Elder Pause:A Mini-Memoir
Intro: Multiply award-winning Jonesborough Tennessee, capitol of the fabled State of Franklin, is a serendipitously near-perfect retirement location community by climate, attractive affordability, service amenities, architectural construction, geography, invitingly interesting history, lively activities and diverse opportunities nearby for more adventure, education, and exercise....
Always loving bargains, and joking over the years off and on that I might go bankrupt on them, the apartment has become nearly crowded with cheery and colorful, unique treasures, including good-to-designer clothes for between 50 cents and $3, I've found particularly in two Greeneville antique stores, the fabulously varied and large Sunday Jonesborough Flea Market, two Johnson City Goodwill stores, and one run by the Salvation Army, Book Fair sales at Johnson City and Jonesborough Libraries, and the Town Yard Sale. My ever-increasing collection of "junkyard angels" adorn living room walls, tables and wall-to-wall carpeting. One wonderful clown doll with a painted china face sits looking at me in bemusement as I write daily from the couch, while E.T., a present from my FBI friend, lolls against a corner with one hand and finger out, still asking to leave for his home in space whenever he's pressed in the right place. Some of my paintings, and artwork old and new by other people balance on the walls. A sometimes overwhelming assortment of free regional newspapers and magazines surround me, along with fascinating and educational books, including art plates, mostly acquired from library fund-raising sales, and a CD collection now ranging from the Stones River Boys gospel played on traditional acoustic instruments through Linda Ronstadt and Aaron Neville duets to the Royal Philharmonic playing Queen and Schubert's Symphony No. 9 in C(great), along with two ("We Do It All") narrated and sent by Gwen Fortune of African-Americans playing and singing the classics, including excerpts from The Messiah, in accompanying a monetary donation for the new corporation.
Cooking for myself, I've gone through several phases: Hey! Look at all these frozen dinners available!; steak, and nothing but steak, with baked white or sweet potatoes and sour cream or butter of course; Wow! They have amazing fresh and frozen fish here in the grocery stores!; Look at all the hors d'oervres type stuff everywhere!; How about a collection of exotic salad dressings (Asian Sesame with Ginger, Honey Japanese, Raspberry, Red Wine Mist Cabernet Vinairgrette, Asian Silk Sesame Ginger Vinaigrette, Buttermilk Ranch, Blue Cheese, Peppercorn Ranch, Honey Dijon, Caesar with Bacon, Chunky Blue Cheese) on sale and in interestingly-shaped bottles?; and Wine! Liqueurs! Thick, goozy mixed drinks! Imported dark beers! I'm home! I'm home! I'm home!
Telling Marilyn one evening during a Library dinner how glad and blessed I am to be back in Jonesborough and East Tennessee, she said, "Yeah. There's no place like home, is there?" Later that evening, Dr. Sobol played acoustic guitar and told some really great stories, including my favorite. "A farmer discovers that one of his large pieces of machinery has broken down, so he loads it into his truck and drives down the road to his uncle's place. Getting his relative to examine the machinery, he asks if the man can fix it. His uncle replies, 'Sure, no problem.' 'Okay,' says the farmer, getting back into his truck, on his way to driving back home. 'If you can do it, so can I.'"
