The Old-Time Herald Volume 8, Number 5


by Sharon Gouvei

It’s two o’clock in the afternoon. I left my house this morning at seven. I’ve been divorced for eleven days. My husband would say I left him for music and dancing. I would say I left him for myself. But that’s an oth er story.

            This story starts here, Port Jervis, New York . I’ve stopped to get gas, eat, shake off the road wearies. I’m in the bathroom, trying to pee without sitting on the seat, like my mom always taught me. Then it occurs to me: it’s four weeks of public toilets for me. I sit down.

            I step into the sun, and see my little blue car, ready to go. I’ve stocked it with books on tape, my collection of old-time CDs, shoes for dancing, clogging, hiking, running, rain, and hanging out. I’ve got a tent, sleeping bag, towel, fiddle, cash, bankcard, and a folding chair. Shampoo, contact lens solution, Q-tips, and half a dozen condoms, just in case. Peanut butter, crackers, soymilk, cereal, tamari almonds, carrots, apples, dried mangoes, canned soup, tortillas, and carob rice cakes. And maps, lots of maps. And directions. A cell phone. Also just in case.

            I’ve taken four weeks off work to tour music and dance camps and festivals in the South. I’m an Appalachian clogger from Vermont who has never danced in Appalachia . That’s about to change.

            I eat my sandwich, and wonder what I thought I was doing when I planned this trip. I’ve never driven this far by myself before, never been this far from home alone before. I’ve never taken myself on vacation before. I planned this trip last winter, from my cold apartment filled with second-hand smoke from my neighbors and a layer of ice on all the windows. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

            I have been to dance camp before, so I know some of what to expect. These camps are designed so people like me, who love this music and dance, can immerse ourselves for a week. And it really is summer camp, where we eat three meals a day together in the camp dining hall, sleep in bunkhouses or tents. We create our own little community, our own village whose center is the jam tent, instead of the church or the village green. There are workshops in fiddle, banjo, guitar, bass, singing, and clogging by day, organized dances at night, and informal jam sessions that go on until two, three, and four am.

            Driving into the sun, I stop for sunglasses and gas at a little convenience store in Pulaski , Virginia . I was in Pulaski County nine years ago, before I had heard of old time music or clogging, with my then-boyfriend who would eventually become my ex-husband. We were on a four-month tour of the U.S. , in a Volkswagen camper van. Traveling on the cheap, we usually spent the night on quiet roadsides or parking lots.

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