thank you: eddie bumbaugh.

burgIMG_6608Some debts are simply too large to repay. Sometimes, “thank you” falls impossibly short. Sometimes, a person’s influence, impact, and value are too large to accurately measure.

By now you’ve likely heard the news: our beloved Eddie Bumbaugh, the 12-year Executive Director of the Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance, will retire from the position as 2015 draws to a close. However, and thankfully for all of us, from the sounds of it, he’s not retiring all the way. In hopes of getting all the juicy details, Brandy and I decided to take his wife, Jane, and him out for dinner recently.

Alas, even after a belly full of delicious Food Bar Food dinner and a cocktail, he wouldn’t expound specifically on his next step, stating only that he’ll “remain involved in the Harrisonburg community.” Brandy and I, happy to simply be breathing again, decided to be satisfied with this answer and just enjoy our evening with them.

burgIMG_6595 burgIMG_6598I did come prepared with a few additional questions. When I asked Eddie what he’ll miss the most about HDR, he replied immediately with “the staff.” He delivered several heart-warming compliments about his co-workers (not his underlings or subordinates or minions, but his co-workers) and their commitment and passion and enthusiasm that have made reporting to work each day joyful. He also revealed a real fondness for the excitement of new ideas and the planning of events – indeed, his eyes twinkled a bit when he spoke of these things.

He counts the Alpine Loop Gran Fondo, a 100+ mile bicycle group ride, race, and festival that runs through and around the Burg, among his favorite Harrisonburg events because it allows him to experience our community through the eyes of people who aren’t from here. The race draws cyclists from all over the United States – many have never seen, Eddie says, “Old Order Mennonites or our beautiful skyline.” He likes the event because he likes to meet new people, and he likes anything that will encourage people to visit the Friendly City. Oh, and he likes to bicycle, too.

From there, most of our dinner conversation centered around travel and nature. You may or may not have known that Eddie is an avid cyclist and runner, a lot of which he does right here in the Shenandoah Valley because of its natural eye candy. He and Jane have hiked a hefty portion of the Appalachian Trail. The four of us had a lot of fun sharing hiking and road trip stories. Jane, too, is quite adventurous.

Jane took a trip to Iceland with a bunch of seventh-graders, prompting Brandy and me to shout things like, “What?!” “Are you crazy??” “Are you OKAY??” at her. They were there about a week, which seemed to me to be a very short amount of time to visit a foreign country, given all the travel time involved. But guess what? It’s only like a five-hour flight! Anyway, what an amazing experience for those youngsters!! Thank goodness for people like Jane! So brave and generous, even though she will tell you it’s not all that hard and anyone can do it. These two seem to be a match made in heaven with their incredible kindness, their willingness to try new and even risky ventures, and their ability to listen and compromise. Even in our relatively short conversation with the couple, Brandy and I could see those traits, shining clear as the candles on the table.

burgIMG_6624So now I’m finally getting to what I’ve wanted to do since I heard the news about Eddie’s impending departure: say Thank You.

Dear Eddie,
Harrisonburg and its citizens will never be able to repay you for the transformation that occurred under your leadership. I remember Harrisonburg twelve years ago, before you took the job. I remember seeing Dokken at a downtown establishment that was trying, really trying, to get on its feet. I remember when the Dodger, Joker’s, and The Little Grill were the only nightlife downtown, and no one walked to those places, at least not leisurely. I remember it felt like a lost cause. Thank you for ignoring all those who told you that the armpit of the city would never be the heart. They told you, “Don’t bother getting involved. We’ve tried it before. It’ll just be a waste of time, a disappointment.” Thank you for being the type of person to take those comments as a challenge. Thank you for also being the kind of person to listen, to contemplate and reflect, to consider the opinions and needs of others, and to bring everyone together with open communication and constructive conversations.

The evidence of your hard work shines for all to see now, twelve years later. Today when I go downtown, the streets are lit up. Delicious aromas waft out of dozens of restaurants. I can hear live music around every corner. There’s a good beer waiting for me about every five steps. And I am perfectly comfortable letting my kids wander around on their own – watching the ducks behind Clementine and SBC, walking to the library for new books, swinging into Bella Gelato for a treat, buying blueberries at the Farmers Market, and finding old Mom reading a book at Pale Fire when they’re all done with their adventure. :) Thank you for making my city safe for my children. If it weren’t, we would have left long ago.

I haven’t even touched upon the many events and activities we all enjoy now. Beer and music festivals, art markets, First Fridays, costume bike parades, Valley Fourth… too many to name. Not to mention the local retail options we now have, so we don’t have to shop at those “big stores.”

I don’t know what’s harder when taking a new job: inheriting a mess that you have to clean up, or inheriting something beautiful that you have to maintain and somehow improve upon. We know your successor cannot replace you, and we would not expect that. I imagine we’ll all expect more good things, because that’s what you’ve shown us. But we do not expect the accomplishment of “more good things” to happen in a vacuum. Those of us who live, work, and enjoy our downtown know that community growth happens through community involvement. We’ll stay involved, we’ll support local businesses, we’ll remember all that you’ve done to get us to this place, and we won’t let you down. We might not be able to pay you back, but we’ll pay it forward. We promise.

Cheers to you! Wishing you and Jane all the best, all the time! And don’t be a stranger.

Love, 
All of Us. The Whole Dang Town. 

burgIMG_6612Copyright © 2012-15 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

grass roots: our community place annual lawn jam.

burgIMG_8510Before meeting Brandy at the (approximately 18th) Annual Our Community Place Lawn Jam, I had lunch at The Little Grill. Sitting on a stool at their three-seat counter, I read an article on my CNN app called “America’s Quietest Town.” Greenbank, West Virginia – home of the Robert C. Byrd Greenbank Telescope, a massive, 485-foot structure weighing 17 million pounds that cranes its ear into the darkest corners of space and lures passionate and accomplished scientists from all over the world. It’s a big deal.

