Beyond Words
(from June 2011 issue of Nashville Arts Magazine)
By Marshall Chapman

It’s amazing how quickly life can go from absolute pits to heaven within a matter of minutes. Take what happened last weekend. My husband Chris and I had flown to Key West for the Key West Songwriters Festival. We had heard good things about the festival and were excited to be participating. The festival had even taken care of our accommodations and ground transportation, which helped offset the cost of our airline tickets.

After landing, we were whisked away in a large, pink-striped van along with four or five other songwriters, most of whom we knew. One by one, the van dropped the other songwriters off at charming hotels and inns in the Old Town section of Key West, which is where all the good restaurants and festival venues are located.

Imagine our surprise when we found ourselves the only remaining passengers, as the van exited Old Town and begin heading out North Roosevelt Boulevard. As the landscape became less charming and more corporate (i.e., Burger King, Wendy’s, etc.), my heart began to sink. “I think we’re in the wrong hotel,” I said under my breath.

Chris, who is nearly always upbeat, remained silent. Even the driver was silent, as he dropped us off at our hotel, which was located between an IHOP and a McDonald’s. As we lugged our bags into the air-conditioned lobby, I’m thinking, Oh, my God, what’s that smell?

“Chris!” I cried. “They’ve got chemical air fresheners in the lobby! . . . in Key West!” I immediately rolled my bag back out to the curb, where I sat down in the heat and humidity. Meanwhile, Chris called our festival contact who advised us to stay the night in this hotel, while they tried to find us something in Old Town. From the curb, I called an old friend in South Carolina, who has spent most of her adult life working with Jimmy Buffett. When I told her where we were, she exclaimed, “Oh, that’s not Key West! You need to be at the Island City House. Here’s their number. Call them, and if you have any problems, call me back.”

I dialed the number and got a recording saying the office was closed and the inn sold out. So I called my friend again. “Okay. Stay put, I’m going to make another call.”

Long story short. We ended up staying at Jimmy Buffett’s house in the middle of Old Town on a quiet street not found on any map. Actually, it was two modest but tasteful houses on either side of a raised deck surrounding a salt-water pool. The bottom of the pool featured a tile mosaic … of a shark. A jungly garden rendered the property completely private.

Chris refers to our reversal of fortune as “the ninety-minute miracle.”