I was working the Music City Lounge on Broadway one cold, rainy night back before Broadway was “revitalized”. The crowds were thin, the tip bucket was nearly empty, and the bartender was playing tiddly-winks with beer caps. A little old man, shabbily dressed with rain dripping off the brim of his shapeless hat, wandered in the door, looked around hesitantly for a few moments, and then shambled toward the bandstand and took a seat at a rickety table in front of me. A waitress brought him a beer and he fumbled in his pockets for enough loose change to pay for it and sipped it slowly and watched us play with cloudy, red-rimmed eyes. A faint smile lit up his wrinkled face and he settled back, gathered his tattered grey overcoat closer around his thin body, coughed, and lit a cigarette. He didn’t look like he was gonna be a big tipper.
When we took a break he motioned to me with a gnarly hand and I stopped by his table and listened to his story.
He was bad sick and on his way to a VA hospital up North somewhere. He had an hour or so to kill before catching a Greyhound at the terminal up on 8th Ave. He loved country music, and wanted to hear a little of it before he began his journey. He said we were a great band, just great, and he especially liked the steel guitar. He hadn’t been able to get out much lately, because of his illness, and he didn’t have many friends anymore. Family? Oh, a sister somewhere that he hadn’t heard from in years. He didn’t think he’d be coming back to Nashville anyway, and he didn’t know anyone where he was going. His hand trembled when he raised the beer to his mouth, and he had a faraway look in his eyes as he talked.
He left when we started the next set; he had four blocks to walk in the rain. I never saw him again.