And to live in a town with such incredible, powerful, cutting-edge technology, one must sacrifice one’s own modern conveniences. Because even the tiniest emission from someone’s house can disrupt months of research. Spark plugs have caused problems for the telescope. Electronic doorbells. Even faulty electric blankets. They all create “noise” that can interfere with interstellar communications. And so, of course, bigger items, like microwave ovens, cell phones, and wifi are strictly prohibited. Employees of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory ride around Green Bank, patrolling the town’s 143 citizens for illegal emissions. These technological restrictions have rendered the town of Green Bank forever old-fashioned, if you will. Forever lacking all the bells and whistles of our web-connected, web-constructed reality. Oh, those lucky souls.

From there the article trails into a rant about cell phone dependency. It makes me think of the video going around Facebook of the guy who misses the whale that swims right next to him because he’s on his phone. “Pathetic!” we all scream at him. The irony that I was reading the article on my phone while eating alone at the Grill was not lost on me.

All trends reach an apex and fold in on themselves. A few years ago, a new form of snobbery was in full swing – owning a smart phone. I mean, what kind of loser doesn’t have one? GAH. Now that force has reversed itself and I find myself feeling judged if I pull out my phone anywhere, even just to check the time. I kinda hope the folding in continues, because yes, we have become a rude and detached society. And as the Green Bank resident explains in this video, the lack of technology has allowed people to “discover who you are” in a way that is different from the modern world and its huge, global context.

burgIMG_8569So when Brandy arrived, I chucked my phone into my purse (plus, it was almost dead anyway, haha), knowing I was already with the people I wanted to be connected to. And we walked into the crowd.

burgIMG_8547May I say, Our Community Place has really got their act together. Having officially opened in their current location (E. Johnson Street) in 2008, the idea for OCP was born across the street in The Little Grill. Ron Copeland, who bought the Grill in 1992, wanted to prepare a free meal for “anyone in the world,” where people of all walks of life could sit and dine together once a week. That’s how Soup Kitchen Mondays began at the Grill. In 2008, the meal moved over to the finally-renovated (I mean, years and years of fundraising and renovations!) Our Community Place, where they’re now able to serve five meals per week. According to their web site, Our Community Place is “a Christian organization that seeks to accommodate, foster and provide activities and programs related to personal growth and community well being; be a resource in the community for individuals seeking information or services already provided by other organizations; educate and empower individuals toward self-sufficiency, thus creating social capital for the community at large; and nurture a community that appreciates diversity and sees differences and conflict as opportunities for spiritual growth.” And anyone in the world, anyone and everyone, is welcome. People can get a meal there, do laundry, get Internet access, worship, shower, and enjoy each other’s company with games and sports. There’s also arts and crafts, a theater group, classes like drumming, pottery, and Tai Chi, and movie nights. Finally, they host and sponsor lots of events, such as the Lawn Jam and the Shenandoah Bicycle Fest earlier this month, an annual plant sale, Walk for OCP in October, and the OCP Christmas Concert.

burgIMG_8548 burgIMG_8549The purpose of this year’s Lawn Jam was to raise money for their kitchen renovation and new food-based business enterprise. They need to raise $36,700 to complete their projects. To that end, they sold raffle tickets for fifty cents each; prizes included gift certificates from Clementine, Bed Bath & Beyond, Greenberrys, Chanello’s, Court Square Theater, Fox’s Pizza, and Capital Ale House. They also had an AWESOME silent auction with a zillion really great items:
~ a half hour airplane ride with pilot Scott French
~ a beautiful framed mirror
~ assorted rings from Hugo Kohl
~ a one-hour massage from Kathryn Cheeks
~ two tickets to the American Shakespeare Center
~ Old Crow Medicine Show merchandise
~ bicycle panniers
~ a Natural Hair Care Basket
~ a compost roller
~ a day of skilled carpentry
~ a Natural Garden tote bag
~ two watercolor paintings by Shelley Pope
~ a kids’ cycling jersey from SBC
~ New Creation Body Products gift bag
~ JMU football tickets and prize pack
~ Walkabout Outfitters water bottle and t-shirt
~ Lunch with Mayor Jones
~ and a gift certificate from TJ’s Dermographics!

burgIMG_8561 burgIMG_8564On the lawn, people enjoyed two free meals, volleyball, face painting, tie-dyeing, corn hole, basketball, a swing set, each other, and live music all day by Tom Weaver, Eric Olson-Getty, Jeff Gorman, Jake Cochran, Kat and the Travelers, Dr.How and the Reasons to Live, Nic Melas, and members of the Walking Roots Band. You could also put money in a jar to vote either for Mark Doll to wear a Hillary 2016 shirt or for Ron to shave off his beard (!). Not sure if you’ve seen his photo on FB yet, but Ron lost. Big time. Hopefully, though, this year’s Lawn Jam was a big win for him and Our Community Place.

burgIMG_8513 burgIMG_8522 burgIMG_8524 burgIMG_8530 burgIMG_8534 burgIMG_8538 burgIMG_8540burgIMG_8551 burgIMG_8553 burgIMG_8555 burgIMG_8559burgIMG_8566 burgIMG_8572 burgIMG_8579 burgIMG_8582 burgIMG_8587 burgIMG_8590 burgIMG_8593 burgIMG_8596 burgIMG_8598 burgIMG_8607It was truly a beautiful day of beautiful people being simply connected by their common humanity and not disrupting a giant telescope. If you’re interested in volunteering or donating to the Kitchen Renovation, visit their web site, call Ron at 540-236-4314, or email him at ron@ourcommunityplace.org.

burgIMG_8584Copyright © 2012-15 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

heart of the city: little grill collective.

we love everything in this place. about this place. from this place. of this place. 

little grill bike little grill event calendar little grill front window little grill little window little grill sign 2

Copyright © 2012-14 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

 

happy blogiversary, with love: little grill collective.

little grill menusIn case you didn’t know, today isn’t just Valentine’s Day. It’s ilovemyburg.com’s 2nd anniversary! Yep — Brandy and I launched the site exactly two years ago, on a date we felt appropriately expressed our feelings for the Burg. Of course, we all love this city all the time, not just on one day of the year, but it sure is fun to celebrate milestones. In our second year, we published 156 posts, each one a testament to Harrisonburg’s awesomeness. Our readership exploded. Most importantly, our friendship grew in ways that make me ever grateful for my life, my home, Brandy, and the countless loved ones who shared in our experiences… including you. You, who keeps coming back here to read about our shenanigans. We love you!

