Gulf Wars 2006
I had a great time. It was very different this time. Last year, I flew down by myself, it was cold, and I was sick most of the time. This year I drove down with friends,and I was very healthy most of the time. The weather ended up being very changeable. It was hot, cold, windy, rainy, and calm, all in one week, sometimes even all in one day. I got to play violin, zills, and drum…learned some new songs, did some henna/mehandi, made new friends, taught bellydance class, watched coursing hounds and a mounted archery demo, got really up close to a live red tail hawk, watched the fort battle, danced around a campfire, jammed with some very fine musicians, ate a lot, spent quality time with good friends, and spent St. Patrick’s Day in the French Quarter. It was a very good vacation.
The drive down was relatively painless. It’s about 1000 miles from my door to the site (Lumberton, MS). It’s exactly 400 miles from my door to Louisville, KY. The midway point is somewhere between there and Nashville, TN. We passed some interesting looking stuff, for example, in no particular order: King’s Island amusement park, The National Corvette Museum, the Jack Daniels distillery, Big Bone Lick Park, The Most Awesome Flea Market in the World,
…and the award for worst drivers goes to: Ohio
…and the award for most speed traps goes to: Ohio
…and the award for worst roads goes to: Alabama
We arrived around 11:30 pm Sat. local time and enjoyed the tailgate party and waiting for troll, which opened at 8 am Sunday. Sunday was setup and recovery day;)
Arts and Sciences
Monday, the only thing I had planned was showing up at Al-Mahala for the daily melody jam. As I expected, it was just Denys, Emyrs, and me, plus a few students that lingered from the beginner drum class and other spectators. We used the time mostly to work on some of the sheet music that Denys sent me beforehand. We ended up skipping the jam on Wed., because both Denys and I wanted to watch the mounted archery demo at that time, and I also missed it on Friday because we went to the French Quarter. Thursday, Munlik was actually able to join us, after we thought he wasn’t going to make it to Gulf Wars this year, so it was nice to see him. He and Denys would play on various sticks with holes (ney, kaval, and so on). Sometimes Denys would play his oud. Emyrs would accompany on drums or on his new saz. One day he broke out his tuba. That was interesting. However, our jam sessions were not confined to the Al-Mahala schedule. There were several nights when we were just sitting around the campfire and spontaneously erupted into song. Some of my campmates (whom I’d never seen play before) were even inspired to pick up a drum. This is why I like to play at Gulf Wars. I don’t get this kind of intimacy at Pennsic, unless I can lure other musicians into my camp to jam with me. I don’t like playing out at night, in big crowds, so the big Pennsic haflas and parties are out for me.
I also attended Avater’s music class and I loved it. He talked about period-documentable melodies, ways of improvising, and a game called estampie(sp?). I am actually going to write up my notes on that separately.
Wednesday, I taught one of the beginner bellydance classes and that was hella fun. I am also going write about that experience separately in my dance journal.
One of the many aspects I enjoy about Gulf Wars is that it’s very laid back. Most of the attendees are from the South, and exude politeness and hospitality. It’s not as big and crowded as Pennsic, so it’s easier to make new friends and then find them again later. It’s easier to run into people you know at parties.
I only went to two parties that were on the scale of Pennsic: one at Shadow Legion, and the Known World party. The big thing down here is “jello shots” and the Shadow Legion folks have perfected them into a science. They quite possibly made 1000s of them, in a wide assortment of flavors, on site. That party was also the one time I was inspired to dance around the fire, play my zills, and I even took a turn drumming at one point, while Denys got up to do some Balkan line dancing. Also, Denys taught me this super-neato trick of holding zills in the left hand to play the tekas, while playing the dums on the drum with the right hand. I was even complimented by some of the dancers and drummers on the zill playing. The drum circle was pretty big at one point and there were a couple of guys who took turns leading and coordinating. They were much more obvious and structured about it than what I typically see at Pennsic, I think because most of the drummers in this scene are beginner-intermediate, so the few advanced drummers and teachers take charge and lead. They even called out the names of rhythms as they were changing, and stayed on each rhythm for a long time to get everyone in sync. You don’t have the drummer ego power struggles as much in this scene, as you have just people who want to learn and have a good time.
The Known Worlde party was a mosh pit. It might even be bigger than your avg. Pennsic party. It looks like a great place to do your political shmoozing. I enjoyed watching the poi spinners. The homebrew was good. I didn’t stay long.
The French Quarter
New Orleans is about 90 miles from site and takes little more than an hour to get there. We decided to make a day trip of it on St. Patrick’s Day. Slidell is on the way, and I recommend stopping there for gas and daiquiris at “the daiquiri shack,” because they are the best. Strawberry is my favorite–made with fresh strawberries and 151*. As we neared New Orleans, the devastation could be seen more clearly–many houses with blue tarps for roofs, many buildings that were reduced to sticks and rubble. You can see large Xs spray painted on the fronts of houses, indicating the status of their occupants–live or dead, and so on. I imagine this is what the plague was like. However, the French Quarter looks almost as if nothing happened. There are still a lot of businesses that have not reopened, but it’s lively as ever. We still had to wait in line for a table at the Acme Oyster House, which has fantabulous oysters and crawfish, and then we wandered around. We hit the Lush store on Decatur, Cafe du Monde, and the French market. The highlight of the day was running into J–the original founder of my camp at Pennsic. She took us to the Chart Room for a few drinks, and then we wandered some more and ran into a parade, caught some beads, then back to camp.
*Note that down South, all slushy drinks are referred to as “daiquiris,” regardless of their ingredients. A true daiquiri is lime, powdered sugar, and rum, according to Mr. Boston’s guide.