I have a complicated relationship with New Year’s Eve (NYE). It’s an unreciprocated one. My expectations are usually too high and fall too flat on their face.
When will I learn?
Some of my best NYEs have been house parties I don’t completely remember due to the amount of booze ingested. And those were, of course, punctuated with embarrassments.
As usual, the universe had little love for me this New Year’s Eve. But buoyed by last year’s fluke in the Big Easy – a success even though it ended relatively early – I thought I’d try to repeat it in another party city. I vehemently turned down an invitation to ring in the New Year at a new pub in a small Tennessee town, telling my travel companions, “Pfff, why would we want to do that when we can go to a hopping party in Nashville?”
The universe would punish my arrogance.
There were so many stops and days and hours of driving before we arrived in the nation’s country music capital – on 30 December – that I became too tired to program ahead for NYE. I decided to rely on my luck.
My mom, who came along on the trip, kept checking the weather everyday and warning me that it’d be cold and rainy on NYE in Nashville. I refused to believe the forecast or plan accordingly. I’m so much of an optimist with the weather that I don’t even own an umbrella.
I left my laptop charger behind in our bed & breakfast in Atlanta. (Hello karma!) As much as the place and host had been lovely, I simply couldn’t go back to get it. It was too far. Our also very nice Nashville Airbnb was missing bed sheets and blankets as the temperature dropped. Those things distracted me, and I did what I could to address them (like messaging the hosts and going all over town looking for a replacement charger).
The hours were passing and, with them, the chance to get tickets for a proper New Year’s Eve party.
The 31st rolled around, and it was (you guessed it) cold and rainy. In fact, the rain was relentless and only got worse as the day wore on. Still, we didn’t know what else to do on a first visit to Nashville than trying to see the main attractions, which were all downtown. We parked on what was basically a construction site for a discounted price and headed for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum a 15-minute walk away.
My mom has a big problem with chilly weather, especially when it’s wet. All we could see were her eyes and nose underneath her polar coat on our way to the venue. When we finally made it there (it felt like forever), we immediately decided we wouldn’t go in to see the museum, due to the gigantic line. We killed some time having a coffee and brownie and taking pictures of the decorations near the entrance. My boyfriend couldn’t find anything he liked in the gift shop. We went back out.
We passed by the flashy Broadway party strip and paused for about a minute to take a picture. There was no desire to join in the festivities already slightly bubbling; it looked pretty lame anyway in the gray light. So we tried another museum – the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, which our Airbnb hosts had recommended. We had to walk in the rain to get there too.
The arts center and museum features a limited but diverse selection. There was the contemporary art exhibit of an amazingly talented group of local high school students, “2016 Young Tennessee Artists: Selections from Advanced Studio Art Programs;” the historical exhibit “Samurai: The Way of the Warrior,” borrowed from a Florence art museum; and my favorite, the 9-channel video installation “The Visitors,” by Ragnar Kjartansson.
The Icelandic artist set an unusual concert in a dilapidated mansion in New York State, in which each of the musicians (including himself) played her or his instrument in a separate room, listening to each other via headphones and still acting in perfect sync. Museum goers can become immersed in each of the screens and in the whole, experiencing different effects.
My mom would later joke that this was the closest to a live music experience she’d have the first couple of days in Music City U.S.A. And also that she saw inanimate samurais at the museum in Nashville before being able to see a country music act at the bars.
We spent longer walking from place to place and exploring Frist than we’d initially expected. By the time we got back to our Airbnb outside of downtown to eat, it was around 5 pm. Our NYE lunch became NYE dinner: leftover rice from two U.S. states my mom had managed to transform into a gourmet meal.
Meanwhile, I discovered all the cool-sounding, reasonably priced parties that required tickets were sold out (of course, what the hell was I thinking), and we did not feel inclined to go see the “music note drop” featuring Keith Urban in a thick crowd of people as the rain and cold became unbearable.
My mom had told us the story of a group of Brazilians having to wear diapers to survive the celebration at Times Square in NYC. Not really our thing.
After a while browsing on the web, I found two bars relatively nearby that would have NYE parties. But they didn’t sound that appealing and neither did walking to them (we wanted to avoid having to take a vehicle).
By 8 pm, my boyfriend had started falling ill from our exposure to the elements. I had started crying over the loss of my dad. My mom said she didn’t feel like going out anymore – her only beef was that we had run out of all the wine we’d bought.
The three of us ended up passing out, too soon, too sober. It was about 10 pm. At midnight, as we woke up for brief seconds with the fireworks off in the distance, my mom received a phone call from my brother at the small town pub party I had turned down and at which we could all have been. People were blowing NYE horns, talking cheerfully. There was also live music on the background. He was having a great time.
The gods of Circumstance and Weather indeed did not smile upon us.
We couldn’t even buy a bottle of wine the next day, as local stores are forbidden from selling wine on Sundays. (Though they can sell beer. Incomprehensible.) But at least on New Year’s Day, after enough medicine and errands run (on holidays!) we got to discover the music gem that is Shelly Fairchild at the 3rd and Lindsley club – where our Airbnb hosts said up-and-coming stars have their playground. A real Nashville experience, and without the overeager NYE crowds and freezing out there just to see the ball drop or hug some strangers.
Plus, our Uber ride told us revelers went home early after midnight and many people just chose to stay home. That helped me feel a little less lame.
Guess it didn’t turn out that bad, after all. Maybe I’ll finally try to see next NYE as a regular day, to fool the universe – and then the party I’ve been waiting for all my life will come.