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Archive for July 17th, 2005

Where I’ve Been

Sunday, July 17th, 2005

Dulcimer FestBrian spent the week in Evart, Michigan (a tiny town with a nice fairgrounds), at the Dulcimer Fun Fest again this year. He teaches ukulele workshops there. It is kind of wonderful to talk to people who learned to play uke from Brian there in previous years. There was a young man who sort of watched us from afar even when we tried to talk to him. His mom told us last year he learned to play at one of Brian’s workshops, and he is just really loving his instrument and doing well at it. I wish he had felt comfortable enough to chat with us but I never had a chance to say hello.

I went up for two nights, which meant parts of two days and a full day. My, the sun was hot! We sleep in a tent and both mornings it was so hot, the heat woke us up very early (8am the first day). When you couple that with staying up till 3am playing music with some incredible musicians and having the time of your life… well, I got overtired and a little grumpy. Of course, I always get a headache outdoors anyway (mostly allergies… either dust and pollen if it’s dry or mildew if it rains) but this time the sun was worse than anything I could have breathed.

Dulcimer FestI did enjoy playing music and meeting new people. I met two women who flew up from Florida just for this event. One woman, Nadine, was a chatty one like me, and we talked for about 2 hours the third day I was there. I hope I will be able to see her when I go visit family in Florida sometime. She is not far from where Brian’s folks sometimes go. Meeting Nadine and her friend, was the best part of the whole trip!

I came home on Saturday night, got home in time to shower and then get to Altus for the last half hour of the music set. It was SO good to be home! I just do not like dirt and sun and the great outdoors. I like people and gatherings and music, and I adore playing music with my beloved Brian, but I sure do prefer the Ukulele gatherings which typically are held in conference centers or hotels. I’m definitely a citygrrl.

Dulcimer FestFunny, when we were at this event, everyone kept saying that we were from “the Lansing area.” No, that’s incorrect. We are from Lansing. As in City. As in 30 blocks from the Capitol Building of Michigan. As in, I can ride my bike downtown in maybe 20 minutes max. As in, I LOVE being a citygrrl.

We have many beautiful parks and the riverwalk, two rivers that come together, we have the East Side where I used to live and still work (Foster Center) and where great ethnic food of several types is available. The town is green with trees. It’s pretty darned safe for a city of this size, safer than I’d expect.

We have musical venues, art galleries, Old Town, plenty of community theatre, places one can dance, sing, act, display art, perform poetry, do any sort of artful thing you can think of. You won’t always sell anything, you may not get paid to perform, but I’ve done all these things and more, and been welcomed even when I was a newcomer.

Dulcimer FestWe have a community that is truly culturally and racially mixed (my former, east-side neighborhood had whites, blacks and hispanics all interspersed with old and young and straight and gay and Democrat and Republican all in one block… my new neighborhood is not quite that mixed but it’s getting better).

There are so many communities in the US where this mingling does not happen, although the law says segregation is not permitted. (For example, in Lakeland, Florida, it appears to this outsider that you cross Martin Luther King Street and the skin color of folks you see changes almost completely.) I’m not informed enough to understand why that is, but it makes me proud to be from Lansing.

Here in Lansing, for the most part we all know we belong and we have a decent place to live and work. Some groups still do stick more together because of a common language, but they live in neighborhoods with other groups as well.

Dulcimer FestLansing is a great spot for getting around, whether to yarn shops or other things. Grand Rapids, Flint, Mt. Pleasant, Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti are all places I can get to easily via highway, most of them within an hour or so.

So when I say I’m from Lansing (population 119,000), I mean the *city,* and I like it. Sometimes I wish I lived in a bigger city, but I’ve lived in smaller places and I love this spot. I grew up in a Lansing suburb, pop. 10,000 then but 22,000 now (currently 84% white but my middle school of 800 had a total of 5 black kids in 1970); went to college in a quaint city with current population of 26,000 and college 28,000 but the college was 14,000 when I was there (currently 89% white).

I then lived 12 yrs in a lovely, peaceful historical city, pop. 3,800 (97% white), but sold my house after my divorce and moved to Lansing (65% white) in about 1991. (For perspective, the USA is approximately 75-80% white.)

In a more frivolous vein, we have many yarn shops where I live! And I am not kidding. In Lansing proper, we have Threadbear, Little Red Schoolhouse and Rae’s. Going east, in East Lansing we have Woven Art; in Okemos (east of East Lansing) we have Yarn for Ewe. Just southwest a half hour, we have Yarn Garden. In Jackson, half an hour south, there is The Dropped Stitch. In Howell, 35 minutes southeast, we have Stitch in Time. In Eaton Rapids, 45 minutes West, there is Old Mill Yarn. And those are only the ones that are less than an hour away, that I know about and have personally shopped.

I have no desire to go back to a smaller community. I nearly moved to Chicago in 1991 but chose Lansing in part because of the great cost of living/housing prices… I sometimes wonder what my life would be like if I had chosen Chicago. However, I met Brian in Lansing, and that is reason enough for me to be happy with that choice.

I love the energy and the cultural mix of the city. The world is big, many people don’t look like me, and I don’t feel like holing myself up in a community where folks mostly look the same, you know? Yes, that is a really big simplification, but the essence is what I feel. I adore the diversity in the city, even if I don’t love every thing my neighbors do. That’s the nature of living together on this planet.

But heavens, I have digressed long enough!!! I went to the Dulcimer Fun Fest, which was a bit more culturally mixed than it was the first time I went. (For an admission price of $3 for the week, it’s the best entertainment value I’ve had in a long time!) And I found fascinating people and played music and sang. And had a good time (when I wasn’t being grumpy focusing on how hot it was)!

There was a ukulele jam session on Friday night, and we attended. I tell you, for someone who doesn’t play uke much, they sure treated me (and Brian) mighty fine! OK, we all know it was Brian they were so impressed with, but they seem to like my singing, too. They asked us to stand up and play a few tunes like a mini-concert, which we did and they made us feel very welcome.

After we did that, there were more group numbers, followed by a very special appearance by Gil Ogawa (I hope I spelled that right). He sang Hawaiian War Chant, first in Hawaiian and then in English, followed by a novelty/comic number. Boy, does that guy perform! Not only is he a good musician but he just really relates to the crowd as he performs. Maybe you can see it in his expressions in the photos. He played with a friend and I don’t have the friend’s name (playing banjo).

Photos: Gil Ogawa alone, and with friend. Ukulele jam, as much of the crowd as I could fit into the camera lens. Workshop leaders relaxing with their feet in a wading pool to cool off. Two guys playing an impromptu bass duet on Friday night. I took the shot from a long distance during twilight but it shows the essence.