Tuesday, February 17, 2009

16 February 2008: Hammered

We went to Nashville and did some music stuff.

No, not that Nashville. The thing about living in the US is that they have lots of places that all have the same name, like Nashville or Columbus or whatever. Indeed, look on a map of Indiana and you'll see that Kokomo is a short drive up the road from Atlanta. Just to the northwest of us lies Galveston, and a short bike ride up US31 lies Miami. So I think that's where the whole "City, State" thing comes from: "Kokomo, Indiana" or "Paradise, Texas" or whatever. It's just a way of letting people know which one of these cities you're talking about. It's possible - though unusual - for a state to have two towns with the same name. So, for example, there are two instances of "Fairview, Indiana": one to the east of Indy near Connersville, and one way down in the south-east corner of the state in a county that appears to be somewhat optimistically named 'Switzerland'.

Of course, everything's bigger in Texas, so they have five Fairviews there.

Anyway, that's beside the point (not that I normally let that stop me). So, we went to Nashville (comma Indiana) because there was an acoustic music shop there - the Weed Patch Music Company. Despite its somewhat understated name (maybe they want to keep expectations low for whatever reason: kind of like the 'Standard Tandoori' on Holloway Road in Islington), it was excellent, excellent, excellent. We walked in to a small, wood-decor shop with a wide variety of instruments on the floors and walls which were mostly made of wood and mostly had strings on them. Up a couple of steps and at the back of the shop were three guys sitting round on stools with acoustic guitars, gently jamming along (one of them clearly being better than the other two, leading while they followed), while the shop worker patiently helped everyone in there with insight and knowledge about all the instruments present, some of which I'd never seen before.

In the middle of the mezzanine were three hammered dulcimers, sitting up on their stands, with hammers out all waiting to be played. Even though we were there specifically to buy a stand for my dulcimer, rather than another actual dulcimer, it was impossible not to try them all out and see how they sounded compared to mine. Most interestingly, one of them bore a striking resemblance to mine - despite the dark wood and the slightly smaller size (although still a 15/14), the designs looked identical. A quick look at the price tag let me know not only that it was indeed made by Master Works down in Oklahoma, but also got a feel for the markup they were putting on it: I paid only a very little markup on mine in Arlington a few years ago because it was a Master Works outlet. The friendly shopkeeper was very complimentary about the Master Works range of dulcimers too, which I found encouraging: I guess I got lucky and got a really good one without knowing much about it.

Anyway, we purchased the stand and headed back north. Stopping in at Broad Ripple in Indianapolis for the best Indian food this side of the Shahi (or indeed the Standard Tandoori), we made it back late in the evening and got our 'music corner' finally set up - almost a year after first saying 'hey, I know what should go in that spot in the living room'. And that's what you see in the photo at the top of this blog: come and visit us, and you too can experience the joy of hammering a dulcimer.

As an aside, we also while travelling had the dubious privilege of driving through a town named "Gnaw Bone, Indiana". Let your imagination run wild with such a name: you won't be far wrong. As we drove through, we did see one sign proclaiming "What Happens in Gnaw Bone Stays in Gnaw Bone", at which point we locked the car doors and sped up slightly, especially when we spotted a couple of locals with a slightly hungry look on their faces.

Maybe I'll suggest it to Rupert Lowe for his next holiday?

Postscript: Kokomo may be the third-fastest dying town in the US, but did you know Clifford the Big Red Dog is from here? Makes my normal Plymouth claim ("Francis Drake, Michael Foot and Trevor Francis") seem utterly pedestrian.