One of my favorite Music On The Square performance so far has been the unusual beats and rhythms of Americana as presented by Marci Salyer & Midnite Flyer, but I also loved the Mudbugs playing a great variety of upbeat songs from Fats Domino and other jazzy classics to which the crowd foot-tapped, laughed, smiled, clapped, cheered, and danced, including women with men and adults with children and toddlers even. Patients from Greene Valley are moved to the street in their wheelchairs. An ambulatory, very short man dances joyfully with a CNA who holds his hands and sways, laughing. He pulls her up again later because he wants to dance again, and does. One young man boogies down the sidewalk with his little son's right hand in his, the child also dancing somewhat uncoordinatedly but happily by his side. Sam Burke on bass and harmonies, an ETSU computer professor with shoulder-length curly white hair, mustache and short beard who also plays with the legendary Jonesborough Novelty Band, opens for the Mudbugs with, "Okay, folks. It's Friday night in America!" During a later Friday evening presentation Steve Cook, 1998 founder and organizer of MOTS, has just given away some $10 t-shirts to those in the crowd who'd traveled furthest to be there: Holland, Ireland, Florida, and Chicago. Then, he asks, "How many people know what The Crooked Road is?" and some of us raise our hands, knowing it to be an established traditional Appalachian music trail in Southwest Virginia. Suddenly Steve laughs, points to someone in the audience, and says, "Give that man a t-shirt!" as he goes on to relate, "That man just answered, 'The road to the White House.'" The crowd laughs, the man get his t-shirt, and Asheville singer/songwriter Chuck Brodsky, who has played for the Baseball Hall of Fame and has quite a repetoire of CDs, walks toward the microphone with his guitar. After playing one humorous satirical song, he recounts how he and his father argued daily over breakfast that he wanted to be a lawyer, while his father kept insisting that he be a guitar player. The song had been about how every minor accident could be the subject of a lawsuit for monetary damages, alluding particularly to the true story of a woman who spilled hot coffee on herself and received a very large settlement thereafter from the fast food franchise selling it through her lawyers. After the next funny lyrics after littering, he explains that the words are irony and reads an e-mail from a Virginia woman who took them literally. When hearing them on a CD by a Virginia band to whom the letter is addressed and forwarded to him, she protests their lack of environmental awareness, saying she'd throw away the CD if the rest of it wasn't so good and suggesting that they not perform that song before audiences containing children due to their social irresponsibility. "Irony," Brodsky repeats. "The lyrics are irony." Perhaps the MOTS highlight to date has been Dr. Joseph Sobol, Chair of ETSU's Storytelling Masters Degree program, playing a difficult and beautiful Bach sonata on his antique harp-guitar, although there are so many extraordinarily excellent performances -- from Jill Smith singing, accompanied by her acoustic guitar, original songs including "Are You The Next One?" to the all female Polecat Creek singing harmony and playing strings (fiddle, guitar, banjo and bass) for their original folksy classic tunes -- that it's nearly unfair to single out any one performance.
To reinvigorate mind and body and reaquaint with the environs, I've participated in easily-affordable fall and spring ETSU Alliance for Continued Learning classes, which offer diverse lectures and presenters and include at least one tour (e.g. fall 2007 was guided visits to North Carolina homes of Carl Sandburg and Thomas Wolfe) at the Carnegie Library. I've enjoyed numerous free art receptions, lectures and/or shows at Asheville's Blue Spiral 1 and Woolworth Center; Abingdon's William King Regional Art Center; Greeneville's General Morgan Inn and James-Ben Gallery; Bays Mountain State Park; Johnson City's First Fridays at various art venues and changing arrays at their public library; TACA at Jonesborough's International Storytelling Center and the Visitors Center's monthly revolving displays; Kingsport's Renaissance Center TACA presentation and galleries and the Main Street Art Council; two Syacmore Shoals Watauga Art League assortments featuring live musicians; ETSU's Slocumb Gallery and Reece Museum. The area abounds in inexpensive or free musical performances, which I've attended with joy: a bluegrass festival by the Nolichuckey River at Daniel Boone State Park; orchestra and band performances at Carnegie Auditorium, Milligan's Seeger Chapel, and Tusculum College; Main Street Johnson City improvisation and Asheville street musicians, and ETSU Music Department individuals and groups of unusual talent. Perhaps the best ballet I've ever seen in my life was a performance by Magnificat! -- a Christian ensemble from across the country, headquartered in Atlanta and featuring dazzling virtuosity, vigor and enthusiasm -- which dedicates their presentations verbally and in spirit to the Trinity. That choreography happened to be about Germany, holocaust victims and the Nazis with a somewhat surrealistic but hopeful ending.
Afterscript: Post-strokes and multiply-disabled now, several entertainingly-energetic neighbors complete with exceptionally pleasant dependability each week everyday essential home tasks including mopping, vacuuming, dusting, polishing, dishwashing, garbage disposal, laundry, meal prep, personal care and grooming, grocery and sundries shopping, financial accounts' care and oversight, two awarely friendly local social services reps check in person monthly that I'm as comfortably and safely provisioned as possible; and our wondrous Senior Center provides.... lotsa other good stuff! See for yourself: https://www.facebook.com/JonesboroughSeniorCenter