Honky Tonk Romance is an excerpt from my novel-in-the making about identity theft. It’s a side story that adds a little background information about one our private investigators as he and his mentor fly from Tampa to Nashville.
At an unseemly hour I met Jeff at his place and we took his car to the Tampa airport for our 7:00 AM flight Nashville. Tampa International is a clean, modern, efficient, well-staffed contrast to many other large airports, like O’Hare in Chicago.
Traveling with my teacher/mentor/boss Jeff was an educational experience in itself. No doubt, we were both slyly observing each other to try discern who this person really is that will be our partner for the next two years.
I have never known anyone who seemed to be more comfortable in his own skin. The man is always confident and congenial. Though he was great at relating to people, he also seemed to be content with silence. Silence seems like a void to me. So, I try to fill it. Jeff was ready with all of the appropriate greetings and asked all of the pertinent questions.
“Good morning. What’s our gate number? Any questions about your first couple of days? Have you been to Nashville before?”
I chattered on about taking the afternoon off and going to the beach, leaving out the “afternoon delight” part.
He threw me a whimsical look, like he knew about it.
“Nice to have some intimate adult time,” he added.
I replied, “It was really nice.”
I just kept running my mouth.
“How to you plan on approaching the interview?
“I wish that I had more time to develop this very topic when I was teaching. The most important thing is to be likeable and to act like you interested in the person you are interviewing. Give them your undivided attention. Be very casual, reveal a little something about yourself, and act like you understand them and like them. People love to feel important.”
“Second, no one wants to testify in court, and as you know, information uncovered during an interview is considered hearsay evidence by the courts, but it can be valuable in many other ways. So, tell people it is strictly ‘off the record.’ That’s pure semantics. It is not legal testimony, but it might be an important piece to making a case.”
“Lastly, ask open-ended questions. While we are trying to prove something, we are also mining for information. Ask the questions, then let your interviewee fill in the blanks, and add things. A lot of the questions will come to you during the conversation.”
I asked him if he had been to Nashville before.
“Oh yeah. Many times. Before I married Kate, I was involved with a musician. Her stage name was Carlie Ravenwood. Her real name was Agnes Carleena Brown. I was twenty-two years old when we met. A buddy and I were on a post college, pre-employment, cross country, see America- on-the-cheap-while-we-are-young-trip. For two months we tent camped across the country, staying a few days each place. It was one of the best times of my entire life.”
A happy, far-a-way expression took over Jeff’s face.
“I could write a book about our experiences. Anyway, one of our stops was Nashville which included a visit to honky-tonk row on Lower Broadway, just down the street from the Ryman Auditorium, which is the original home of the Grand Ole Opry. We ducked into a place for some bar-b-que and beer and there she was on stage belting out country standards and some of her own songs with a voice that was both powerful and innocent.”
“Carlie was a free-spirited, long-legged girl, wearing cut-offs standing on the little stage barefooted, with a wild head of wavy, sun streaked hair, and a childlike face. She was so full of life when she performed. It was obvious she sang straight from her heart. We stayed for her entire set, told her we loved her music, had a couple of beers together, and stopped by again the next day for the same show all over again.
Carlie and I spent one incredible day together as she showed me around Nashville. We toured the Ryman Auditorium, the Country Music Hall of Fame, and went clubbing on Broadway. I got an education about country music and developed a new found appreciation of this truly American art form. She was bubbling over with life and love, and the love of music. The attraction between us was immediate and overpowering. We were just two unattached kids looking for a good time and we found it. My traveling buddy Rog, was feeling like the odd man out and it was time for us to move with our plan to see as much of the country as possible.”
“So, we continued on with cross country trip, winding up back in Charlotte, where I am from. But she was still a magnetic force in my life. I had to see here again. Over the last few weeks we spoke on the phone several times.”
“It turned out that her career suddenly took off after she was ‘discovered’ by an influential talent scout at the very club where we met. She landed a gig opening for Shania Twain and had a contract to record her own material as soon as she came off the road. The concert tour was kicking off with a performance at the Ryman in two weeks. She was both excited and a bundle of nerves about her first big gig. She wanted me to come to the show. So, I did. Though she was nervous, she did a great job.”
“She got me a backstage pass. So, I was able to get a behind-the-scenes perspective with a few other friends and family members. We just had a few hours together over the next couple of days, since was so busy rehearsing with her new band. Then she was off on the nationwide tour.”
“I was able to travel to a couple more concerts and our whirlwind romance moved us quickly to engagement, but it didn’t last very long. By the time the tour rolled around to Atlanta, she had really caught on and was getting great reviews. There were more people fawning over her backstage now and I had become only one of many admirers. Then there was her bass player who had to be about ten years older than her. After the show they embraced and locked lips in a manner that was went way beyond a platonic relationship between artists. She admitted that they developed a ‘relationship’ while on the road.
Carlie was a sweet girl, full of life, but she was also very free with her love. Our relationship changed as quickly as her career and that was that. She went on to have a great three or four years in the business scoring a couple of pretty good hit songs and then fell back to the second tier doing smaller venues and county fairs.”
Then he said somewhat apologetically, “Sorry to bore you.”
“No need to apologize. You are a mysterious man of adventure.”
Even though he was my boss, we had a relationship where we could joke around with each other. I enjoyed that.
“Whatever.” He said, playing along.