Category Archives: Music

Spring Break

Hello again, everyone! Hey, did you hear that 500 new fairytales were recently released from an archive in Germany? That’s pretty exciting for every lover of the fantastical like me. I just wonder how long it will take for Disney to ruin them ha ha ha.

But anyway, enough of that side note. Spring break is in full swing. I am, as tradition holds, watching Netflix while avoiding the mountain of school work that needs attending to. I’m back home in Tennessee for the week trying to enjoy a little r&r and ma famille. The weather is divine as well, sunny and cool, just as early March should be. We’ve had two fires in the fireplace since I got in Sunday night, and I get to shuffle around the house in sweaters and thick socks. It’s lovely.

It’s actually been a rather eventful past few days. Mom and Dad came down to pick me up in Gainesville on Saturday having dodged then braved storms all the way from Nashville to south Georgia. That night they officially met the lad for the first time. I don’t exactly have a great track record for picking guys that pass muster. I could not have asked for a more different and exponentially better outcome this Saturday past. Both parties enjoyed each other immensely, and we all had a lovely dinner. It was quite adorable because both sides asked the next day what the other thought of them. I was happy to give satisfactory reports all around.

As much as I hate to admit emotional weakness and general gooey-eyedness, I am miss the lad a lot. It’s our first significant amount of time apart since we started up. I’m starting to wonder how we’re going to make it through three months when I leave for Nashville come May. Oh yeah, I’ll be living in Nashville over the summer completing an internship at the Tennessee State Museum working with some photography collections and getting to work on some of the programs done across the state. I’m looking forward to it very much. Although I will be very busy and close to my friends and family again, I will miss Ryan greatly. But what’s that Rochefoucauld quotation, “Absence diminishes small loves and increases great ones, as the wind blows out the candle and fans the bonfire.” I’m banking on that being the case.

Enough of that business, though. I got to spend the entire day yesterday in the studio. I was also on fire. Out of seven plates, only one turned out slightly less than what I wanted. That never happens. I will freely admit I have expended five or six plates just to get one shot perfectly. I have a senior picture shoot with a local student Thursday so I hope the winning streak lasts.

Well, I think I have probably wasted enough time, and I should get onto my Ethics homework. I will leave you with two more things, though. Last Friday Ryan and I spent time listening to and sharing music with each other. The fact that we can do this is very important to me. We both share a love for La Blogothèque‘s Take Away Shows and, because we’re freakishly cute, we both think the Beirut ones are the best. So, as a last bit of gooey-eyedness here they are because they remind me of the lad (and they’re just amazing if you’ve never watched them). Enjoy.

(Okay, no more lovesick puppy nonsense again for a very long while).

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I need to get out of here, y’all.

I’m not usually into the whole country sound much, and maybe it’s just because I’m feeling quite homesick for Nashville right now (how the hell did that happen?! Oh yeah it’s Gainesville.), but I’m in love with this lady’s sound. It’s such a good alternative to the shit they put out and call country these days. It has this nice dusty, worn quality to it like a favorite pair of boots you’ve had forever that have gotten a lot of mileage and have battle stories to share. It’s a bit rough around the edges but still manages to sound very pretty. Her twang is pleasant, not too grating, and a throw back to the old days before country singers tried to be pop and rock stars and completely ruined their idiom. You can see and hear the influences of where she’s lived in her music and general aesthetic. It has bits of old and new Nashville blended well with hints of NYC and L.A. I like that. It’s multi-layered, organic, and free from the too polished plastic rubbish of some of her contemporaries (*cough cough* Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood anyone? *cough cough*).

I also would really like to put her in wet plate.

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Still crazy after all these years

Today is Paul Simon’s seventieth birthday. Happy birthday, Paul. I’ve loved you and your music ever since my mom and dad played me the Graceland cassette when I couldn’t have been much older than two. Here’s to seventy more!