So a celebration was in order. Brandy lovingly put together an album of our favorite moments from 2013, and we decided to go on a double date at one of Harrisonburg’s oldest and dearest loves, the Little Grill Collective. That place has been a part of my life since I moved here when I was just twenty-one. Brandy and Ben have memories of the Grill that reach way farther back than that. And Michael and I had our first date there. Needless to say, it’s pretty special.

Although it was only Tuesday, we’d all had the sort of week that makes you want to poke yourself in the eye. Thankfully, we were in a place that hugs you as soon as you walk in. Even more thankfully, I was about to smother my problems with all-you-can-eat tacos. Mexi Nite fixes everything!

little grill table foodIf you haven’t been to Mexi Nite (and it kinda scares me if you haven’t), you’re served a lovely plate containing (and these are my terms, so pardon me) two tacos, a potato roll up, a delicious delicacy I like to call “the floppy,” beans, and rice. And when you finish, they bring you MORE! And MORE again! And because the Grill is always conscious about waste, you can order your plate without certain items if you don’t think you’ll be able to eat it all. So I got my plate with no rice. Michael got his with no tomatoes but added a bit of chicken. Brandy added some guac, and Ben ordered his straight up. We also ordered a bucket of Negro Modelo. Yes, a bucket. There was so much love at that table I thought I would pop.

little grill beer bucketThe boys were a bit chatty, so chatty that Brandy and I silently plowed through plate number one and ordered a second lickety split. We were a little more leisurely with our second helping and managed to have a conversation. It had been a couple months since I was in there, and they’ve made some upgrades! First, their gorgeous new tables, made by  Aaron Harper Johnston and Kurt Rosenberger. Also, there’s a staircase near the restroom. I think it goes up to their sound booth, or maybe to a secret fort. They revamped their cash register area (did I see a COMPUTER?) and now bring your tab to your table for you. Fancy! The bathroom’s been painted, and instead of the scrawled graffiti, it’s all been framed and organized.

little grill registerOf course, some of the things we love haven’t changed. Like the Dylan painting. The giant bulletin board of announcements and happenings around town. The Go Ask Alyce (I love that lemon tahini!). BRUNCH. Trivia cards. Yoda. Jesus. Metal lunch boxes full of notes and photos. Beer buckets. And that cute little window into the kitchen.

little grill dylanlittle grill little window2All of it caused us to think about the past and the present. What’s the same and what has changed. All the beautiful things still to come. Then we looked at the time and had to scoot: Team Trivia was starting at Clementine in like fifteen minutes (that post will be up next week!). If you’re still looking for something to do tonight for Valentine’s Day, you can head on down to the Grill and see The Leeroys perform at 8pm! It’s also Down Home Night, so get there a bit early for some good old-fashioned southern home cookin’!

Happy Valentine’s Day, Harrisonburg. YOU ARE LOVED.

little grill sign1Copyright © 2012-14 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

local man “never played baseball.”

Being the youngest child in a family has its ups and downs. On the one hand, the baby of the family gets cuddled a little more, excused a little farther, and pushed a little more gently. No one wants to see the baby grow up and move out, so he/she is encouraged to remain childlike and youthful. To the baby, this is fun! (I should know — I’m the baby in my family.) On the other hand, being the youngest is lonely. The baby gets dragged around to older siblings’ activities, is told, “Aw, honey, you’re too young,” and learns to occupy him- or herself at such uninteresting events. Then the siblings grow up and move out, leaving the baby alone in the nest. The youngest can be an outsider, but also… independent and resourceful.

This is what I thought when I saw the cover and read the preface of Chris Howdyshell’s new book (yes, you read that right) I Never Played Baseball. He goes on to discuss aging, ultimately explaining the reason people get grumpier with time is because our bodies slow down while life maintains its speed. In fact, he almost named the book Old People Are Pissed, but perhaps it wouldn’t have matched the photo on the cover, of his son watching a baseball game. Maybe he didn’t have a picture of pissed off old people at the time. And I guess baseball is more timely for spring, wouldn’t you agree?

book on phoneThe book is roughly divided into sections. If it had a table of contents, it would read something like this:

Contents

A Series of Positive Poems . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . pages 1 – 27
Jokes I Wrote . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . page 29
<untitled section> . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . pages 31 – 50
The Last Point . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . page 51

And over the course of its fifty-couple pages, it goes way farther than baseball or childhood memories. Common themes include age, disillusionment, technology, love, war, God (I think), human interaction, and Elton John.

I must mention a few notable parts, like the part about Tuggs the bastard child of Lilly McCoy, raised by bears. “Jibber Jabber,” which reads either like a dream or like a situation involving too much Theraflu, contains Ralph Sampson, newspaper-eating creatures, Julia Child, a witch, leprechauns, ogres, unicorns, and a VW bus. All at Reddish Knob. And “What It’s All About” — a really sweet piece about… well, the meaning of life: “It’s about being thankful/it’s about being here.” Presence and gratitude.

Chris and kidsBut I have to say my favorite part is called “Attic,” a frame story-ish piece that starts with how he’s never been in his own attic either because a) there are bees up there, or b) he’s too lazy to get the ladder, and ends with the idea of finding a (small) treasure chest or even a copy of the Declaration of Independence. Sometimes you gotta fight your fear and/or laziness and haul yourself up in that stuffy space!

