One of the many good things about having to rely on outside internet connections is that it has motivated me to check out different coffee shops in the area. My standby is Panera, since it is very close to where I live, and the atmosphere is almost always conducive to writing. One of my other favorites is the Frothy Monkey, which I discovered my first day here in Nashville. However, since it is quite close to Belmont University, it can get really crowded with students, especially on days off, weekends, and evenings.
On Monday, Martin Luther King Day, I had the day off and decided to explore a part of Nashville that I hadn't been to yet: East Nashville. I had heard from a number of people that this is the artsy, eclectic area of Nashville where many musicians and artists live. It definitely has a more hipster feel, with a focus on organic living and community activism. There are a variety of shops, restaurants and bars sprouting up there, in additional to a few coffee shops.
I stumbled upon a coffeeshop called 'Bongo Java'. I believe that it is a coffee roasting company, and they have branches throughout Nashville. This one had a very artsy feel, and I could just imagine that the some of the other customers in their skinny jeans, flannel shirts, and square glasses were planning their next big gig. It was fun to imagine what 'famous people' might be in my midst. Or at least up and coming famous people.
Apparently, I wasn't the only one thinking this. As I was sitting at my table close to the wall, typing busily away on my laptop, two older men in their 60s at the table across from me both turned and were staring at the wall next to me.
My immediate reaction was to glance back in their direction. One of them noticed that I was looking their way, and said to me, "Oh, don't worry! We aren't looking at you. We are looking at those photographs on the wall." I looked up at the wall at the series of photos that lined the cafe - apparently an exhibition of a photographer.
"Oh that's okay!" I said nonchalantly.
Suddenly, the one man at the table noticed my fast typing and asked with much interest, "Are you a famous writer??"
I laughed and said "Oh, no." (Maybe someday, I thought to myself).
"Oh," the man said, a little disappointed.
"Well," he ventured, "are you writing something interesting?"
"No, unfortunately not," I answered. I was just writing a message, not even an interesting blog post.
Suddenly I thought maybe I should reciprocate the question. "Are YOU a famous writer?" I asked the man.
He smiled and shook his head. "Nah."
His friend eagerly cut in, "But he's a famous photographer!"
"Really?" I said excitedly.
"Well, not yet," the other man answered a little sheepishly.
I have often heard that Nashville is a gathering place for musicians, and not just country musicians, but musicians of every genre. I think it is also a gathering place for other types of creatively-minded people, from artists to writers. There is a creative energy here that really permeates the air and a laid-back culture which values good entertainment and artistic achievement.
It's neat because it really does mean than you don't know who you might run into. Even in little coffee shops, you get a distinct sense of it being a community gathering place for artists. Sometimes they are famous. And sometimes they are not famous yet.