Preparing to shoot a few segments of Big Jon in 5 for BEER2WHISKEY in our upstairs studio at Barley's Taproom in downtown Greenville. That's owner Josh Beebe preparing for his closeup.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Sixty Nissans and Nashville's Broadway: I'm on Sensory Overload!

Nashville's Broadway.
I'm not the kind of guy who stays out honky tonkin' until all hours of the morning – at least not any more. I can go late and spring out of bed on time the next morning once in a while, but stringing two or three until-the-wee-hours nights together takes its toll. In the words of that profound poet Toby Keith: “I'm not as good as I once was, but I am as good once as I ever was.” Or something to that effect.

Filled with over-inflated bravado, I still manage the old saw: “I'll sleep when I'm dead,” when confronted with the choice of going out on the town with friends or heading to my hotel room to climb into my nice, cozy bed. However, as I creep closer to the “dead” thing, I'm paying an ever steeper price for my glibness.

I'm not simply realizing my mortality; I am smashing into the reality of it like Wylie Coyote rocketing into the tunnel painted on the side of a red-rock wall. And, it really smarts.

The Belle Meade mansion anchoring Nissan's Product Day event.
I am musing over this because I am freshly returned from Nissan's Product Day in Nashville where, when confronted with the choice of hitting the sack or hitting downtown's Broadway two nights in a row, I – true to form – chose the latter. 

The lobby area of Omni Nashville.
I arrived in Nashville late the afternoon of the first day. Nissan once again put us up at the Omni, just a couple of blocks off Broadway. Ideal housing for such an event, its main lounge is Barlines. It's arranged to spotlight live entertainment. When we're there with Nissan, the hospitality suite is a smaller bar just off the main room. It's sort of like being backstage. 

View of Barlines stage from the hospitality suite.
Sadly, World Cup games took center stage while we were there, postponing the afternoon's live music both days until the dinner hour. One of our bartenders told me they tried the first day of the World Cup to show the game on the big screen sans sound and keep the normal live-entertainment schedule. Several of the fans gathered to watch the game threw a tantrum. 

Barlines is the ideal room to listen to some live music.
Fans of American football are quite accustomed to watching a specific game in a multi-screen sports bar without the benefit of hearing the commentary. Apparently, though, in soccer, the game is so nuanced even a diehard fan can't keep up with what's going on without a commentator filling in the blanks. “Oh, they are running this way; now they are running that way. Oh my, Soandso is down, rolling around holding his knee, but no foul was called. They are running this way and now that way. Soandso attempted a score, but (The “of course” here is implied.) he missed. Now they are running this way and now that way....” How could a fan possibly keep up with all that breath-taking action on his own? I suspect with soccer fans' penchant for rioting, the Omni didn't want to take any chances and rolled over for them. So, we missed out on some good live music.

Why, yes, I'd like to familiarize myself with four bourbons I've never tasted before.
What we didn't miss out on was a terrific selection of local craft brews and distilled potables. I was particularly smitten with Franklin-based Turtle Anarchy's Portly Stout. We also got a mini bourbon tasting of four boutique bourbons. Here, it was Virginia-distilled John J. Bowman Single Barrel that knocked me out. 

Some pickin' and grinnin' at Robert's Western World.
Nissan whisked us off to an Italian joint called Moto for dinner that evening. Everything served family style was good, but the meatball appetizer was boffo. After dinner several of us meandered to Broadway where we partied into the night at Robert's Western World. Great music and cold beer. What more could you ask for?

Clare Bowen took us into lunch.
On day two we shuttled our way to one of Belle Meade's many mansions. This one, it turned out, plays the role of the home of TV's “Nashville” character Rayna Jaymes. And, “Nashville” star Clare Bowen entertained us with a short pre-lunch concert. Cute, friendly and talented, she proved a wonderful midday break.

Nissan assembled some 60 examples of its vehicles for our amusement and edification. 

Mmmmm...the GT-R.
When exposed to such full-line product opportunities, I concentrate on things that I don't typically get to drive. In this case, I gravitated to the high-roof NV Cargo Van, the NV200 Taxi, and the Nismo versions of its cars like the Juke and GT-R. I also took a swing at what is essentially the Maxima Nismo mule. It's the testbed for a Nismo-like suspension in Maxima.

Nissan NV Cargo Van High Roof.
In my limited tests of the NV Cargo and Passenger Vans, I am always impressed with their civility and user friendliness. The high-roof version of the NV Cargo Van is chock full of creative features making its customization to fit nearly any need a simple proposition. The NYC taxi cab was just fun, but it's easy to see why it was so warmly received in New York.

Juke Nismo.
Nismo is Nissan's souped-up trim line. Finding the “Nismo” badge on any Nissan promises a great time behind the wheel. Even the quirky Juke with the Nismo once over morphs into an enthusiast machine. It should come as no surprise that I love driving the GT-R. My week with this asphalt gobbler last year numbers among my favorite experiences from more than 25 years in this business. The Nismo version, however, is another step up the performance ladder from the vanilla GT-R. It'll set you back $150,000 – which is why one isn't sitting in my driveway every day – but it's only money, right?

After dinner, the party moved to Legend's.
Dinner that evening was at Nashville's Watermark. Specializing in upscale southern food, it was wonderful. Of course, after dinner we once again adjourned to Broadway. Our little band of merrymakers was somewhat smaller for round two than the night before.

Let's, two, three, four, one, two, three.....
We walked into Legends as the bands were changing. A couple of cold beers later, the second-shift band broke into song. A little dancing was in order. I am 100% “white boy” on the dance floor. It's not pretty. I realize my shortcomings; consequently, I must be well lubricated before tripping the light fandango. The issue is, once I am sufficiently lubricated, my balance and judgment are in serious jeopardy. Cherise with Nissan was my victim. As always, she was a good sport about it; not squealing too loudly as I danced on her feet as well as mine. I hope she is healed for her wedding in a couple of weeks.

Get a good look. You'll never see me on a Karaoke stage again.
We headed out of Legend's, embarking on a several-block walk. Had I known where we were going, I might have opted to head back to the Omni. We wound up at the Wild Beaver Bar for Karaoke night. Ugh. I typically avoid Karaoke at all costs, but, my will power gone several beers earlier,  I was swept to Wild Beaver by a wave of drunks.

Had they been passing out trophies for pure guts, several of our little band would have returned home a winner. For talent? Not so much. I even got on stage for a group sing. I was so far along by this point, I have no clue what we sang, but, like everyone else, I sang my heart out.

I walked into my room at the Omni at 2:30 a.m. I had an early flight out that morning and set my alarm for 6:15. By the time I reached Greenville-Spartanburg Airport around 1:30 p.m., I felt as though I had been on the red-eye from Maui.

Having fun is hard.

(NOTE: I have since been reminded our Karaoke belt out was Buffett's "Why Don't We Get Drunk and Screw." A few of us, at least, managed the first part of that directive.)

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