Author: Daniel, Bert

The Pound of Flesh

Sometimes it's a real chore for me to come up with a fresh welcome column for all you folks out there in CBA land. That's not the case for me today. Words are just flying off my computerized pen and if you keep reading long enough I promise I can bore you to tears (or maybe entertain you just a little, I hope). What I want to write about today is those other times when I don't feel inspired and it seems like a chore to post a welcome column at all.

I never want to disappoint our loyal readers but sometimes the writer's block sets in and it's really tough to come up with anything new, bluegrass content or not. At such times my mentor, (I won't mention any names here but the initials are RC) takes the place of one of my favorite Shakespearian characters: Shylock, from the Merchant of Venice:

Most learnèd judge, a sentence! Come prepare!

(Then, Shylock's legal adversary, Portia says:)

Tarry a little, there is something else.
This bond doth give thee here no jot of blood;
The words expressly are "a pound of flesh."

Like it or not I've obligated myself to produce two or three columns per month for Shylock, I mean RC. He's the guy who got me into this mess in the first place. I got into this mess because I liked his writing and sent him a little vignette to use if he needed it. I needn't have bothered. Words just flow off of his pen like manna from heaven. But I was honored when he wrote back and said that he liked my little essay and wanted to hire me as a regular welcome columnist.

Shylock could easily write all the welcome columns by himself. But instead he has assembled a crew of writers who are pretty good cross section of interesting bluegrass lovers. You could be one too. Shylock is always advertising for someone who wants to use the welcome column bully pulpit to express themselves through creative writing. Guest columns are available or you could be a regular columnist like me.

I have to warn you though if you sign up for a regular writing gig. Sometimes I'm just not ready. If I had my parents back on earth, they could remind me to do my homework, but life can get very busy and you can get distracted. When Shylock demands his pound of flesh, I have to produce or else. What the "or else" actually is, I don't really know, come to think of it. Maybe I should play hooky one day and just read Shylock's, no doubt enjoyable, "fill in" column.

Time to change the subject here for some advice to prospective welcome columnists (if there are any of you other fools out there willing to agree to the pound of flesh). Try to get some bluegrass content into your creative writing project if at all possible. I'm already on paragraph nine here, so it's a little too late for all the died in the wool bluegrass maniacs out there. Except for you and me, we've already exceeded the attention span of everyone who answers to that description. But just for illustrative purposes, what connection could we make from a bluegrass perspective to all this preceding folderol?

How about this? You're in a hot jam session and the music is really jumping. You've played really well so far, above your usual standard. In fact you're jamming with musicians the likes of whom you never imagined would give you the time of day. All of a sudden, the lead singer nods to you for that special solo. Pound of flesh time, right? Are you ready?

I've been writing welcome columns for two of three years now and it has been tons of fun. Even if I have to write for Shylock. Truth be told, it's to a great degree because I have to write for Shylock (well not Shylock RC). I love it when I introduce myself at a campout jam and people already know who I am because they liked one of my welcome columns.

I still read just about every CBA welcome column all the way through. We have some very talented folks among the columnists who can spin the English language delightfully as they describe every day events that any bluegrass fan can relate to. They remind me that, even when I seem to have hit my worst writer's block ever, creative writing is not a chore.

And it's not a commodity. Many people are not aware of the fact that the hugely successful Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew children's book series were all written by the same people. And at the same time, not the same people. The books were all penned under pseudonymns by various ghost writers, using a set formula for a set fee. Hack writing at its best, courtesy of the Stratemeyer Syndicate. They cranked out Tom Swift too.

We're fortunate to have a cadre of CBA welcome columnists who are flesh and blood. Each with his or her own perspective. I'm honored to be in their company and I'm comforted to know that, although we are flesh and blood, Shylock demands only the flesh we've agreed to. There's no actual blood involved.
Posted:  10/13/2013

Copyright © 2002 California Bluegrass Association. All rights reserved.
Comments? Questions? Please email