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Saying goodbye to my unofficial home town, my cameras, and Irving’s dignity

It’s been a busy few days for me. On Wednesday I went with some very good friends to see Death Cab For Cutie and Frightened Rabbit in Nashville. Robin and Jerry, mentioned on this blog before, gave me a ticket and a night out in Music City for graduation, a very appreciated gesture after weeks of boredom and near isolation in the country. Robin’s lovely niece and nephew were in visiting from Virginia so I got to meet and hang out with some people my own age for a change. I haven’t really gotten the chance to do that since graduation. We had a good mix of ages that night, and that always makes things more interesting, I think. We ate downtown and then poked around a bit before the concert.
I enjoy Nashville. It’s a unique city with quite a bit to offer. We live about forty or so miles outside of Nashville in a little town that is devoid of anything stimulating. Growing up, if we ever wanted to do anything culturally enriching or even mildly entertaining, we drove into Nashville. I always wished that we just lived there, but my parents are not city dwellers. Somehow I got that gene, and feel rather uncomfortable outside of them for extended periods. The country, I’ve always thought, is nice to visit sometimes, but not where I would like to permanently spend my time. Unfortunately, fate worked against me on this, and city trips were always rarer than I would have liked. I’ve always felt the closest to my element back home when I’m bopping around East Nashville (East Nasty as all the cool kids call it) or the West End. I’m just a hopelessly displaced (for now) city girl who ironically was born to two park ranger types and raised in the woods. The universe has a really sick sense of humor sometimes. This is not to say I would change my childhood at all, but the teenage years were less than desirable.

I digress. The concert was amazing. It was the first time I saw either band live, and I really was not expecting Death Cab to rock so damn hard. I’ve always sort of pictured them in a subdued light. I love them, don’t get me wrong, but I never thought they would play so hard. It was fantastic. I also hadn’t realized just how much weight Ben Gibbard had dropped. He looks so different from the Ben of my high school years when I was heavily into Death Cab. That was another nice thing about the concert. It took me back to a happy time for me musically. I only have wonderful memory associations with their music from that time, and it was nice to revel in some nostalgia. The one complaint I had about the show was the venue. They held it in our hockey arena. Bridgestone was just too big and did not suit their sound and vibe at all. I would have much preferred to hear them at the Ryman or the War Memorial Building. The ambiance is more appropriate. I was still glad I got to hear them, though.The show was a good, solid three hours give or take, and we were all beat afterwards. I crashed at my other dear friends’, Laura and Jon’s, house, and for the first time in a while, I slept for nine hours straight. It was heaven.

Thursday morning we all reconvened at Fido, this really interesting and delicious coffee house in East Nashville, for breakfast. Robin wanted to show Josie and Justin, her niece and nephew, around EN a bit before they hit the road back to the sovereign colony. We ate, caffeinated, and then hit a couple of the really great stores down the street. We also got to make a stop in at Elder’s, which is probably the coolest bookshop I’ve ever gotten to visit. They specialize in rare books. One literally never knows what kind of gems one will stumble across. It’s a great place for those, like myself, who could easily drop half a day browsing books, and It’s always a treat to visit. Justin, who is a bibliophile like myself, and I had fun sifting a bit and found some pretty cool texts. He found an old paperback of Even Cowgirls Get the Blues and a first edition hardback of Salinger’s Nine Stories. I found a great biography of the Marquis de Sade from the early 1960s. After browsing a bit we all had to part ways, and I had to say goodbye to Nashville. It really felt like more of a definite one this time. I know my visits back home are going to become steadily shorter and less frequent, and Nashville excursions will be rarer and rarer. The music scene is probably what I miss most. Nashville really is amazing for it. Everyone plays there. although, I’m usually not in town for the gigs I really want to see. On a side note, Arctic Monkeys are playing the War Memorial in October. I was very disgruntled when I discovered this as I will be ten hours away. Oh well.

This particular visit, however, did teach me a couple of things. I really need to scope out the music scene in Gainesville, and hopefully there is one. I also need to find a group of people that are of like mind musically with whom I can go to gigs. It’s not fun to go alone, and, really, I have no business being out at night by myself. My mother would be very upset, and I feel like I’ve probably already taken enough years from her life and given her enough grey hairs. I like the opportunity figuring out a new city provides, even if Gainesville is smaller and a smidge less happening than what I’m used to.

