Sunday, October 03, 2010

Saturday at the National Storytelling Convention

Our second wonderful day with a schedule of stories from 10 a.m. till midnight including two hours each to Donald Davis and John McCutcheon!

Donald Davis described the family reunion as a "semester of eating." And when someone said what he shouldn't: "...he looked like like he'd just stepped in a hole and realized there wasn't a bottom in it," and "... I had a bite ... right there. [points to neck and pauses] ... Wouldn't go either way. [now the patented Davis neck jut and stare]"

John McCutcheon joyfully sang and sang, and had us join him often, with this encouragement: "Music has a wonderful inclusionary clause -- harmony. You have several chances to get that right, and if you don't... it's jazz."
During his "college year abroad" in Eastern Kentucky, John learned that, in the South, "...even vegetables aren't vegetarian." He finished by singing one of my very favorite American hymns, accompanying himself on his newest instrument, the the Tibetan Singing Bowl -- "How Can I Keep from Singing?"

His second set was a request time. I put in two, neither of which was chosen ("Old People in Love" and "The Wind that Shakes the Barley") but I was very happy with the hour he gave us. He sang "Cut the Cake" for someone's birthday, and spoke of his campaign to replace the dirge-like "National Birthday Anthem" with this lively alternative (Afterwards I had the chance to tell him that I am doing my part in that effort!)
And when he was interupted by the train, -- as tellers often are, especially in the Courthouse Tent where we spent the day -- he just added a train verse to the song without missing a beat.

The story of Kathryn Windham's coffin was like hearing it the first time all over again. We were reminded of the epitaph she wants: "She was twice blessed. Say she was happy. Say she knew it."
Then she turned to a long discussion of her current full-time career: "I take care of a crotchedy old woman." There followed a detailed and hilarious depiction of the challenges of living into one's nineties ... with many references to "she", the unwelcome "house guest". And another train brought the suggestion that "they could use some WD40 on those wheels!"
Our only hour with Kathryn Windham was a wonderful blessing, and we knew it.

We chose the evening concert in the Courthouse Tent, "One Clown Short of a Circus" with Bil Lepp, Kevin Kling, and Andy Offut Irwin. We got back from supper only 45 minutes early so there were no seats left except for one single seat on the very back row. So we claimed that and sat behind it on the asphalt to eat our soup and sandwiches from Atlanta Bread. We struck up a conversation with the fellow beside us who was holding three seats. He said that it was possible one of his companions would decide not to come. That how it turned out so Sheila and I both got seats after all -- one on each side of this nice couple. They live in Jonesborough and are interested in renting out their basement next year dring the festival. We traded e-mail addresses! Wouldn't it be nice to stay right there in Jonesborough!

Crazy Bil Lepp told the tale of his visit to a rodeo last year, and his participation in a Wild Cow Milking Contest. I noted his mention of "...the kind of vegan who won't even say 'Glad to meet you'..." His adventure included "...800 pounds of aggravated radical feminist bovine" and his punchline was: "Hell hath no fury like TWO women scorned!"

Frenetic Kevin Kling kept me so limp with laughter that I only managed one brief note and I don't remember the context exactly: "...brothers from other mothers and sisters of from other misters."

If you have not heard Andy Offut Irwin's Aunt Marguerite from Covington Georgia, you have missed a treat. He. has. her. down. I have Newton County roots myself. I have met that woman! She gives two examples of "The very defininition of a fool...": "some one who'd pay a dollar for a bottle of wahrter..." or "... buy a bale of pine straw in Jahrja." One of her neighbors would not go to the optician who recommended progressive lenses "... Ah'm a R'publican!"

The Midnight Cabaret was one of our favorites: Bill Harley ... and friends. Great music (What a keyboard artist is Bill's friend whose name I forget! I swear he rivals James Willis.) and some storytelling in between.
"The most radical thing in America is a longterm memory!"
He called Willy Chaflin and Barbara McBride Smith and a couple of others to the stage to help him with a hilarious "radio play". "That's like beating a dead horse of a different color!"
He talked of his father's laissez faire parenting style: "My Dad figured I was stupid enough to learn from my own mistakes." He sang his song "Daddy Played the Phonograph" and explained, "It's not enough to know how to play, you have to know how to listen too."

And he mused: "You can't see the story when you are in it."

As Bill finished up the evening he reminded us of Edgar Mitchell's awe-inspiring glimpse of the whole earth and famous exclamation: "Now I know why I have come so far."

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