Sunday, November 25, 2007

Pictures with the Banjo

Most folks when they take off on the journey of learning to play the banjo they want a picture with it. I'm no different. There are probably hundreds of snapshots of me with various bands that have been taken by all sort of folks. Some of those good, some of those bad. None of them were "professional" enough to include with a resume though.

Over the years I've had a couple of opportunities to drag my banjo to the local photography studio and get some pictures made. Yeah, they're goofy, but hey, it's a good way to keep records of the banjos I've had, and how I used to look.

This first picture was done in oh... 1979 I think. I'm in my best late 70's attire with matching vest. Yes, I know, the strap is a a guitar strap, and yes, it's on backwards. I liked it that way, and frankly didn't know any better. The banjo is an Alvarez Silver Belle. I think it cost $425, and I got it from a local music shop (Bigham's Music in Dalton, Georgia). I installed the sliding 5th string buzzer, er, I mean capo, and I changed out the head to the frosted one in the picture (It came with a clear head originally). This Alvarez was a really good banjo - at least for me at the time. Come to think of it, it's probably still a good banjo - 3 ply rim, decent sound, and easy to play. It was a huge step up from the Kay that I started on.

This next picture is from 1984, not that you couldn't tell from the clothes. You'd probably not be surprised, but I do still have that coat. The pin on my lapel is the Banjo Man from Banjo Newsletter.

The banjo is a 1978 Stelling Gospel. It is one of three that Geoff built for Ralph Stanley. You can see Ralph holding it in the book Masters of the 5-String Banjo. I have more pictures of it here - Stelling Gospel. I got this banjo from Blaylock Music in Hixson, Tennessee.

I still have this banjo, and play it from time to time. It's a great sounding archtop, and although I don't play it very often it still feels like home.

So, I got to thinking, it's been since 1984 since I had a "nice" photograph taken with my banjo. I knew I needed to do it, and even made a couple of attempts on my own, but never really succeeded at capturing anything I liked. Then Steve Kaufman requested a photo for the Acoustic Kamp advertising information. That sealed it. I called Brenda's Photography and scheduled a sitting.

So without further ado here's the photos. I'm more casually dressed (obviously), and much older. It's amazing what 23 years will do!

The first one here is the picture I submitted for the Kamp. That's my Ramsey Woody. The next one is my Nechville Phantom.

I do have other banjos, but these are the ones I play most. If you have some time check out Ramsey Banjos and Nechville Banjos. No, I'm not a paid endorser, but I think they're great!

So, now that I have these really spiffy photos, I should put them to work (no not in the yard to scare birds... well yes, I agree that would probably work.)


Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Tina's photo-work featured on Schmap

I sometimes fantasize about being a photographer in my next career move. However, it'll probably be Tina that makes it big as a freelance photographer. She has a good eye, and can push the button on the camera.

Seems that the folks at Schmap liked one of the pictures in my Flickr gallery, but it happened to be a photo that Tina had taken. They used the picture in their Chattanooga Neighborhood Guide.

But while you're poking around on Flickr, feel free to check out some of the other pictures I have there. If you'd like, you can find more in my Picasa Web Album.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Tina Bought a Road Bike

I'm sure I had a lot to do with this purchase. She enjoys her mountain bike, but I've been riding more and more road miles lately and we like to ride together. We looked at and test rode a couple of road bikes for her (Specialized, Trek and Giant). She was very impressed with how easy they all were to ride. The local bike shop - Bear Creek Cycles (formerly Dalton Bicycles) - had a 2007 model Giant OCR3 that she liked the best, so she put it in lay-away.

Tina had some travel money owed her, so when she got her travel check she brought the bike home. She's going to be a formidable road biker. We went riding yesterday (her second road ride) and she did great. It was a 12 mile out and back. I didn't tell her how far, because I knew she'd never agree that she could make it. I knew differently, and I was right.

She was proud of herself, I was too. I think it really boosted her confidence. I just wonder how long it will be before I'm struggling to keep up.


Thursday, September 27, 2007

Two Cars in Two Weeks

Car #1

Anyone that's seen me on the road has probably scratched their head in wonder. Why does he continue to drive that ugly, and beat up 1988 Ford Crown Victoria? Well, it was cheap. Heck, I got the car in a trade. I traded a guitar for that car, so the price was right, and it was super dependable for almost 10 years. The maintenance was negligible, and the gas mileage was probably a lot better than you'd have guessed. But nothing lasts forever, and there were a couple of issues that it had which caused me to not really want to drive it much anymore.