I also somehow, between packing and finishing my sewing projects, managed to make the last two plates I will before December. I haven’t played as much with the cameras as I would have liked this summer and couldn’t leave without getting some studio time in. Why aren’t they going with you to Florida, you might ask. Well, the photography department at my school was a bit skittish and lukewarm on the idea of having me use their facilities, something about wonky ventilation and liability issues (cough cough pansies cough cough), and my apartment isn’t so keen on hazardous and flammable substances stored within their walls. Sometimes it is difficult being a wet plate artist in the age of digital.

Anyway, here are the two that I felt at least semi-satisfied with:

My first time playing with black glass.

The skull returns!

I always hate saying goodbye to my art. Guess I’ll be going digital for the next few months.

Friday got insane as the day wore on. Mom and Dad went in to get the rental van to haul all of my shit. We undershot our packing anticipation. A mini-van just wasn’t going to cut it, because I guess I have too much shit. Give me a break, though, I am setting up an apartment for the first time after all. We had to make it work, though, and much grumbling, shoving, squeezing and dumping (my beloved orchids were a casualty of the scale back), Dad (the packing master) made it all work. My aunt who is watching the house while we’re away, and I just stayed out of the way and she soothed my fraying nerves. Thanks, Aunt Ruthie. But once things were snug, and I mean super snug, the fun wasn’t quite over. We then entered what I have dubbed Litterboxgate. Yes, my Irving was making the trek down too, lest we forget. How were we supposed to deal with, erm, well nature. shall we say There was no room for his actual box. Hell, there was not really that much room for Irving. Mom stepped in and rigged a smaller makeshift box out of an actual cardboard box saving my father from attack after his suggestion of leaving Irving until a Labor Day trip down could be made. In the end, Irving spent most of the ten hours sleeping in my lap comfortably and never once had to use the box. All that fuss for nothing, I suppose. I think the indignity of it all might have driven him to become dormant, actually.

You expect me to use what?!

Today we’re going to explore Gainesville some since I can’t move into my apartment until tomorrow. I’ll let you know what I think.

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Memphis Day 2: American Royalty?

Well, I last left you in front of Memphis Slim’s house after a full day of rocking out and getting down. Unfortunately, as I said, I became rather ill by the time we reached Stax and our visit was abbreviated. We went back to the house and I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening trying to recoup while my mother and aunt visited their aunt, who had just gone through surgery that day, and cousins in the hospital. My cousins Molly and Clark took exceptional care of me, and I was feeling much better that night. Clark and I watched the American version of Let the Right One in. He reminds me much of myself at that age, and we both have a penchant for the macabre. He then introduced me to an animated Batman film and he expounded on the virtues of Harley Quinn and the virtues of the darker Batman stories. They were both topics about which I do not have an extensive knowledge, but it’s always nice to talk to intelligent kids who have interests outside of their cell phones and crappy MTV reality shows. He’s very bright, and we’ve always gotten on very well. It’s hard to believe he’s about to enter high school, and I swear he grew a foot since I saw him last summer. I’m starting to become painfully aware of how fleeting time actually is.

Enough about my family, though. You really want to read about my adventures at the home of the King himself, Graceland, don’t you? Yes, that’s what I thought.

We all started the morning off in the car singing this. However, I think Paul saw something much more appealing in the experience of Graceland than I. Although, I’m sure the Graceland of his song is much more a theoretical concept than the actual physical place (tourist trap *cough cough*) that is Graceland. I think he meant the area and atmosphere of Memphis as the starting point for the Mississippi Delta. I’ve always found the fascination held by those far removed from the Delta with the Delta very interesting. I understand it completely (see my post about the first day), but I still find it interesting. I had a professor this past year from Washington state who I’m pretty sure knew more about the Blues than any other person in the world and has made many a pilgrimage down South in search of the greats and their haunts. He’s actually just released a book about Son House called Preachin’ the Blues: The Life and Times of Son House, which is a great read for anyone interested in American music history. I really enjoyed it. I really enjoyed Prof Beaumont’s class on the Blues, for that matter, but not everyone can study under him at Rochester unfortunately.

