August 9, 2007 – flashback to Mendocino, CA
Thursday night at Lark in the Morning (“hippie band camp”):
Dinner under the Mendo redwoods, in a grand and Christmas-lighted dancehall made entirely of same.
Beads all over the ground outside, among the wood chips and pine droppings — a remnant of the Christian kids’ camp that was here before us. Look for buried treasure with kids and Sadie, who’s singing the blues, and find enough to make a pirate earring.
We were unpacking in the tent cabin when we heard our favorite sound on the planet: the Gaita. Galician bagpipes.
Last year’s barbecue dinner on Friday night ruled harder than anything else at Lark: when half a dozen Gaita players faced off against the Balkan brass band and the Brazilian percussion group and they all played “La Sansonette” together. We remember that snippet in time when we’re feeling down. It’s our happy place.
Went to listen harder at the next tent cabin over. Three guys were eye-locked and blowing hard on their pipes in a triad of noise half the human population finds horribly offensive. The Gaita is a weird instrument where if one plays, it’s not all that impressive — but when two play together it sounds like three, and three sounds like five, etc.
Apparently you can make a Gaita (not very easily) from leather and rubber cement and a $200 chanter. More than likely you’ll tan the hide wrong and smell like dead animal every time you play. Otherwise they cost around $1200, straight from Galicia.
We wonder if we adore the Gaita more than Scottish bagpipes or any other kind because of the shiny tassels. We also wonder if the shiny tassels are the reason why two of the ravens in the trees seem to be following this one Gaita player around everywhere he goes.
Later on, in the coffeehouse we spent all day decorating, a dashing old hippie flirts with Mom. In the middle of suggesting earplugs for a peaceful sleep, he says “well, I’m a musician. I don’t mind the noise.”
We smile and think of all the opera Mom has sang, all the stage productions she’s been in, all the piano and dulcimer and recorder she’s ever played, and mostly all the hundreds and thousands of children she’s taught to understand music in her career as a K-12 Orff teacher and we laugh.
“Mom,” we say, “it’s like we’re trapped in an episode of a show called MUSICIAN — OR FEMALE?”
“Honey, I don’t think he meant it that way,” she says.
“I know, Mom. They never do.”
Later, we fall asleep to the mellifluous cacophony of the Greeks playing bouzouki and oud on one side of us, Turkish singing on the other, and Gaita outbursts here and there. These are the folks whose summer vacation means a mystical return to the past — to a time before recorded music.
It’s nice here. You can hear everything.
Follow Summer Burkes on Twitter.