Americana

Driving through the Shenandoah Valley is an interesting experience. For me anyway. I hear the history calling. It’s happened before. The first time I noticed it was when I was in Germany as a teen. We were in a church with a chapel dedicated to the mariners who’d lost their lives in a shipwreck. As I stood there, I heard them calling. The men who’d gone down to the sea in ships. And perished in the storm. It was weird.

But in the Shenandoah hear the voices of the Native Americans. And the Scots and Irish settlers who drifted there during the Colonial era. And then there was there Civil War. War between the States. War of Northern Aggression. The Unpleasantness. Whatever you want to call it. It’s amazing how the animosity lingers.

Driving at seventy miles an hour on the interstate I can cover a lot of ground pretty quickly. But an army, on the march, with scouts and supply lines, they would move slowly. And for four years they marched back and forth through this valley, Yankees and Rebels, fighting over the ground. And ideals. And a host of other things. Back and forth. From Shiloh to Manassas to Gettysburg. Not all in the valley, but up and down the line. I can see them. Hear them. And smell the campfires. And gun smoke.

Every time I come through here I see the signs for the Frontier culture museum in Staunton Virginia. I always say I should stop, but never do. Until this year. Off the interstate, and down a long, long side road, you finally come to the museum parking lot. You’d never know you were within earshot of the interstate.

And wandering through the place you’d never know you were in the 21st century. There is an African village set up representing the Africans brought here as slaves. A Native American village from pre-colonial days. And examples of 18th century life in Germany, Ireland and England. Places from which people came to settle here.   It’s a great place and I enjoyed my brief stay there. I should note that Staunton Virginia is also the birthplace of Woodrow Wilson, 268h President of the United States. And within the city is preserved his birthplace, now the Presidential Library. More history.

This evening I found myself at another venue of American history. Not so much the place, but the activity. This was the Athens Americana Musical Festival in conjunction with the Athens Orthopedic Clinic Twilight Criterium annual bike race and festival. This was Friday, and the big race was scheduled for Saturday, so I wasn’t sure what to expect when I ventured Downtown. I knew there would be music. Athens is famous for music. REM. B-52s. You know?

I ate dinner at Little Italy, where the beer is cheaper than the pizza slices, and the food is always good. Then ventured off to the outdoor music stage. This was the free part of the festival. My kind of place!

It just so happened that the act performing was Blair Crimmins and the Hookers. I get the Blair Crimmins part, but I don’t know why he calls his drummer and horn section hookers. Riff? Hook? IDK.

This group, who I never heard of, seemed to have a local following. They are form Atlanta so maybe people have seen them there, or they’ve been to Athens before. But they played great music. Dixieland Jazz and Ragtime. With a catchy foot stompin’ magnetism. Of course ragtime and Dixieland jazz are purely American forms of music. And they have influenced other musical genres around the world.

I think of Scott Joplin and The Sting when I hear the term ragtime. But there is a lot more to it. There were people who got up and just danced up a storm. I wish I could dance. Or had that kind of energy. Blair belts out some tune at a hundred mile an hour pace, then says the next song is going to be a fast song! How can he move his lips so fast! This anin’t no plug for the band, and they sure aren’t payin’ me. , but I like the music and if they come back to ton I might even go see them again

America is an amalgamation of many cultures. But there are some things that are purely American. That’s part of what makes us unique. And that’s part of my story. What’s yours? www.personalhistorywriter.com

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