Wow, so I’ve really gone of course already. I suppose I should be honest. I’m not an Elvis fan. This could very well be the reason I seem to be veering off  so easily when I should be talking about a trip to his famous home. Let me be immaculately clear. I can appreciate Elvis’ importance, and I find a few of his early, early songs before Sam Phillips sold his contract enjoyable. He was a rebel who revolutionized music, Elvis I mean, because that description fits Phillips as well. I do think Elvis is one of the biggest (maybe even the original) sell-out stories, though. His music post contract sell was awful and his Hollywood career was groan-worthy, oh, and don’t get me started on Vegas. I never had a desire to go to Graceland. You’ve seen one bad 1970s decorating job, you’ve seen them all in my opinion. However, our dear cousin kindly arranged for us to go with comp tickets, so we thought what the hell. At least then we can say we’ve been,  and we never have to go back, and let me tell you, I never will.

With all that said, let me give you my take on Graceland. We received the mid-level tickets which allow you a tour of the “mansion,” a tour of his two airplanes, access to view his car collection, and access to four exhibits which to me just appeared to be a bunch of film clips and rhinestone-studded jumpsuits. The house was first, and it was another one of those damn headset tours. I couldn’t stand the set to wear it so I didn’t actually learn much going through the house other than Elvis liked shag carpeting and ceramic monkeys apparently.

I apologize a head of time for the rather appalling quality of my photos. It was crowded, we couldn’t use flash, and they push you through pretty quickly.

Can't remember the significance of the peacocks, but they were definitely placed prominently.

This room was very yellow. (Notice the monkey.)

Oh yeah, he liked folded fabric on strange surfaces as well.

The pool room, again I apologize for the quality.

More monkeys in "the Jungle Room"

The house itself isn’t very big by today’s celebrity standards. It was owned by a physician prior to Elvis’ purchase. Interestingly enough, when my grandfather called on our drive over that morning, he told us that he and my grandmother had eaten dinner at the private residence there as guests the week of their wedding. This of course was before Elvis bought it.

The house

The tour takes you through the bottom two levels of the house. The top level is permanently closed to the public. It also takes you through his father’s office, the hall of fame with all of his gold records and awards, the racquet ball court holding a bunch of other commemorative records and jumpsuits, and the garden where Elvis and his parents are buried, as my uncle so cleverly quipped, “Like a hamster in the back yard.”

I am very convinced that the 70s were a dark, dark time globally just by viewing some of the surviving fashions of the era.

Because god forbid Americans actually possess enough intelligence to follow a foot path and a moving crowd without instructions from a headset.

Bit harsh? Maybe, but I can say that because I am American. Isn’t that what the rule book says?

The throng waiting to pay their respects to America's royal family (of sorts)

As we walked to the shuttle stop beyond the burial site, my cousins and I agreed that the whole atmosphere was incredibly surreal and strange, the adulation and near worship expressed by many of our fellow visitors were very off-putting, and we had seen just about all we cared to. So, lunch and air conditioning was in order, right? Ha ha, no, that’s where you’d be wrong! We were going to hit all six other stops on our tickets come hell or high water according to my uncle. I will admit, the car exhibit was pretty cool, but who doesn’t like looking at awesome classic cars, but after that and being dumped into the madness of about millionth gifts shop, I really was done. Guess what, Memphis is hot in July, hotter than blazes, if you’ll pardon the very southern colloquialism, but by golly we had every last tab on those tickets torn off by the time we left.

I do really want this car.

Mom in front of the Lisa Marie.

All right, so here’s my final assessment. Graceland did not change my life. I think I could have lived undisturbed for the rest of it by not visiting, but then again, I’m not an Elvis fan. There were so many people around us who were into it and soaking up every last fiber of acrylic mucous-green shag carpeting. That’s great. If you’re into that, then please go by all means. It was an experience. I personally am not sure what kind, but it was an experience nonetheless.

Clark expressing our overwhelming excitement to be at the home of the King. I should take this opportunity to mention our family's incredibly dominant sarcasm gene.

