10/10/2008

Friday - Touristing and Stories


We started off the day in downtown Paducah - parking at the edge of the Ohio River facing the river wall. We took in the panels of the river wall which have been decorated with paintings of scenes drawn from local history.

We enjoyed a pleasant lunch at d. Starnes
which is located in an old semi-restored building - keeping exposed old-brick walls inside. I like that kind of thing. I decided to try the "home-made" pimento cheese sandwich and while I loved the sweet tea and the atmosphere the pimento cheese fell short. Too sweet to come close to Daddy's recipe. He always added a few grains of cayenne pepper and that makes a big difference.

We moved on to the National Quilt Museum which is located near the spot where Lewis and Clark crossed the Ohio River.


The Quilt Museum is housed in an architectually unimpressive brick building - but the building is not what one comes for. The prize - the collection - hangs on th walls of the quilt galleries. My friend Ann is a museum tour guide so there was "lots" for her to tell us about the quilts.
When I asked about quilts by several Maryland quilters that I know she explained that to protect the quilts the main galleries are changed frequently. It doesn't matter - you have come to see the "best" and you do - in all styles and patterns - hand quilted and machine quilted.

I was particularly taken with the works of Eleanor McCain. Her quilts are part of a special on-loan exhibition. Using variations on the 9-square pattern, altering scale and texture, she creates masterful works which keep you guessing as to how she worked out the geometry. They tease your eyes with her skillful placements of subtle color variations and value shifts. I pulled over a side chair and sat down in front of several so I could study them. Since seeing her works my fingers have been itching to try some 9-patches when I get home.

This evening we went to Badgett Playhouse
in Grand Rivers to catch the first evening of the storytelling festival and so I could check out the theater for my storytelling Saturday night.

This is the first time for Grand Rivers Storytelling Festival. People in the area are surprisingly new to storytelling so this is a challenge and an opportunity for grand Rivers Tourism to bring something new and special to the area. Grand Rivers is a water-resort community located at Land Between the Lakes, a very beautiful Park area on two lakes. It is close to Paducah and easily accessible to Nashville and other areas.

For this first Grand Rivers Storytelling producer Kim Kraemer wisely booked national storyteller Andy Offut Irwin to kick things off.

The evening program opened with a young music group from Nashville followed by seasoned Kentucky storyteller Mary Hamilton.
She began with a personal story followed by a well-crafted tall tale in which she wove three folktales to call out her Kentucky roots and her family. It was a tale well-told. I was delighted when I recognized the "split dog" in the center of the story. Since most people in the audience were new to storytelling I doubt they knew the "split dog" as an old traditional story often recast by storytellers. But for those of us who did know it, her skillful use of the tale added an extra level of appreciation.

Andy Offutt Irwin is known for his comedic talents and antics, spontaneous sounds and accomplished whistling. I had just enjoyed his two hour Midnight Cabaret in Jonesboro so I was looking foward to his set tonight.

And I did enjoy it - but I was surprised to connect with his stories in an unexpected way.

Irwin tells many of his stories about or through the voice of 87 year old Marguerite Chapman, MD, a cultured Georgia woman who is his aunt/persona. When he speaks as Marguerite his accent and the measure of his voice are spot-on and evoke memories of many southern women I have known and loved.

Andy O. Irwin is a humorist and through Marguerite he uses his skill with subtle humor to reveal and play with the vagaries of health and shiftings of wellness, the slippages, mental and physical, and life-losses faced by people who are aging - with degrees of grace. While you are laughing or smiling at/with Aunt Marguerite you are opening your heart to someone you know.

In my opinion Irwin's work is more than entertaining - it is important as a window into the world as it is for the aging. Let's face it people - we are all headed there - no matter how much our society tries to hide them from us. I appreciate that Andy handles the material with loving kindness - not slapstick and ridicule.

There are interviews on YOU TUBE now in which Ira Glass talks about storytelling and his belief that stories need to be more than funny, more than surface - that they need a moment of reflection if they are to satisfy the listener.

Andy Offutt Irwin satisfies.

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