One of my great joys of 2017 has been being associated with Parnassus Books as an author, bookseller and just flat-out fan of the unique, wonderful qualities that make it one of the top bookstores in the world. Right here in Nashville. In our very, own little backyard. My great moments with readers in the store and conversations with customers would take pages upon pages.
But there was this one, particular day in 2017 that stands out as a moment frozen in time.
I stepped out the back door into that golden light that belongs only to Autumn. The Mexican guys who work at the Chinese Restaurant were playing soccer, running and yelling at each other in laughter. Pumpkins filled up the lot next door. It was harvest time. The Hillsboro High School band was practicing in front of the school rehearsing - Play That Funky Music White Boy - and that whole scene - the guys in the alley playing ball, the band and the harvest and the light coupled with the beauty of just walking out of a place where people were in love with story and the written word was more than a little memorable. As if the world was at peace and in balance. My feet might have danced a little. I know I was certainly dancing in my heart.
A few days ago, back in the old year of 2017, my car went in for a short service which turned into a stint that required more than a few moments. Which turned into days and a car rental and coordinating with my sister for her to take me to get said rental in the freezing cold. This culminated in the odd fact that we actually had a few moments alone together. We did something we hadn't done in years. We hit the Waffle House. We used to go have their famous dish of eggs and raison toast back a 1000 years ago before we had children - one or both of us might have still lived at home with Mom and Dad. The Waffle House was our little getaway. A time to catch up on some sisterly conversation. This time was no different. The Waffle House just off White Bridge near the Days Inn (newly remodeled) was hopping. The waitresses were as full of Hey Sugar and Don't you Worry and Honey, let me get you a refill. You can be 7 or 77 in the South and a Waffle House waitress will say, Baby, don't you worry. I got that for you - and you will just melt like you have been rocked in a chair with your favorite blanket.
Like I said, the place was packed. Booths filled, people at the bar, hot coffee sitting by the door for anyone to help themselves if they had to wait. The music was just to the point of being a part of the conversation but not drowning out table talk. People behind the bar were tapping out time, moving to the rhythm of whatever came on next. Then this happened.
A song came on. One of those songs that everyone seems to know. The guy at the table behind us started singing along. The waitress started singing and swaying as she was writing up a ticket. The guy in the booth across from us began bobbing his head and the woman next to him swaying to the music. I looked out across that entire little restaurant and from one side to the other people of all colors and ethnicities were moving and there was this slice of time - I swear it was so strong it was like being in church - where it felt like the whole place was on the verge of breaking out into one, big, happy dance. Strangers. From all backgrounds. On the verge of a bizarre celebration of simply being alive and being at the Waffle House where we were warm and smiling and breaking bread together. I looked at my sister, both of us wearing big smiles. She felt it, too. And she can testified that I am not exaggerating. We were on the transom of a Pentecostal joie de vivre.
Last night I went to the local Wal-Mart in Ashland City. It is not my most fun errand this Wal-Mart run. I complain about it just a little bit like I am having to climb mountains in a third world country when all I'm doing is walking through one door and out the other. For just a few items. But last night as I walked away from the milk corner and through the paper towels, the old song by the Bangles started playing over the speakers. The women next to me pushing a buggy breaks out into full song belting out, Walk Like An Egyptian. "Yes," I tell her as I pass because I support the sing along movement. By the time I get to the bread Isle there's a guy there that is whistling the tune at high enough volume that you could hear him over in frozen foods. He is like - on it. Could go whistling pro. Wal-Mart. Cheatham county. A grab bag of mixed folks from all corners of the world. The just moved in to back roads I know your mama and lived here forever's kicking off 2018 all Walking Like Egyptians.
Maybe this is the answer to the question I hold in my heart these days. A perpetual, silent question mark of how are we going to cross party lines, drop our prejudices and stop fighting. The question of how do we climb out of this hole of 2017 and venture forth walking into the new day that a New Year affords us. Maybe the answer is that we don't walk at all. We dance. To that tune that is and was and will always be - that Divine spirit that inspires the muse and we realize - It's great to be alive and for some unknown reason beyond our comprehension we actually love everybody in the whole, wide, world. At least until the end of the song.
And, it's all - every, blessed waterlogged, dried-out, messy, magical day - just one long, song.