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Friday, April 05, 2013

In the Heart of Clogging Country

A shelf at the YMCA gift shop: That little wooden beaver is now mine all mine!
We've been working at the Blue Ridge Assembly YMCA now for a few days. One of our first assignments was working in the YMCA gift shop - how to ringing up sales an such. I absolutely had to buy the little toy beaver in the photo above. It's a genuine Appalachian made wooden pull toy, well fitted to the Blue Ridge Appalachian theme. I think it'll look good by my fire place and I can pull it behind myself on walks... or not.

The four story building on the right was the first one we did some touch up painting in
Ila and myself spent 2 days doing some touch up painting in a couple of very old, very grand buildings that date from the early 1900s (old buildings mostly meant to me, 'many stories, no elevators'.

Ila expected our volunteer work to be more like what she had done during a volunteer stint in Estes Park, Colorado, where she  worked in an arts and crafts shop. Oh well, as I kept saying, "I can tolerate anything for just 2 little weeks". Uh... turns out that wasn't quite

One of two giant dining rooms where Y guests take their meals
The only bit I really didn't like was we were called on to bus tables in the humongous dining room, along with one of the Assembly's hired  crew. It exhausted me & I thought I was gonna die! I've decided that hell or high water, I'm NOT doing that again. Period. 


Now, the good news is most of the work we will do involves clerking in the gift shop and becoming a Barista. I've been learning to prepare coffee drinks I've only ever known from the 'suck it down' side of the Starbucks equation. Barista-ing is in my blood, and I think I'll enjoy it.

Now for some fun stuff - earlier today Ila and I were on a lunch break in the cabin. Owen, the camp Director popped by for a visit. He invited us to go, with him and his wife tonight, to a local venue to soak up some local color. My first reaction was terror, as in, "WHAT! Me, socializing? EEEEK!" Happily, although at first I told him, something like, 'let me think on that', I'm proud to say before dear Own left, I came to my senses. I realized how incredibly sweet he was to invite us out to make us feel at home. How, even for a second, did I even contemplate turning down such a kind and wonderful invitation?

So, late in the afternoon, Owen and his v. sweet wife Anita picked us up at our cabin. They drove us into the little town of Fletcher for dinner at a Chickafil restaurant. Ila and I had our leftist, liberal concerns about Chickafil which we put aside for the occasion. We had to admit the food was great and I swear, everyone in town was there for a Friday night meal. Then soon we were at our venue for the evening - the Feed and Seed store.

Combination Bluegrass band  & Sunday Church service venue
Looks can fool you! This one time country livestock feed & farm seed supply company is the spot where the locals get together to hear the best of live Blue Grass Music Friday & Saturday nights. On Sunday mornings just as many gather there come for some Sunday mornings preaching.

We arrived when the seats were just filling up. We were greeted by the really nice pastor who runs the Feed & Seed.  Soon the room was jam packed, and everyone was smiling, greeting their friends and getting ready for The Lazybirds to start their set.

There were people cloggin' up a storm on the dance floor
As the Lazybirds played with the first Blue Grass number on guitar, fiddle, bass and/or drums, a string bean of an older man, stood and walked to the front of the band on the little wooden dance floor. Soon he was clogging, and the audience whooped and clapped in appreciation. No one got on the dance floor with him. I got the impression it was an honor for him to 'break in the dance floor' for the night. The man's lank legs shot up and down like pistons. His heels and toes clicked, sounding like someone working on horse shoes at a forge. I've heard of clogging, and I believe I have a friend or two that have taken up clogging, but it was my first viewing of the native Appalachian dance. Owen told us the way I pronounce it, 'Ap-pa-lay-shin' shows I am not a local. The locals say, 'Ap-pa-latch-shin. I sound like a local now.

The Lazybirds played tunes I know, such as C C Rider, Maybelline, the Wabash Canonball and, merciful heavens, that divisive old number, Dixie. The cloggers were all sizes,  shapes and ages. Some danced pretty much every dance and I have no idea how they dance with such ongoing energy, yet, no offence, some of them are a tad chubby. How can anyone dance & burn that many calories and remain tubby?

I asked Anita if the cloggers wear taps. She smiled wisely and said, "Ask one of the cloggers". I turned behind me, and asked a clogger seated behind me - an older lady, quite slim, in a pretty silver spangled t-top. She happily pulled off her tiny pointed white shoes to show me their taps. She told me she ordered the taps on line and gorilla glued them to her shoes. The taps, heel & toe, are two sheets of metal, held loosely by short metal studs, so when walked upon, they clatter like a cart horse on cobblestone. Later, when she returned to the dance floor I saw she had a round novelty disk with bright LCD flashed colors while her shoes clicked & clogged.Cool!

The lady in the shimmery top was the one who so sweetly
showed me her clogging taps & told me all about them
The best dance tune of the evening was a big hit with the crowd and you could feel the excitement mount when the band played the first few notes of 'The Orange Blossom Song'. It's a sort challenge dance; the music starts off briskly, with the cloggers bouncing up and down, their feet flying.  At patches of music when the speed doubled, then tripled, as dancers frantically kept the pace. Then suddenly the music would drop to the normal fast pace with the dancers looking a bit relieved. Then in a bit the music's pace would speed up again and the challenge resumed. As the Orange Blossom Dance progressed, some cloggers had to drop out for exhaustion. Now I thought I could predict who would stick out the dance to the end, but the tall lanky man dropped out (I was surprised!) and in the end the dancers triumphant, were fat, thin and everything in between.

I am thrilled to say I even had a go at the dance floor! The lanky gentleman I mentioned who started off the evening's dancing beckoned me over, led me to the dance floor and we cut a patch on it - mind - I thought I would drop from exhaustion! He told me he was 77 years old. Could he have been that old? It was literally all I could do to keep up with him for an entire dance. WHEW! (Oh. I ought to mention it was a slow dance. V. slow. Still could barely keep up. Yes. I am out of shape to the nth degree) Of course the locals, even the chubby ones start their dancing as babies when their Mamas, Daddy's or Uncles take them onto the dance floor. I guess a full lifetime of clogging can give you a lot of second winds!

What a fun evening we had! Loved the music and loved how friendly and how unselfconscious everyone was. I totally  wish there was such a place in my neck of the woods to go clogging, with no worries of any kind except for having fun. Here's a Youtube of a group, "New Outlook" playing for dancers of all ages. Hey, think you could keep up?

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