Tuesday, August 29, 2006
An old European poet once said, "If everyone in the world simply took care of their own homes, you wouldn't have to worry about the world anymore." In the 1960s that phrase became a bumper sticker, "Think globally ... Act Locally."
I grew up in New York, a little town called Fishkill in Dutchess County. Pete Seeger lived nearby and I would go to his Stawberry Festival each summer and watch the folksingers play along the shores of the Hudson River. I liked that Pete had a national career but would be seen walking the sidewalks of his hometown, shopping at the Grand Union, attending his local Sloop meetings ... being part of a hometown with his family.
I don't live in New York anymore, obviously. I moved south into a land of mountains and music and garden tomatoes and coal mines. Aside from my family, the memories of my old home have been replaced by my new hometown. Now, I live in Lexington, Kentucky. It's a wonderful, friendly, beautiful, creative place full of good people, and families, and nice schools and a thriving artist community. There are not many places as wonderful as Lexington. Except, maybe, your hometown. But I love Kentucky. It fits me. I have been able to play music, write books, make records, create something as adventerous as the WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour and raise my children here. My hometown sits in a nice part of America, we are a short 6 hour drive to 32 million people. It sits at the foothills of the Appalachian moountains and the music, the art, the crafts and the spirit of that old way of life still lingers in the air.
But the past couple weeks have been hard for my friends in Lexington. There was a bomb scare that shut down several city blocks. A jet with 50 people, mostly from Lexington, crashed after taking off from the wrong runway. All but one perished. A friend of mine, Larry Turner, was on that plane. Two WoodSongs crew members, Dr. Bob and Mary DeMatinna, were at the airport and watched Larry's plane explode in a ball of fire as it crashed. A couple of days later, a mom and dad were arrested for killing their child and burning the body in the woods after claiming the child was kidnapped. Another mother got angry and drove her children into a lake. One of the kids died.
My hometown has been hit hard.
I mention all of this to show that every hometown is both wonderful and beautiful and yet still struggles like any another. Each hometown grapples to keep it's sidewalks clean and schools running and roads paved and workers working. I liked what Pete did, working on his national career but still paying attention to, and being an active part of, his own hometown. Each home town is made better by the involvement of those who chose to live there.
An artist can learn a lot from Pete by getting involved one way or another, through hard work or music, in their hometowns. Whether you sing at a homeless shelter or pick up trash along a creek bed ... it's part of the responsibility of a hometown, I suppose. After all, if you don't care about where you're from, why should anyone care about where you are going.