For Whom Last Call Tolls
There’s more to "last call" than the final drink of the night.
Yesterday marked the four-year-anniversary of the publication of my book, Last Call. To mark the occasion I’m including an essay I wrote for PUNCH that was published on September 27, 2019. This snapshot captures the physical and psychic toll of looming deadlines and being on the road for weeks at a time traveling across America, embedding myself at late-night bars for days on end. I’m also sharing some photo outtakes from the book from my creative partner and longtime collaborator, photographer Ed Anderson.
“For Whom Last Call Tolls”
Late on a sticky summer evening, the photographer Ed Anderson and I walked into yet another bar. Or at least we tried to, as the bouncer at Robert’s Western World, the famous Nashville honky-tonk, blocked our way, informing us that there was a “situation” inside.
We stood outside and waited for things to settle down. The competing sounds of live music spilling out from open windows of the nearby bars and clubs had the effect of someone constantly spinning the dial on a car radio, unable to settle on a station. Eventually, an ambulance arrived and an older woman was brought out of Robert’s on a stretcher. The ambulance pulled away, its flashing lights mingling with the glow from the neon signs lining Broadway as we joined the stream of people crowding back inside. While Ed worked the room taking photos, I found a seat at the bar and ordered their signature Recession Special—a fried bologna sandwich, a bag of chips and a PBR for $5. I was stressed and exhausted from all the travel and late nights (12 cities in 12 days on the latest swing), and as Hazel Jones and The Rhinestoners kicked into “Delta Dawn,” I started to tear up like I do when I watch the final montage in the last episode of Band of Brothers. My body and brain were telling me it might be time to take a break, but a looming book deadline hung over my head.