Saturday, April 29, 2017

Sleepless in ... Osage Beach and Jane

Well, not necessarily sleepless ... less-than-adequate sleep, you might say.

Leaving Springfield on Thursday afternoon, my plan was to stay at the Golden Door Motel in Osage Beach, Missouri, near the Lake of the Ozarks. Thinking it would be easy to find, imagine my dismay when the sign on Highway 54 read, "Osage Beach next 6 exits."

Six exits! I thought Osage Beach was a small town! After driving around for a half-hour or so -- and seeing some stunning lake views along the way -- I never did find the Golden Door. But there are plenty of other places to stay, so I pulled in at an Econo Lodge and got a pet-friendly room for the night.

It was a warm and pleasant evening -- the last pleasant weather we would see for a while. I took Buster for two walks, then ordered a Hawaiian pizza from Imo's and settled in for the night. I wanted to get an early start for Bella Vista, so I went to bed early.

I woke up a few hours later, practically sweating. It was very warm in the room, and try as I would, I just couldn't seem to get it to cool down. I turned the fan on the heating/AC unit to the high position, but it didn't seem to make much difference. At least it made enough noise to drown out any outside noise which always is upsetting to Busterboy, my traveling companion.

Eventually, I did get a little more shuteye. I woke up to a rainy morning. Just a light rain, though, as I continued westward on 54 to Nevada, Missouri. That's where I picked up Interstate 49, heading south. I ran into a deluge around Joplin, and it never let up the rest of the way to Bella Vista.

I met up with Mark and Robyn, friends from Portland, at Jim's crib. I hadn't seen them since my last visit to Portland a few years ago, so we had some catching up to do. We drove down to Fayetteville in the rain and spent the rest of the afternoon driving around the University of Arkansas campus.

Plans were to take in a Naturals game (the local minor league team), but that was washed away in all the rain. Instead, we supped at an authentic Mexican restaurant (El Cunado) in Springdale before heading back to BV.

That evening I checked in at the Booneslick (or Boones Lick) Lodge in nearby Jane, Missouri. Quite rustic, as the name implies. Adequate accommodations, though, if not a little noisy. That, and another warm room, interrupted my sleep for a second night in a row.

Saturday was cool and overcast, with intermittent spits of rain -- very Oregon-like, making Mark and Robyn feel at home. We did some shopping in Bentonville after a stop at the library, then lunched at Zaxby's, one of Jim's favorite places. Later, back at the crib, Jim and I did some jamming until it was time to eat again -- pizza at Gusano's.

We closed the cool, damp evening with hot chocolate at Jim's, then it was back to the Booneslick for another sleep-interrupted night. But it wasn't the temperature in the room this time, but the inhabitants in the room above. It sounded like they were moving furniture all night long. Crash, bang, boom! This lasted until 3:30 or so.

Sunshine and a cloudless blue sky greeted us on Sunday. What a welcome sight! We attended service at Calvary Chapel of the Ozarks in Rogers, then lunched at a nearby Freddy's. In the afternoon, Jim and some of his guitar students gave a performance at the Crystal Bridges art museum in Bentonville.

Buster and I then hit the road. I was determined not to spend another night in a hotel, so I drove straight through, with only two stops, arriving home around 11 p.m.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Chesterton Strikes Again!

"We open our mind for the same reason we open our
mouth: to find something solid to close it on."

--G.K. Chesterton

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Saturday at Shorty's

Kent and I drove up to East Peoria yesterday for the 12th annual Shorty's Strickly [sic] Bluegrass Festival at the Stoney Creek Inn. The rustic inn is located along the Illinois River, and right next door is a seafood restaurant named Jonah's, where we ate lunch.

Sounds of bluegrass slammed us the moment we entered the inn. The lobby, with a quaint stone fireplace, was filled with jammers. There was also a jamming room up on the second floor. We walked back to the conference room where the stage shows were happening and bought our tickets.

