The Old Folks At Home

June 24, 2010 at 1:20 pm 12 comments

As I’ve mentioned before, I went to college in Kentucky, and Internet, I love Kentucky. I love their horses and their bourbon and their people and their hot browns (if ever you find yourself in Lexington, proceed immediately to Ramsey’s).


One thing that lots of Kentuckians love is Stephen Foster, a.k.a. the guy who wrote “Oh! Susanna” and “Camptown Races” and lots of other songs that any given Fisher Price musical toy will undoubtedly have in its repertoire.

The toy industry has thankfully neglected to use ALL of Foster’s 1800s-era, minstrel-inspired songs, because one supposes it would be kind of revolting to hear Pooh belting out the less-than-savory lyrics to “Old Black Joe.”

Stephen Foster was actually a Pittsburgher by birth (born in the same neighborhood as my Dad was, coincidentally) and never lived in the South (and only visited once!), but he somehow felt inclined to write songs like “My Old Kentucky Home,” and, well, the rest is revisionist history, I guess. Such as it is, every summer in Bardstown, KY there is a massive Stephen Foster orgy that takes place, in the form of “Stephen Foster – THE MUSICAL!”

It’s outdoor, it has its own theatre, and there are HOOP SKIRTS APLENTY.

One of the acting professors at my college directed this ginormous thing for years, and that meant that LOTS of students spent a summer or two sweating their balls off in period costume while mincing around to banjo music twice a day. And JUST GUESS who was lucky enough to land that gig.

Aaaanyway, I am taking the WAY long way around to tell you that I’ve had more than my fair share of Stephen Foster in my life, and yet I still love banjo music. I have accepted the fact that I will probably never play the banjo (I have never played an instrument, I have weak little tender fingertips, music has WAAAY to much fucking math in it, like time counts and measures and FUCK THAT), but I heartily enjoy listening to the banjo. And since giving Brad  his anniversary banjo earlier this month, I’ve actually gotten to hear REAL MELODIES played on that thing, because Brad is all trained and musically gifted and knows math and shit.

Stop ruining music for me, MATH.

Pittsburgh is also home to “Banjo Night” at a local chapter of the Elks. Every Wednesday at 8pm, the Pittsburgh Banjo Club gets together for a big banjo-playing extravaganza, and while I’d known about this event for years, I didn’t get to witness it myself until last night.

Please excuse the totally shitty cameraphone pic, but you’re looking at tables of people drinking beer and a stage (backed by an American flag) full of people turning that mother out on their banjos.

I joined up with a few friends at Banjo Night after my audition (which went extremely well, and thank you for all your wishes of luck, mates), and within ten minutes of arriving, I was already kicking myself for not having been all up in this shit years ago, when going out on a Wednesday didn’t require a babysitter. The music was awesome, the drafts were $1.50, the crowd was friendly, and I got a rare glimpse inside the world of old people who — you know — still go out and do shit and enjoy the hell out of life.

I’ve been working on another “Deep Thoughts” post about aging, and I have to admit that the tone of it is, well, not so cheery. Aging can be some truly depressing shit, after all, and sometimes it seems like getting older is pretty much the worst idea ever. I mean, when it comes to the older population, all we usually hear about is medical ailments and failing memories and nursing home horror stories, and it becomes all too easy to forget that these are still people, with interests and talents and the desire to have a few beers and (very slowly) kick up their heels to “Ain’t She Sweet” on Banjo Night at the Elks Lodge. Last night, I sat next to a woman at the bar who had to be three times my age and half my weight, and dammit if she didn’t drink my ass under the table and still walk out of there on her own power, all 5-foot-3 of her dolled up in lipstick and earrings and perfectly styled hair (and not even a wig, I mean DAMN). I saw a man who could barely walk hoist himself out of his chair, grip the sides of the table in front of him, and dance — hunched almost completely over — for five songs straight. There was a coronet soloist who elicited round after round of applause from the audience, and it was only when he went to leave the stage that I realized he was almost completely blind. I saw couples whose combined age was somewhere in the neighborhood of my street address cuddling and flirting with each other, and nearly fell out of my chair when I learned that D.J. — a woman in her nineties who usually dances onstage with a feather boa — was taking a breather tonight to deal with the fucking SHINGLES, but would be back full-force next week, as in seven days, as in holy FUCK, that is kind of hard core.

