Friday, February 17, 2012

Pickin & Grinnin’ Part 1

This past Monday at 3 in the afternoon I turned my Saturn Vue onto the I-65 entrance ramp and headed south to Nashville for the second time in 3 weeks.  I had two destinations planned for this trip to Music City USA.

The first was a visit to the Tennessee branch of Antique Archeology, the retail store owned by the stars of the History Channel program “American Pickers”.

The show follows the adventures of Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz as they travel the country looking for “rusty gold”. They look for bargains on old items that they can restore and resell for profit. I have been a fan of the show for the last couple of years

Armed with “NoVa”, my GPS, to guide me to the store’s exact location, I made the familiar journey down I-65 to the Volunteer state’s capitol city. As it turned out the Antique Archeology store was in a section of Nashville west of the downtown area; just off Charlotte Avenue.

I got off the highway at the exit Paula and I took just 2 weeks ago to get to the Tennessee Performing Arts Center where we saw “Spamalot”. It’s also the exit to get to our bariatric surgeon’s office and the hospital where we had our weight loss surgeries. Being in this part of the Nashville was like going to visit an “old friend.”

I found the American Picker’s store on Clinton Avenue, a street filled with old warehouse buildings converted into private businesses. The area looks very run down. In fact there were a couple of pretty dilapidated looking houses just across the street from the store. (When’s the last time you saw the word “dilapidated” used in a sentence?) If I hadn’t seen the “Antique Archeologist” truck sitting in the driveway in front of the warehouse door I might not have even found the store.

I parked and walked up the ramp to the entrance. Sitting out front was a green Vespa scooter. A curious peek at the hand written price tag told me could e mine for a mere $1925. If I was looking for a small scooter it would have fostered a closer look. It was very nicely restored.

I walked in and was completely surprised by what; or should I say “who “, I saw. To my left standing right in front of the sales counter was Mike Wolfe, one of the American Pickers. I never even gave a thought to the possibility that he would be there. I found out later that the entire cast (Mike, Frank and their Iowa store manager and assistant, Danielle) were all in Nashville for some TV taping during the week.

The first thing I thought, after realizing I was looking at one of the stars of a TV show I watch every week, was that I needed to go back to my car and get my camera. I practically ran both ways. On the way back I realized that I was a bit over excited as I tend to be in surreal moments in my life. Taking a mental step back I tried to play it “cool”. I told myself “Don’t act like a star struck tourist.”

I walked around the store. It was about 90 feet square with all kinds of antiques and restored “treasures”. It filled with the kind of thing Mike & Frank buy from their picks on the show.  But isn’t that the point?

There wasn’t much that interested me. I liked the big shoe sitting on the shelf. I couldn’t help but think of several jokes about Ed Sullivan and a few other comic premises. 

The back wall of the store was filled with bins of T-shirts with various logos and slogans on them.

Ironically, I didn’t take a picture of the one thing I really liked an old photo booth. At the center of the room was a little sitting area set off by an “L” formed by a couch and a love seat.   
 Mike was busy talking to other patrons.  I was about make a move to go up and talk to him. But as I crossed in front of it the door opened and in walked a woman dressed in what I can only describe as a drum majorette uniform; complete with laced boots with big gold button fasteners. I don’t know who she was, where she came from, or why she was dressed that way. I never even had the chance to ask.  

She went right up to Mike and greeted him in a way that made it obvious that she was a friend. I overheard part of their conversation. Mike was talking about his newborn son. I’m not sure of the details but I overheard Mike mentioned something to the woman about “the baby’s surgery” being scheduled. That’s all I caught and didn’t think it appropriate to mention it later on. They went and sat down in the seating area as they continued their conversation.

I browsed around the shop again just killing time. I really was finished looking around but didn’t want to leave without talking to Mike. As I tried to wait as patiently and politely as I could I decided to pick out a t-shirt and refrigerator magnet.

After a few minutes the woman left and I got to talk to Mike. He was cordial and friendly. I asked him if he ever came across any old ventriloquist figures during his picks. He asked if I was a ventriloquist and I told him, “Yes.” He then said that he used to do ventriloquism when he was a kid in 3rd grade. He had a vent figure of his own that he said bought from a guy who was on ‘The Gong Show’.

Bushkill Park in Easton, Pennsylvania.

I told him I spent a good part of my childhood at the park and the roller skating rink. He mentioned that he still had the “OPEN” sign that hung outside the skating rink building. I didn’t ask him if it was for sale or how much he wanted for it. I was just too caught up in the moment of actually talking to Mike Wolf from American Pickers. It was so surreal.

Finally I asked him to take a picture with me. The attractive blond woman who was working behind the counter snapped the shot. Mike was cool about the picture doing his trademark finger gun point at me. 

After the pictures, I shook Mike’s hand, told him it was a pleasure to meet him. I paid for my shirt and magnet then I left. Even if nothing else the least bit interesting had happened to me in Nashville that day; those few minutes, which I never expected to happen, was worth the trip.

I know this is a long post but at this point I had only done one of the two things I came to Nashville for. My night would conclude in a talk with the author of the book I am currently reading. But that wouldn’t happen until I had some laughs. I’ll have more on that in my next post. 

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