A month or so ago, I went out dancing at Robert’s Western World, which, when you visit Nashville, is the only real honky tonk on Broadway, and one of only two places worth going to on the strip (in my not-so-humble opinion).
I was walking back to my car, parked on the east side of the pedestrian bridge, when I decided to get in line at a hot dog stand. Behind me were two bros, Australians: pretty hair, pretty beards, pretty faces, late 20s/early 30s. Drunk and babbling, thinking they’re clever. We all know the type. Bros are bros, wherever you goes.
Like a lot of musicians, I’m pretty deaf, so I missed the beginning of the conversation. But at some point I realized these two guys were getting REALLY racist with this older black man. He was a lot smaller than the two Aussies, grey-haired and wearing bifocals, and they were toying with him like two cats with a mouse. When I heard one say to the old man, “Fried negro? Mate, ya ever had it? I hear it’s a local delicacy,” I turned around. I made eye contact with the old fellow, but my mind was just spinning. I reminded myself that he’s an adult and if he wants to punch the racist Aussies he’s capable of that himself. Mostly, he was kind of nervously laughing off the provocations from these two smirking baboons. But me, my blood pressure was SPIKING the longer this went on. “I’ve never had fried negro myself, but I’ll bet it’s good,” say the other wanker. I turned around again and again, not sure what to do. Well, knowing what I wanted to do -start a fight with two guys way bigger than me and probably capable of smashing my teeth down my throat- but just fucking frozen. It was completely surreal, and it all seemed like it was happening in slow motion.
So my blood pressure and rage meter are in the red: meanwhile, there’s this weird professor voice in the back of my mind, saying Maybe they don’t know Tennessee history? Or even recent American history? Maybe they… before coming to his senses. No. No, these guys are total fucking racist assholes, and Australia’s racism problem is an actual thing Carry on.
There’s this thing I do when I’m stressed. I start rubbing my head, face, and neck with both my hands like I have a migraine (and in fact my head actually DOES start to hurt in these circumstances). I also begin sighing loudly. So I’m doing that, plus I can’t stop turning around and glaring at these two people, which is something my Mom always did when my siblings and I were being miserable little shitheads, and I can’t help but think about this too as it is happening.
Finally, the old guy walked off. That’s when one of the Aussies asked me if the hot dogs were any good, and I lost it. I completely lost it on these two miserable snot-noses. And may I digress here for a moment to say that if there is anything I am grateful for from my 16 years in Philadelphia, it’s my Philadelphia anger and Philly accent. “I heard what you were saying to that gentleman. Don’t you FUCKING talk to me. You need to learn some goddamn fucking RESPECT. So shut your FUCKING MOUTH.” I was totally expecting to get punched in the face or the back of the head and here I was, finally, two minutes too late, ready to go. I was literally shaking with rage.
And then it was my turn to order a frank. So I shifted, effortlessly, from apoplexy to “yessir, I’ll take one with spicy mustard and kraut please”, paid for my dog, and headed back home over the pedestrian bridge, muttering to myself all the way about racists and what a pussy I’d been.