I will say this, though, the entire trip, even Graceland, was wonderful if just for the fact that we got to spend quality time adventuring as a family. I don’t get to see them as often as I like, and any chance I do get, I relish. I’ve begun making the ever clearer revelation that we are growing up, and times like these are harder to come by with each passing year due to busy schedules and increasing distance. It took me a while to realize the importance of family, but I’m getting there.

If nothing else, your family has to love you no matter how foolish you are, and sometimes, if you're lucky, they love you enough to join in as well.

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Memphis Day 1: The birth of rock and soul OR how Betsy nearly collapsed from multiple musical nerdgasms

I am a self-admitted music nerd. I gathered many hours at university in music history courses covering everything from the Delta blues to the Beatles. In May my parents and I stopped at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland on our way home from graduation. That was a really cool experience, by the way, even with 400 kindergarteners running around the museum. Who takes kindergarteners to a rock museum? Anyway, I decided that in light of our detour there, it seemed appropriate that we finally make the Memphis music trip. Memphis is extremely important in the history of American music, in case you hadn’t heard. The pulsing veins that carry the very lifeblood of three towering genres run straight through the heart of that city and continue to make Memphis a very relevant town in that respect.

My maternal grandmother’s family is from Memphis going back several generations, and much of our family continues to live there to this day. We go to visit my aunt and her family at least once a year usually, but we have never visited any of the multitude of important historical sites in the city. My younger cousin just graduated from high school in May, and we very much wished to see her before she leaves for college next month. We finally decided to be smart and kill two birds with one stone and make the music pilgrimage (at least for me) while seeing our family. Luckily my mother has a cousin with pretty amazing contacts in the Memphis tourism world, and our cousin generously made some phone calls and swung us tickets to Sun Studio, The Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum, Stax, and Graceland, and my aunt, uncle, mom, two of my cousins, and I made a two day mini-vacation out of it.

To be honest, there was only one site I knew I had to see or the entire trip would be a waste: Sun Studio, the famous birthplace of rock and roll. I have read countless pages and watched countless hours of documentary film recounting the stories and importance of that building. Sam Phillips, founder of Sun Records, discovered and recorded many of artists who became household names and legends in music including Howlin’ Wolf, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, oh yeah, and a guy you might have heard of. Um, Elvis Presley ring any bells? While I disparage my home state quite often and am not choosing to continue my life within its borders, I have always been proud of the musical heritage of the state. From the peaks of the Smokies in the east to the rolling hills and rivers of the mid-state to the flat cotton and soy bean fields of the west, music has always risen and permeated everything here and then gone on to touch the world in the most spectacular ways.

I started my personal music pilgrimage at Sun Studio. There’s something in the air around that little building on Union Avenue. I’m not sure what it is, but it feels electric, magical even. As I walked down the alley from the parking lot and passed the images of the founding fathers of rock ‘n roll posted on the side of the building and looked up to see the giant Gibson hanging over the door, I couldn’t help but get goosebumps. As I opened the door everything else melted away, my family, the tourists around me, the sounds of the street outside. I was in the highest spiritual meditation at the altar of my religion’s most holy and ancient of temples.

The tour consisted of a trip into a small gallery containing photographs, memorabilia, and recording artifacts from the golden days. Our tour guide, Eldorado, was fabulous and came complete with slicked back hair, mutton chops, browlines, and rolled up Levis. He told us the story of Sun and Sam Phillips (which I realized I knew just as well as he did and could probably get a job as a tour guide there myself), played some music, and then took us down to the actual studio. It has been kept exactly as Sam had it fitted all those years ago. The only thing that’s changed are the pictures on the walls and most of the instruments. There are still some original pieces in there, though, such as…

...this microphone. This is the one they let you pose with for pictures. We were also told that one woman on a tour chose to lick it. To each her own, I suppose.

Oh, by the way, Howlin’ Wolf is probably my favorite of all the Sun artists from the early days. Here is the insane “Moanin’ at Midnight.”

