A perk of living in Nashville is that with all the musicians in town, you’re generally just one degree of separation away from a major has-been. Maybe you’re picking up your dry cleaning when you realize that what’s-his-name from Steppenwolf is dropping off his dirty laundry right beside you. Or you’re waiting on an espresso at Fido when the guy from Winger walks through the door.
Or you might be dropping off your stepdaughter’s best friend in her cookie-cutter subdivision when you learn that Cinderella lives two doors down.
“Well, a band named Cinderella,” little Jenny qualified. "The bassist lives right there, and these other guys come over and play music all the time.” She pointed to a trim and tidy two-story brick house.
"Cinderella? In Bellevue?!" I cried. "But they were huge in the ’80s!” I noted some skepticism in my rearview mirror. "You know that song, I’m not your fool, nobody’s fool, nobody’s foooooool…." Despite my convincingly screechy falsetto, all I got from the backseat were uncomprehending stares.
"Well, anyway, they were big." I said gleefully. Oh, this was rich. Cinderella had gone suburban. Just like me.
“You want to see big.” Jenny informed me. “Wait’ll Halloween. Last year, he dressed as Dracula and gave out the candy himself.”
I wanted to see big all right. When Halloween rolled around, my baby and I were the first trick-or-treaters in Cinderella’s neighborhood.
Nervously, I climbed the stairs to the front door. Would there be groupies inside? Metalheads? Good Lord, Cinderella would probably invite me in to party with them.
Suddenly, the door opened. A tired-looking young woman in a witch costume gave me the once over.
"Hi," she said flatly, dumping some candy bars in Baby's trick-or-treat bag as I, grinning uncontrollably, peered around her and strained to see inside. I spotted a Barcalounger and a potted plant. Eh. Where were the pentagrams? The empty vodka bottles?
“Trick or treat!” I said with a wink, hoping she’d realize that underneath my mommy veneer, I was one of them. She grunted in response and shut the door.
It wasn’t a good feeling, being rejected by Cinderella. Still, I wasn’t ready to give up.
After the Halloween incident, I would look for signs of Cinderella whenever I was at Jenny’s house. But the kings (er, princesses?) of the metal movement might as well have any ordinary suburban family. The garage remained shut, the windows shaded.
Until one sunny day when I pulled into Jenny’s driveway, there he was. Cinderella. Sitting on his front porch.
It was go time.
"OK, here's the deal," I told my stepdaughter, who was sitting beside me. "We're going to drive right up to Cinderella and sing, "Don't know whatcha got till it's gone!" as loud as we can out the window. Then we'll just drive away."
"OK," she said, excitedly, rolling down her window. I drove down to the other end of the street and circled back. This was gonna be good.
Then, about two houses away, I froze.
"What's wrong?" my stepdaughter asked as I stopped short on the street.
"I. Can't. Do. It." I gasped.
"Yes you can," she insisted. "Let's go!"
“Yeah,” I said weakly. The car rolled forward a few feet, then jolted to a stop.
"I can't," I said, shocked at my own stage fright. Down the street, Cinderella turned in his lawn chair and stared at our car. The look in his eyes seemed to say, Come on, get it over with.
It was no use. My nerve had broken free and flown right out the open window. My face burning in shame, I drove around the cul-de-sac, not even pausing for devil fingers as I passed Cinderella and headed home.
It was then that I realized I was experiencing the painful symptoms of becoming a boring, comfortable-shoe-wearing grown-up. Surely Cinderella felt the same way when he signed the papers on his three-bedroom, two-bath piece of the American Dream. In a weird way, Cinderella and I knew each other well.
I decided on that fateful day not to let the plastic people mentality overtake me. Cinderella wouldn’t want it that way. Instead, I will haunt that cul-de-sac until he decides it’s safe to come back outside again. I’ll jump out of my car, stride confidently onto his postage stamp lawn, and sing every word to “Nobody's Fool” with gusto. And I will play air guitar like I’ve never played it before.
Cinderella will look me in the eye and say, “Dude. Get off my lawn before I call the cops.” And we will smile at each other, acknowledging for one brief moment a true meeting of the minds, before I turn, squealing and run back to my car.