Robert (gurdonark) wrote,

  • Music:

Biling cabbage

My wife went to a small school in which virtually all of her classmates attended from age four or so all the way through high school. One of her friends and that friend's husband were in town, because the husband had an assignment providing some consulting assistance. The firm which had brought him into town had put them up at the Adolphus Hotel, Dallas' grand old downtown hotel, named for Adolphus Busch.

We went last night to the Adolphus to have dinner with them. The hotel reminds one of a hundred different forties movies about people in "swanky" hotels. I felt out of place, a bit, until I realized that I make my own places. Besides, rather than coporate moguls and film stars, most guests appeared to be Mary Kay cosmetics salespeople, dressed in prom dresses to take rows of rented limousines to functions. Mary Kay's national convention in Dallas is actually something like five conventions, laced with pink Cadillacs and women motivating women to succeed and sell. It's a curious phenomenon, but not really a Lauren Bacall moment. It was fun to see all those women heading off to have fun.

We dined at the Bistro, the hotel's "second" restaurant, as we did not want to go to the justly well-regarded but not inexpensive French Room. My memory of the Bistro was that it was a glorified coffee shop, but it proved to be a quite nice restaurant in its own right. As all of Dallas on a Friday night was either in the French Room or any of Dallas' other great restaurants (Dallas is one of those cities that "does nightlife restaurants right"), our foursome was literally the only business in the Bistro. The food was incredibly good, and having a whole wait staff at our beck was a bit like being in a forties movie.

My wife's friend's spouse was quite an impressive guy. A Vietnam vet who worked in the aeronautics industry as a regulator and businessman, but whose first love was photography. In his late fifties, he now pursues photography as not only a passion but a business. They had so many stories to tell, and had travelled far and wide. I love the way that people can change and adapt over time, if they only believe they can and work to do so. We all had a nice chat--I had not seen this particular spouse's friend since our wedding, when she was living in the rural hamlet of London, Arkansas, in a life she's now left behind. She's chosen well in husbands, I'd say, and she herself was, as with so many of my wife's classmates, a good soul.

I looked in the lobby at the signed pictures of "celebrities" (Petula Clark! Queen Elizabeth's personal secretary! the original "it's okay to name it after me 1911 telegram from Adolphus Busch!). As there were points in time in which anyone famous visiting Dallas stayed at the Adolphus, I suspected that there were many omissions. My favorite plaque was the one by a W.B. Yeats academic who said "we know from his letters that Yeats did stay there, but we have no idea what happened when he did".
That's my impression, roughly, of all literary history, but I am a curmudgeon, I fear.

We toured our friends' hotel room, which was roughly the size of either a Napa Valley wine field or an entire home in Los Angeles (pick your metaphor), and then did the 25 mile drive back to our Collin County brick tract home. I did not notice if the moon had a halo when we left Dallas, or turned into a benighted new moon when we arrive home. I am not good at Friday night outings now, because insomnia often follows, as it did last night.

This morning I drove to nearby Denton, roughly forty minutes away, to attend for the first time a meeting of the Dulci-doodlers Society. I had e mailed them to see if I could attend this mountain dulcimer group meeting, and gotten a warm welcome.
I arrived a half an hour late, at 10:30, after getting a slow insomnia-recovery start. The meeting was in the back of the Denton County Historical Museum, which is a very nice small place in an outlet mall on the edge of town. I found there five women somewhat older than myself, who were charming and friendly and had a spare dulcimer ready for me to play.

I had never played a dulcimer at all before, though yesterday I did read up on a few details. Soon, they had me set up with a song book and a basic understanding of the fretwork. As with the autoharp, one can play the mountain dulcimer within minutes of encountering it, but one can spend a lifetime trying to really play well.

My first assigned song was "Bile them cabbage", but the sheet music did not have a lyric sheet, and I cannot remember the words past "bile them cabbage down, boys, bile them cabbage down". Soon I was plinking away at the dulcimer, and having a great deal of fun among charming women (at one point, they encouraged me that I should come back because I would not always be the only man there. I explained how being the only man anywhere would never bother me, but being the only person who cannot count out quarter note beats might).

After a while, everyone began to play selections as a group. I would frequently lose my place in the song, all through the morning. Still, I can see that with practice and a bit of autonomous hand-to-eye coordination, I could easily learn this instrument.

At lunch, the women sent me to a store which sells dulcimers, but I did not buy because I became convinced I could find a better price elsewhere. The fellow at the store was kind, though, and I felt I had entered an alternative universe of folkways and charm quite different from my own daily life. I bought two used Jeeves paperbacks I own already, because somehow one can never have too much one dollar Wodehouse.

I had fried catfish for lunch, and then headed back to play. My playing was still flawed, but quite improved over the course of the afternoon. I paid the princely sum of three dollars for the lesson, as well as four dollars for sheet music. I plan to return next month, and perhaps also to attend a similar autoharp club I learned about there.
I was thrilled when I figured out on my own how to pick "Silent Night" by ear, but I am not yet sure how to do "Greensleeves" or "Sugar Mountain".

On the way home, I stopped at the Lake Ray Roberts 380 Greenbelt Trail, an amazing heavily forested riparian trail. I walked roughly two miles. A painted lady butterfly landed on me, which begins to make me believe I gained some charm and manly attractiveness apparent only to nubile lepidoptera on the make. Even dulcimer players need groupies, I suppose.

We went to dinner at the wonderful Clay Pit Indian restaurant with our friends Scott and Donna tonight, where we planned for the folk song album that Scott and I intend to record, and for a later album of home-made electrics. He returned a Be Bop Deluxe album I had forgotten I had loaned him, which was nice.

Tomorrow I hope to be productive, but I also want to get much more exercise.

Thanks, everyone, for doing my last poll! I realized I want to do all those things, one weekend at a time.

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