Things you will come to understand about Chris after reading the book, if you didn’t already know: Chris loves his home (except the attic) and he loves his family. He’s happy where he is, not because it’s “perfect,” but because he sees life as a gift. He hates bees and war, and he loves music and people. And, he never played baseball. Who knew?

You can find Chris’s book here on Lulu. It’s funny, it’s weird, it’s poignant and confusing, sentimental and sad. Download it, read it, and be inspired to share your story/poems/joke/anecdote/lyrics/musings/ramblings/weird dreams!

Howdyshell FamilyCopyright © 2012-13 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

loud & clear: MACRoCk 2013.

MACRoCk tee shirtOn Sunday, April 7, I saw this post on Facebook and laughed out loud:
macrock facebookIt was like 8pm.

Not surprising. God bless those folks who once again brought this two-day music conference and thousands of people to Harrisonburg. I can’t even imagine where to start putting something like that together. If I can get rice, chicken, and green beans to be ready at the same time, I’m impressed with myself.

We attended MACRoCk on Saturday, the second night. And actually, the day started early, at the Larkin Arts first-ever Art Market (read about that here). More than a dozen artists plunked their wares on tables outside the Denton building. It was sunny and bright, people were chatty and cheerful, and the burg was a-bustle with locals and visitors alike. A happy morning.

Many Nights AheadAfter a bit we made our way to the Blue Nile for the label expo, where we saw books and upcycled clothing, tee shirts, buttons and stickers, pottery and “animal-friendly taxidermy,” and, refreshingly, lots of vinyl.

Label ExpoLabel Expo Label ExpoThen Brandy had to scoot out for a bit, and Michael and I headed to the Dodger. By now it was 2:30. We’d already been downtown for four hours and had ten hours yet to go. When we arrived there, Pachangacha was on stage and the place was packed. We found a tiny sliver of space at the bar. It was funny to watch the crowd come and go. After Pachangacha finished, this massive throng of people vacated, chasing the next show, and some seats opened up. We quick planted ourselves at a table. We enjoyed a performance by Amanda X — three ladies out of Philly: Cat Park, Kat Bean, and Tiff Yoon. They released their first EP back in August. Have a listen! Then sure enough, the mass of spectators shoved through the doors, and this time we scored a booth!!

Artful DodgerNext up was a band from New York called Lvl Up whose latest album Extra Worlds had JUST been released that very day. And they were loud as ohmyfreakinears. In a good way. And with quiet segments that would build to some kind of sonic boom. They’ve got two guitars, a bass, and drums, and they took turns singing or sometimes all three of them sang. I heard a little hint of Weezer at times. They were really great, and it stands to reason that we liked the next band, too — Sirs — because the two bands share some band mates.

MACRoCk Dodger 8 MACRoCk Dodger6Seat update: After Lvl Up we snagged the coveted “circle booth” at the Dodger. We knew Brandy would be coming with Danielle and Ben, and I was right tickled to know that everyone would have a seat. So we moved ourselves and all our stuff one last time, and stayed there through two more bands.

Artful Dodger 3As I was saying, Sirs played next and then Monument, from Maryland. Both bands were awesome, freakishly loud, extraordinarily tight. Brandy (sporting her MACRoCk press pass…. eeeeeee!), Ben, and Danielle arrived and we all mouthed “hello” to each other. Then we had a conversation about where to go for dinner by passing around a spiral notebook. Yes, it was that loud. Louder even. I felt like I was stuffed with cotton. In a good way.

press passIt should come as a surprise to no one who ever reads this thing that we ended up at Beyond. I don’t remember a whole lot about our dinner conversation, probably because I couldn’t hear ANY of it. But a good portion of it was devoted to the fact that Beyond had just gotten a keg of Juju Ginger beer, and Brandy got THE FIRST GLASS OF THE SEASON. This was better than the press pass, I think.

Juju JujuWe also talked about the band descriptions in the MACRoCk program. Some of our faves:

Black Mask – If you’ve never been curb stomped, Black Mask is probably the closest you’ll come without doing the deed. Metallic hardcore from Punxsutawney, PA for fans of early Converge, Nails, and Black Breath. Makes you wanna puke blood in the best way.

Barbelith – Atmospheric depressive black metal inspired by the wrathful elder gods, soiled by the scummy streets of Baltimore.

Borrowed Beams of Light – Borrowed Beams are a soundtrack to the perfect sunny summer indie-rock barbeque that you and all of your friends want to get drunk at.

Dope Body – Noise-rock freakcore from Baltimore. Do you ever think that your punk could use a little more metal and your metal could use a little more funk and that your funk really should be garage rock and not funk? You’re on this band’s wavelength then. Noisy guitar spazzouts are cut with freak hybrids of punk and funk rhythms.

Legs Like Tree Trunks – Mellow guitars with a side of reverb-heavy twinkles and soft-sung, dreamy vocals. Sounds like taking your shoes off after a long day of work.

Shat Shorts (omg) – Very, very weird punk. Blends hardcore, noise-rock, and thrash into one ridiculously chaotic package. Rhythms jump and shift drastically, and this one guitar is just spazzing out the whole time.

Other than that, the only really notable part of the conversation was when Brandy asked, “Wait. Is Jimmy short for James?”
Beyond Restaurant Beyond sushi

fansUnlike the hordes of people who zigzagged through downtown, moving in and out of venues like kids on a scavenger hunt, we tended to stay a while. So our second and last stop of the evening was Court Square Theater, where we saw Wynter Poe, Half Circles, and Timbre. That place is so comfy, what with its cushioned rocking chair-ish seats, age-defying lighting, and beer, there’s just no good reason to leave. We got there at about 7:15 and found seats on the front row. Good for photographs, and good for leg room.

