With the COVID pandemic raging and government restrictions on travel and businesses, it’s not been a great year for vacations outside of those trips to Walmart for another 6-pack.
But I want to take you back to simpler times. Back to pre-COVID times. Back to the first time you ever visited Nashville. Because if you’ve been to Nashville, your first night probably went something like this… in fact, it DEFINITELY went a little something like this:
You’d had this trip planned for months. Maybe you were coming into town for a concert, or maybe it was for a bachelor or bachelorette party (heavy odds on bachelorette party). Or maybe you just love country music and heard that Nashville was the “it” city to visit, so you decided to make the trip to see it for yourself. You started listening to Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan and Thomas Rhett on repeat for weeks before your vacation, and you even threw a little Alan Jackson in there too, because hey, you can appreciate the classics.
The excitement kept building as you drove past downtown and saw the Nashville skyline, complete with the iconic Batman building greeting you like a beacon of drunkenness and bad decisions. You finally get to your hotel somewhere just outside of downtown (because hotels in downtown Nashville are so expensive that they’re mostly reserved for people on work trips whose company is footing the bill). You had a cooler full of alcohol and only one thing on your mind: It’s time to party.
Everybody has a drink or two, maybe even a couple shots, as they’re getting ready for dinner, and more importantly, to hit the bars. And everybody puts on their “it’s my first time in Nashville” uniform: A plaid shirt and a pair of like-new cowboy boots for the guys, and a flowy dress with a jean jacket for the ladies (also with cowboy boots – of course).
Then you all piled into an Uber (trying to hide the road soda you brought with you) and told the driver that you wanted to try an authentic Nashville restaurant for dinner, so you go to the one place where you know you’ll get to eat among like a local: Hattie B’s. Your Uber driver probably asked you if it was your first time in Nashville, but they already knew the answer to that question.
Once you were at Hattie B’s, you had a moment of internal panic as you tried to figure out the difference between Mild, Medium, Hot, and “Damn Hot.” Most of you probably settled for something right down the middle, but there’s always that one person in the group who has to show off: “Give me the Damn Hot, I like spicy food.”
Flash forward to after dinner and your friend who thought they would show off with their hot chicken eating skills is doubled over in pain and sweating like a hooker in church as you’re waiting for an Uber to take you to your next destination: That’s right, it was time to hit up Lower Broadway.
Your ride drops you off at the entrance to Broadway (on the way somebody says “we should find that mural of the angel wings”) and you all step out of the car amazed at the seemingly-never-ending row of neon lights and debauchery. Somebody mentions that they bet you’ll see so many country stars out here tonight because this must be where they ALL hang out! You take a picture and post it to Instagram with the caption “Nashville isn’t ready for us!”
But little do you know that Nashville is always ready for you. And Nashville always wins.
You walk a few blocks down Broadway to find your first stop of the night: Jason Aldean’s. I mean, he’s an actual country star, so this has to be a real honky tonk, right?
After asking the bouncer how much the cover is and getting way too excited when you realize that there isn’t one, you walk inside just as the band is playing “Hit Me With Your Best Shot.” The dance floor is packed with people from 21 to 75, most wearing some sort of matching bachelorette party gear and calling out to others with their secret battle cry: “WOOOOOOOOO!”
This is probably where the night started to get blurry. You remember dancing to “Fishin’ in the Dark” and raising your glass every time the band said it was “time for a holler and a swaller,” but you were spaced out when you gave them $20 to play “Wagon Wheel” and had to hold your friend back as they tried to get onstage and help the band out with the “Johnson City, Tennessee!” More drinks turn into more shots, with an occasional bootwhacker mixed in there too because, hey, it’s what the locals drink here.
And before you know it, boom, you’re hungover back in your hotel room still in your cowboy boots and passed out on the floor.
“What the hell happened?”
You quickly take inventory of your group to make sure that everybody’s accounted for and not in jail or passed out in Printer’s Alley. You only remember going to one bar, but you look at your hand and count the stamps – one, two, three, four, five, six.
“Holy shit, where else did I go last night?”
A feeling of dread and sheer panic washes over you as you slowly open your bank account to see where all you were last night and realize that despite having no memory of leaving the first bar, you somehow made stops at Luke Bryan’s, Dierks Bentley’s, Blake Shelton’s, The Stage and Tootsie’s. “Did I drink at all of those places? It’s no wonder I feel like death.”
You find a bag of half-eaten Cookout sitting on the dresser and it slowly starts to come back to you that you made your Uber driver take you through the drive thru on the way back to the hotel last night. Which reminds you, you’re getting hungry.
You rally the troops and tell them that you NEED food, and slowly everybody stumbles their hungover asses out of the hotel to go to this great local restaurant that you heard about that has the BEST breakfast.
And as you wait in line for 2 hours at the Pancake Pantry, questioning every decision you’ve ever made in your life, and finally, somebody says “hey, after breakfast, let’s go find that mural with the angel wings.”