Last Christmas (2006) I was out shopping for gifts and I got a call from work. They needed me at one of the branches and it didn't matter that I was an hour away. So, I hurried to the branch and discovered that they had fixed their own problem about five minutes after they had initially called me and then didn't bother to call me back - saving me the trip. As I left the branch I noticed that the transmission slipped a little and by the time I got home it was slipping a lot. It was still driveable, and I drove it this way up until last week, but I certainly didn't want to strike out on a long trip with it. Yes, I could have fixed it, but as long as it got me back and forth to work I didn't see replacing or repairing the transmission on a car that was really soon to be replaced especially after this past Easter morning when Tina backed into the driver's side rear fender and left an enormous dent (her car was fine - not a scratch). So with the enormous dent, and flakey transmission I decided that it would be nice to have a car by winter.

My dad has been working for the local Ford dealership (Chatsworth Ford) as a driver (picks up and delivers cars) for about a year now, and has a good opportunity to find some great deals. He told me about a 2007 Ford Taurus SEL that he had driven and how impressed he was with it. Leather seats, sunroof, "Gold Ash" paint and all sorts of other niceties were probably enough to get me to think about it, but the 29MPG he reported getting with it on a trip he made in it was all I really needed to get me into the car.

Now knowing that I was willing to drive the 1988 Crown "Vic Jordan" (as my bandmates called it) for so long, you know I just don't like spending money on a car. It just seems like a bad place to put hard earned money. However, it does seem that there is a time that one must make this sort of expenditure. So, I did.

Car #2

About a week after buying the Taurus dad stops by the bank to show me another car. He asks, "Do you think Tina would like this car?" It's a Titanium Green Metallic 2006 Ford Fusion SEL. I think to myself, "How could she not?" I tell him I'll talk to her about it and we'll swing by the dealership after work to check it out and let her drive it.

We got to the Ford place just in time to see someone driving it off the lot for a test drive. Slight disappointment, but not a big deal if these other folks buy the car. There'll be more cars, and it's not like either Tina or I were set on buying it. A few minutes later the car comes back from it's test drive and we get to run it around the block.

Tina drove it, and really liked it. It had more than enough power, handled well, and had a smooth ride. I drove it back to the lot and we decided to buy it. It seemed like a simple decision. Her car was several years old and it was time to trade it in anyway, and now was a good time.

Tricks of the Trade?

We had bought a 2001 Ford Focus SE for her about 3 years ago. It was used, had very low miles, and was just what we needed at the time. She liked her Focus. We figured we would get about $4,000 in trade since it was still fairly low mileage and in good shape. What we didn't figure on was the question that was asked next. "When did you wreck your Focus?" Okay, we really didn't expect that question at all. Yeah, she put a dent in the Crown Vic at Easter, but remember there was no damage to the Focus at all. We quiz the buyer for the dealership a bit and he takes us out and shows us a couple of things. He had spotted a place on the drivers side fender that had been sanded and painted - it was obvious, and we wondered how we had missed it. It didn't seem like a big deal, but it was a clue that cause him to look elsewhere. Opening the hood he showed us where the whole front-end of the car had been painted. Not only painted, but the fenders had been removed, the front bracket had been removed, the hood had been removed, and the doors had been removed. We weren't quite sure how to feel - angry, sickened, and irritated came to mind. We are angry that this wasn't disclosed to us. We don't plan on visiting or recommending the dealer we purchased it from. I'd post a link, I'd say their name, but it's probably best left alone.

Neither Tina nor I knew anything about "Carfax" at the time - we do now. It's tempting to pull a Carfax report on the Focus, but honestly, I'm not sure I want to know what happened. I'm also not really interested in spending the $25 to find out about a car I don't have. I'm just glad the car gave us no problems and we didn't have an accident to find out if the repairs were done properly. Needless to say, this dropped the trade value a bit, but not horribly, because it was a 2001.

