Fido’s in Hillsboro Village is full of aging hipsters, sleepy-eyed grad students, and young families who’ve stumbled over from the children’s hospital in a haze of hunger and worry.
There are only a few people in line ahead of us, and when we approach the counter to order our breakfast, I can’t be sure, but I think I see a hint of recognition pass over our barrista’s face. If she knows the man I’m with, she does a good job of keeping it from him.
He gets a breakfast burrito and an elaborate drink involving honey. I get a bagel and some fruit.
A table opens up right before we need it and I’m immediately suspicious. I search the faces of the people at the surrounding tables, but I’m met with the visages of people who appear to be lost in their own thoughts.
I remind myself to be cautious and I sit down.
“Aren’t you going to get some coffee?” He asks. He’s an imposing figure, with a pleasant smile and a smooth almost graceful way about him. I take a deep breath and make some joke about having only been there a couple of times before. “Go ahead,” he smiles. “Steal some.”
I’m pretty sure he’s joking, but when I go up to the counter, they have a cup ready for me. A friendly girl with dark eyes hands it over to me and tells met to go ahead. She won’t take my money.
I pick the coffee called Mud. I fill my cup and sit down.
Most folks will tell you that the blogging powerhouse in Nashville is Mr. Roboto, a veritable Blogfather, if you will. Most folks are wrong.
The real power behind the throne, the man they call the Kingmaker, is the amiable pleasant man before me. A man they say is responsible for the untimely end of at least one prominent Nashville blog. I know if I’m going to have any success in this town, I’ve got to get the blessing of the Kingmaker.
I begin. I tell him about how Tiny Cat Pants started out small, as just a way for me to keep from emailing the same boring crap to all my friends and how one day I found myself with a lot of readers. He nods and says he’s seen me around in places he didn’t expect.
I can’t tell if that’s good or if he’s angry that I’ve expanded so quickly before coming to find him. I keep talking.
He picks up the camera he’s had sitting on the table and begins to snap pictures. I’m scared shitless, but I try not to show it. I’ve heard the rumors about the wall of bloggers in that room in his house, about how he sits in his big chair and points to one after another asking his dog, “Is this the one we do in today? Is this the one we do in today?” No one is sure what signal the dog gives, but whatever it is, there’s no reprieve.
We chat pleasantly for a long time and I start to relax. He smiles conspiratorially at me and asks, “So, do you think Jon Jackson is always at that Applebee’s?”
And, for a minute, I forget who I’m with. I smile back and say, “Oh, sure.” And there it is. I slap my hand over my mouth, but it’s too late. The Kingmaker leans back in his chair and looks over his shoulder. A small girl starts crying and a family gets up to leave.
“There,” he says, “That was easy enough. Welcome to the big leagues, B.”
I gather my things together and rush out. I’ve got my blessing–a link at Nashville is Talking and a link at Pith in the Wind–but at what cost? At what cost?