It was a surreal feeling, standing in that space hearing clips of the recording sessions of the Million Dollar Quartet (Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash, and Carl Perkins) and the stories of rock’s own creation myth. I almost had a Hesiod moment. Not only had my idols of the early days of rock stood where I was standing creating the Lexington and Concord of popular music, but scads of my modern rock idols like Tom Petty and U2 had also stood there soaking in the history to make their own amazing works at Sun. Yes, Sun is still a working studio. Tours are given during the day and bands, such as our lovely tour guide’s (Eldorado and the Ruckus), record at night. It’s a living, breathing place not just a dusty box of old vinyl memories. I wish I could properly do the place justice, but no amount of images or fluttery descriptions can. Please, please, please, if you love rock and roll, go to Sun Studio on Union Avenue in Memphis, Tennessee.

My cousin Mols working the mic

Our guide. I'm afraid it was so crowded that this was the best picture I could snap of him. He truly was fantastic, though.

After Sun, we went downtown (and walked down the world renowned Beale St.) to visit the Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum which was very well done and told the story of those two genres more specifically as they related to Memphis and Nashville as well. I will say that I did not like the fact that they are set up on a self-guided audio tour system. That’s just a personal preference issue on my part, though. I’m old fashioned and would rather read panels for myself or listen to a guide. I don’t dig wearing a headset. They did have stations where you could stop and listen to songs, though, which was pretty cool. The museum’s main exhibit was actually designed by the Smithsonian (the only one out there that has been other than the actual Smithsonian, by the way) so it was VERY well done. The number and quality of artifacts was jaw-dropping. Everything from Ike Turner’s first piano to Sam the Sham’s motorcycle. I recommend you all go there as well. Right now they have a special exhibit called “The Beatles Hidden Gallery” which showcases Paul Berriff’s photographs from the Beatles last tour in 1966 when they played Memphis. For those who know their Beatles history, this was shortly after Lennon’s misquoted God comment that sparked many a Beatles merch bonfire party across the American South. The pictures in the exhibit are great.

Beale Street (taken standing next to B.B. King's)

The microphone into which Carl Perkins sang and recorded "Blue Suede Shoes" at Sun

Can you guess from the headstock which important bluesman donated that little beauty? I'll give you a hint: his name's there in gold.

The final stop we made on our outing that day was to Stax the record company so famous for producing soul music from Otis Redding to Issac Hayes. Unfortunately, after Stax went under in the mid 70s, the original building was torn down, but thanks to those who realize the importance of preserving history, a new building was built on the original site and a Stax museum was opened in 2003. It really is a lovely museum filled with amazing memorabilia (hello Issac Hayes’ Cadillac!) and music. Unfortunately, though, I became rather violently ill right as we began our tour and we had to rush through, which really did break my heart. I definitely would have lingered much longer if I could. A visit there is also recommended.

The fine folks at Stax didn’t stop at just a museum, however. On site is also Stax Academy and Soulsville Charter School, which give local young people the opportunity to shine and meet their absolute highest potential both musically and academically fostering the continuation of a great legacy that goes so far beyond the gold records. Now how cool is that?

Unfortunately, they don't let you take photos inside the museum, so this will have to do.

Also, on an interesting but completely related side note, as we were walking to the museum door we spied this across the street:

I’m glad to see someone recognized the importance of that place and is doing something with it because it needs some major TLC. Memphis Slim, for those who don’t know, was an incredible blues piano player from Memphis. Here he is playing his own (very, very famous) song “Everyday I Have the Blues.”

So that was day one. Rather than wax poetic or gush anymore since I’m pretty sure I overflowed quite a ways back, I have a better idea for summing up. I will do it quite appropriately with song, one by Frank Turner to be exact. A friend of mine recently turned me on to him, and his song “I Still Believe” seems to fit the nature and themes of this post astonishingly well. I think it also shows how important the people, places, and events I got a brief glimpse of this past week were and how they extended so far beyond Memphis and continue to have this brilliant snowball effect across the world and generations, but I’ll stop there. Listen to Frank (an Englishman, in case you couldn’t tell). He gets it.

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My Random Life

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.

The new, snappy sign Mom and I painted for the back of the tent

The studio set up on the left half of the tent, the chems and dark box as well as the varnishing table are in the right half

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.

A portrait I made of CanJoe*John

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.

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