Tina really likes her new Fusion. She looks good in it. It's a little smaller than the Taurus, and a lot roomier than her Focus was. It's a very nice car, with a lot of comfort features that I know she'll enjoy. It has a 6 disc changer, climate control, 4 wheel disc brakes, 24V DOHC V6, and a 6 speed automatic transmission (very smooth). It seems to get really good gas mileage too. No, it doesn't get the same mileage the Focus did, but we both work less than a mile from home, so we're not buying a lot of gas anyway. I'm happy for her too, and it's probably best that she's driving the Fusion; with that much under the hood I'd get in trouble before the week was out.

So, there's the story, two cars in two weeks. I guess we can now be counted among those that have car payments, and I'm slowly coming to terms with that... at least until the payments start coming due. My main comfort is we allowed someone else to be the first owners, thus absorbing the new car price.

Oh, and by the way, both cars checked out clean on Carfax.


Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Good Thing My Head is Attached...

So, I have a stupid bike story. Well, not really a bike story. It's bike related, but it's more of a stupid Jim story. There's a moral at the end, and it's not too long, so bear with me.

Since the weather was nice I took off from work today a little early to ride my bike. I came home, got lunch and headed out.

Just out of courtesy to Tina I stopped by the store where she works to let her know I was going for a ride. While I was standing there talking to her I spotted an el cheapo bike lock & chain. I figured it would be fine for when I stop in town and have to leave my bike out of view. It's nothing major, but it would be at least a deterrent if I do happen to leave it somewhere. We're officially a small town USA kinda place, so bike theft isn't really high on the crime list, so it'll do.

Proud of my el cheapo purchase I head out and toss the chain in my handlebar bag. Saddle up, and I'm off.

A little over ten miles later I'm back home.

During the last couple miles of the trip i noticed a clicking noise from the front wheel. I figured it was either a loose spoke, maybe something on the tire. It was no biggie but irritating none the less, but this story isn't about that.

When I get home I decided stop at the drive way and see if I could determine what the clicking noise was. So I toss my glasses in my handlebar bag, take off my helmet... wait... where's my helmet? Hey! I'm missing a helmet here...

I lost my helmet.

How in blue blazes do you lose a helmet????

I don't recall it falling off anywhere. Let's face it, the helmet is strapped to my head.

So looked at the mailbox thinking that maybe I had already took it off and sat it there. Nope... it's not there.


I looked in the yard. Nope, it's not in the yard. I didn't go as far as the yard.

I decided to retrace my steps mentally.

I stopped at a church parking lot. Got a drink. I don't remember taking off a helmet.

I stopped again about a mile from the house to figure out how to navigate a gnarly intersection at 5 o'clock -- and took another drink. There was no reason to take off a helmet there either.


I bet I left it at the store!!!

So I called Tina.

Of course she laughs at me.

"How can you lose a helmet? It's attached to your head," she chirps.

"Yeah yeah.. leave me alone." I mutter.

"Just go see if anyone turned in a helmet."

"Yes, there's the helmet - lucky you," she reports.

You know, as I write this I remember exactly where I left it. I left it at the U-Scan when I paid for the chain.

The stupid chain!

So the moral of the story that I promised: Just leave the helmet on. No matter if you're at a wedding, or having supper with the family - just wear it. That way you'll be safe, and won't have to replace it.

I amaze me.


Monday, July 02, 2007

I'm a Water Color!

At a couple of recent Lone Mountain Band shows Marie Spaeder Haas, an artist, sat on the fron row and made sketches of us. I'm quite flattered, honored and humbled to have been the inspiration of a sketch.

I think her sketch captures me in a very "me like" stance, and it's genuinely an ego booster!

I posted the other sketches of the Lone Mountain Band on the band's news site. You can check them out here, or you can follow the following links to Marie's page for the pictures.

Bobby - Mandolin
Diana - Bass
Roy - Guitar
Jim - Banjo

Be sure to check out Marie's web page and galleries. She has some great artwork there and most of it is for sale.


Monday, June 18, 2007

Rain Gutter Regatta

The Cub Scout Raingutter Regatta came about quickly. Almost true to form we didn't have the boat kit until the day before the race. Not only that, Samuel and I had an engagement that evening, and we didn't get home until 10:PM. Fortunately Tina had done all the shaping and had painted a primer coat on the boat, so all we had to do was paint , sail decoration, and final assembly. Samuel helped with the color choice and the sail decorations, and I got busy painting.

