At 3 am on a Saturday night I drunkenly crept behind the front desk of a hotel in Nashville so I could steal the key to the swimming pool. The desk clerk, after answering a call about drunken revelry on the 5th floor, had left the front desk to investigate.
This was a distraction created in fact, by my own friends. I was partying with a rock band and their entourage. Despite the 40 degree weather, several people decided that it would be fun to go swimming.
That was after the bicycle riding up and down hallways, running rampant through the hotel, whipped cream fights, clandestine couplings in darkened hallway corners, smashed furniture, hours of impromptu jamming, wickedly incriminating photos posted on Facebook, and all manner of depravity one would have with a crazy-ass rock band in Nashville, Tennessee.
Saturday afternoon we started bar hopping on Printer’s Alley, an area renowned for its excessive alcoholic roguery per capita. Nashville has as many drunken people as New Orleans during Mardi Gras, and not for any particular reason. It’s not Mardi Gras, or foie gras, or any-gras. It’s Tues-gras. So turn up, motherfuckers! I was drunk by 1:00 in the afternoon, and I don’t drink.
That’s the kind of thing that happens when I party with C, my best friend and college roommate. She’s a wild child; a trouble maker.
She has been since freshman year of college, when I tried to match her, drink for drink, one wintry night first semester. Seventeen cocktails later, I landed in the emergency room getting my stomach pumped.
She loves to tell that story. She told it several times in Nashville, to just about anyone who would listen.
She had her domestic time. That was while I was running around New York city, doing drugs and guitar players. But we’ve switched places, and now she’s a divorced empty nester. For the last few years, the hellraiser has been back to her old shenanigans.
She’s involved with a huge network of people who live and die for music, and travel the country to obscure 3-day festivals. Not like Bonnaroo. They’re musical elitists who prefer critically acclaimed small indie bands.
I’ve seen some great shows with them locally. But I’ve resisted these 3-day, Bacchanalian festivals because I can’t drink like her. I have a young child.
And mostly, I don’t trust hanging out with rock bands. The last time I did that, I got addicted to heroin.
Some folks from her group were planning a trip to Nashville Valentine’s weekend to see Lydia Loveless play. Three days before the trip, I decided to go.
I’m still not sure why.
I’ll have to explore that with my therapist.
Saturday night, already butt-toast blotto, we headed to The Mercy to see Lydia Loveless and her band. Lydia is a 24-year-old towering inferno of smoldering sexuality and “go fuck yourself.” Punk fueled, country rock driven, she’s the love child of Joan Jett and Johnny Cash.
She fucking ROCKED. She has an unbelievable stage presence and a powerful gritty voice that hits the back walls and dances all over your spine.
Towards the end of the show I was so bombed I went into the cavernous echoing staircase to get some air.
A beautiful long-haired woman with a sexy smile walked up to me, and said, “THERE you are! I’ve been looking for you all night.”
I’d never seen her before in my life. But this was Nashvegas. I was loaded. She had huge breasts.
I answered, “I’ve been here all along.”
She motioned for me to sit next to her. I did.
Her name (allegedly) was Rebecca. She kept assessing my life (my age, my marital status) and everything she said was dead ON. I felt like she had crawled up inside my brain.
She was stroking my hair and face. We may have kissed. (I won’t say; I don’t kiss and tell).
We took selfies in the staircase.
“Look how good we look together,” she whispered in my ear.
The entire thing played out like a surreal dream sequence, like the dancing dwarf scene in Twin Peaks.
We went back inside a different part of the club to dance. By the time she pulled me in for a slow song, we were discussing me relocating with my son to her house in Nashville.
Until my irate bestie snatched me from my fantasy of playing house with Rebecca on her Sunnybrook Farm and dragged my ass back to the band’s hotel.
There were about 15 of us. We partied until it was Bloody Mary time at 8 am. By 9 am the room looked like a depraved battle field of fallen soldiers, and C and I somehow got back to our own hotel.
We were scheduled to leave Nashville 5 am Monday morning. And then, the unthinkable happened.