This, Internet, THIS is what I want to be like when I’m old.  I may be shitting my pants on a regular basis, but good lord, I want to be able to enjoy whatever life I’ve got until it’s gone.

Besides, all the coolest people I know poop their pants. If you’re not in diapers, you’re out of touch, man.

Entry filed under: And you KNOW THIS!.

G’day PAY IT FORWARD: Fuck You, Kramer

12 Comments Add your own

  • 1. MLE  |  June 24, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    After my 4 days in Texas, about which I plan to write today, I have too many words to put into a comment box about your post. So I will just say: I’m glad you had a good time, and I’m glad they did, too.

  • 2. HoST  |  June 24, 2010 at 2:54 pm

    If I showed up at Banjo Nite wearing the outfit pictured above, everyone would think I was there to embalm them.

    • 3. 4th Reader of Said Turkey  |  June 26, 2010 at 4:53 pm

      For some reason I thought you were talking about Sadie’s outfit pictured immediately above, not your outfit pictured way up above, and I thought, “Now, I know old people can be confused sometimes, but I don’t know why they’d expect a shirtless man wearing a diaper to embalm them.”

  • 4. T-Dubya  |  June 24, 2010 at 3:03 pm

    $1.50 drafts AND banjo music??? Done AND Done.

  • 5. Gaby  |  June 25, 2010 at 10:16 am

    I suck at math, but I played the clarinet for 14 years. I actually think of the counting as less of a math-based thing and more of a language, with new terms for playing louder or softer, faster or slower, etc. You’ve already shown that you have a knack for languages and breaking them down into their elements; you should totally give music a shot.

  • 6. Sara  |  June 25, 2010 at 11:27 am

    That’s fantastic! Speaking of oldies, we went to visit my grandmother last weekend in honor of her 85th birthday a few days before. Seriously, this lady complains about everything and doesn’t like things that aren’t necessary. After five minutes there, I decided that my mom’s family is crazy and I would need booze to survive the night (well, I knew all this before we went, but still). We took my grandmother to the grocery store, so I picked up some beer, which she wouldn’t let me pay for. For real, she bought me beer. And then when I opened it, she said she’d have a “thimble full,” though I gave her more, of course. Then she sucked it down! Awesome.

  • 7. Constantina  |  June 25, 2010 at 1:52 pm

    That was a lovely ode to age. Thanks.

    (Also: ditto on the fucking math.)

  • 8. Dan  |  June 25, 2010 at 3:54 pm

  • 9. Simon  |  June 25, 2010 at 4:32 pm

    You know what freaks me out about aging? It’s the fact that there is a great probability that as I get older and wiser, when my life experience has taught me what it means to be fair and just, and when I get to the point where I’ve lived and loved and been through good times and bad, I will also be entering the age at which I get minimal respect from those younger than I. As we get older, it’s often difficult to reconcile the physical age with the internal desire to be youthful and free, and when the youngest generation looks at you with disdain, it must be crushing.

    Oh, and the whole thing about not being able to get boners.

    • 10. SF Reader  |  June 27, 2010 at 2:03 pm

      I think the universe makes up for the possible lack of respect from others by making it so that the older you get the less you care about what other people think.

  • 11. sweetbird  |  June 28, 2010 at 6:43 pm

    JT you know I loves ya, but I have to say that a Hot Brown I had in Berea at the Boone Tavern was possibly one of the worst things I have ever eaten.

    Also, $1.50 pints? I don’t care where it’s at, I’m there.

  • 12. Amy  |  June 28, 2010 at 11:58 pm

    Steve Martin plays a mean banjo….and it just so happens he’ll be in our neck of the woods come October…and we have tickets. Hell ya.


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