person. Only days before this I’d read an article about how social networking sites prevent people from having meaningful face-to-face interaction, true relationships, and can serve to mask real personality. After all, a person can create the character they want to be when they have time to think through responses, set up for a video chat, play games from the comfort of their own couch, post the photos that represent who they want to be. What we end up with is a virtual world with self-created virtual people.
And yet, within all that webbing there is also the real world. A real person on the other end of the line. The Internet, and even those cursed social networking sites, can allow connection to people from all countries and walks of life. I’ve found this to be true.
Case in point, Nicole, who picks me up from Portland Union Station and takes me to the airport where we sit and talk for a few hours before she has to get on with her day and I have to go through security to catch a flight, and I had met three years ago in New York City when I'd gone there with another friend I'd also met online. We were all linked by the commonality of raw food and our individual quests for health. Now, years later and with all kinds of superfoods between us, she and I meet up again on the opposite coast and catch up in person on all the things we couldn't read between the lines in status updates and from photo albums. Friendship. Isn't that the spice of life?
The color of the sun and his eyes were green.
Country music is playing over the speakers at the Nashville airport. It seems only fitting. I wait for the obnoxious, beeping alarm and the following whir of the baggage claim track to start up as I text my friend to tell her I’ve arrived. I'm singing along, out loud, to the song when across the room I see a familiar face, one I've only ever seen before from the illuminated wall of my computer screen. I shrug my backpack into place, tuck my phone away, and head her direction.
It’s go time. That tricky moment when the virtual and real collide. The moment when we discover if we like each other as people in addition to our online personas. The moment when I wonder if four days is too long for a visit.
He had the nerves and he had the blood.
But I shouldn't have worried, we hit it off like gangbusters.
It's not my first time to Tennessee, but it is my first time to Nashville. Erin and her husband take me on a tour of downtown where I see the Symphony Hall and the Songwriters Hall of Fame, cross the new bridge over the river and see the skyline with the glow of the sun beating down on us. We drive by the bar that’s featured in the TV show Nashville which I’ve heard of but haven’t seen. The next day Erin and I take a walk through the tree-lined neighborhoods with two-story brick homes that hint of old money and past time. Later, we all drive into the countryside and hike down to where the old Montgomery Bell Forge used to churn itself around at the Narrows of the Harpeth.
And all the while we talk.
When we sit in the chairs under the tree in the front yard warding off mosquitoes and watching the leaves fall gently around us. When we take turns at the stove to make dinner. When we venture out to the life-size replica of the Parthenon which I’d only just learned about the week before. When we sit at the kitchen table with our coffee in hand. When we visit Radnor Lake. When we drive by the old prison where The Green Mile was filmed and I get yelled at by the security guard for taking pictures. When we stand with our feet deep in the backyard grass and listen to the kids play in the schoolyard next door. When we go out with her friends to dinner at a Turkish restaurant and talk about past life regression, astrology, psychology, our childhoods, music, food, and how each of them knows the other, how I know Erin.
As I listen to the table chatter I think about this with regard to the article because it was both right and wrong, the Internet can limit and the Internet can expand the world.
At a break in the conversation Erin and I catch each other’s glance and grin. I’m all for world expansion and I’m glad I can now add Erin to my list of “have met in person” friends. I’m glad she invited me to visit. I’m glad the convoluted lines of travel brought me this way.
I’m partially listening to three simultaneous conversations as I follow my own thoughts down the “How did you meet?” trail. Maybe it’s simply my writer’s curiosity for details that makes me think it’s an interesting question for any connection--friends, lovers, long lost family, enemies--what brought you two together?
A chance encounter, online chat rooms, a blind date set up by friends, common locations, mutual friends, mutual interests, an animal-led meeting at the dog park, work proximity, a wedding. Speaking of that, I may never get married. Or I may. But if I find that special someone online (or offline) there’s worse things that can happen to me than having my uncle sing Jimmie Driftwood’s song to commemorate the occasion.
Because after all,
There never was a horse like the Tennessee Stud.