Shortly thereafter, Highway 15 took the stage. From St. Louis, this band currently features Kenny Kuhn on bass and dobro, Mathew Mitchell on banjo and guitar, Danny Isom on mandolin and fiddle, and Terry Lewis on guitar.

After lunch, we returned to catch most of the Bluegrass Martins. Ozark siblings now based in Jefferson City, the Martins were decked out in matching purple and black and entertained with a variety of traditional bluegrass and country tunes ... and even some clogging by bassist Anne. Janice, banjoist and emcee, introduced the Porter Wagoner-Dolly Parton duet, "The Last Thing on My Mind," like this:

"I'll be Dolly Parton ... use your imagination."

Then, after forgetting some of the lyrics, she said at song's end, "To get all the words, you'll have to listen to Dolly and Porter's version."

Brothers Dale, guitar, and Lee, mandolin, really get after it on their respective instruments and Larita plays a solid dobro. This is a really talented bunch, and their parents are justifiably proud. Dad, Elvin, even got up on stage and sang a number with them.

The River Ramblers

The River Ramblers followed. We've seen this band for two decades now, and it's just as strong as ever with the additions of Don Randle on dobro and Steve "Doc" Hatfield on banjo. The latter burned it up on "Shuckin' the Corn" and the Ricky Skaggs' instrumental "Amanda Jewell." The Ramblers also did nice renditions of the Eagles' "Seven Bridges Road" and "Amazing Grace." Self-effacing band leader Duane Patterson, ever-present long gray beard hanging down, was up to his old tricks when he introduced the band members and concluded, "And I'm Porter Wagoner."

The Punches Family from Fredericktown, Missouri, brought the afternoon session to a close. Mom, Bobette (bass), and Dad, Bruce (mandolin), have four kids: two boys and two girls. The boys, Graham and Owen, were formerly in the group but are now busy with school and work. That leaves twins Emily and Brooke to take up the slack. And they do a fine job. Particularly outstanding are Brooke's vocals and her licks on the dobro. As proud papa Bruce exclaimed after she burned it up on "Fireball Mail":

"She plays the fire out of that dobro."

The Punches did nice covers of "Delta Dawn," Little Green Apples," and "Tumblin' Tumbleweeds." But they're real strength is bluegrass gospel. They even did a contemporary Christian song that Bruce said "grasses up" real well. One fan in the front row was singing along happily, and Bruce described him as "smiling like a mule eating cactus."

That described yours truly as well.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Viola Liuzzo

When I mentioned this name to two friends, both times I got the response, "Who's that?" You, the reader, might be wondering the same thing.

Born in the South, Viola Liuzzo traveled from Detroit by herself to participate in the 1965 voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery in Alabama. Her story, and the story of the march, is told by Mary Stanton in From Selma to Sorrow: the  Life and Death of Viola Liuzzo (University of Georgia Press, 1998).

Her name has not lived on because she -- unlike other civil rights "martyrs" such as Goodman, Schwerner, and Chaney -- was something of an enigma. She was neither young nor black but a middle-aged (39 at the time of her death) wife and mother of five. She did not fit in with the idealistic young civil rights activists (both white and black) nor the Southern blacks they were trying to help. Rather, she was expected to stay at home, as most traditional wives and mothers did in that day.

But Viola was no traditionalist. She was a concerned citizen with a history of activism who responded to Martin Luther King Jr.'s call to participate. She didn't just hop on the civil rights bandwagon because it was the hip thing to do at the time. She was a human rights activist who would take up anyone's cause, regardless of skin color, if she thought the cause was right.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Another Ozark New Year

Buster and I traveled to northwest Arkansas last Friday to spend the New Year with Jim. This is becoming an annual tradition, as we did the same last year. Then, we stayed in a hotel in Rogers. This time, we stayed in Jim's pad in scenic Bella Vista.

