I am not my shiny, happy self right now.
I’ve spent the past two weeks scouring the internet for names and phone numbers for every 923 Oak east of the Mississippi. I am not a detective, nor do I want to be, but I desperately want to connect with the residents I’ve yet to hear from. Email, phone, Facebook – I’m trying everything. I’ve already sent out letters, addressed simply to “resident,” to all the 80-some 923 Oaks I’ve found so far. My Aunt Cindy reminds me that I have a stellar response rate from those mailings – 12%, far above the typical response rate for direct mail. My expectations – however unrealistic—were closer to 80%. I’m still irritated.
I’m in Nashville, in the early throes of my road trip. I have the next five weeks to drive around the USA and interview as many 923 Oak residents as I can, and I am not getting a lot of cooperation. I call my mother to pout, and she gives me her two cents: “I hate to say this, but you really should have been [contacting residents] long before this.”
It’s cold. Really cold. Nashville has been hit by a rogue winter ice storm. Schools are cancelled, and I am stuck at a Springhill Suites.
My romantic Nashville visions included cowboy boots on a bar stool, live music and a cold beer in a lively honkytonk. Instead, it’s yoga pants on a queen-sized bed with the comforter pulled back (gross), Michael and Kelly on TV and lukewarm soda in a gloomy hotel room. I trudge down to the teeny one-treadmill gym, once in the morning and once in the afternoon, which helps alleviate my crankiness. A little.
There is no on-site restaurant or bar and no nearby restaurants that deliver. From my second-story window, I see plenty of headlights on the dark road, and decide that risking my rusty winter driving skills is well worth getting out of this hotel room. I walk through the automatic sliding doors into the parking lot and immediately reel from the blowing bitter cold. My car is entirely iced over. I stand frozen, literally, staring at my car. I wrench the driver-side door open, sounding like a Williams sister on the tennis court, finally climb in and shut the door. Remnants of ice on my window fall to the ground with a tinkle.
The only implement in my glove box is a wine key, which is much more useful to my northern California lifestyle than an ice scraper. I traipse back into the hotel, score an ice scraper from the front desk, and spend ten full minutes going to town on my windshield. I don’t think I’ve ever been this cold.
My drive is happily uneventful – the roads are really not that bad – and soon it’s Papa John and me, back on my comforter-less queen. The garlic butter sauce that accompanies their pizzas (let’s be honest: that stuff is the sole reason I chose Papa John’s) is basically flavored liquid Crisco – sooo good but sooo gross if you really think about it. The cold temps have congealed the garlic butter sauce, which makes it too disgusting to ingest, which is just as well.
This is not my favorite day.
I came to Nashville not just to soak up the city’s charms in a cool joint, but specifically to meet Jamie, a 923 Oak resident who lives outside of the city. I tracked him down over the past week via Facebook, and not only did he quickly respond, he graciously agreed to meet with me, making me eternally grateful for another 923 Oak participant.
Jamie is a songwriter and has been spending most of this week recording an album. The sessions are running long and his schedule is unpredictable – this weather threw everyone a curve ball – and it will be a game-time decision whether he can meet with me tomorrow.
Fingers crossed for better weather and for schedules and stars to align.