The finished boat turned out okay. I would have liked more time, but it did what it was supposed to -- float. And float it did, but more on that later. Samuel christened it "The Remphibian" since it had a Frog on the sail and Snake on the sterm.

Race Day

The setup is simple - two rain gutters on sawhorses filled with water. The boats are placed in the gutter and blown gently toward the other end. Simple? Perhaps, but there's obviously some finesse to piloting one of these boats without capsizing it, or burying the bow in the water.

Samuel was undefeated in his races and brought home the 1st Place ribbon! He puffed gently to the finish line each time. After the last race he commented, "I think I'm getting dizzy!"

I was very proud of him. His sportsmanship was at its best and he made sure to commend the other competitors on their effort.

Although we had a lot of fun previously with the Pinewood Derby, the Rain Gutter Regatta was just as much fun -- maybe more. Blowing the boat down the course allowed for the boys to take an active part in the race. That added to the excitement.

So, get out there. Make some boats!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Jim Bought a Road Bike

I'm not quite sure what came over me, but I decided to buy a road bike. It seemed like the right thing to do. I'm not exactly sure if I'll ever make any long rides, but it's nice having a good bike. I figure if I do no more than commute to work as many days a week as I can it will be worth what I paid for it.

I visited the folks are Dalton Bicycles again and wound up purchasing a Specialized Allez Triple. It's a beautiful bike - and speedy. I've only put 10 miles on it, but it was a fun 10. I'm still a little shaky on it, and I'm slowly getting the hang of getting in and out of the toeclips. I figure in a few more days I'll be comfortable with that.

Enough of that for now, but I just had to share! See you on the road or trail, or if not there, in the Banjo Lounge!

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Samuel Pankey - Baptism

Title speaks for itself, but first a little background...

It was April of last year. We (Samuel, Tina and I) had gone to Marietta for no particular reason, but wound up shopping. Tina was in one store and Samuel and I decided to walk across the parking lot to the Guitar Center.

A car zipped by us pretty quickly. I said, "Wow, you better stay close; your mom will shoot me if you get squished!" He chuckled. I told him I thought that would just be a mess as we'd probably both wind up dead and asked him what he thought.

His comment was sobering; he said, "You would go to heaven, but I wouldn't."

"Why not?" I asked.

"Because I'm not saved," he replied.

"We need to talk," I said.

We talked and walked to the store. He understood, but I wanted to make sure he really understood. That week the topic came up a couple of times, and we were clear that it had to be his decision alone. Then, here at home Sunday evening (April 9, 2006), after church, he asked Jesus into his heart. He knew he was saved!

Today he was Baptized. He was excited, but you can also tell from the video that he was a bit nervous. This was at the First Baptist Church of Chatsworth; the pastor is Bobby McGraw.

So, without boring you any more, here's the video.

Thanks for letting me share.


Saturday, May 12, 2007

Pulled the Trigger on the Mountain Bike

I know you just can't wait to know what I bought. I should let you all take bets. I bet some of you already have bets going. So, what did I get?

Did I buy the Jamis? Maybe I got the Trek? Maybe I got the Ironhorse that I didn't tell you about? Maybe it was the Motobecane that Richard showed me on eBay. I really liked the looks of the Gary Fisher - maybe it was that one? Okay, okay... enough teasing.

I bought a bike! Heck, I bought two bikes! I bought a bike for me, and one for Tina too. We've already put a few miles on them today and I can hardly wait to ride again.

Tina isn't nearly as picky as I am. She just wanted a bike. She saw one, it fit her, she rode it - liked it - done! Gee, why can't I be like that. She wound up with a Giant Rincon. She liked the blue color. It fit her quite well, but she did opt for a better seat. I figure it's her butt, she should know what feels right, and I honestly don't want anything to discourage her from riding. I suppose it's her Mother's Day gift, and Birthday, and Christmas -- just kidding.

I bought the Specialized Hardrock Sport Disc. Yes, I know, I had looked a all kinds of bikes. Test rode higher end stuff, cheaper stuff, and had worried and stressed about the varying quality of components, but I took the advice of Bob and Richard and went with the bike that just felt the best. Nothing else I rode really felt as right as the Hardrock. I'm happy, and oddly, I'm not feeling any of the buyers remorse that I usually feel when I make a big purchase. I did my homework. I annoyed my friends. I carted my family to nearly every bike shop I could think of. I tried several bikes. I followed my gut on this one. I'm glad I did!

