Monday, September 02, 2013

du vin

last friday of every month, all the bluegrass pickers, mostly old duffers but a few young ones, meet out at the golf club house out on the north edge of town and pick away. they have a bunch of usual favorites and they also bring in whatever they want to hear, lead it and hope everyone can play along. people can come and listen too, and often they do, especially wives of the musicians or just people who like this kind of music; after all, it's free.

so this month by impulse i asked J., an international student from france, if he'd be interested, and he said yes, and he'd like to bring his friend, who turned out to be maybe a girlfriend, an exotically beautiful black woman by the name of K., also from france. now i knew that he was a guitar player, with a tendency toward metal and the harder stuff, but i figured, if you're going to live in texas for a while, you might as well hear this bluegrass just so you know what it is and you never know, maybe you'll take a liking for it back with you. consider it my gift to him or them, as an american.

on the other hand i'm well known to be a yankee fiddler, don't know those dixie songs all that well and i talk funny, so having people from france with me, makes me feel a little more like one of the crowd. at least i know the music, at least, i know it more than i did when i first got there & i've been to, maybe, eight of them.

truth be told, i have lots of dreams, i dream of being a fiddler & finding my right band, i dream of finishing my novel, of going to france, of going to africa, argentina, norway, & maybe myanmar. i dream of owning a bookstore & just the other day this guy was selling one in town for $12,000 or some such, $8K worth of equipment like shelves or maybe computerized inventory, and 25000 books. but this isn't a reading town, and my guess is, he's languishing out there in the sun, nobody's stopping by to buy anything. some of these dreams, as my wife would say, aren't going anywhere. i am, however, a decent fiddler, and when i got out there to the golf club i started sawing away and it was ok, i was enjoying myself, in fact, i got the hang of some dixie songs to the extent that i could actually express my mixed feeling toward the concept of dixie, right in the song. i could kind of whine with that fiddle.

J however had no such luck. try as he might, he couldn't jump right in and just play, even though he saw everyone else doing just that, and he knew it wasn't that complicated musically. he just figured, how can you play something if you haven't had a chance to practice it. he was completely, absolutely, unable to strike a single note. eventually he wandered off a bit to buy a couple of beers with K. and walk around a little.

as i was driving them out there, at one point, the road dipped down into what is probably the only canyon on the entire caprock prairie, for hundreds of miles in every direction it's flat, and has been grassland since time immemorial, but this one canyon cuts through town on the north side, and it's called yellow house canyon, and as we get to the bottom of that hill you can see a bit of river off to one side and he asks me if that's the lazy river. no, the lazy river is part of the university recreation complex, we spend all weekend at the lazy river, but that's not this, this is a canyon, the only natural canyon in the entire prairie, where the comanche met their bitter end becasuse it was also the only hiding place, and site of many bitter conflagrations back in olden times.

not sure, exactly, of what kind of impression J. and K. will take back to france with them, or even, how different it could possibly be, here and there, texas and some small town in the french countryside. i told them a little of my french interests, la barres de prison, du vin pour ma tante, some of the french songs i do, but i know they are probably bogus from a pure french point of view and in fact J. admitted that he didn't know a wide swath of quebecois music not to mention louisiana zydeco or creole. he just outright didn't know it. well you learn something every day, i figure, that's why i got folks like j. and k. in the car. they may be a little too polite to tell me what they really feel, but you have to just keep trying sometimes, and it'll all work out.

then back in illinois, middle of october, some young friends of mine are getting married, on a farm way out in the countryside in a place one would call tunnel hill, near a trailhead in a rolling and pastoral and quite beautiful part of the state. now that's something to dream about, going up there for that wedding, but alas that too may be a bit out of my reach, and it would be especially hard to have just me going, and nobody else, yet how would i take the rest? four round-trip tickets to illinois, a little out of reach. life goes on, though, that couple likes bluegrass music, maybe i can at least figure out an appropriate gift. i miss those folks, a lot, but i don't stop loving them, or dreaming, or even, once in a while, playing out a song that might express a little of what i feel.


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