Earlier that evening, I walked up to the entrance of Marathon Music Works clutching a borrowed camera bag with a borrowed camera inside and sized up the security—two sheepish kids and a metro cop, who instructed them how to search my bag and pat me down. Funny how this didn’t happen at the soldout Arctic Monkeys show.
When the box office said I wasn’t on the list for a photo pass, I shrugged and insisted I had been approved by Raekwon’s publicist. They were very nice and called someone over who told me he would give me a pass as long as I agreed to the rules: no flash, first three songs only. That was fine with me.
I was way too early because I don’t understand how time works. I wanted to scope out the venue, check the lighting, take some test photos, whatever. It took me about five minutes—although I stretched it out to ten by doing everything very slowly—and then it was time to wait an hour for the show to start.
I met a guy almost right away. He came by with a beer in one hand and a CD in the other.
Introduced himself, I forget his name. He grew up in Brooklyn—did he say Foster or Flatbush?—and had been waiting his whole life to see a WuTang show. He backpedaled. “I did see Raekwon once, in Huntsville.” He showed me the CD he was holding, a copy of Cuban Linx. Pointed to the cover. “He’s that one, right there.” Then he shuffled off, saying he would catch me later.
There were about twenty people in this gigantic brick shoebox of a venue. Two barricades up front had plenty of room at the sides to get around. Security was very light, and by that I mean the kid working it was about 90 lbs. There were two bars. I didn’t want anything to drink, so I sat down at a small cluster of tables in the far corner, the only seats in the whole place.
The start of the day was inauspicious.
The first thing I did that morning was wreck my car. I don’t remember any of it other than sitting on the side of the road waiting for the police in the sweltering Tennessee heat.
Everyone was fine. Everything was driveable. His car was somehow older than mine; together they were two relics of the late 90s colliding in one last desperate attempt to be seen, to be attended to.
His dad called the cops. They were both really nice to me. The dad complained that cops were everywhere on Nolensville until you needed one. He was right.
Thirty minutes later, we had salvation in the form of a rookie fresh off the thin blue assembly line. I watched him saunter over to the kid and his dad. Ten minutes later, I watched him saunter over to me.
“You wanna tell me what happened?” he squinted up at me.
“Not really.” I had at least a foot and fifty pounds on this guy. Not that I’m in the copfighting business…
“You don’t have anything to say? The damage here speaks for itself.” It was true, and I wasn’t trying to pull a fast one on him. I just wasn’t interested in explaining what he already knew.
“Yeah, I mean, I just don’t have any comment on that.”
“You sure? I’m gonna have to write on the report that you refused to make a statement.” Of course that meant nothing, refusing to talk to a police officer is in fact a great piece of advice, but at the time, the way he said it, like I ought to be ashamed of myself…
“I don’t have anything to say. I didn’t see he was stopped. I didn’t stop quick enough.”
“So you changed lanes?”
“Yeah. I was trying to avoid hitting him, and I went off the road completely.”
“All right, stay right there.” I could have sworn he tucked his thumbs into his belt loops as he sashayed back to his car. Prince Andy Griffith of Nolensville Road.
I sat in my car with the door swung open, steaming like a goddamn lobster, nervously twirling a piece of paper on which I’d failed to write most of the information the insurance agent would eventually need, including the kid’s name.
The cop was coming back. This was the reckoning, a nice fat ticket on top of everything else.
He leaned over and handed me a piece of paper. “I’m sorry it took so long. I’m really sorry this happened.” What a strange thing for a cop to say. “Here’s uh, this is the number of the incident report, and this is the number you can call to get a copy. It’ll be ready in a few days.”
“Thanks.” Must have been my lucky day.
“You be safe now.”