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The Five People You Meet in Honky Tonk Heaven

06/27/2014 06:25 EDT | Updated 08/27/2014 05:59 EDT
Cultura Travel/Philip Lee Harvey via Getty Images

This week I went on a little best friend road trip to Tennessee with my roomie and wyfe 4 lyfe, Emily. Why would two young women go to Nashville, you ask? She was fueled by a love of Appalachian Folk Music, I was fueled by the promise of amazing BBQ, and we both have an unhealthy obsession with ABC's Drama of the same name (that Connie Britton doe? Am I right?). So Sunday morning we packed up my dad's Volvo and headed South. Fourteen hours, two orders of Cracker Barrel's Chicken 'N' Dumplin's, and nine heartfelt renditions of "Love is an Open Door" from Disney's Frozen later, and we hit Music City, USA. Home of the Grand Ole Opry, GooGoo Cluster Candies and Jack Daniels.

We had what Emily refers to as a "soft timeline," no real concrete plans, no real schedule, just painting the town with our "Red Lips and White Lies" (200 points to anyone who gets that reference). We did have one goal however and that was to make a new friend at every place we went to. Dudes! This worked out so much better than we could have imagined! Nashville was great and all but the strange and wonderful friends we made while there trumps any tour, pulled pork sandwich or shot of Jack! Here's my top five list of my personal favourite new Tennessee Friends.

5. The Helpful homeless man: Sure, every major city has homeless people but my helpful homeless friend really went above and beyond. On our last night in Nashville I pulled in to a parking lot and as I got out to pay I was greeted by a low drawl from the edge of the lot "honey, you park here they'll charge ya 25 dollas, there's a car leaving a spot on the street, don't worry I'll save it for ya," the man then bolted on to the street and stood in the newly open spot, waited for me to pull up, and then helped direct me to parallel parking. Canadians are often stereotyped as being overly kind and generous but this dude blew any Torontonian homeless man out of the order. He never asked for money, he was just helping a girl out! I did give him some dollars to which he responded "Aw, honey this is just exactly what I need right now, Y'all have yourselves an excellent night!" Now that is some southern hospitality!

4. Ginine of the Vertigo: Imagine if Roseanne Barr was quiter, a little buzzed on Jack Daniels, and always just about to fall down. Do you have a clear picture of that? Then you've just imagined Ginine the 60-something, ex-marine tour guide at the Jack Daniel's distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee. I mean we had some "eclectic" tour guides over the course of our trip, for example, Michigan-born Dan who faked a southern accent just to give the people what they wanted, Gay Alex who knew no facts about the Grand Ole Opry but still managed to work five references to Kellie Pickler in, or the over-sharing and creepily personal Leslie at the Ryman auditorium. But no one came close to Ginine! (Yes, that is Janine with a G and an I) Her perfectly timed and well-rehearsed jokes, her pregnant pauses to give each step of distilling a dramatic effect, her lumbering stroll that made us consistently afraid for her own safety. She didn't just give us a tour, she gave us her lifestyle.

3. The God's Country Georgia Boys: Emily and I are both actors and we are both assholes so we spent a large majority of our trip putting on terrible fake southern accents and mocking the southern lifestyle. Until we met the Georgia boys. While waiting for sweet, sweet Ginine to start her tour we were sitting on rocking chairs on the porch drinking sweet tea (It was like To Kill a Mockingbird, Scout!) and four middle aged dudes on a boys trip from Georgia sat down beside us. "Y'all are down here from Canada? Now what brings Y'all down to God's Country?" the ringleader says. I answer him back in my apparently impossibly thick Canadian hoser accent which was greeted with shouts of laughter. All four men broke in to Bob and Doug MacKenzie style "Oh yeah eh? Whatcha talkin' a-boot!" They literally could not recover from how fucking dumb I sounded, way to give me a taste of my own medicine fellas! We all unleashed all the weird stereotypes we knew about each other, nothing they said about me was true, nothing I thought about them was true, it was a good lesson learned!

2. Stephen The MVP: Hands down my personal favourite friend we made over the whole trip was my boy Stephan! A server at this delicious southern fine dining restaurant "Husk," all locally grown food prepared in insane ways, with a new menu every single day. This was the Anthony Bourdain section of our road trip, because obviously. Stephen was one part Kenneth from 30 Rock, one part Will Forte in that one Mumford & Sons video, and one part Rumpelstiltskin's weird cousin who grew up in the deep south or something but trust me he was all parts perfection! It wasn't his lengthy beard, or ill fitting thick rim glasses, or hilarious plaid shirt and apron combo that endeared me to him. It was his honest and earnest delivery of some of the most southern sentences I've ever heard.

He had the most delightful and whimsical way about him! After ordering drinks "Ladies, may I please see your beverage documentation?" After ordering apps "Ladies, if I may suggest ordering our mains now, it would give your proteins a little extra time to relax to room temperature! After finishing our mains "Y'all have done some exemplary work here tonight, don't you let anyone tell y'all any different!" And ordering dessert "I will be right back with your dessert tools, Ladies!" He was stunning. It was the closest I've ever been to living in an actual sketch from Portlandia and I loved every minute of it! Not only was he stunning he also gave me a meal that made me shout "Fuck off!" at the plate after my first bite because it was so yummy and gave me a recommendation for a BBQ place that made me feel closer to God. He may have been an angel, I cannot confirm nor deny it!

1. The Spirit of Santa: Our first friend in Nashville, a server named Matt, sat down with us during our meal and told us all the cool local bars we had to go to if we wanted a truly local experience. "If you really want a Nashville experience you have to go to Santa's" he said and then explained to us a seven-day/week Karaoke bar inside a triple wide trailer run by a man known only as Santa because of his long white beard and giant beer belly. The next night, after not making it in to our top choice bar, we type Santa's in to our GPS. "Destination is on your left." Um, no this can't be a real thing! A trailer in a dirt parking lot, in a run down residential neighbourhood, covered with christmas lights and a neon sign that says "Cash Only! Beer Only! No Douche Bags!" At this point I started recounting the plot of the movie The Accused which I swear was shot there.

We walk in and it's like being at the other high school's party, about 20 people who all know each other, just hanging out in this dudes trailer. The bar has a paper sign above it listing all the beers, each with a reasonable $2 price tag. We order two PBR's and the bartender goes to the trailers kitchen fridge,opens a 2-4, and hands us our beers. So, that can't be legal, but it was amazing! After watching some impossibly drunk ladies sing the hits of Gretchen Wilson and Lou Reed we decide we have to leave before shit gets too weird. As we exit the screen door of the trailer we hear "Bye ladies, Y'all have a safe night naw, make good choices!" from a completely wasted man in a lawn chair. Though we never actually formally Met the man known as "Santa" his thrifty little business was absolutely stellar. I can only imagine if all the hipsters here in Toronto heard about that place! Oi Vey!

Nashville is an amazing city that has been steeped in Southern tradition, music, culture, BBQ sauce and whiskey. These are all things that I can get behind! Thank you to all of our amazing new friends, all of their amazing recommendations, and all of the awesome experiences they created for us! All Y'all are true gems!

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