Marlene grew up in Ridgetop, just outside of Nashville, Tennessee.  Ridgetop was a small town where the air was laced with booze and the men even more so. Marlene proudly called this shabby town her home but, then again, she didn’t really have much to compare it to. 

In her early 20s, Marlene felt the life in Ridgetop was becoming too claustrophobic. The locals became strangers and the blazing Tennessee sun became suffocating. If she weren’t prone to patience, she would’ve run. Instead, Marlene vowed that when she made $4000 she would leave Ridgetop. She had a bad case of California Dreamin’ and longed for the excitement in L.A and the red-tile roofs in Santa Barbara. 

She got a job as a waitress at Bob and Duke’s, a shabby bar that made her clothes reek of cigarettes and bad decisions. At first, she stumbled with pouring shots of Jack and opening sticky bottles of Bud, but as she took more shifts, the nights became less intimidating and became more mundane. She began learning the names and orders of the regulars. Johnny liked a double whiskey sour with two lemons and Carter liked a warm beer with a shot of bourbon on the side. Carter was a strapping, young country boy with a charming smile and a crude sense of humour. Marlene had too many dreams of her own to pay Carter much attention but she didn’t mind calling him her boyfriend. 

On May 1, 1985, 3 years after her first day and long after earning $4000, Bob and Duke’s awarded her with employee of the month. Marlene wasn’t too surprised with this as she was the only one who showed up to her shifts on time. With her prestigious award came a bottle of SoCo and a photo on the wall behind the bar. The bottle of SoCo was done within the week, but the photo stayed up on the wall. 

Twenty years later, Marlene still lives in Ridgetop. You can sometimes find her at Bob and Duke’s staring at that same photo of her behind the bar, still dreaming of California. 

Story by Izzy Ahrbeck

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