I'd also like to thank Dalton Bicycles for their patience throughout this whole process. I had been going in there for probably 6 months just looking at bikes trying to decide exactly what I want. In the end I got treated right, and Jason and Ross were very helpful and made us feel welcome. I believe in supporting the local stores and they made it easy to do that.

So, without further ado, here we are with our new bikes.

Friday, May 11, 2007

The Search for a Mountain Bike

It's been years since I've ridden a bike. Well, with any seriousness, but for about a year I've been wanting a bicycle. I've looked at all sorts. I've made good use of my friends in the education process too. Richard Williams and Bob Bowden have probably had enough of me and probably sigh in frustration every time they see an instant message from me.

Here are the bikes I've looked at locally:

The first I tried was a HardRock Sport Disc from Specialized. It is also the least expensive bike I've considered. The fit was good and the components seemed good at that price point. I wasn't really thrilled about the red paint on the model at the shop, but it looks better in person. The same shop also carried Giant, but they didn't have a Yukon in my size to check out. The whole sizing aspect of this purchase process would become a sticky issue when it came to trying out bikes in particular models

The next bike on my list was the Gary Fisher Wahoo Disc. The riding position is a little different on this bike, but it felt pretty good too. The Fisher had a good feel too. However, once again the dealer didn't have a Wahoo in my size. They did have a Marlin that was was able to try. It was the same frame and layout, just different components. One thing that struck me as odd was though the specs online stated certain things, but the Wahoo at the shop was slightly different. For instance the front derailleur on the bike was a Shimono SIS, but according to the specs it should have been a Shimano Acera. While I'm not entirely sure it makes much of a difference, it was just puzzling to a neophyte mountain bike purchaser.

Trek's 6000 was another bike I liked, but, as usual, there wasn't a 6000 in stock at the dealer. They did have a 4900 (basically the 2006 version of the 6000) for me to try. It had a great feel, and seemed like a very well made bike. This bike had some nice features, and I wish I could have just bought it, however the 4900 was on hold for another customer. As a matter of fact, when I walked through the door I saw the salesman putting a tag on a bike - turns out it was the 4900 - just my luck!

The last bike on my list today is the Jamis Durango 2.0. It's probably the better of the bikes that I've considered. It's in a higher price point ($775) than the others. I've also considered the Durango 1.0 (same price range of the others).

It has been my goal to buy a bike by the end of this month, but as I get closer to making a real decision I'm starting to get anxious about having the bike. Of the bikes above I feel drawn to the Specialized. It just felt really good when I was riding it. I'm almost ready to grab that one, but I want the most value for my hard earned money. I'm hoping I can get the dealer to get close to my budget with the Specialized Hardrock Pro Disc.

Now that I've tried out a few bikes, and in the process of negotiating prices less than MSRP, I can hardly wait!!!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

New Railroad Video

Although we had a slight breeze and the pollen count was nearly 6,000 today I decided to record this tune and share it. It's probably not as polished as some of my other tunes, but I really like the song.

Hope you enjoy it!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Pinewood Derby

Over the past couple of months Samuel and I have had the opportunity to build a Pinewood Derby car for Cub Scouts. I had promised myself that I'd make sure Samuel had plenty of help building a car, and make sure we could make it as speedy as possible.

He got his kit from the Scouts and Samuel drew several designs for the car. After going over the designs with him he decided on a shape and we cut it out. Samuel handled the bulk of the sanding and I cleaned and shaped areas that were difficult for him.

Painting was fun. It was Samuel's first time using spray paint, so needless to say we painted - sanded it all off - painted - sanded - painted - sanded. You get the idea. He finally got the hang of it and he settled on a red car with a black bottom. I thought it looked really good. We added pin-striping from the auto-parts store and a number from the original kit.

I took charge of the wheels and axles. I figured if there was to be a major contributing factor to the outcome of any of these races the wheels and axles were going to be a major link. The kit comes with four nails that are used for the axles. I carefully cleaned the burring and flashing from them and smoothed them out - finally using 1500 grit sand paper. I also beveled the heads slightly. The wheels, just plastic, came with mold marks and flashing from the manufacturing process. I cleaned those up as well.

