36° N, 87° W
“The most likely demographic to die in an extreme weather event is ‘bored people’. Number two is ‘damn idiots’. That should tell you something. Curiosity kills cats quicker than being a stupid fucking cat.”Cyrus Lee Hancock’s Ultimate Hurricane Survival Guide (2012)
The prudent play here, Cyrus Lee Hancock says as he squints through snow-blindness at the wintry death-trap beyond his window pane, is to stay inside. He’s right. Prevailing Nordic wisdom is to not provoke the Frost Giants. We’ve no need to leave the bunker. Earlier in the day, Cyrus Lee bartered ammunition to a neighbor for a cured ham. We have enough beer to last until spring thaw. Should the power fail through the ice storm, we’d lose Netflix, but the beer would be cold and the ham edible. There is nothing outside but certain slippery humiliation and the risk of an icy demise. However, Cyrus Lee says to me, you can’t sharpen a blade by keeping it sheathed. He turns to gauge my comprehension. I provide a mild nod; smooth seas do not make a good sailor. What? What kind of crock-pot-fuckery are you thinking in that slow-cooker brain of yours, Vic? Who said anything about sailing? Ain’t no sailboats in Tennessee, dude. What I am saying, Cyrus Lee says, we should test our mettle out there. And along the way we might save some poor dipshits parked nose-down & ass-up in a ditch.
There is no arguing with Cyrus Lee Hancock when he’s mainlining messiah complex.
Cyrus Lee crushes his can of dark-cherry hard seltzer, pockets a coronavirus mask, grabs his electronic cigarette and straps on a quarter-dozen guns. I have zero guns, but hope to be protected by Cyrus Lee’s trained rescue canines, Caesar Augustus and Frederick Barbarossa: 200 pounds of good-boy German Shepherd. We load into the monstrous Ford (named Blueskin after General Washington’s warhorse) and Cyrus Lee activates the truck’s “Melting Arctic” drive setting. Blueskin, he says, will drive through anything cooler than molten lava and is outfitted with a winch strong enough to drag a beached beluga whale to the nearest sushi restaurant and candle shop. Fortune awaits, I say, gripping the oh-shit handle.
Winter Storm Uri has half the country shutdown. Texas is a frozen-over hellscape. Tennessee hasn’t suffered the same power outages, but the hills outside Nashville are quiet. The city itself, however, holds promise. It is Valentine’s Day in the bachelorette-party capital of the world. Hell hath no fury like a scorned bridesmaid, Cyrus Lee says. Like the postal service, rain nor sleet nor menstrual cramp will keep a good bridesmaid confined to her hotel. With a mix of champagne, cocaine, social media voyeurism and fear of missing out, bridesmaids will be out in droves, using their high heels like glacier crampons. Occasionally those heels will break and they will backslide down the hill, little black dress up to their armpits, all the way to Moonrunners. It’s where all the driftwood drunks and flotsam floozies wash-up, Cyrus Lee assures me.
We head to Moonrunners.
First one today, Cyrus Lee says as he raises a draft beer from the bar at Moonrunners Smokehouse, listed as the 137th best barbeque joint in Nashville by Quantity Over Quality Quarterly Magazine. First one today, I say, clinking my pint glass with his. We’ve had several, but the abacus is frozen.
It’s got to be the cowboy vibe, Cyrus Lee responds to my question of how Nashville became so popular with bachelorette parties. Here’s what’s funny, he says with his trademark impish grin, no one wears cowboy hats in Nashville other than country-singers, strippers and tourists. This is more of a trucker-hat state. But, Cyrus Lee says, every hipster in a hat with a rehearsed-twang who can strum a guitar is getting biblical with 3 to 5 tourist girls a week. That’s enough sport-sex for at least 150 notches in the bedpost annually, 20% anally, you’d figure. Bro, you want to know how the South will rise again? Country-fried slung dick. Redneck panspermia, dude. All the Yankee women leaving Nashville bloated on Confederate bastard-seed will birth a fifth column of Southern-sympathizers, born up North, but bred right here on Broadway.
