December 2017

By Marshall Chapman

Photograph by Anthony Scarlati

For twenty years—from 1977 until 1997—I lived on the top floors of two mid-town high-rises. The first ten were at the Americana Apartments. And yes, I could write a book. (Several volumes, in fact.)

At one point, my boyfriend, the art critic Dave Hickey, and my band (Jaded Virgin) lived at the Americana—Dave in 302, and the band in Hell Hole 305, which is what my drummer named it, since four of them were crammed into a one- bedroom. I was three floors up, in 704. I loved that apartment because it was on the top floor. The only thing above me was the swimming pool on the roof.

I had no furniture to speak of. But after my song “Betty’s Bein’ Bad” hit the Billboard charts, I went out and bought a midnight-blue leather sofa and a Chinese porcelain lamp. Then, when the royalty checks really started pouring in, my financial advisor suggested I buy a place. So I began looking around.

I almost bought a little house in Sylvan Park, but then noticed a new building going up across from the Americana. One morning before sunrise, I walked over to the construction site. After scaling the chain-link fence, I climbed some exposed concrete stairs to the eighth floor. Then I sat out on a ledge and watched the sun come up. I could live here, I thought. So I ended up buying that place—a two-bedroom unit with two balconies that became known as the Sky Palace. I lived there from 1987 until 1997.

Long story short. In 1991 I met a man who later became my husband. For five years, we lived in the Sky Palace. Then we moved. He wanted a house for us. And had spotted one in the Richland–West End neighborhood. So we bought it. After a sixteen-month renovation, we called it our Born-again Bungalow. We lived there, mostly happily, for fourteen years. Then we got divorced. I continued living in the house for three more years.

I will be sixty-nine in January. In China, that means I’ll be seventy. That’s because in China, your first birthday is the day you come out of your mother. But regardless, I am ready to downsize. And I’m done with gardening. It’s like I woke up one morning and someone had flipped a switch.

So I bought a two-bedroom high-rise in a brand new building near Centennial Park. It has a salt-water pool, a weight room, and a spectacular roof-top lounge. But best of all, my unit is on the top floor with floor-to-ceiling windows and a balcony that faces west.

I recently stood on that balcony, entranced as big gray clouds moved in from the west. Every now and then, a shaft of sunlight burst through one of the clouds. It looked like God was holding a press conference in the sky.

Marshall Chapman is a Nashville-based singer/songwriter, author, and actress. For more information, visit www.tallgirl.com.

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