Mounting wheels and axles turned out to be a bit trial and error and a lot of guess work at first, but I finally managed to get them in straight. The car held a good straight line and the wheels didn't wobble or pull in or out on the axle. I applied graphite to the wheels, axles and anywhere else I thought might be a contact point.

My other job was adding weight to the car. The maximum weight is 5 ounces. Not wanting to go over I settled on 4.8 ounces and hoped the scales used at the race wouldn't weigh heavier than mine.

Race #1

We took our car to the race. Weighed in at 4.8 ounces as I had hoped. I made sure everything was still straight on the car and Samuel and I checked it in.

Samuel won both of his races at the Pack Race and was 2nd place in the Tiger Cubs and tied for 3rd for all the divisions. I was thrilled, he was happy, but he came into this race knowing that he would have a fast car, and really expected to do well. He obviously had some confidence in our design and building skills. His first run down the track took 2.67 seconds. His second run was a bit faster at 2.65 seconds.

A nice surprise was getting 3rd place in Best of Show! As many times as we had sanded and painted, we really didn't expect much in terms of looks. We were just proud to get a decent coat of paint on it. The pinstripes must have been just the trick.

Race #2

This was the District Race. Unfortunately I didn't get to attend this one, but Tina filled in for me and they headed out for the race early this past Saturday morning. Samuel won 4 of 8 heats, and had an average time of 2.327 seconds - his best time was 2.310 seconds. The average scale speed was 212.5mph, his fastest was 214mph. Speedy!!!

The final results put Samuel in 5th place. He was only 0.343 seconds from the 1st place car. I was thrilled! For a couple of first timers building a Pinewood Derby car I think we did pretty good. We didn't have a lot of tools, or any way to test the car. With the exception of cutting out the car at the pack meeting on the band saw, everything we did was by hand or with small hand tools. Neither of us really qualify as "highly competitive" either. We just wanted to have a good time! We have the car on display here at home now, and we can hardly wait until next year.

If you've got a boy that's Cub Scout age, you should really get involved - even if only for the Pinewood Derby. It's a lot of fun for a Dad and Son!


Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Interview - World Wide Bluegrass

About a month ago Becky Taylor from World Wide Bluegrass asked if I would be available for an interview on her show. Interview? Me? Internet Radio? Well, sure, why not. Looked like a good opportunity to get a little publicity and have some fun at the same time.

I took an early lunch to come home and set everything up. Found my way to the World Wide Bluegrass chatroom, and from there Becky contacted me through Google Talk. After fiddling with my settings on this end and discovering that I had somehow changed my recording settings from Mic to Line in we were on the air.

Becky provided such an introduction I almost wondered who she was bringing on. Turns out it was me. We discussed my early interest in banjo and music and how I learned. There was talk about some of the other bands I've performed with through the years, and about the current group I'm with, The Lone Mountain Band.

Becky played a couple tunes from Highway of Regret (Ten Mile Tennessee and Stoney Creek) and I also had the opportunity to play a few banjo tunes live. For those that are interested, my 3-finger bluegrass selection was Ring of Fire. I played to clawhammer tunes: Cluck Old Hen and Angeline the Baker.

We also spent some time talking about the Banjo Lounge and what I'm trying to do there. Becky is one of the moderators at the Banjo Lounge and has been very helpful in promoting the "Lounge."

Everyone was very great there, Becky, Gracie, and everyone in the Chatroom. I hope I didn't scare away too many of their listeners with my playing and scattered comments.

Be sure to visit World Wide Bluegrass!


Monday, February 12, 2007

The Georgia State Yo-Yo Championship

I've been some part of the GSYYC for several years now. I've done everything. I've watched, hungout, organized it, judged it. promoted it, built the websites, and even somehow managed to participate from long distances.

Yes, long distances. Over the past few years I've had music jobs that have coincided with the day of the contest. It's tough, but the paying job has to come first, even though I enjoy seeing my yoyoing friends. I plan everything, I get sponsors, I build the website, I seek sanctioning, I put together rules and a tricklist, and everything else that has to be done. Then as it approaches the day of the event I hand everything off to Rob Tsou. Rob's a great guy. He takes my effort, and then turns it into a real contest. Even though I have some mental attachment to the event, I know I can trust Rob to make it run as planned. This year Rob did all of the major planning. Best of all I got to attend and participate!