Moonrunners isn’t along Nashville’s famed strip, but if you follow the Broadway gutter-flow of piss and regurgitated cinnamon whiskey downhill, you will find us. The exterior of Moonrunners is indistinguishable, camouflaged in the brick & concrete colors of the city; the interior is hillbilly-kitsch. The namesake is a 1975 movie which seems to be a knock-off of Burt Reynolds’ 1973 White Lightning, but I seem to be the only Burt purist in attendance (we Florida men need stick together). The beers on draught are local and quite gratifying. Common domestic swill is limited to can or bottle, which is of no concern to me. The barmaids are saltier than the frozen roads and there’s a sweaty pit-master in a butcher apron between them, pulling his own pint before turning to tend to the pig.
Man, cocaine is so pre-Rona, says Vishal. He’s got a popped-collar coming out of his cardigan. Vishal is a local, twenty-eight years old and an info-age capitalist investing in the post-anthropocene. Don’t get me wrong, Vishal says, hedging his bets. It’s a good thing to have coke on-hand, but the new wonder drug is fentanyl. Everyone’s after it, but no one can find it. The pandemic has put a hurt on Chinese chemicals being shipped to Mexico. Vishal doesn’t dabble himself; fentanyl doesn’t mix well dirty martinis. And he wants to live to see thirty. He wants to have a family someday; someone to share the spoils of a scavenged world. Vishal would like 4-7 children and he identifies a young blonde woman walking through the patio door of Moonrunners as an adequately-hipped candidate for fulfilling his five-year plan. We’ll come to know her as Hailey.
Hailey spots us upon entry; by “us” I am referring to the dogs. After asking permission to cuddle and then molesting Caesar Augustus and Frederick Barbarossa, Hailey seeks our attention, hovering, floating like a visitor from Jupiter who isn’t used to this low gravity. She’s closer to twenty than thirty, closer to naked than clothed and despite her airiness she is stoned. Her eyes are dreamy; or maybe it’s glaucoma. She engages in conversation which wouldn’t pass a Turing Test, but to be fair, Hailey has ingested enough methylenedioxymethamphetamine to keep her in orbit through the weekend. Her day began with friends; Hailey is not concerned as she realizes none of those friends seem to be present. In fact, she isn’t sure the last she saw of them. Wait, what day is it? Her prime directive is the scavenger-hunt she is participating in via phone-app. One of her remaining herculean tasks is to take a selfie while kissing the handsomest stranger in the room. Vishal and I nervously clear our throats, but Hailey chooses Frederick Barbarossa, who doesn’t hesitate to lick her glittered lips. Vishal sighs with disappointment; regardless of whose bed Hailey sleeps in tonight, this dog-kisser would be no (intentional) mother of his offspring.
So where are you, like, from, Hailey asks me and nearly combusts when she hears I officially reside in Central Florida. OMFG, she used to work at the theme parks. As a princess, I am sure. No, she blushes. But what are you doing here, she asks. Where do I begin? I tell her I’ve got this estranged wife who doesn’t realize my life insurance policy has been cancelled. Josefina Jesús-María-Neverman has put a bounty on my head. My untimely death might pay-off one of her credit cards and so I have become a moving target. I figure it is easier up here in God’s country to spot my wife’s face-tattooed Salvadoran cousins riding jet-skis and waving machetes in the air than it would be down in Florida where they blend-in with the local flora and fauna. Cool, Hailey says.
Cyrus Lee Hancock, meanwhile, has been recognized by the sparse crowd as a survivalist celebrity. Unbegrudgingly, he puts on an ice-storm survival clinic. He speaks of frozen cadavers he tripped over in the Himalayas (they were a hundred years dead and 20 years young, frozen in time) and the friend he lost atop of a South American glacier (who fell down an ice-chute, a bad lotto ticket of broken-bone starvation a mile deep in an ice-cube) and the one trip he made to Chicago (he barely survived a run-in with a deep-dish pizza). Ultimately, his best advice to the cabin-fevered pandemic crowd in the ice storm on Valentine’s Day is a shruggish quote from Aleister Crowley, “Do as thou whilst.”
