Along the tour, amidst the summer, there was Nashville.
Our newest store. On a corner in East Nashville that sprung to life early this summer with a perfect arrangement of goings on. There is a great little restaurant called Silly Goose, a tiny-kitchened joint doing big, delicious things. And there is Ugly Mugs right next door. Fantastic coffee, great space. In front of our shop, we’ve got lots of space to hang around outside, and it feels vibrant on that once lonely corner on the southeast side of Eastland Avenue.
There is a spirit to Nashville that is hard to describe. Connections made there are deep. There is emotion in Nashville, which is why there is so much music being created there, I suppose.
On the day we opened our store there, as I was chatting with the team, revving them up, a handsome man and a very little girl approached outside. As I always do, I let them in. It was Emil Congdon, the man behind the independent Nashville operation known as Emil Erwin. Emil had brought me a welcome gift, one of his Emil Erwin bags.
If you don’t know who these folks are, go here and read up. You’re going to fall head over heels for them. I met Emil’s wife, Leslie, last year while having coffee in Hot & Cold. She was getting our ice cream and I asked about the bag she was carrying. She said her husband makes them and that they had a business. We chatted a while about babies and other things, and decided to keep in touch. I also decided that I would own one of those bags.
When I got home, I realized I was going to have to sell a lot more ice cream to afford one. Emil makes leather things the way we make ice creams. That is to say, with attention to every single detail. From sourcing the leather to cutting and sewing, each step is personal for Emil.
The bag is heavy, slightly bulky, and there's nothing tech, or modern about it. It's been with me on every stop of the book tour this summer. On my shoulder, it's been my only constant companion. It’s been with me in every airport, under those little airplane seats, on every flight. It gives me strength, and I'm certain that if I jumped into it, I would come out the other side Annie Oakley charging through New Mexico at full gallop, rifle on my shoulder.
That bag has not been out of my sight once since I got it...until last Sunday.
I was in a cloud after returning to Columbus last Sunday after the tour wrapped up in Chicago In. A. Cloud. I went to Target and dazily returned home. Friends came over. Party in full swing. And I am looking for my bag. Sinking feeling. I knew it was gone. It was nowhere to be found.
I have no interest and little tolerance for expensive material things. But, this bag is different. It’s a handmade treasure, with the patina of this summer all over it. An artifact that I will pass on to my grandchildren. Panic washed over me. The bag was a gift, a wonderful gift. A beautiful welcoming to Nashville, a city I am in love with from a family that I am very fond of. The bag is to me what tattoos are to some people. It's a reminder of where I have been, and for someone who ALWAYS looks forward and almost never looks back (sometimes to a fault), a really grounding thing.
I have never wanted to open mouth kiss a stranger, but when the woman at lost and found in Target told me a “cart guy” found my Emil Erwin bag in a cart and returned it safely to Guest Services, I would have gone all in, had he been in front of me, on that kiss. How can I express the gratitude I feel? It’s beautiful. Thank you, Cart Guy. And thank you, Emil and Leslie for everything.