How my birthday became unexpectedly awesome

At 10:45 PM last night, I was sitting on an MTA bus in Nashville, brooding silently. My "worst birthday ever" was winding down with a whimper. Oh, I’d had fun counting down to midnight with Kristy the night before (after which she serenaded me with an interpretive dance to the strains of Journey’s "Don’t Stop Believin’," played on my iTunes), and of course, I’d gotten my free taco from Taco Bell. But mostly, my 26th birthday had been drudgery: a six-hour mandatory CLE class, a pair of Southwest flights that had gotten me from Denver to Nashville, and now a couple of lonely bus rides. At 10:45, I was en route to the Greyhound station, from which I would depart for Knoxville. It looked like I’d be spending the final 75 minutes of my birthday travelling to, and then waiting around in, a grungy Greyhound station. (My bus wasn’t scheduled to leave until 12:45 AM.) I was cranky, I missed Becky, and I was just generally annoyed about the overall suckiness of my birthday.

When the bus dropped me off at around 11:00, things got even worse, because now I was in the heart of Nashville at 5th and Broadway — which, for those who don’t know, is the home of a whole bunch of great honky-tonk bars. The sound of live music was wafting out into the street, tempting and torturing me.

I would love, I thought, to spend the last hour of my birthday sitting in a bar, listening to some live country music. And with almost two hours until my bus was scheduled to leave, and the bus station only three blocks away, I had time to do just that. But it was (I thought) logistically impossible: I was dragging around a suitcase and a garment bag and hauling a heavy backpack with, among other things, my laptop inside it. With all that luggage, I’d barely have fit through the door of one of the bars. And it’s not like I could leave my luggage somewhere. I was traveling alone, so I had nobody to watch my stuff. So I turned away from the awesomeness of Nashville nightlife and resigned myself to the fact that the last hour of my birthday would be just as crappy as the first 23 hours. Up the hill toward the Greyhound station I walked, still brooding.

But then! When I got to the station at around 11:10, I beheld a miracle: it has lockers!!! Okay, maybe not a "miracle," but a possibility I hadn’t considered, for sure. Anyway, yeah, the station has lockers — big ones — so I didn’t hesitate: I picked up my bus ticket at will call, then stuffed all of my bags into a locker, secured it, and headed right back out into the night, back to 5th & Broadway, to finish off my birthday in style.

It was about 11:25 when I got back there, so I figured I had about 35 minutes at the bars before I needed to head back to the station. Naturally, I resolved to make the most of it. So I started out at Second Fiddle, where I listened to a couple of songs; then I headed to Layla’s Bluegrass Inn for a couple more songs; then to Tootsies for a couple more (including "Happy Birthday," although they were singing it to an attractive young lady on the dance floor, not to me); and finally (or so I thought) to Legends Corner for yet a couple more. Totally awesome.

When the band at Legends finished playing "Sweet Home Alabama," which I love, and I saw that it was 11:58, I figured that was my cue to leave. So I tipped the band and headed out, crossing the street with every intention of turning away and trudging back up to the Greyhound station. But then I glanced into the window of the Full Moon Saloon, and found myself drawn inexorably inside by the gravitational pull of the comely female fiddle player in the snug blue jeans. (It was the fiddle that drew me in, of course; I love fiddles. What did you think I meant?) Unfortunately, that band wrapped up their set literally 20 or 30 seconds after I walked in the door, so I headed back out onto the street again… but now my appetite was whetted for one more bar, one more band, one or two more songs. Hey, it’s only your 26th birthday once!

It was midnight now, but I reckoned I could afford another 5 or 10 minutes. So I slipped into The Wheel next door. The band there played a couple of nice songs, and then at around 12:07, busted out Johnny Cash’s "Ring of Fire." Now that is a thoroughly proper way to end a session of honky-tonk bar-hopping, not to mention a birthday (albeit a few minutes late). I hooted as they started playing it, sang along for the chorus, then walked back out the door (applauding as I went) after they finished. I turned left and headed back toward the Greyhound station. It was 12:11 AM. I got back to the station at 12:19, retrieved my stuff from the locker, and made my 12:45 bus with plenty of time to spare. I even got a good seat.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how a crappy birthday turns awesome at (literally) the eleventh hour. In 45 minutes, I went to six bars, listened to six bands, and totally redeemed my birthday. Then I slept like a baby on the bus ride home. And I’m half-consciously humming "Ring of Fire" as I write this.

I love Nashville. :)

15 Responses to “How my birthday became unexpectedly awesome”

  1. Vicki from NJ says:


  2. kg2v says:

    Geez – what a whine about your B-day. Wait till your a tad older. Your kids will have parties, and You’ll be lucky to have someone wish you Happy Birthday – I’ve actually had one where my wife, my kids and my parents all forgot it was my birthday. I got up, went to work, came home, cooked for my family, and went to bed – and never even got wished Happy Birthday

  3. Brendan says:

    The “whine” was necessary to set up the awesomeness that ended the day, and that’s the only reason I blogged about it. I am under no illusion that it’s some grand cosmic injustice that I had a somewhat crappy first 23 hours of my birthday. And I’m well aware that people spend less time paying attention to you on your birthday as you get older, become a parent, etc. That’s fine. I just wanted to share how my birthday had an unexpectedly fun ending… that’s all.