I’ve made another friend. Her name is D’Borahh. She too is blonde and uncertain of her surroundings. The first H is silent, she tells me, speaking breathlessly with her coronavirus face-mask beneath her chin, bubbled outward as a leopard-printed faux-goiter. D’Borahh claims to be thirty-seven years old, though she looks younger, which is quite the feat given her proclivity for hard-drinking and wanton indifference. I am not judging; I say this as a man who resembles his age thanks to hard-sipping and wonton dumplings. D’Borahh is quite fetching and I don’t mind her company. She is standing, looming really, while I sit. I should offer her a chair, perhaps buy her a drink, but I am terrified such gestures could be the catalyst which ends with her in my bed. Perhaps not a frightening prospect to you, dear reader, but you must understand I am not in a good place. Not that I am residing in a literal bad place; I’m sure D’Borahh would appreciate the denim-chic décor of the Hancock bunker I’ve been bunking in. No, my bad place in internal; if D’Borahh were to realize how wounded of a man I am, I fear she would eat me alive.
She has been wronged and D’Borahh sees in me a champion to take up her cause (or at least fetch another beer). She pleads her case to me. D’Borahh had a direct flight from her home in Southern California to Nashville. The ice storm forced the plane to land in St Louis for de-icing. It was there, in Missouri, D’Borahh disembarked and was not allowed re-entry. She had to hire an $800 Uber to get her the rest of the way to Nashville.
Why the barred entry? A certain “cunty-bitch stewardess” had a vendetta against our heroine. Why? Simply because D’Borahh is a loud talker and because the flight attendant thought D’Borahh drunk. Was she drunk? Mmhmm, yeah. D’Borahh was mildly intoxicated after she and friends she made in-flight went to the nearest St Louis airport Chilis for a round (maybe a second) of tequila shots. Mmhmm, yeah, but! D’Borahh claims she was no more intoxicated trying to re-board in STL than she had been when originally boarding in LAX.
Did the flight attendant allow access to the others re-boarding? Mmhmm, yeah, D’Borahh says, clinking her faux-fingernails against her empty beer glass. What occurred prior to D’Borahh attempting to re-board? This is when the alleged “cunty-bitch stewardess” tripped and fell. It should be noted it was not D’Borahh to trip her! The fallen flight attendant nevertheless directed her ire on this innocent passenger. I ask D’Borahh if she laughed when the flight attendant fell. Hell fucking yeah, she says, it was funny. Alas, here is the crime. D’Borahh seems to be a mean drunk. Mmhmm yeah.
Cyrus Lee Hancock returns after having paid a bribe to keep his truck from being booted. Nashville has deputized the masses to be meter maids, bro. Its madness, Cyrus Lee tells me. That was a civilian who clocked my truck being 121 minutes in a 2 hour parking zone and he put this bullshit boot on my tire. In the middle of an ice-storm! On Valentine’s Day, the savage fuck. See it’s cheaper for the city to pay these amateur-hour hatchet-men five-bucks a scalp than it is to hire full-time police. What you get is this Nashville gestapo: neighbor snitching on neighbor and getting paid for it.
It is the volunteer state, I say.
What happened with side-boob Cinderella, Cyrus Lee inquires. Who, Hailey (Frederick Barbarossa’s girlfriend)? Vishal offered to drive her along Broadway to look for her friends. Good for Vishal, Cyrus Lee says. What about the California cougar, he asks, saying, she had you in her crosshairs. Yeah, I say. Some other guy bought her a drink and that’s the last we saw of her. You’re better off, dude, Cyrus Lee says. To be honest, I was afraid you were going to bring her back to the bunker and then we’d never get rid of her. Some battles are better lost. St Valentine be damned, says Cyrus Lee.