Editors Note:


EDITOR'S NOTE: Fresh off a three year managerial stint, your friendly neighborhood lenslinger is back on the street and under heavy deadline. As the numbing effects of his self-imposed containment wear off, vexing reflections and pithy epistles are sure to follow...

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Monroe Doctrine

“Bluegrass Festival? I’m choking up this consumer cheese and you been sittin’ on A BLUEGRASS FESTIVAL? Gimme the address!"

I scribbled the digits on a cup lid, punched them into the GPS and wondered if I was being Punk’d. All morning long I’d sat behind the wheel of Unit 4, casing grocery stores, playing phone tag, whipping u-turns. NOW the desk coughs up perfectly formed feature fodder like a bluegrass festival? No way the News Gods throw me that savory a bone on a Friday...

Bass Mountain Bluegrass JamBut they did. Thirty seven miles later, I pulled off a lonely blacktop and followed the hand-painted arrow on a sign marked ‘Bass Mountain’. Down that road I found another sign and two pig paths I came upon a great gathering of campers, mobile homes and old buses. ‘Yahtzee’, I thought as I fished out my El OCho logo sign out from under the seat and waved it at some dude straight out of Deliverance. Gesturing me forward, he raised a walkie-talkie up to his unshaven face and mouthed something into it. By the time another member of the overall mafia motioned me into a prime parking spot up the road, the festival’s founder was waiting for me with a golf cart. I dropped unit 4 into PARK, pinched myself and got out to greet my host.

From there I rolled through the joint like a visiting emissary. Founder Mike Wilson (not the Beach Boy) chauffeured me, my sticks and lens from one end of the rolling farmland to the next. Now, I’m no authority on bluegrass, but having covered a flat pick summit or three in the past, I knew the stops I needed to make. So did Mr. Wilson, who seemed grateful a TV station had shown up - if only in the form of my scraggly ass. Together we made the most of the single hour I had to give to the shoot, first heading straight into the cluster of campers dotting the old cow pasture. A dozen feet in, we found our first jam session; a handful of menfolk standing under the cover of a battered Winnebago, each furiously lost in that high lonesome sound. I shouldered my rig and waded in to the fiddles and mandolin, still wondering if Ashton Kutcher was going to jump out from behind a Port-a-John and send me back to the consumer snoozer I’d strained over all morning.

Bass Mountain Bluegrass FestivalHe never did. Instead I was left alone to scan the grassy knoll around the stage for those in need of a cameo. What a cast! Blue haired ladies keeping time with their oversized purses, scraggly young slackers with blearier than thou eyes, unsoiled preschoolers dancing in the dirt. The church crowd kept mostly to the middle of the beach-chair pit, but on the edges it was far less pious. Out by an old Elm tree, a trio of fellows in matching mechanic shirts pulled hard on discount cigarettes and gladly passed the flask. I couldn’t help but grin from behind my viewfinder. I spend my week in constant search for characters and here loiter more eccentrics than I can shake a restraining order at. Imagine my ire when I had to bail, signaling Mr. Wilson to come pick me up in his trusty electric limo and deliver from all that high-pitched harmony. I left Bass Mountain not because I’d had enough, but because a deadline clanged forty miles away...

Back at the shop I wrote and edited my piece while playing grab-ass with the staff. Perhaps I could have taken more care with its execution, but some things are best held loosely, like some grinning picker’s grip on his granddaddy’s banjo. Me - I'm your wandering 'slinger, happy to groove at some distant hillbilly jubilee, as long as I play Etta James all the way home...

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

I loved it.. Any hint of Bill Monroe and that "Blue Moon over Kentucky" makes this eastern KY boy smile! Looks like you had fun with it, more than anything wasted away on a con-zzz-umer piece.

Nice job, 'Slinger.. You continue to amaze me with your internet fodder, raising the bar higher each time you press publish.

Smitty

Duff said...

For my money, there's no music that'll bring a smile to my face like bluegrass. Whether it's a mocking smile or an appreciative smile... it's a smile nonetheless.

PS- I role in a UNIT4 as well. What, what. Respect.

Oreo said...

My unit is 4 times better, but my writing and shooting have been lacking lately.