We arrived late in the afternoon. After resting a bit, Jim and I drove to the Arkansas Ballroom Company in Tontitown. about 20-25 miles south of Bella Vista. There, we met Jim and Genise, Jim's good friends, for a potluck and dancing. The former was disappointing, just a veggie tray, chips and dip, fruit, and cheesecake. The latter, however, was not. Jerry, a dance instructor, gathered us in a circle -- about 5 or 6 couples and Jim and I. Then he proceeded to teach us the box step and the rumba. Every few minutes, the ladies rotated counter-clockwise, so us guys got a chance to dance with each of them.

After a half hour or so, I felt pretty competent with these two steps. Then the lesson was over, and the floor was open for dancing to recorded music. I sat and watched as the couples "tripped the light fantastic," munching on some veggies and chips and chatting with the dancers when they rested between dances. When I told Craig, quite a character if not much of a terpsichorean, where I'm from he seemed surprised.

"For a Yankee, you're not so bad," he quipped.

"I like the Reds, not the Yankees," I replied.

The next morning, we had an appointment to see a condo in Bella Vista. When we arrived, Jim introduced me to Jennifer (his realtor) and we proceeded to the front door. That's as far as we got, though. The woman who answered the door informed us the place had sold two days before.

Oh, well. Easy come, easy go.

For lunch, I had a hankering for Mexican food, so we headed to Springdale. It has a sizable Hispanic community and plenty of Mexican restaurants and markets. I sensed a calling for La Super Quesadilla, where we met Cindy, our waitress. She's from El Salvador. She's been in the States for five years and speaks English very well. And she was impressed with our knowledge of Spanish. She served us a fine midday repast -- authentic Mexican all the way.

Then it was on to Bentonville to meet with Jim (alias Twinkletoes). When he's not tearing it up on the dance floor, he is a financial advisor -- and a good one. Experience has taught him well. The lessons he learned as a financial risk-taker himself, he passes on to his clients. It was a very informative meeting, leaving me with the realization that I've got some thinking to do.

But, save that for later, because it's New Year's Eve. Jim and I feasted on Hawaiian pizza at Gusano's in Bella Vista. Then, back at the pad, we played Scrabble as fireworks lit up the dark and silent night, issuing in another new year,

Jim at Freddy's
After church at Calvary Chapel of the Ozarks on this New Year's Sunday morning, we decided to have lunch in Kansas. I had never set foot in the Jayhawk State. We drove north and a little west to Pittsburg (pop. 20,200), home to Pittsburg State University (aka the Gorillas). We lunched at Freddy's, a hamburger and frozen custard chain that originated in Kansas a decade or so ago. Then we took Buster for a stroll on the mostly deserted campus (the students being on Christmas break).

Me and Buster on the PSU campus
Back in Bella Vista for our last night, we supped at Jim's crib, jammed a little, talked and laughed a lot, and called it a night. The first day of 2017 was history, and it had been a good one.

I pray the rest of the year will be the same.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Short and Sweet

Kaitlyn, age 15
Kaitlyn's performance at this year's Festival of Trees was short and sweet -- just a little more than 15 minutes. She and her dancing compadres danced to Harry Connick Jr.'s "Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!" and a few other holiday standards.

Before the show, Mom and I strolled around the building looking at the various Christmas trees on display. This year's theme, "Remember when ... ," was reflected in many of the trees, as in "Remember when candy cost a penny," which featured a tree decorated with the names of several famous brands of candy.

Not surprisingly, in this year of the Cubs, a tree was all decked out in Cubbie paraphernalia. It didn't say, "Remember when the Cubs last won the World Series," but it certainly could have.

