Bake those hoe cakes brown
The only song that I can sing is
Boil those cabbage down".--old folk song
Today I rose early to drive the hour down Highway 380 to Denton, to attend the monthly meeting of the Denton Dulci-doodlers dulcimer society. I drove in a jaunty mood, invigorated by play on my kazoo synthesizer when I should have been tuning my dulcimer. The kazoo synthesizer sounds much more like a synth through headphones than it did through the cheap speaker provided with the synth.
When I came into Denton, I passed the towers of Texas Women's University, which my mother attended many decades ago. I realized that I had forgotten my picks, so I stopped in a place which served as a combination pawn shop and music store (yes, it made sense to me, too) and bought more picks. The did not have the cool little wingtip dulcimer picks, which I suppose I must order from a specialty place with a name like "House of Strings".
About ten folks showed up, dulcimers in hand, for the morning lessons and the afternoon play session. I felt really good when I was able to crisply reel out "Boil them Cabbage Down", the simplest dulcimer song, chosen for the group to play first.
But as the songs continued to be chosen for the group to play, I found myself more and more losing the thread of the song, causing me to have to sit silent until I could find the missing thread again.
Thus, whereas just last night I was in Heaven because I had figured out how to play the Joy Division song "She's Lost Control" on the can-jo, this morning I entered a rather diatonic perdition when I was to lead the group through "Camptown Races" and
could not get through the song on tempo. I learned that the group leader is supposed to say "foot" to tell people when to stop playing. I find it a bit odd to say "foot" in the middle of polite conversation with a dozen strangers--it has an offbeat intimacy I find distancing, although a pleasing absurdity I find reassuring. I often lost my place in songs, and had to sit silently for a while, but I sometimes found my place again and then learnt a bit of the song a bit better. It was a good experience. When we broke for lunch, I had a sushi lunch at a local restaurant. It was quite a nice contrast to go from "Liza Jane", a traditional folk dulcimer song, to my car stereo blasting out 801's version of "Miss Shapiro/You Really Got Me".
The people at this group are so nice, and the experienced hands among them teach me so much. When the group moderator explained that for the special arrangement of "Amazing Grace" we learned in the afternoon, the "x" on the melody line indicates "play the melody on the drone strings only, not the melody string", I exclaimed in my best wide-eyed voice "But I LIKE the way it sounds with the discordant string playing!", to the pleasing amusement of my listeners. I did not win universal acclaim when I suggested another song had a note misplaced. My larger agenda goes unassayed. I have not yet sold the group on my theory of dulcimer as microtonal stringed white noise, but perhaps it is because I do not know the words with which to begin my sales pitch.
I got right hand corrected so that I make arm movements rather than wrist movements, and my left hand corrected so that I don't hop along the melody string but slide along it. I even played notes on a drone string, although it is my firm credo that if the mountain people can be noters, innocent of chordal nonsense, then so can I.
Words cannot express the sublime joy of being shown what to do by kind, non-judgmental people who don't mind that I am incapable of skilled manipulation of anything but words.
I drove home via 380, stopping for an hour's hike along the Elm Fork Trinity River Trail. Because I perspire easily, I am usually a butterfly landing pad, and today proved no exception. I saw a huge hawk fly from nearby tree to nearby tree.
As I came to a bend in the trail, I noticed in the woods a doe deer roughly twelve feet from me. She noticed me, too, but instead of running for cover, she stayed and munched on a shoulder-high green plant, sometimes looking at me with obvious curiosity. I snapped throwaway camera picture after throwaway camera picture, from dizzyingly close vantage, but they all come out showing a well-camouflaged deer visible, much like a hidden thing in a picture-puzzle, only if one knows where to look. The experienced justified my sense of the transitory beauty of the un-filmable experience.
My wife and I went out for another seafood meal, where I had steamed shrimp and salad. We then went to the movie "Bewitched", as my wife declined to see the Star Wars until she has re-watched the other episodes, and watched for the first time an episode or so. I want to see "Me and You and Everyone We Know". Perhaps tomorrow.
"Bewitched" was fine, but such a great cast could have been used more capably--what I would call a good rainy night rental, but not a "picture house" show. We drove home and I acted as a person of my generation would, trying to remember the Twilight Zone episode which featured Dick Sargent.