Wynter Poe was unexpectedly awesome. I mean, we really had no expectations, but she impressed the crowd. The band — four people including Wynter — played at least five instruments: a couple of guitars, a bass, drums, a dulcimer. Here and there they sounded a bit like The Sundays, and Wynter’s vocal quality reminded me of Christina Perri. Other than that, the band defies comparison.

Wynter Poe Wynter PoeWynter Poe Wynter PoeIt was fun to see Half Circles, an eclectic Harrisonburg band who played far more instruments than they collectively had hands for. The guitar at times smacked of The Cure; another description that comes to mind is “bluesy Smashing Pumpkins,” but neither of those comparisons can pin down their multi-dimensional sound because suddenly there’d be a melodica or a xylophone or a flute to change my mind. Honey-laced vocals by Dan Baker and the unassuming, hands-in-pockets Amanda Styer led each tune and provided a solid foundation for their instrumental concoctions.

Half Circles Half CirclesWe fell in love with Timbre last year and couldn’t wait to see her again. And hear her, too, of course. But part of a live show is the visual aspect. And when one band member is seated behind a cello, one is seated behind a harp, and one behind a drum kit, you might not expect much in terms of a visual experience. BUT, that cellist was amazing to watch, Timbre looked beautiful in her gown behind that gleaming harp, and the drummer (who played a gorgeous wooden Whitney kit) actually danced while he played. They were all obviously quite happy on stage and love what they do. So they looked great. Add to that their incredible, crystal clear sound. They are made for live performance because their hypnotic music fills the space so well.

Timbre TimbreAdd to THAT their lyrics. Lines like “No one will know you long enough to sing your song back to you when you’ve lost the tune” juxtaposed with “Pain can be beautiful, my dear.” And a song inspired by the George MacDonald story “The Day Boy and the Night Girl” about light and dark and how they came to discover each other. The song centers around her perspective, from her dark cave. Her lamp, and the only light she’s ever known, breaks. She finds a way out of the cave and sees the moon for the first time. Then she meets Day Boy, and he shows her the sun. She wants the light, even if it hurts or kills her. He wants to be unafraid of the dark. They need each other’s strength. As the song says, “If I have seen only the night, can I imagine the day?” We see what we know; we know what we see. Sometimes we must step out blindly, even when it’s scary.

And on that “note,” (oh, ha!), we stepped out into the dark night with the moon shining and music playing in the distance and people laughing and our minds buzzing and our ears ringing. In a good way.

See you next year, MACRoCK!!

Copyright © 2012-13 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

it’s christmastime in the city: our community place christmas concert.

burgIMG_6538bwIt was warm that night, all the way around, starting with Melanie Copeland’s smiling face at the door. Warmth circled each dessert table, filled coffee mugs, and cushioned our seats. It danced on everyone’s bright faces, softened every handshake and hug hello, and floated on the air in music both delicate and boisterous.

To be honest, I didn’t really know what to expect at Our Community Place’s 4th Annual Community Christmas Concert. Our Community Place is a non-profit organization that promotes personal growth and community well-being in Harrisonburg, and which specifically seeks to help those who struggle with poverty or difficult life circumstances. It opened in 2008 after seven years of fundraising and renovations to their location on E. Johnson Street, near The Little Grill. The Christmas concert is an annual fundraiser to help support OCP as well as Our Community Works and Our Community Farm. The invitation promised desserts and music, but it was way more than cookies and carols.

OCPconcertfood1 OCPconcerteggnogFirst, the desserts, provided by Dayton Mennonite Church. Cheesecake, pie, cobbler, cupcakes, cookies, breads, and brownies. And I had a Charlie Brown flashback when I saw the giant bowl of popcorn. And again when I saw the two Christmas trees flanking the stage in the sanctuary of Park View Mennonite Church–small and skinny, but alive and growing nonetheless. Anyway, the kids stuffed themselves with dessert while Brandy and I browsed. As part of the fundraiser, OCP was selling handmade boxwood wreaths, cookbooks, and two Christmas CD’s featuring local musicians. We made sure to purchase those.

OCPconcertCDSAnother thing offered that evening, which Ken Wettig explained during intermission, was membership in their Community Supported Agriculture program. In a nutshell, you pay to join the program, and in return you get fresh vegetables and eggs from OCF. I know $400 seems like a big chunk of change–it is for someone like me, too–but for that price, you get a large crate of veggies and eggs once a week for EIGHTEEN weeks (June to September). Some quick math’ll tell you that’s $22 a week, which I already EASILY blow on produce during the summer. Also, you have until April 1 to pay for it, so you don’t have to cough up the $400 all at once. If you’re not a big vegetable fan, consider giving this gift to a veggie-lover you know. Or pay the $400 to provide a local needy family with eighteen weeks of fresh food. Or, heck! Split your membership with a friend!

Anyway, all this eatin’ and drinkin’ and browsin’ went on from 6 to 7pm, and then we all packed into the sanctuary for the music. That’s when the goosebumps started.

We sat on the front row, which was good for Brandy and her camera. But then I realized it didn’t make for a discreet exit should one of my kids (okay, I’ll just say it–my SON) get unruly. AND I realized I left his notebook and markers in the car. UGH. So I mentally and emotionally prepared myself for being THAT MOM–you know her… that one who has to escort her noisy monster child out of there. Well, call it a Christmas miracle, but after I found an extra pen and surrendered my notebook to him, he was perfectly content until well past bed time. Shew.

Scott Murray_calThe music began. First up was Scott Murray. He sang “The Twelve Days of Christmas” and one he wrote called “Joseph and Mary,” inspired by his realization that Mary traveled 25 miles to Bethlehem on a donkey, while she was nine months pregnant. You can add THAT to the many reasons that lady deserves a song.

