A large common area in the Nashville Downtown Hostel. (cell phone photo by the author)

Composer’s Notebook: A road trip to Nashville

Mark Gresham | 3 – 5 JUN 2019 (last update: Tuesday 4 @6:55pm)

Updates as ehe days progress.

I’m on a road trip by Greyhound bus to cover the national conference of the League of American Orchestras. what follows is a personal journal of the trip surrounding the . journal of the event, updated throughout the several days away from Atlanta. A report about the conference itself will come later.

Monday 6/3 @ 6:00am: Off to Nashville this morning for the League of American Orchestras national conference — as a member of the press corps.

Monday 6/3, 2:00pm: The Greyhoud bus bound for Nashvuille was supposed to load at 9:10am and depart Atlanta at 9:30am. It has still not arrived and Greyhound customer service “doesn,t know” what;s going on or when one will be here for us. Should already be in Nashville about now.

Tuesday 6/4, 6:15am: The Greyhound bus departed Atlanta 6 ours late so I arrived in Nashville after 8pm — twilight — and walked 1.1 miles from the bust station past the Omni Hotel (where the LAO conference is taking place) to the Nashville downtown Hostel where I ‘m staying with my two small bags: 1 small travel suitcase plus my laptop computer case. My ASCAP satchel was in the suitcase, needed for carrying extra gear (Zoom audio recorder, table-top tripod, SD card box, etc.) so I don’t have to tote the whole suitcase down to the Omni back from the hostel.

The hostel is cheap, a single bed in a dorm-style room. Bunk beds, at that. Quad occupancy. I  wound up with one of the upper bunk beds, something I’d not anticipated, but likely due to the Greyhound being late. Choice of bed in the assigned room is on a first come, first served basis.

. Essentially, the place is populated by 20-somethings.  I’m a great contrast at 63) or maybe it just looks like that at first glance. The room is tiny. Aside from the bunk beds, there is nothing in the room except a stand for hanging a few clothes, shared by all occupants, and a small trash can.  Nobody in the room hung any clothes. These are guys with just backpacks. In addition to the age differences, I’m the one among us with a rolling suitcase.  ooms are tiny with beds only; of you want to sit, you have to go to any f the spacious common rooms. The registration desk in=sin front of several large laundry washing machines, which I believe are for staff to do linens. The entire hostel is, naturally, music themed. I’m in the Everly Brothers room.

Tuesday 6/4, 11:30am: I checked in at the conference registration desk at 7:50am. a little over an hour before the first of my two morning “elective sessions.” The swanky Kitchens Notes breakfast restaurant at the Omni was booked up, with a table for one not available until a few minutes before my first conference session was to begin. I was directed to Bongo Java, a coffee shop on the corner on the other side of the lobby, which was full and had a long line, but was able to get a decaf and an everything bagel with cream cheese for under $6. I got the next to last available seat at a window bar with other conference attendees.

Tuesday 6/4, 6:25pm: Back at the hostel typing this entry. The afternoon began with the organization’s annual meeting and luncheon, another elective session, and my thoughts about the conference experience began coming into focus. A late afternoon all-delegate reception closed the afternoon for me, and I walked back to the hostel to sit in the large ground floor common area, get a cup of the free coffee,  gather my thoughts and type this entry.

My mind is already focused on preparing for the return trip to Atlanta by Greyhound bus tomorrow morning, given the problems encountered with the trip up to Nashville.  I didn’t want any mishaps, and need some rest after the long day. Rest, not sleep, because I don’t want to have to climb up to that upper bunk until I have to. I like this hostel a lot, but next time I may opt for a much more expensive private room. This trip, however, I had to lodge on the cheap. Despite the fact of having an upper bunk, t all worked out okay.

Wednesday 6/5, 6:30am: Fourth party in the room came in at abut 3:30am, not particularly quietly. The other two occupants had come in after 1 am. I;d already had several hours sleep by that time. No surprise: The hostel is on 1st Avenue, opposite the Cumberland River. It’s a developing party district, with bars  and taverns strewn all along 1st and 2nd among old limestone and brick buildings under redevelopment and new construction, much of it apparently vacant except for those establishments, with names like like BB King’s Blues Club, The George Jones, the Wild Horse Saloon, but also the overly familiar chains like Hard Rock Cafe and Hooters. These and the hostel are only blocks  up the 1st Avenue from the Ascend Amphitheater, where concerts were taking place, around which streets were blocked off, and where major construction was taking place on the other side of the street for quite a distance. party town, young people out at all hours. One lifestyle’s normal.

Also not surprising that I awoke again before before 5am.  I stayed in bed until 5:30 the got up and started moving my things out of the room, into the hallway, along with the linens from my bed, which had to be deposited in a large orange bin near the receptions desk, behind which were these giant  laundry machines. Clearly a way of economizing on staff. One person can watch the early morning check-out desk while washing the hostel’s linens.

For a while it was just me, the night desk attendant, and his country music playing. That was different from daytime and early night hours, when no music played, and few people even talked in the common area.

By 6am, we were not alone. Some other folks had either come down from their rooms or just come in off  the street. Hard to say which.

I’m trying to decide whether to swing by the Omni one more time, as it is on the way to the Greyhound station. The last half day of the conference takes place today, but I can;t stay. The bus for Atlanta is scheduled to board at 11:25am, and i need to get down there and check in well before that.  Sunrise was at 5:30am, but not much  in terns of places to go at this hour, and I srtill haven;t checks out of the hostel. I’ll likely do that around 7:30am, maybe early enough to get to the Omni and get a seat at Kitchen Notes, if I choose to eat breakfast at all.

Wednesday 6/5, 10:00am: I did drop in at the Omni Hotel around 7:50am, but chose to repeat my Bongo Java experience rather than the eat at more expensive restaurant. The exhibit hall opened at 8am, but few attendees were present at that hour. They began to stream in just before the 9am sessions started. But I had a bus to catch, so did not hang around longer. The nine-minute walk to the Greyhound station from the Omni easy.  Now it’s a matter of waiting for the bus to Atlanta to arrive from Chicago, reportedly on time, then the process of boarding.

Wednesday 6/5, 11:30pm: The Greyhound bis actually arrived early, but boarded and departed late. It was only about an hour late arriving in Atlanta where a friend generously picked me up at the station and gave me a lift home, wisely suggesting we stop by the Moe’s Mexican Grill on Ponce de Leon for burritos — I’d eaten nothing since the early bagel and coffee at Bongo Java. We talked a little about the conference, and his own perspectives on the state of orchestras today and how they reach audiences. Once back home, I set aside travel bags and just crashed for a few hours before this final travel journal entry. Next, I have to write about the conference experience itself, but want to distill my impressions or a couple of days. Early tomorrow morning I have to hit the ground running with EarRelevant work anyway. ■