The Old Folks At Home
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).
GET IN MY ARTERIES, SIR.
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.
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!.