Another lazy summer’s day has come to an end. I spent a little time working on clearing out the spare bedroom in order to convert it into a studio so I can play around with my photography since the summer heat here in the South seems to be settling in for the long haul now and outside work is miserable. Very rarely do I get in the cleaning zone, but today I found myself there. I put some records on really loud and just organized things. It was actually a little relaxing, and gave me something to occupy the time since diversions are hard to come by here in the country and trips to places where there is actually something to do are few and far between. It’s this time of year when simple trips to the grocery store in the nearby town become to-dos.
As I write, I’m watching Cairo Time starring the magnificent Patricia Clarkson. It’s nice so far, very subtle, but visually stunning. I just painted my nails a lovely shade of lilac, and I’m carefully picking out the letters on the keyboard as not to screw the coat up. I’m also listening to my very silly cat yowling out on the loft outside my room. His yowl sounds like “Hello?” It’s very cute.
The purpose of this post is not to inform you about my manicure decisions or my strange and wonderful feline, but to write the long-awaited (well, probably not) account of our adventures at our photography gig the weekend before last. Over all, I think it was a successful weekend for the studio. The event was small and for its type had the usual amount of good, well-researched interpreters and not so good or well-researched reenactors. I have to put my critical historian’s gaze on the back burner, though, when we go out since everyone’s money spends the same, and I’m there to sell images, no more, no less. It was our first one out with the new, big tent, which proved to be a good purchase and a valid field studio. It even held up well and dismantled easily in the thunderstorm that cut things short for us Sunday morning. I was also very pleased with the quality of images we produced once we figured out the exposure times in the tent. I think we were really on the ball, and we had a enjoyable time working.
Here’s where our habit as a family of continually coming across the most interesting people by chance comes into play. I’m a bit of a wuss when it comes to primitive camping which is a usual part of the whole interpretive thing a lot of the time. I tolerate it when all I have to do is get up the next morning and interact minimally with the public, but when I have to be on my game making customers happy, I need a shower and good night’s sleep to do so. My mom, being the kind and loving (and long suffer of my idiosyncrasies) mother that she is, tried to make arrangements to find us some less than primitive accommodations. She ran across a man who had restored a mid-nineteenth century farmhouse and turned it into a b&b. He has since closed it as a b&b but after my mom’s uncanny knack for striking accords via email with total strangers came into play, the owner, who happens to be the famous CanJoe*John, invited us to stay with him. Unfortunately, a death in Jon’s family days before the event precluded us from staying with him, but he did make it to the event Saturday and offered to let us come to his house for a tour that evening. It is quite the place and filled with the most fascinating artifacts John has either collected or inherited (or invented) over his lifetime. He is far more than the inventor of the CanJoe and a brilliant musician. His medical knowledge and experience is amazing especially in the realm of eye health, and his historical knowledge is also just as flooring. Also, a sweeter, more welcoming man one could not meet. He’s one of those people about whom you wonder when they actually have time to sleep as he is always doing or creating something. He’s quite extraordinary and is full of the most interesting stories. I won’t share them here, as they are not mine to tell, but I certainly enjoyed hearing him tell them.
That’s John demonstrating his flipping amazing electric CanJoe. I again remind you that he invented that instrument and builds them custom order. You just have to provide the can. Here’s his website, by the way.
By the time we left John’s that night, the long day of labor had finally caught up to us, and all we wanted was food and preferably beer to go with it. Unfortunately getting beer meant driving several miles up the road to a different town with better dining options, and we were so worn out that we settled for the Cracker Barrel next to our hotel. Cracker Barrels do not serve alcohol, by the way. We usually aren’t fans of that chain by a long shot, but at that point we had assumed the “screw it” attitude.
We were shown to our table by the very East Tennessean hostess and told Mason would be serving us that evening. Well, when Mason showed up promptly to our table, a very un-East Tennessean, New York accent fell out of his mouth. The moment he spoke was one of those surreal ones that makes one do an immediate double-take, and It took a great deal of willpower not to shake my head and exclaim “HUH?” I’ve been around enough people from the City between school and our familial unit’s remarkable knack for attracting displaced New Yorkers as friends to know what someone from the City sounds like. After he left, Mom and I turned to each other with quizzical expressions and I said, “Call me crazy, but he’s from New York.” After he came back a couple of times, Mom finally asked him where he originated and sure enough he was Bronx born and raised (I guessed right on that too ha ha!) That precipitated a how-the-hell-did-you-end-up-in-small-town-East-TN question, which produced a I-just-had-to-get-out-of-the-City response, which then led to a very good conversation with Mason who was excited to find people in that neck of the woods who could talk with him about his homeland. Strangely enough, after telling him what brought us to the area, he revealed himself as a reenactor and history major himself, though he is into the Vietnam and WWII Soviet eras. He thought we were pretty okay as we did him, and kept coming back just to chat with us, which was quite fun even after the long day we had.
As we left the restaurant we all three just looked at each other and burst into laughter collectively saying, “What are the odds?” And really, what are the odds? How do we always seem to find the one displaced New Yorker in a such in such mile radius who also happens to be into historical reenactments, or the inventor of the CanJoe and a device that revolutionized ocular surgery? Yes, my friends, we are collectors, of strange and wonderful acquaintances who seem to be drawn to us like moths to a flame in our adventures, and I would not have it any other way.