Chris Howdyshell sang a couple of songs, including “Rudolph,” after apologizing that his songs “aren’t pretty” and predicting that “the a cappella thing’s gonna be gorgeous” and “the Yoders will do somethin’ outrageously fantastic.” He also told us how he recently received a letter from a guy in prison, and then he said something about the Bumble, which I missed because I was writing down all the other stuff he said, lol.

HowdyshellHeather Kropf held us all captive with her sweet voice, accompanied by the piano and Brad Yoder’s clarinet. Brad performed next, first playing a song called “As Easy As Birds” and then leading the audience in “Angels We Have Heard on High” from the hymn book. This sorta surprised me because I wasn’t expecting to stand and sing… but Chris Kniss and Heather helped lead the song vocally, and everyone behind me just suddenly broke out into spontaneous, beautiful harmonies with no instrumental guidance but Brad’s rogue clarinet. The sound filled the room and the kinship of it all made me start to cry a bit… It was really sweet, and it was my favorite moment of the night.

OCPconcerthymnalHeather KropfBrad YoderThe beauty continued with Chris Kniss’ performance of “What Child Is This?” and “The Christmas Song,” followed by my old friend Bob Driver’s guitar-only rendition of “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” (he and I worked at Clayborne’s, if you remember that far back…) His lovely wife Trudy Cole and John Hall got everyone’s feet tappin’ in a spirited duet before Shekinah blew everyone away with their a cappella performance of “Coventry Carol” and a traditional Spanish song. As my son is always mesmerized by groups of beautiful women with radiant voices, this was his favorite part of the night, and he gushed about the “purple ladies” all the way home.

Chris KnissBob DriverTrudy ColeShekinahWe’d reached intermission and the kids were lookin’ a little limp. We steered them back out to the desserts, and they perked up in no time. The second half simply went too fast. Nick Melas and Nichole Ehlers sang a few numbers… not necessarily Christmas songs, but songs about the Prince of Peace at any rate, including one Nichole wrote from the book of Luke. Their voices together were perfectly stunning. The evening rounded out with Greg Ward, Jessie Trainum, and last, Trent Wagler… and then a full-on singalong that left everyone warm and fuzzy.

Nick MelasGreg WardJessie TrainumTrent WaglerAs Brandy put it, “Singing ‘Silent Night,’ with a hymnal in my hand, in a dim church with some of Harrisonburg’s finest was the coolest thing I’ve done all day.”

Yep.

I am so grateful I was able to attend this event. I know this sounds cheesy, but it’s something that will stay with me a long time. I think it was the warmest and loving-est group of people I’ve ever encountered… people who saw a need in Harrisonburg, who worked extremely hard for several years to make it happen, who compassionately and without hesitation serve members of our community who might otherwise be forgotten, and who do it all for very little in return… THEY are the miracle. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Where would we be without people like you??

Merry Christmas, Harrisonburg, and may you be warm all the way around this holiday season.

Copyright © 2012 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Written content by Katie Mitchell. Photos by Brandy Somers. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

music lessons: chris howdyshell and superfriends and their ground-breaking rock-n-rollishness at clementine cafe.

It was an educational evening, indeed.

Of course, it started stupid enough–the two of us yakking it up at the bar, gossiping and such about things I can’t memorialize on the Interwebs–sorry. I can say that at one point the chatter veered back to our visit to Wine on Water and how we look forward to cooler weather and going back there for some PORT. In fact, Brandy declared, “I want to drink port in a scarf,” and I (here comes a stupid part) imagined her fashioning some kind of fabric drinking vessel. How cultural, I mused, wondering if perhaps in some exotic country, people drink wine this way.

Then I got it.

We were soon rescued from our idiocy. That night Clementine served up something mind expanding for sure, something called Chris Howdyshell and SuperFriends and Their Ground-Breaking Rock-N-Rollishness.

The first of the SuperFriends was Ellen Atwood. And even though she’s young–just a junior in high school–I think I will dub her Queen of the SuperFriends. One, it was her first public solo gig, ever. Two, she’s a one-woman show, just her keyboard and her voice. Three, her voice is… angelic. She was goosebumps-on-your-face good. She played and sang “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” “Don’t Let It Break Your Heart” (Coldplay), and one of her originals. And four, she’s just a kid yet. And being a teacher and a general fan of teenagers, I love to see a kid who’s been able to cultivate her passion and talent in spite of all her school responsibilities and pressures and just the agony and emotional clumsiness that pervades adolescence, and still have the guts to share it with a room of (mostly) strangers. Yet there she was, shining in the hot white light. And after three short songs, I was quite moved. So thank you for that, Ellen.

Then the rest of the SuperFriends took the stage. It wasn’t quite the Dish Dogs because Michael Bowman and Lara Mack weren’t there… but it also wasn’t the new band, Dr. How (whom you can see here at Clementine on September 22)–it was… just… the SuperFriends. Namely, Chris Howdyshell, Mike Howdyshell, Ashley Hunter, Josh Vana, Doug Pitts, and Kyle Oehmke once his shift in the kitchen ended and he could join them. Untie the apron, strap on the bass. Chris had on his bedazzled hat and every person in the band wore glasses. Not, like, sunglasses, but actual “I need these to see” glasses. I could make some kind of “gettin’ old” joke, but really it was endearing because we’re all just humans with flaws doing the best we can. As Ram Dass said, “We’re all just walking each other home,” even if we can’t see where the hell we’re going.

They played a couple of old Dish Dog favorites, and things really picked up after “Tom Weights.” It seems like a hundred more people came in during “It’s Not Your Fault.” Drew, Harrisonburg’s resident hugger, danced in front of the stage (we love Drew!); more people joined the dancing during “Bird” and “She’s An Artist” and “The Tuning Song”–ha ha. And Chris took a moment to say he had two things to ask of us:
1) “You’re here.” (check!) and
2) “Don’t be afraid to dance. Ladies and gentlemen, please put your feet on the floor!”

