Lucy Jensen
Lucy Jensen

Ever since my sister passed, my daughter and I have been wont to follow her lead and give each other experiences instead of merchandise for special occasions. I was so delighted when the kid gave me concert tickets for Christmas. I love concerts, I adore music.

We always have fun wherever we go. And then I paused. July? A summer concert in July in the deep South. I did know better. Having lived in Louisiana for 2.5 years, you never forget that kind of persistent, wet heat that springs moisture out of pores you didn’t know you had. That kind of heat.

I recall, not fondly, returning to England from Baton Rouge after another blistering summer. “Oh!” someone remarked. “But you are so white! I thought it was hot there?” Ha, yes, you stay inside during the long summer, I had to explain, and I still don’t think they understood. No one ever truly understands the humidity of a deep-South summer unless they have experienced it first-hand.

“Thank you so much, darling!” I said at the time, gulping. George Strait, how fabulous. In July. In Nashville. Weep.

I had wanted to go to Nashville for a very long time — it was totally on my proverbial list. So many of my favorite artists spring from this hallowed place. How could I not want to see some of America’s greats in those famous halls?

I was packing for my trip to Nashville. Bathing suits, flip-flops, sun dresses, hats, sunblock … was there anything else I might need? No, that would likely cover it. Oh, and some Skin-So-Soft for the bugs. I had visited Florida since my days in Louisiana, so the humidity wasn’t going to be a surprise, was it.

The flight took us to Nashville via Dallas and was nicely uneventful. On the landing approach to Nashville, the pilot advised that all window blinds should remain closed due to the “heat advisory.” I had never heard of that! “Please leave the blinds down when we land also,” he went on. “Nashville is under a severe weather alert.” Oh dear. I could only imagine. We found out super quick, as we called for an Uber to take us to our hotel and the wafts of boiling air hit us in the face. Immediately the sweat began to drip down the face. We drank water and still the sweat poured.

Arriving at the lovely Holston hotel at the top of Broadway was a delight. Lovely cool lobby, stylish temperate rooms, a pool at the top of the hotel with a city view and bar didn’t hurt us one bit after the long day’s travels. We took off downtown and witnessed the newly described “NashVegas” on a Thursday night. The streets were teaming with young things wearing next to nothing, bars packed, lines of people everywhere. Where was the music? You could hear a lot of it around, but there were too many people waiting to get through the door. What happened to the music? This all seemed to be about sex, drugs and alcohol.

I dutifully showed my ID — ahem — and we enjoyed a couple of crazy drinks in the mix with too many others at the top of the Ole Red bar. We did get to visit with a few of the locals and found out that Californians were not too popular with their kind. I found that a bit strange, because people are people wherever you go — smart, ignorant and indifferent; but it seemed as if the political divide was as mind-blowing in Tennessee as it might be anywhere in our large land mass. That hadn’t crossed my mind before we came.

The old classic “Tootsies” bar where many a music great started their career was crowded; everything was overcrowded. We loved the lush coolness of the Glenn Campbell Museum and lamented that so few felt it was a priority that the museum would be moving to smaller digs. The Willie Nelson Museum was equally stunning and entrenched in history — however most people were just hanging out in the gift shop. I do have to say that, almost without exception, the “wait staff,” bartenders and Uber drivers were all superb and happy to see us.

The concert, however, was all about the music. Chris Stapleton and George Strait both kicked it out of the park. Though the arena was outdoors, with no misting or cool air for the crowd, it was 100 degrees and sweat-wet with humidity (never before have I actually poured ice cold water on my head and down the front and back of my dress) and it actually seemed to get hotter as the night progressed.

There is something about live music that awakens a vital sense in your soul. It gives you something that nothing else can, no matter the weather. We were so lucky we went that night. The following night, the repeat concert was canceled due to the most incredible thunder and lightning storms I have witnessed in a while (from the sanctuary of my room!).

Perhaps the inclement weather was just an indication of the stormy travels we were to endure the following day, which was travel day. We were picked up at 3:45 a.m. and had a swift and successful trip to the airport. Bags were checked in without incident and we were soon sleepy-eyed at our gate well in advance of our 5:35 a.m. flight. Then the flight was pushed to 5:40, 6, 7, you get the picture. At the last check, it was postponed to 9 p.m. at night; but we had already lost trust in them, (plus we had a connection we had already missed in Dallas), so we weren’t going to be back in Cali that night if we hoped that they would deliver us there and many had work the next day.

We booked another flight at some cost from Nashville directly to San Francisco, securing the last five seats on the plane, and the first airline was forced to remove our bags from the hold once we made our request to cancel the flight (they also smashed up one of our bags). Our car was parked in San Jose, so we would have to Uber from San Fran to San Jose, but that was likely the only way we were going to get home that same night.

The new flight was supposed to take off at 7 p.m. and, at press time, it was pushed to 7:25 p.m. We still hope to get home tonight and that the airline gods that are watching over our skies will take pity on us poor travelers who have now spent around 15 hours — or a flight to China — in the airport.

If you read the recent travel news, it has been quite the ugly summer for some American airlines. With canceled flights and passengers dumped all over the place, I have now added another corporation to the no-good airlines I shall never again fly with. “Here’s a number you can call and try to get a refund,” the “Customer Service” lady told us. I highly doubt that suggestion was even worth the cost of the long and frustrating phone call that would ensue with no good result. (We eventually arrived home at 1 a.m. It had taken us nearly 24 hours to get home from Nashville.)

NashVegas, huh. It will be a while before I go back.

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Soledad columnist Lucy Jensen may be reached at [email protected].

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