After the turkey and potatoes and cranberries on Thursday, the Fool and I go home and bake like mad things and on Friday, pack up a bunch of homemade cookies, pile into the car with sleeping bags, fiddle, guitar and dance shoes (and this year, two guys named Ed, a cello, an extra fiddle and a mandolin) and head north to Wisconsin for Breaking Up Thanksgiving with all our friends.
It's the Chicago community's contra dance weekend and every year, it more or less goes like this: Dance, get no sleep, play tunes, dance, play tunes, drink whiskey, get no sleep, eat a bagel, stop for coffee, go home.
This was the first time our grad student friend Ed came to Breaking Up Thanksgiving. We bought him to Pittsburgh a couple weekends back, and he said he had no idea traveling with us meant he "got mocked on the Internet." So to protect his identity, I'm going to give him a pseudonym. I shall call him Sam.
The second Ed was in case the first one wore out. Also, he needed a ride.
Here's the view from the stage Saturday night. The Fool and I play some Cosmic Otters sets, but we like to put together other bands for these weekends, which are all pickup bands and volunteer callers.
If we play more old-time tunes, we're the Cosmic Possums (as possums are more old-timey than otters.) So at Breaking Up Thanksgiving, we're usually the Cosmic Possums.
We played with Walter, a great banjo and fiddle player, who retuned his banjo in the middle of a set, changing keys and immediately raising the bar for clawhammer players everywhere.
And Sam and the Fool engaged in some exceedingly sweet twin fiddling, so beautiful. Here they are being serious musicians, checking their tuning or learning a tune at the last minute or changing their minds about what we all agreed we should play earlier.
We had a lot of conversations that went like this:
FOOL: OK, let's play "Harness the Marmot" in D, followed by, oh, wait, what's this tune? (fiddles a bit.)
SAM: Oh, oh, that's "My Auld Wooden Leg," you know, Michael Coleman recorded that in 1925.
FOOL: Yeah, right, that's it!
ME: What key is it in?
FOOL: Uh, G.
ME: Great. D and G. Got it.
SAM: Of course, "My Auld Wooden Leg" sounds a lot like "Paddy in the Bathtub," which is also a great tune.
ME: What key is that in?
SAM: E minor.
ME: OK. D and E minor.
FOOL: Wait, no, that's not "Paddy in the Bathtub;" you're playing "The Smelly Sea Captain," that tune in D minor.
ME: D and D minor? I don't think I like that....
SAM: No, no, G and D minor. We're not doing "Harness the Marmot" anymore.
ME: Oh, for the love of God....
Here Sam is mugging for the camera.
And on the way back, after failing to stop in front of the giant frog with doors for a picture, I pulled over for this group shot with Adina, Sam and the Fool. Someone honked as they posed.
And now we have broken up Thanksgiving, and we are heading for Christmas and I have a scarf to knit.