In walked several  young men in suits, to whom he commanded, “Men In Suits–DANCE!” Which they did. Then he came down and danced with Alice, and Ashley came down and danced, and Grayson and Annie danced, and other folks I don’t know… and I remembered a New Year’s Eve Dish Dogs performance… there was this couple dancing. They’d obviously been together a long time. She danced with her eyes closed, and I thought that was the most romantic thing I’d ever seen–how they knew each other so well…

Nothing like that happened at this show, but it sure was fun!!

And educational. Remember when I said that earlier? Because between numbers, Chris would tell us interesting facts and use impressive vocabulary. Like “evolutionarily.” EV-UH-LOO-SHUN-AIR-UH-LEE. Something about woodpeckers and black flies and how, evolutionarily, they strayed from the norm and neither fared well. His lesson: “Do what you always do or you’ll die, at least in woodpecker world.” I also learned that Lance Armstrong ate oatmeal “filled with oxygen.” And most importantly, “Every time you eat bacon, you’re only losing a year of your life you didn’t care about in the first place.” Plus you get to eat bacon.

And he closed with this thought: “I really want a dog, but I don’t want to clean up the poop.” Amen to that.

The evening wound down with a smattering of other songs, including “Whiskey’s More Warm Than A Girl” and one about forgetting things (I don’t remember the title–seriously) during which Josh Vana played slide with a piece of broken glass. You gotta do what you gotta do, MacGyver.

So Dr. How debuts at Clementine on September 22 and will feature at least some of the SuperFriends. And I hope you’ll all attend.
Because you will learn stuff.
And you will dance.

Copyright © 2012 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Photos by Brandy Somers. Written content by Katie Mitchell. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

a rollicking good time: fridays on the square.

I love a stand-up bass and a drummer decked out in a mini-skirt and cowgirl boots.

It was Friday on the Square in Harrisonburg–a downtown outdoor film and music event presented by Citizens for Downtown and Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance and (this particular week) sponsored by Alexiou Hearing and Sinus Center and Davenport Windows and Doors. We were stoked to get outside and see the Judy Chops perform: the week had been nauseatingly hot. On this breezy, beautiful evening, the heat finally broke and the city itself exhaled in relief.
We’d gotten to the courthouse early and set up our chairs and blankets so we wouldn’t have to carry them as we walked to Cat’s Cradle–which we featured on the blog a couple weeks ago (you can find that post here). Ducking into The Corner for a quick snack and drink, we noticed some portentous clouds rolling in and remembered all our stuff sitting on the square. Then some chugging and gobbling occurred, and six sets of feet scurried up the sidewalk to the barren courthouse lawn. Everyone else, including the band, had moved to Turner Pavilion (home of the Harrisonburg Farmers Market) and made themselves at home. As the band warmed up, we set up camp: chairs, blankets, lunchbox dinners, crayons, markers, and the like.

Brandy got into her human tripod position and I settled into my chair with my notebook. Among the couple hundred folks in attendance, I saw familiar downtown faces, like Anne Juarez, Mariana Bowling and Chris Howdyshell with their two cuties, Steve McClay from No Strings Attached with his family, the always-fun Sarah Murphy and legendary sound guru, Dave Beaver.

The band started playing. The Judy Chops are a six-piece band out of Staunton who perform in the Burg pretty regularly. They feature a drummer, an upright-bass player, and several guitar strummers/banjo pickers/fiddle pluckers and what have you, and they encourage (literally–by suggesting so, and figuratively through their mirthful demeanor) foot-stompin’ and dancin’ and sangin’ and howlin’ and whistlin’ and clappin’ and cluckin’ and hootin’. Yes, everyone was sitting in chairs at the start of the show, but it didn’t take the Judy Chops long to inspire some movement in the crowd. And you know? It’s always the older generation that starts the dancing. They’ve finally reached the nirvana of “oh, what the hell!” And so a couple of folks started to dance, and a few more joined in, and Sarah Murphy roped three of our kids into dancing with her (God bless that woman!)… they were linking arms and kicking up their feet, smiling and laughing, spinning in a large circle. It must be the Harrisonburg dance because I got swept up in it at The Little Grill Open Mic Night back in September. Wheeee! Needless to say, everyone was completely entertained by the band.
Meanwhile, in the grassy lot, kids were running wild. This is another reason I love my Burg: kids are so comfy hanging out here. They were playing tag and frisbee and throwing baseballs, they were climbing trees and dancing and spinning… there was giggling and (mild) taunting and hugging and stick swords… In fact, Ella got a little miffed at my son, and when Brandy asked her about it, she said “Cal thinks tagging people is stabbing them in the stomach with a stick.” :( Ooooch. Sorry! <cringe>

Parents rotated in and out of the grassy lot, taking turns supervising the youngsters. We all felt a collective responsibility for the kids, no matter whom they belonged to, and I really love that about this town. Not that I would ever let my kids get too far away from me, but I appreciate being able to take the kids places and not worry about their safety the whole time. We look out for each other here. It’s what we do.
This coming Friday on the Square, you can catch films from the 2011 SuperGr8 Film Festival. These three-and-a-half minute films made by local residents might just inspire you to pick up a super 8 camera and start rolling for this year’s festival, which will take place in November. There were more than 40 films last fall, and because Friday’s viewing is only one night, there’s not time for them all. The folks at SuperGr8 carefully selected a balance of color and black and white films for your enjoyment. They are as follows:

Black and White
1. Overcome by Ernie Didot (Winner of best Black and White Film)
2. The Park Bench by Elwood S. Madison III
3. Raveler by Brandy Somers (Winner of best B/W Actress)
4. A Year of Dying by Jeremiah Knupp & Holly Marcus (Winner of Best B/W Cinematography)
5. The Wrestler of Casus by Michael Trocchia
6. Noir Justice by The Brothers Sedeen
7. Drew by Brent Finnegan (Winner of Audience Choice for Best B/W Film)
Color
8. Chasing Shadows by Nicole Martorana
9. Myddfai by Martin Rees
10. My Love is Blind by Tim Estep & April Sedeen Estep (Winner of Best Color Film)
11. You Go To My Head by Lynda Bostrom
12. How To Reinvent Yourself by Jay Zehr (Winner of Best Color Cinematography)
13. Something Else by Chris Whitmore (Winner of Best of the Festival)
14. The Ride by Elliott Downs

The show starts at sundown on the courthouse lawn. See you there!