It snowed. And it doesn’t snow in Nashville.
They are simply not equipped to handle the amount of snow and ice they received. The city was paralyzed. Airports shut down. HIghways shut down. Power shut down.
Our flights were cancelled. We rebooked them for early next morning, and set off in search of food. Our hotel was depleted of supplies since it had been Valentine’s day weekend and no deliveries were able to get in.
We ended up trudging in the ice and snow to a Holiday Inn two hotels away, where we parked our asses at the bar with all the other snowed in people. As one of the few functioning establishments, the bar-restaurant got mobbed.
Frustrated with being trapped in Nashville, everyone at the bar proceeded to get schnockered sideways, except me. Three days of drinking, and I’d had enough. I was also the designated driver of this experience. C was fast becoming ridiculously inebriated as all the men at the bar tried to ply us with alcohol. She was having a grand old time.
I was not.
I missed my kid.
Little Dude lives with me full-time. I was not mentally prepared to be away from him more than a weekend.
It took me completely by surprise to miss him that fiercely, when he generally annoys the fuck out of me.
The next couple of days turned into a nightmare of flights repeatedly booked and cancelled; highways shut down, not enough resources to salt down the local roads and no taxi service locally to get anywhere.
Tuesday afternoon we were hungry enough to trudge a mile and a half on the icy highway in high heeled boots to a Waffle House. We were warned by the hotel clerk that there were no sidewalks, just road.
I imagined the headlines:
“Two Women In Search of Waffles Killed by 4×4 in Nashville”
By Wednesday, I was LOSING it. My kid was a little thrown when I didn’t return on Monday morning as promised. Now he had seen on the news about the state of emergency in Tennessee and was EXTREMELY upset. He never directly told me, but my Ex, who was staying with him at my house, did.
I knew it anyway. I am a constant in his life.
He is also an ADHD kid, with a quirky kind of brilliance that goes askew when his routines are strongly disrupted.
On Wednesday morning the Ex reminded me that testing for the gifted program for middle school began on Thursday. Now my kid was really melting down that I wasn’t around, to cheer him on and maybe quiz him a little and just generally BE THERE.
He would not perform well on the test; not get into a highly coveted program he had talked about excitedly for months – all because I had to go to Nashville to party with a band.
I became part gladiator, part heat-seeking missile. I called my airline and demanded to speak to supervisors. I begged, pleaded, demanded – for HOURS .
JUST GET ME ON ANY AIRLINE, TO ANY AIRPORT, IN THE GODDAMNED MOTHERFUCKING TRI-STATE AREA.
I got booked on a flight that night scheduled to arrive at midnight.
At 2 am Thursday morning, I crept into my son’s room and just looked at him. I brushed his little sleep-flushed cheek and noticed again how his long, long eyelashes look like tiny butterfly wings.
Through adulthood I’ve held fast onto my identity as a quasi-Patti Smith who “lives outside society,” an identity that I altered but still maintained through motherhood.
But there are consequences to partying like a rock star when you have children involved.
I would love to tell you that I am both devoted mother and wild child rock ‘n roller, and that I have successfully straddled the complex duality of this existence – but that would be a LIE.
I’m a MOM. It seeps out of every pore. It is my defining characteristic.
I’m my son’s only mother, and if I don’t get this right, I’ve accomplished nothing.
It doesn’t mean that my soul isn’t full of restless yearning, that the colorless mundane of suburban family existence leaves me feeling unfulfilled in many ways. I love my child more than life itself, but I’m too young to be buried alive in the suburbs.
I’m in limbo. Not fit for either the life I once lived, or the one I live now.
My son is 11. I have 7 years to give him the life he is entitled to. I will prepare him to be strong and independent, so when he leaves the nest, Mama can go back out into the world.
My story will not end here, in the drab suburban wasteland of New Jersey.
I’m looking forward to being a jacked up, wayward old cougar. And I will be grateful to have raised a responsible, mature son – who can bail me out of jail.
Just in case.