Cubs tree

Saturday, September 24, 2016

The 4th Time Is the One

Jim and me standing behind the misspelled sign at the entrance to the grounds.
I'm holding a bumper sticker with "Starvy" spelled correctly.
Friday, Sept. 16, was wet. We drove in rain most of the way to the festival near Conway, Missouri. The afternoon show was canceled. The music started up again at 7:00 (even though it was still coming down) with Junior Sisk & Rambler's Choice. Since their afternoon set had been canceled, they combined two sets in one, featuring "classic" material from Santa Cruz and Blue Ridge, the bands Junior had previously been in. The Grascals followed. (The rain had stopped by this time, but the grounds were extremely wet and muddy ... and dark. I stepped in a huge mud pit on the way to the bathroom.) They went through with their one-and-a-half-hour set as scheduled, with a heavy emphasis on the Osborne Brothers (Bobby and Sonny). Two members of the Grascals, guitarist/vocalist Terry Eldredge and bassist/vocalist Terry Smith, both played in the Osborne Brothers' band for many years. It was good to see banjoist Kristin Scott Benson (aka "Girl Scruggs") again. She even played guitar and sang during this set, something she hadn't done in Curryville this past May.

Saturday, Sept. 17, started off cloudy (but dry) and soon cleared off into a gorgeous late-summer day. Jim joined us at the hotel in the morning, and, after a little jam session, we headed to the festival. The Bressler Brothers soon took the stage, featuring something Jim and I had never seen -- a left-handed mandolinist. Harry Wagner is his name, and he was the only one of the quartet wearing a suit coat ("the only one who could afford a coat"), the rest decked out in shirts and ties.

Bressler Brothers (in yellow shirts), with Harry Wagner at far right.
The Crowe Brothers, from Georgia, followed. Josh and Wayne (no relation, that I know of, to J.D.) have been around since the 1970s, but this is the first time this blogger has seen them. They were followed by Brightwater Junction, a family band from southwest Missouri: Lyn Coones on banjo, his wife, Tonya, on bass, and their son, Eric, on mandolin. The lineup is rounded out by Jason Jordan on guitar. This is a very entertaining band, with tight family harmonies and "hot" picking provided by Eric and Jason.

Brightwater Junction
And some humor. When introducing a particular song, Lyn said: "This song is in B, so if you're humming along, make sure you're in B." Audie Blaylock and Redline were next, with their "high lonesome," traditional sound and excellent fiddler Patrick Mcavinue. The latter really "got after it" on "Cousin Sally Brown." I have seen this group a few times and am always impressed with Patrick's playing and stage presence. Another first for this blogger was the band that followed, Lorraine Jordan & Carolina Road, featuring another fine young fiddler by the name of Josh Goforth. Josh is also a professional storyteller and plays a nice "drop-thumb" style of guitar, which he displayed on "I Saw Those Golden Stairs," a gospel number written by bandmate Tommy Long.

Lorraine Jordan & Carolina Road
Rhonda Vincent & the Rage took the stage next. Just as they started playing I got a call from Dale, saying he had arrived and was in the parking lot. A huge bluegrass fan, Dale is my friend from Calvary Chapel in Springfield, though he lives near Quincy and only attends occasionally. We have been trying to hook-up at a festival all summer. We missed connecting at Curryville in May and Crazy Horse near Ashland in June, being there on different nights. And he went to New Salem earlier this month. I had planned on going, but had a family reunion to attend in Iowa instead. So, finally, the fourth time trying, we connected. He joined us where we were sitting to the right of the stage. Rhonda's daughter, Sally, joined the Rage on stage and did a nice version of the Eagles' "Take It to the Limit."

Rhonda Vincent, with daughter Sally in the
After a crowd-pleasing set by the Rage -- and the crowd was pretty large by this time -- we broke away for supper back in Lebanon near the hotel. The four of us supped at a Mexican restaurant named El Sombrero. It was quite good. Then we headed back to the festival, about 12 miles from the hotel, for the Saturday evening show featuring the same bands from the afternoon show.

Jim left around 9:00 to meet son Ben near Sedalia, where they would spend the night. Ben was on a cross-country move from Oregon to North Carolina. Kent, Dale, and I remained at the festival until the Rage's second set finished around 11:30. It had been a long, satisfying day of good music, good fellowship, and good food.