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The Honky-Tonk Line Between Order and Chaos

If you like live music, Nashville is your place. If you believe right now mitigation and social distancing are in order, well, it’s not optimal. Every honky-tonk bar you walk by has the back of a drummer facing you and music playing. It must be a madhouse during a normal SEC tournament (cancelled this year), or a normal Spring Break (extended for most out of an abundance of caution), or a normal year for that matter. As everyone knows now, 2020 hasn’t been a normal year. But people here are determined to dance the news away. Broadway in New York has shut down. Walking down Broadway in Nashville the music and neon pulls you in, the sounds of celebration are still there. It turns out there are still people jamming into clubs despite the news. It’s just… tempered a bit. There aren’t as many people but the music is throbbing and people are jamming together dancing and flirting and drinking. There’s a spirit of celebration in this city that’s great to see and be a part of. Just not this particular week.

I’m not oblivious to the threat, and wash my hands often. Hand sanitizer stations are everywhere and I’m using them. I’m practicing what can be considered social distancing in downtown Nashville, but know the risks are very high here in the clubs. We sat outside in a rooftop bar, but you still wade through humanity when you use the bathrooms or get a drink. Again, not optimal. I brought alcohol swabs to wipe down phones and such but I’m not naive, we’re swimming in the Petri dish being out. There are no surgical mask-wearing dancers bobbing on that dance floor. When I get home I’m self-quarantining myself just to be sure I’m not spreading anything I might have gotten to others.

This trip was scheduled before the acceleration into madness but we knew what was about to happen. Two days earlier and we’d have thought less about it. Two days later and we would have cancelled. You dance along that line between order and chaos, hoping you don’t lose your balance. Americans love to debate, ignore the future for the present too much, and are resistant to change, but we rally when you punch us in the mouth. That punch hasn’t fully landed on the jaw but the gut punch that preceded it this week has taken the collective breath out of people. Out of an abundance of caution is a familiar phrase to everyone now, even if they aren’t showing it in the honky-tonks just yet.

Tomorrow seems a long time away with the accelerating news of COVID-19. I left fully prepared for the shortages created as people snap up supplies and the supply chain that fills those shelves is impacted. Perhaps we should have shown an abundance of caution with more abundance, but time will be the jury on that now. We’ve lived deliberately, and tomorrow morning we’ll circle the wagons back at home for an extended and hopefully heathy stay. Today? Today we’ll celebrate life with as much social distancing as travel allows. Pass the soap?

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