According to the National Association of Hosiery Manufacturers, one out of every eight persons who put on a pair of socks each morning in the United States is wearing a pair made in Fort Payne / DeKalb County. Recent NAHM statistics show that Alabama produces almost 25 percent of the socks in the United States. These socks were primarily produced in the mills around Fort Payne. The city has indeed earned the title "Sock Capital of the World".
Fort Payne, Alabama, in addition to holding an important place in the textile industry, was also my destination last weekend. Well, more accurately, it had the closest hotel to our destination: the Lookout Mountain convention. My first time down south! (Disclaimer for non-singers (aka my mom): You're probably saying, "But Rebecca, you've been to the south plenty of times!" In the sacred harp context the important part is that I have not SUNG down south before.) It was like a real vacation... All I had to do was sit in cars and planes (serious thanks go to Jenna, our chaufeur for the weekend) and sing and eat. And the singing and the eating was everything it had been made out to be. Please can we get a bass section like that???
And you wouldn't believe me if I told you just how laden the table was with food at noon. Ooh, I found a picture of the dinner on the grounds from a previous year. Now that was some seriously good cooking. Clearly the sheer volume alone was enough to provide ample options even for a vegetarian like myself. Also the dishes tended to be pretty simple - creamed corn, fried okra, baked beans, etc, so it was easy to avoid the meat. Not to mention the vast array of desserts. Upon prodding I even tried the "pear salad" of which there were several varieties to choose from. Basically pear salad consists of a canned pear half covered with a mixture of shredded cheese and mayo, with a maraschino cherry to top it off. Surprisingly you really only taste the pear, so not being a fan of canned pears I'm afraid I didn't really find it to my liking. In addition to the food at the convention, we also ate at such establishments as Krystal (the southern White Castle, which we stopped at twice to indulge Jenna), Sonic (mmm.... junior banana split...) and the exciting new BBQ place in Fort Payne, at which I consumed fried green tomatoes and collard greens. Let's just say that while fully enjoying my culinary adventures (as ever) I felt the need to detox from hearty American food this week. (And an endless supply of US Airways' pretzels.) Immediately upon arriving in Northampton around noontime on Monday, I headed for Osaka, having heard good things about their sushi. I ate outside, by myself, at a plain wooden table with plain white serving plates. I had seaweed salad and an avocado and cucumber roll. Ahhh...
OK, just so you don't think food is the ONLY thing I think about and the ONLY reason I travel, I better find something else to say about my weekend. The thing that struck me most about the southern singing is that it is unquestionably a family affair. I'm so jealous of people for whom going to a convention means singing with several generations of their family, including all kinds of aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. I'm sure that feeling comes partially from not having an extended family period, let alone a close knit one that I would enjoy getting together with on the weekend to sing. Jenna pointed out that in 30 years, Western Mass. will be like that to some extent, and we'll get to sing with each other's kids. That's a very cute and comforting image. Just knowing that this community will, without a doubt, be around in 30 years is such a powerful reminder for me right now, since I'm getting very sad about leaving in a few short weeks and not getting to sing AT ALL for at least a year. Which, of course, is my choice, so I'll stop whining about it.
What else can I share? Well, it wouldn't have been Sacred Harp singing if it didn't involve some serious gossip. Which shall remain extremely unpublished on this public blog. And for those of you we think that such gossip means we singers must really dislike each other, I must re-emphasize the beautiful community that is Sacred Harp. Since most of you reading this are my singing friends, that's probably beside the point. Well actually, I guess that is the point. Deep. Anyway, the southern singers were of course particularly welcoming... I got plenty of hugs from people I had never met before. And of course there was the giant of a man with the surname Edwards, who, apparently feeling the need to fulfill stereotypes, cornered me immediately after I led for the first time to figure out how we were kin. And proceeded to introduce me to the rest of the Edwards clan throughout the weekend.
I think that's all my brilliant insight for now, I hope it didn't disappoint Linda. Speaking of which, let me take a moment to appreciate Jenna and Linda for being both extremely chill travel companions and fabulous guides to the Alabama singing world.
Oooh, I almost forgot! Check out my THREE PICTURES FROM ALABAMA!! And if Jenna gets around to sending them to me or putting them up, you can see some of her pictures, which may actually include people in them.