Author: Varner, Mark

Two legged stool dude raises objections

Dear Friends,

This is a happy place, this CBA website. These are the art of enjoyment and the enjoyment of art, these events we produce here at the largest bluegrass organization in the world. While our songs frequently deal in loss, our mode is far from maudlin.

So this is not the time or place to express the feelings of sadness with which I have been battling for a while now. Things are tough all over, eh? Relationships dissolve, we lose friends, and we work to the fullest extent of our abilities and find it’s not enough. We know we are blessed (in whatever manner you choose to interpret that word), but it’s in the midst of storms that wreck and experiences that punish.

I am all about working through things and hoeing one’s row with a minimum of self-pity, and ensuring that one is taking good care of those who rely upon one. Sometimes this “work” seems endless and futile, like a Samuel Beckett play.

We make investments (hopefully) in our lives. We “invest” in people and call them “friends.” We care for them, trust them, love them. “We are how we treat each other when the day is done,” as a popular song says. (‘Nothing More’ – find it on Youtube). Here in this long running experiment in awesomeness we call the CBA our investments in each other are readily tracked, and quickly appreciated.

People have pillars, someone told me, like the legs of a stool upon which to construct your life. You’d better have at least three or you ain’t standing upright and you’ better, my wise friend warned me, have a number of extras, in case a leg breaks. Family. Work. Some…. “thing” you love. Maybe faith – maybe something eles.

My children are far and away my number one focus, and I’m so proud of both of them. Veronica, who many of you have watched on the KOB stage since she was five years old, is a solid young woman and driven to succeed in life. She’s a freshman this year and is already in several wonderful extra-curricular clubs at her high school. And Marty has applied to a number of universities and colleges. When I pick up the mail at our PO box there are letters of acceptance and scholarship offers from some of the best schools in the country. The events in my children’s lives are at the very center of who I am.

But my work is very long and very solitary and my desire for socialization is a challenge to meet, given my priorities of family and work. I get lonely for grown up company. Boo hoo, right? The two legged stool dude raises objections? Quel surprise!

A normal human reading this Welcome Column on a Monday in March, 2014 would expect, or at least HOPE, that this is leading somewhere. Fortunately for me it is, ha ha. I wanted to tell you how much I appreciate this community. So many of you have been there for me and my family in a variety of ways. A case in point is an old bluegrass friend, you know him, good guy, who helped Marty and I get to the Great 48. We’d never been, and I took the writing of last month’s Welcome Column off to celebrate my stupid birthday (spoiler alert – it was awful), so I did not get the opportunity to express my feelings about the Bakersfield event. I would like to do so briefly now.

You know,a it’s one thing to put on a concert. It’s one thing to put on a big festival. It’s one thing to put on a great music camp. It’s one thing to have a fantastic website and a nice newspaper (we don’t call it a “newsletter”…. ever! Ha ha.). But the event in Bakersfield is simply a bluegrass dream come to life. There were a jillion people there, many faces from the South I assume, since I did not recognize them. And everyone was there just to hang out and visit and pick. There were a modicum of planned events, like the band contest and some workshops, but mostly it was just a hotel (pretty decent one, I thought) full of open doors – rooms of folks jamming or whatever. The hallways were full of faces I’ve known for years and also new faces with “that look.” Oh! I know that look. When you first realize that this is a community dedicated to an art as deep as the ocean and as broad as the sky and everyone is having a blast. And they are AMBITIOUS to be part of this vibrant and jovial scene. They’ll be the students at our CBA Music Camp and they’ll be the ones at the wonderful organized Slow Jam out by the gate at the Father’s Day Festival at 3AM, gritting their teeth when it comes time to take their first ever solo in the jam song. I love these people.

But mostly whom I love are the long time friends I have made since Mud Fest (the “old timers” know that was almost twenty years ago). Going to the G48 was the best therapy a person like myself could wish for and I am so grateful for your bluegrass hugs and the silly times we spent together.

I’m grateful for the way you have treated my kids. I’m grateful that the work I do for the CBA is appreciated. I want to edit the paper on the Suzanne Dennison plan: till I can’t do it any longer.

When I see new people at Grass Valley, and watch them as they gravitate to their own little tribes, I cannot help feeling both proud and blessed, and just a little bit jealous. Jealous that their road has more miles ahead than my own, and that tantalizing glimpse around the bend is a vision and a miracle to those just starting through the Great Divide.

People need something to hold onto, like “a poster from an old rodeo.” I’m so glad we have each other. Thanks!

Your pal,
Mark Varner

Posted:  3/3/2014

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