Marina Street has character. The characters have character. I’ve been in town hours and already helped the neighbour load furniture into the back of his pick-up out the front steps of an old brick house. Plywood where there should be a window. A seven foot plank fence separates my backyard from the open street. A garage sits on our property with a mural facing the back door coming off the laundry room. My renovated kitchen is separated by a granite top prep-counter; it holds Ramen noodles, Triscuits, sun-glasses, keys and half a forty of Jameson Irish Whiskey. Where there is usually a dining room table, on the other side of the counter, the room is bare. Christian is a musician as well, so I assume it’s a decision in acoustics. A room resonates better without dampening furniture.
The living room is communal and shared by three men on Macbooks. I catch up with emails and try and place an order to Staples for business cards. Christian catches up on American Horror Story and Marshall reads Craigslist ads word for word. The humour isn’t in the situations people get themselves in but the amount of information they are comfortable disclosing. Wanted: one bedroom, husband living double life, I said I wouldn’t go back but this time it’s for sure.
I leave the house to get a feel for the area and coffee-shop-down. I finish designing business cards and buy concert tickets from a third-party site. Considering the whole Tragically Hip ticket debacle, I override my morals and move on whatever means possible to get into sold out shows. One in Chattanooga tomorrow night and another in Ashland, Kentucky the evening after. Chattanooga still had tickets on the venue site. Ashland’s however, requires some serious effort. I finally speak to a human. Rita suggests purchasing two tickets side by side as it will be cheaper than one by itself. Seems like a strange ordeal but I oblige. She asks what I’m going to do now that I have the extra ticket. Her call center is in Nashville. She moves past professionalism expressing how fun it would be to go for a road-trip. Business card designs are finally sent for pick-up at the Staples on Highway 153 north of Chattanooga. I show Christian the design as his girlfriend is in the graphic arts and he makes suggestions. I resubmit.
Marshall bums a cigarette off of Christian and we spend the remainder of the night hanging on the front step. I seem to move from trio to trio. Chris and Jess. Mel and Bryce. Del and Quinton. Christian and Marshall. The fridge is filled with IPAs and they make it outside – tempting. I’m quiet to start but begin to open up once I recognize the progression of the drinking conversation. Music, Politics, Conspiracies, Illuminati, Google Research. My morning of second departure is coming quick, I say goodnight an hour after Marshal bring up 9-11. Its interesting how opinions differ on the subject between Ethan and my new brothers. Ethan champions firefighters. Not that Marshall doesn’t, he just comes from an architectural background. I reside on my floor and get trapped in click-bait, reading an article on how Hillary’s ears have changed since her pneumonia and there’s been a Hillary switch-a-roo, William Campbell/Paul McCartney style. I wake around 3 am to the boys chanting the word “Money” on the front steps. Laughing, I fall back asleep.
My van has been unpacked for two days and I’m back arranging my possessions into it first thing in the morning. At least now there’s an air mattress to include. I leave my felt hat and suit jackets in my room closet. I’m digging the passiveness that the straw hat elicits but it’s more a practical decision. I experienced a similar humidity in southern Ontario, one that prompted cutting my shoulder length hair. I clip my hair to the scalp and cool down with a shower. It’ll be another five days until I’m “home”. Christian makes me a strong brew and Marshall gifts me his electric air pump.
The drive to Chattanooga is mountainous with the constant reminder to “See Ruby Falls”. The marketing is effective. I want to see Ruby Falls. I feel spacey from the altitude and lack of food, the van is running low on fuel as well. Committing to refrain from Cracker Barrel I weaken at the sight of a sock monkey telling me it brakes for Country Fried Steaks. I turn off the I24, pull into a Love’s gas station and put half a tomato on a slice from the french roll. I splurged and bought some whole grain dijon when purchasing the air mattress. A strawberry is on the pavement and dried flat. It was probably abandoned fresh, twenty minutes earlier.
I grab my business cards. A few came out off-centered so I’m given the option of a discount or a reprint. Fiscally minded, I chose the discount. Thirty-three cents change, my little sign that I’m on the right track.
I park on a street that reminds me of Moose Jaw. Both the fourth largest cities to their regions, Chattanooga is five times superior. There’s a farmers market down the way, so I load up my satchel with a couple books, notepad, pen, tickets and a crisp twenty dollar bills from my stash. What I thought was a Granny Smith is disappointingly a Golden Delicious. It’s mealy but I continue eating it on my way to the market.
Melanie would talk Kombucha recipes if she was with me. A brewer between a cheese maker and a tomato farmer has some interesting concoctions. I look for the sake of Mel’s interest but can’t stomach the smell of the stuff. This, coming from a guy with a bag of used baby wipes in a congested van that he remembers he forgot to dispose of. It’s 95 degrees Fahrenheit. I complain of the heat to Rudd, operator of Area 61 Art Gallery. When Americans complain about the cold in Canada, more often than not I feel the same way – something tells me that Rudd and I are on the same page. He lets me know it will start cooling off in the evenings sooner than later and locks the door behind me. The street art leading to the venue are that of a copper dress, a wooden man and a mosaic saviour. The latter, caged and rising from a bathtub. The man a Hayes Carll character accuses of being left for and upon meeting, plans to pummel.
I arrive at The Revelry Room as the doors are opening. The Spirit of Country Music is going to be strong tonight as American Aquarium frontman, BJ Barham, will set the stage and Texan, Hayes Carll, will shut it down.