Thursday, July 12, 2012

No Longer Strangers

All you have to say is: "We're headed to Lays," and everyone's first guess is that you're headed to a jam session or mountain music/bluegrass performance in Coeburn, VA.

And that was our destination on a recent Thursday night.

Our first challenge was to find a place to eat, and just down the street from Lays was Frosty Bossie. The name was enough to draw us in. After realizing that this was an "eat-in-your-car" eatery, we ordered the typical drive-in fare: burgers, fries--and a raspberry shake.

It was raining and space in the truck was already at a premium; in addition, we thought this would be just a quick meal, so we did not try to grab the camera and execute the required composition exercise in the cramped space to obtain photos.

And once again, our modest expectations for an average meal were shattered. Our double cheeseburger and double bacon cheeseburger were outstanding. The products of a flattop with a 35-year resume had very crispy edges and a medium interior. That rare combination of crunch and juice in the burger was a marvelous accomplishment.

Although we failed to take even one photo of the burgers--even of a partially-eaten burger--we passed along out thanks to the owner (whose name I have forgotten).

On to Lays. It's actually Lays Hardware Center for the Arts, and while it was originally a hardware store, built in 1915, the renovated historical building now serves as a music venue and an artisan training production and retail sales venue.

This was the Thursday night jam, and, as noted at "Jams take place at barbershops, garages, VFWs, restaurants, grocery stores and about any place that local musicians can form a circle and play. ...The object is to see friends, drink a little coffee (or something) and have a good time pickin’."

As is often our experience, we are one of the first to arrive at a jam. The few people there at the time watched us--more out of curiosity, wondering whose relatives we were--as we walked in.

But we did not remain strangers for very long. Three different people (two of whom were organizers of the jams) came over and introduced themselves and made sure we felt welcomed. We certainly did.

This evening's jams featured dancing and

singing. Before the first note was sounded, people had signed up for their turn at the microphone. The whole evening went very smoothly with a number of talented performers enjoying the spotlight.

We had decided to leave before the jam was over, so I walked across the dance floor and dropped a few dollars in the collection bowl and left stage right hoping to make a unobtrusive exit.

Some of the regulars stopped me to thank us for coming; I, in turn, thanked them for a very enjoyable evening.

But then Paul Kent stepped up to the microphone and began "Will the Circle Be Unbroken." Much of the conversation stopped as his beautiful bass voice captured the emotion of the song.

In a conversation with him later, this humble man said that he has enjoyed singing with a gospel group from his church.

After conversations with a number of other people, we were given a copy of a pencil drawing by Charlie McConnell, an artist specializes in detailed pencil drawings, including portraits, events and locations, and oil and watercolor paintings, clay sculptures and pottery. He is a member of Round the Mountian Artisan Network.

As we left Lays and walked back to the truck, the glow of the neon signs of the Old Dominion Power Company and

Lays Hardware matched the warm glow we felt after the welcome we received from the jammers and residents of the Coeburn area.

(NOTE: We will be taking a 2-3 day hiatus and will then return with a record of our travels.)

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