Dick Stohr flew down to assist. Frankly, we couldn't manage this without Dick. He's got a lot of experience with contests, and the tools (spreadsheets, wireless microphone, etc) to make everything easy on us. I can honestly say without Dick we'd have to work a lot harder than we might have to.

Congratulations to all the winners! You can read the results at Samuel Pankey, age 6, was the photographer assigned to the freestyle event, so be sure to check out the pictures. I wish I could have had more time to meet everyone. Maybe next year.

I did put together the website for the contest, which you can see by clicking on the logo at the top of this post. That logo was also featured on some very limited Duncan Freehand Zero sidecaps provided by Greg Cohen, owner of Infinite Illusions! I'm not sure, but I think there are less than 20 sets of these! Everyone that got a set of these needs to take the time to thank Greg for making these. They're great!

The contest is held in conjunction with the Atlanta Jugglers Association's Groundhog Day Juggling Festival. Because of this we have access to a large venue, and an audience that we wouldn't have. It's a great way to show off the hobby and attract new players from a group that's already predisposed to the manipulation of objects.

I was asked to be a judge, and I had reservations about it, but I agreed. I'm glad I did. It was a learning experience, but I also discovered that when I compared my scores to the other judges I wasn't out of line at all. There were differences, of course, but nothing that skewed the contest unfairly. That was a relief. I'm a lot of things to a lot of different people (good and bad things), but I hope to always remain fair and just, especially when scrutinizing people that give their all in a competition. (That goes for yo-yoing, music, or any other contests where I'm called upon to judge.)

I know I've already mentioned Infinite Illusions, but they were at the festival with all sorts of yo-yos and juggling equipment. I wound up spending my allowance on a Yo-Yo Factory 401K yo-yo. I had been wanting something new, and this one came highly recommended by Rob. Though I have more expensive yo-yos in my collection (you can see part of the collection here) it represents the most I've ever spent on a single yo-yo. I am glad to report that it has quickly become a favorite!

I hope to see you all again next year at the GSYYC!


Saturday, January 20, 2007

Blast from the Past!!!

In 1987 & 1988 I lived in Athens, Georgia where I met up with a fiddle player named Andy Carlson. For a short while we played a five hour set together on Sundays for breakfast, lunch and about $40 a piece for our efforts at a restaurant call Skeeters. Why? For no other reason other than it was fun. It's quite sobering to think about the amount of time that has passed since then. I really miss playing with Andy sometimes. It was so much fun.

We've gotten together a few times since then, but not often enough. Since our Athens tenure Andy has moved on to bigger things. Primarily he's over the Music Department at Denison University in Ohio. About seven years ago (which coincides to about the same time I started playing with the Lone Mountain Band) he started a bluegrass program for the students.

Wednesday, out of the blue, I got an email from Andy telling me his Bluegrass Ensemble would be in Dahlonega, Georgia (a little over and hour from me). I knew I had to go. He had also suggested that I bring a banjo. Shucks, I never leave home without one anyway, so Friday evening I tossed the banjo in my car, loaded up the family and made the short drive through the mountains to The Crimson Moon in Dahlonega. It's a small venue, but cozy, and everyone was very friendly.

When we got there the group was already playing, but I spotted a couple of other folks I knew - Earl Murphy (Andy's Grandpa) and Dennis Helmrich. I spoke with them a moment then found me a spot to listen to the concert. The students were quite capable musicians, and the music was great. Vocals were clean, and the arrangements were clever.

Andy had a spot saved for me on the second set, so I did three numbers and blundered my way through each of them. You can see me struggling in the picture there with Andy on guitar. Never the less it was a lot of fun and the crowd was appreciative. The students were polite and didn't push me off the edge of the small stage or openly make fun of my lack of musicianship. Obviously graciousness and politeness still thrive among the music students at Denison.

I dug around in the Wild Jimbo Archives and came up with a photo of Andy and I from 1988 at Skeeter's; the now long out of business restaurant where we played. Golly, I hope we had nothing to do with it's demise.

The short drive really paid off in a lot of good feelings and good memories. I hope it's not another 10 years before we do it again!