By now, everyone has seen the meme floating around the blogs where someone has to share six strange things about themselves. I haven’t been tagged, but I’m compelled to share several strange things that happened to me this weekend.
First a little background: David Francey is a Scottish-born singer-songwriter who lives in rural Ontario. The Seattle Folklore Society (SFS) brought him to Seattle this time last year. I had never heard him play before that night, but by the intermission, I had fallen for him. His self-deprecating humor, fine storytelling, gentle voice and excellent songcraft left me bubbling and babbling. I bought two cds during the intermission and proceeded to gush all over his shoes as he signed my cds.
The final song of the evening was a rousing sing-along to “Mill Towns”; the chorus is “Don’t follow me in boys, don’t follow me in boys, don’t follow me in boys, don’t follow me down.” The song is a warning by an older generation about the hazards and perils of working in a one mill town; when jobs go south, a town dies and along with it the people who worked there.
The morning after the concert, I was still bursting with ecstatic energy; I popped on the cd in our kitchen and called me kids to attention to listen to “Mill Towns”. My version of David’s introduction, along with the powerful chorus, captured Owen’s attention. It is no exaggeration to say that this song is Owen’s anthem. A propos of nothing, on a random Wednesday morning, driving to the grocery store, Owen will ask me about working in a paper mill. He picks bits and pieces out of David’s songs and listens to them with a deep concentration.
1. Two weeks ago, I read in the Seattle Folkore Society newsletter that David was going to be appearing in concert again at the Phinney Center, which is where Owen attends preschool (his hero plays a concert, that he can attend, in the building with his preschool). I raced down our back stairs to where Owen was creating a swimming pool in the middle of our lawn. “Guess who is coming to the Phinney Center for a concert – it’s David Francey!” Owen stopped what he was doing. “Wooohooo!” he shouted, lifting his trowel up into the air.
2. Yesterday morning, Owen woke up at 6:30 am and was dressed in minutes. This is the boy who would rather stay in his pajamas all day if we had nowhere to go, and usually insists that I dress him because it is all too difficult early in the morning. “I’m ready to go,” he announced as I trudged into the kitchen in my bathrobe. “Go? Where?”, I asked. “To the concert! To see David Francey!” “Oh, no. I don’t think David Francey plays music this early in the morning, Owen. We’re not going until after supper. His concert starts around your bedtime,” I reminded him gently.
We met our friends Liza and Morgen in the hall, where they had saved front row seats for us. They had already been there half an hour when we arrived, and we had another thirty minutes to fill before the concert started. There was lots of high energy bouncing around; in an attempt at distraction, I suggested to Owen that he show Morgen his classroom across the hallway from the community hall. Unbeknownst to me, the concert organizers were using it as a dressing room for the performers. We stopped just inside the vestibule once we noticed the musicians sitting at a table, whispered and giggled a lot, and then tiptoed back to the hall where we waited impatiently for the music to begin.
Finally, a volunteer came onstage to thank the crew and speak a little about the SFS. I had spoken with him on the phone when he called to confirm my reservations, and told him how excited Owen was to see David perform. I had also written to David through his website and asked whether “Mill Towns” could be put on the set list, including a little background about his little fan.
Just before calling David onstage, the volunteer mentioned Owen sitting in the front row, which made him squirm and beam at the same time. And, true to his word, “Mill Towns” was the third song. He taught everyone the chorus, and mentioned that there might be a tiny little high voice leading the group. Sure enough, Owen belted it out, loud enough that David looked over and smiled every time the chorus came around.
Once the long-awaited song was over, the wiggles kicked in. I offered to dance with Morgen at the back of the hall, but when Sophie and Owen joined us, we got the evil-eye from members of the audience sitting in the last rows. Unable to contain the whispers, giggles and loud questions, I took everyone out into the hallway. Morgen asked if we could see Owen’s classroom now, so we took a peak inside.
3. We found two things in Owen’s classroom/musician dressing room: David Francey’s coat hanging in Owen’s cubby,
4. and Owen’s plate on the table.
During the first week of school, every child in the pre-k classroom drew on their own plate, which is theirs to use for snack for the rest of the year. Now this classroom is used by several groups, and there are several cupboards with plates. Owen is one of twenty students, but somehow, a volunteer pulled his plate out of the pre-k cupboard for the musicians.
We came back into the community hall to discover the music had stopped for intermission. We practically bowled David Francey over with our enthusiasm. Owen so desperately wants his picture taken, but is also so shy to actually be in the presence of greatness.
5. And would you look at the vest David is wearing. Hmmm. It looks a little familiar. Not a true fair-isle, Lance points out, but still two color stranded with Shetland wool. Before David poses with Owen, I ask if I can take a picture of the vest. My enthusiasm overtakes my sense of decorum as I gush about being a knitter, and recognizing the central motif (not enough contrast between the pattern and background colors I note to myself). David tells me that he bought the vest in Edinburgh and he is aware it is not a true fair-isle, but this is what the woman had in her shop and he wanted a souvenir to bring home.
6. Back at our seats, we discover that Liza has bought the same two cds I bought last year when I first saw David perform.
Much like the Prince of Wales vest featured in both Sweaters from Camp and Folk Vests which was inspired by a painting of the Prince of Wales in a yellow fair isle vest, I am determined to recreate this vest for myself, with a few value adjustments for the pattern colors.
7. In the second set, David dedicated a song to Ben and Sarah, a couple married in Wolfeboro, NH, who used one of his songs for their wedding. Lance lost his wedding ring while water-skiing near Wolfeboro, on our honeymoon.
Unrelated to David Francey, but still a strange thing: on the way to see a children’s play on Saturday, we we turn on the radio in Lance’s car. One of our old time favorites “The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers is playing; we sing along to the words we know so well. What does the Giant’s wife sing onstage at Jack and the Beanstalk? The Gambler. Who knew the Giant was married to a crooner from west Texas?