Banjo Man-2015

Banjo Man

Sometimes the most beautiful things in the world are never heard or seen by other humans. There are rare times, when you stumble across them accidentally and they are so fleeting and unique that they can never be replicated.

I have written many times about my Grandfather, and how as a child I used to sit on the porch of his old house and watch and listen as he played his banjo. It’s one of my best memories.

The other day, one day this week, I was walking my regular route through town. It takes me past one of the town’s unusual resident’s house. He’s a man a little older than me who lives up on the hill behind the ballpark. He’s different. I was rounding the curve in the hill when I heard it…the banjo playing. But it was not just ANY old banjo playing. This was the Flat and Scruggs kind of banjo playing. This was blue grass roots. This was great playing. This playing made the leaves swirl in little circles in the air, and the needles of the pines lean in closer to hear.

At first I thought it was a professional recording, but then realized it was coming from the little white house on the hill with the name “Earp” on the mailbox. It was somebody playing live. Probably…most probably it was V.W. Earp, that different little man who lives there alone. I stopped there and eavesdropped on this playing. I don’t know what song it was. It didn’t matter. It was heavenly. Complicated, fast. The type of playing you wish you could do if you were a pro. I moved on reluctantly after five minutes, finishing my walk. I shook my head in wonder at the savant like talent of this man.

I had seen some of the other things he had done in the past. My good trade day friend, one of the Webb twins, (I can’t remember if it was Ronald or Donald) showed me a design that V.W. had drawn. It was a complicated and quite logical drawing of how to stop the flooding on the Chattooga River. I guess V.W. had given this to him some time back. It looked like something that Leonardo da Vinci might have done. It was a crude, but at the same time a simple and brilliant plan. Of course, nobody took it seriously. I wonder if it would have worked.

I think the Webb boys have a weekly “shack picking and playing” session somewhere, (don’t know for sure…never been invited to come!) I hope V.W. shows up there sometimes. It would be a shame for nobody else to ever hear that gorgeous music. I wonder if he has many friends. I see him out and about his house with his little white dog following him and I throw up my hand and say “hey” I’ve run into him at the local grocery store and talked with him for a few minutes at a time. Conversations which are strange and disjointed, but at the same time very interesting.

I marvel at people like this. I knew Mr. Earp was an unusual man. I grew up around him and his brother and I knew his father, but I can’t begin to comprehend this person. This outlandish “character” who on the outside is so incomprehensible to “normal” people, but who on the inside is such a talent and has such a tremendous intellect. A person who because of his eccentricities has a problem finding outlets for his talents, which will fit nicely into our societal norms. If you act a little different no matter if you cannot help it, it’s hard for people to take you seriously sometimes. There’s no doubt about it. Nowadays in schools perhaps things would develop differently. Back in our day in school… There just weren’t things available.

I’m glad I know this man and I’m glad I took that five minutes to listen to his music. I will always remember it.

These Hands

I held up my hands today and looked at the back of them. My skin is thinning and parchment like, with blue veins and smaller red arteries running just under the surface. Looks all the world to me, like some odd and bizarre road map, minus the numbers. I guess I could consider these old hands a road map of my life for sure.

They have been with me on the road, as I have traveled at the very least over half a million miles in a car over the past thirty years.

They have been with me holding first three children and then nine grandchildren since 1972. For the most part they were comforting, with a few detours for some parenting corrections.

I hope and expect they will continue to be my own “living record” of more things to come over the next few years. The good and the not so good, whatever life brings.

Confessions of an Electronic Age Junky

My confession, my sorrow……

For me, this coming of the electronic age has been somewhat of a downfall. It’s been my fault, because I let myself succumb to it. It started in the mid to late 90’s and has sucked so many precious hours, days, month and years away from me that when I look back on it, it saddens me so much.

I looked at one online game that I have played quite a bit over the past decade. It keeps up with your time played. It said I had played 883 hours. That’s a total of 36 days. Over a month. Of course that’s not consecutively staying on, but an aggregate of time periods of from half an hour to 5 or 6 hours. That’s bad enough, but it’s not even the online game which I have played the most. I’ve played Ultima Online, World of Warcraft, Guild Wars, Skyrim, Diablo, and a few others. I conservatively estimate, I’ve wasted up to 16 months or more of my life playing these games. I could have been reading. I could have been writing music, or working outside in the sunshine, golfing, fishing, anything. I was sucked into these games, just like I found myself sucked into social media. There’s also no telling how much time I have spent on Facebook and other forms of “not so social media”

I thought it was really great at first, but the last two or three years have been difficult. What started out as a connecting with old friends has become a mess. It’s become politics, it’s become partisan, it’s become fake, it’s become people taking advantage of other people. It’s become, for the most part, with the exception of being able to see the connections with my family through this medium, useless to me as something positive in which to participate. The information they glean from us is sold to unscrupulous people who take and use it for nefarious reasons. Period. If it were not for the relationship aspect on social media with my family, I’d get off in a heartbeat.

I’m hoping to go back to some of my pre mid 90’s habits of reading books, and relaxing more at night before trying to sleep. I have no doubt that using these electronic devices for all things all hours of the day and night have not been beneficial healthwise…at least for me. I wish I could change what has been, but I can’t. I can’t get all that time back that I have wasted.

When I was a young man, in my twenties and I thought of long term things which needed to be accomplished I always thought “Well, I have plenty of time to get that done…” Turns out, I didn’t. I didn’t take the time to do the things I needed to do to get some of those things done. I could sit here and regret it….and in a way I do. I’m sad about it in some ways. But…if wishes were horses…

We human beings have become captivated during my lifetime by technology. We have, in a sense, become captive by it. All of our lives have become structured around the computer driven world around us. Much of it was good, but now much of it brings danger and sorrow for us. Not a day goes by that you don’t hear of “hackings” of large companies, stealing the private information of people. Chances are if you have a credit card, or credit cards then you have been compromised. If you have been on Equifax, you have been compromised. We have probably been compromised in so many ways that we have no idea how bad it really is. It’s pandemic. It’s probably unstoppable at this point.

Another thing technology has brought us that we did not need is 24 hour “news” Ted Turner brought that to us even before the computer age with CNN, and things have gone down hill from there. Now there is channel after channel of 24 hour news “indoctrination” coming to us with a “slant” courtesy of whoever owns the stations, or whoever has influence over them. We are being constantly bombarded by propaganda to the point where we do not know right from wrong, or up from down. We are being manipulated by these 24 hour a day “talking heads” to the point where our world is much worse than the program Max Headroom ever imagined it to be.

Can we go back and fix any of this. No. Can we do things going forward to mitigate the damage which has been done to us? Perhaps. It won’t be me doing it though, because I’m 67 1/2 years old. It’ll take a lot longer than the years I have left to change humanity to a more enlightened state.

As for me, I’m going to do my utmost best to stop being a victim of my own obsessions. I’m really going to try. I’m going to fail some, but I’m damn sure going to try. How about any of you, my friends? Am I wrong? Am I crazy? Mayhaps I am.

To all of you, Godspeed, and God bless. Don’t expect a whole lot out of me….but I’ll be around with photos and such.