You get to Lonesome Town, where the broken hearts stay (at least that’s what you’ve heard), and let’s say you’re looking for a place to spend the night, or a few weeks. Someone tells you to keep walking until you get to the end of Lonely Street where there’s a hotel that, paradoxically, is always crowded but always seems to have a room. Fine, you say, but the directions are vague. You find a place for lovers who wander. You’re too beat to wander, though, and if you’re in the more rural part of town, you’ll discover an army of people — nearly everyone who’s ever sang a country song, in fact (Patsy, Willie, Tammy, Emmylou, Don and Phil, George, Wanda) — asking “Where’s this place called Lonely Street?”
They’re all trying to find a dimly-lit area of town to weep, and you’d think that’d be easy enough to find in Lonesome Town. The area’s defining characteristic is Loneliness. But it gets confusing, because are you looking for Eddie Cochran’s Dark Lonely Street (all Lonely Streets advertise their lack of proper lighting and their gloomy shadows), or maybe Johnny “Pee Wee” Blaine’s Lonely Street To Hell (ok, maybe not that one: you’re lonely, but eternal damnation is not on your itinerary)?
It’s not that simple, you discover. There’s a Boulevard of Broken Dreams that looks promising; it either is the same as, or intersects, or runs parallel to, a Street of Sorrow, but seems over-populated with gigolos and gigolettes, and that might be more sensory stimulation than you’re in the frame of mind for. Why is this so confusing? All you want to do is walk up to the black-clad desk clerk, check in, and cry there in the gloom. Oh, there’s something!: but no, this isn’t Lonely Street, it’s Lonely Avenue. For God’s sake. This is the most depressing town. Some guy who lives on Lonely Avenue (Ray something, or Van or Jimi), points out the features of this neighborhood: his room has two windows that no sunlight gets through. “It’s always dark and dreary,” he says, and he sleeps with a pillow that feels like stone. Hmmm, maybe. If that hotel doesn’t work out.
There’s a dark end of the street. Maybe this is it. No, the people here are meeting to have illicit sex. They look guilty about it, and a little paranoid, but guilt and paranoia are at least exciting, and they are getting laid. This must be the wrong end of the wrong street. Let’s go back to the brochure:
In the town of broken dreams
The streets are filled with regret
Maybe down in Lonesome Town
I can learn to forget
So Lonesome Town and the Town of Broken Dreams are the same place? One thing about Lonesome Town, it’s affordable: “The only price you pay is a heart full of tears.” That you’ve got. The problem is that you need a place to squander your tearful resources. Maybe you got off at the wrong bus stop? Maybe this isn’t Lonesome Town at all, but Lonesome Old Town, the one that’s less gentrified and doesn’t even have a hotel. Frank lives there. Can you crash at his place? Probably not. He’s kind of a surly cat and man, does he sound depressed. You don’t need to be around him right now. Oh, fuck, you got the whole thing messed up. It’s not Lonesome Town, or Lonesome Old Town (or Lonelyville: thanks for the bad advice, Porter), it’s Lonely Town. Of course it is: Lonely Town — not to be mixed up with Lone Lonely Town, a suburb of Motown, it looks like — Lonely Avenue, Lonely Street, and to get there you take the Long Lonely Highway (a road to Nowhere, Elvis says, but I think he means that metaphorically). You reach the end of Lonely Street, finally, and find a new place to dwell.