  4. Andrew says:

    What’s funny is Bea and I only got a few hours in Nashville when we were there, and I pretty much recognized all the places you just mentioned. The band we saw at Tootsies was really good, and I like that they have Yuengling down there in Nashville (it’s generally tough to get outside of PA and DC, from what I understand).

  5. David K. says:

    Why shouldn’t he whine on his own blog?

  6. Marty West says:


    Here in Philly we refer to Yuengling simply as “lager.”

    Next time you are here just tell the bartender “lager” and he will know what’s up. It really is a great beer. I actually have a buddy who is from Pottsville who has the label tattooed on his chest…a little much.

  7. Anonymous says:

    *she serenaded me with an interpretive dance to the strains of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’,” played on my iTunes*

    Generally a serenade involves singing, not dancing.

    *And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how a crappy birthday turns awesome at (literally) the eleventh hour.*

    No, actually it was the twenty-fourth hour. If you started immediately after midnight, that was the first. Count them through. You’ll see that I’m right.

    For someone who has such a pet peeve about people who misuse “literally,” you sure don’t seem too careful about it yourself. I wonder, should we not take you literally (or gosh, perhaps I should say “seriously”) whenever you off about it?

  8. Marty West says:

    Geeeeeeez…the guy writes a post about how a shitty day turned into a good day and he is being critiqued? Wow.

  9. Brendan says:

    Anon @ 7:05, you’re seriously snarking me out over this? Wow. You’re, like, literally a troll.

  10. Anonymous says:

    You reap what you sow.

  11. Anon @ 7:05 says:

    There you go again. Literally.

    I’m just asking for a little consistency and intellectual honesty is all. Given your “premature i told you so’s” and “justice in Georgia Finally’s” and “the electoral college is awesome’s” and “i’m not a trained meteorologist but i stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night’s”, I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

    You snark and pick at other people’s linguistic failings, illogical arguments and deeply held views. Why should you be immune?

  12. Brendan Loy says:

    Of course I shouldn’t be immune. It’s a little ridiculous to accuse me of thinking I’m immune from satire or criticism, considering I probably satirize myself more than probably anyone else does on this blog, and there are countless examples of where I’ve realized I’m wrong about something and conceded the point. I just think this was a particularly petty issue and your rhetoric was rather overheated under the circumstances. If you can point me to an example of where I used similarly overheated rhetoric to go after someone else on a similarly petty grammatical issue, then perhaps you’ll have a point. But for the moment, your original post does appear rather trollish. (If you had just said, “ha ha you misused literally” and demonstrated that without being all bitchy about it, I never would have objected. As it is, your last paragraph took what could have been a friendly jibe and made it mean-spirited and trollish.)

    For the record, the reason I used “literally” is because “at the eleventh hour,” as an expression, means something akin to “at the last minute,” but in this case, I was actually referring to something that was not only at the last minute, but also literally occurred during the eleven o’clock hour. You are technically correct that the eleven o’clock hour is actually the twelfth hour post-meridiem and the twenty-fourth hour of the day, so in that sense, what I said isn’t “literally” correct. However, it’s much closer to being literally correct than your typical use of the phrase “at the eleventh hour” — and it’s also certainly closer than the blatant misuses of “literally” that I have snarked at in the past, where “literally” is simply used as a synonym for “OMG like totally,” and placed in front of a figure of speech where it’s just self-evidently ridiculous (e.g., “literally flying around,” “literally with blood on his hands,” etc.). And of course, even in those cases, when I snark, I usually do so in a light-hearted way (using such devices as irony, emoticons, and the word “heh”), without the kicker “and this is why the person who made this mistake is an intellectually dishonest boob who should be shot” sort of crap at the end.

  13. Brendan Loy says:

    P.S. To clarify something above: when I say “I probably satirize myself more than probably anyone else does on this blog,” I mean “more than probably anyone else satirizes me,” not “more than probably anyone else satirizes themselves.”

  14. Brendan Loy says:

    P.P.S. I fail to see the relevance of my “premature i told you so’s” and “justice in Georgia Finally’s” and “the electoral college is awesome’s” and “i’m not a trained meteorologist but i stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night’s.” What are you saying, exactly: that because I have a tendency to express my opinion about things (which is the only common thread among those topics that I can see), therefore I should be raked over the coals (literally!) for even minor grammatical/word-choice mistakes? I just don’t follow your logic at all.

  15. Brendan says:

    Why, oh why, do I always feed the trolls?? Ugh. I wrote all of the above immediately upon waking up, and now I wish I hadn’t. It makes me seem like a whining crybaby douchebag.

    I take it all back. I am literally an idiot. There you go. Now let’s all move on to something more important, shall we?