Copyright © 2012 · All Rights Reserved · ilovemyburg.com. Photos by Brandy Somers. Written content by Katie Mitchell. This material may not be copied, downloaded, reproduced, or printed without express written consent. Thank you for respecting our intellectual property.

harrisonburg outing no. 2: the little grill

On the way to the Little Grill Collective (a Harrisonburg original and LEGEND) with Brandy and my kids, a discussion occurred about superheroes. I’m sure Cal started it because he’s absolutely obsessed with taking over the universe. The super power he would most want to have is to shoot “fire lasers” out of his eyes. Bree wants the power of invisibility; Brandy’s son, Blake wishes he could see a thought bubble over people’s heads so he can literally read their minds. How cool would THAT be? And would the bubbles make that sound like on VH1’s Pop-Up Video? Even better. Brandy touts time travel as her superpower of choice (and to be honest, that’s not a bad idea for me, either). I’ve already named her Brandybot because of her ability to take awesome photos of herself using her Gumby/Elastigirl/bionic arm.

Anyway, to the Grill we went, camera and notebook in tow. MexiNite. Oh, baby. Two-dollar Dos Equis and all-you-can-eat authentic Mexican food, prepared with authentically fresh ingredients, by deliciously authentic people.

We were a bit early–Mexi nite doesn’t actually start til 5pm. We were greeted by two employees prepping the food we’d be privileged to soon devour; one other occupied table; and Dr. Dog on the stereo. You know, it’s good it was not crowded when we arrived. Brandy was able to move around and photograph things without awkwardly dangling her strap in someone’s face, and Cal was full of himself and a bit annoying. I mean “enthusiastic.” No matter; by our second beer, the place was slammed.

Our waitress was Camille, and I had what I thought was a senior moment/deja vu because I could have sworn she worked somewhere else and NOT at the Grill. I checked my surroundings: bike, Gonzo, Yoda, Trivial Pursuit cards… yes, this is the Grill.

Turns out she also works at Jack Brown’s and USED to work at Clementine. Of course! She’s served me many a beer there. Funny how you only recognize people in their “original environments.” Anyhoo, in talking with Camille, we learned that not only is she working two jobs, but she’s also involved in a documentary about the Maasai culture and the change it’s undergoing. You can find information about it here. If you like what you see, you can attend the fundraiser Camille’s organizing to raise money for farming initiatives in Kenya, being held at the Blue Nile in March. Talk about super powers—someone give this woman a cape.

It was nice chatting with Camille, and her service was great. The food, as always, was excellent. My favorite is the potato roll-up. But honestly, any food that delivers sour cream to my mouth is a favorite.

I could go on and on about why I love the Little Grill so much. I’ve been going there since I moved here in 1993 and it’s one of my favorite places in the entire world. Just being in there makes me grateful to have something so unique and humbly special in my town. So here are just a few reasons why we love the Grill.

1. Sunday brunch. ‘Nuff said. There are no words; just go and try it. It’s religious.

2. The people who work there are just cool. As Brandy put it, “this place is full of slashers.” Take Camille. She works at the Grill/Jack Browns/Kenya. Ashley Hunter, who was also there tonight: LGC employee/fantastic singer. Chris Howdyshell, whose face was notably absent the day we were there: LGC employee/musician/Open Mic host/happy guy. And the list goes on. And they’re all worker/owners, too, which is why the food and the service is always perfect.

3. They are socially conscious. From the food quality to the shirts they sell, the Grill cares about the planet, the local economy, and you. They buy as much locally-produced food as they possibly can, and organic/cruelty free to boot. They make everything from scratch so you know what you’re eating is wholesome and nutritious. They buy fair trade items so you know your purchase is not exploiting someone somewhere. Many of the shirts they sell are actually re-purposed—they buy shirts at thrift stores, then screen print the LGC design on them.

They operate a soup kitchen and hold lots of community events at Our Community Place, which opened a few years ago (BTW, I tried to link to their website, but it doesn’t appear to be working). They’ve just been a peace-loving, forward-thinking part of our community for a very long time and I can’t say enough about them. Go there. You’ll feel it when you walk in.

4. They promote the goings-on in Harrisonburg. Whether it’s an art show, a local band, a benefit, a museum exhibit, a film festival… you can find it all on their giant bulletin board. They are truly community-minded, and most of the folks who work there are also heavily involved in these community events themselves.

5. There’s so much to do in that teeny, tiny place. While we were there, we (obviously) ate a great meal and had lots of laughs, but I also played Crazy Eights with my kids (Cal kicked our butts pretty soundly).

Brandy and I looked through the Muppets lunchbox stuffed with random notes people have left over the years. Bree and Cal played with the big bucket of Potato Heads. You can also enjoy trivia, look through old photo albums, and write in the “Book of Alternative Commandments,” or whatever it’s called—it was missing tonight when we were there. Has anyone seen it??

And…
6.The Elvis picture. It speaks for itself. I won’t even try.

Obviously, you HAVE to go to the Little Grill as soon as humanly possible. It’s on North Main St., north of Chanello’s where Main and Liberty meet, and just past the (garish) NAPA Auto-Parts store. Park on the street. Sunday brunch starts at nine, but you better get there at 8:30 if you want to make the first seating.  Don’t worry; you’ll have great conversations with other Harrisonburgonians while you wait. Just wear your sidewalk shoes. I promise you’ll feel good when you come out of there.