Skin-thickening potions and Cajun dentists

Chris JonesLast week I received my first major blowback from a Bluegrass Today column of mine. I never like to offend people, and it is never my intention to do so. I said as much in my reply to the comment. I appreciate and try to understand everyone’s opinions as best I can. Constructive criticism is usually a good thing, and the occasional less-constructive version has its place too, if only to thicken the skin (seeing as the vitamin supplement I’ve been taking for skin-thickening hasn’t worked at all).

Several months ago I issued a disclaimer about this column, not in response to criticism, but in response to people thinking that my “advice” was “helpful.” This had worried me, since the last person to take my business or career advice literally is now living on the street in Juarez, playing a mariachi-inspired version of Rocky Top for tips. It’s pretty sad.

Below are a couple of excerpts from that disclaimer that I felt it necessary to write. I thought a reminder might be in order:

Columns written by Chris Jones (writer) and published on Bluegrass Today’s “web site” (Bluegrass Today) may or may not contain factual information (and that’s on a good day). The percentage of statements in previously published columns by writer deemed by a panel of analysts** to be unequivocally true was 30-35% (with a margin of error of +/- 40%). Writer is under no obligation to match this percentage in future pieces published by Bluegrass Today. Any statements by writer that are taken literally and followed as “advice” may lead to career-crushing decisions, broken relationships, and relentless ridicule by peers. Readers with a history of poor judgement, and of following bad advice, should consult a doctor, psychologist, or affordable chiropractor prior to reading these columns. Readers experiencing nausea, dizziness decreased appetite, or a sudden urge to take an Irish step dancing class, should discontinue reading column. Writer will no take no responsibility for these results, although he may feel mildly guilty for several minutes, but then he’ll check the score of the Kentucky-Florida game, strum an E chord, and start singing “I Don’t Want Your Rambling Letters”, and all will be forgotten. 

Some statements are merely intended as “jokes” with an intent to induce laughter. If readers don’t find them funny, writer is okay with that, but would prefer that they  cultivate a convincing fake laugh to be used in this situation.

No peanuts were used, looked at, or even thought of by writer during the writing of any columns, although 2 Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups were eaten 10 days ago during a really mediocre movie. Writer washed hands thoroughly and tried to get a refund on the movie.

** Two members of writer’s band, writer’s cousin’s wife, and a piano tuner who just happened to be there at the time.

Last week’s column which, if taken literally, appeared to encourage festivals to bring in only one kind of fan: the kind of fan they’re currently attracting, only more of them. This was meant ironically, since my own view is that diversity, to the extent that it’s possible, is the pathway to broad success in a music festival (in my genuine opinion). Festivals with a more diverse audience are also the ones that my band and I prefer to play, not that we don’t also enjoy many of the homogeneous festivals we play too (and we appreciate the homogeneous milk served backstage). We recently had a great time at a festival that appeared to draw nothing but cajun dentists, ages 45-48, and we had a great time. We flossed thoroughly, then played all of our songs in the key of C.

On the subject of bluegrass festivals, and music festivals in general, I had been thinking this week about some of the vendors we encounter at various events, and some of the interesting products, edible and otherwise, that they sell.

It’s a very important ingredient at a festival, because vendors selling appealing products can be a factor in bringing in a larger audience. On the other hand, vendors with products that leave a bad taste in peoples’ mouths (literally or not) can negatively affect attendance.

Good regional food products are always a good touch for an event: Beef ribs at a Texas festival, pulled pork barbeque and Cheerwine in North Carolina, organic burritos and cheesecake sushi in California (I made the last one up, but I like the idea). And of course, many people love tastes from around the country and around the world at their own local festival. Recently in Edmonton, Alberta, I ordered something called a “Jack Daniels Lollipop” (because I didn’t have my glasses and just pointed randomly at the menu). It turned out to be beef skewers with a Jack Daniels sauce, which happened to be really good, in spite of the name.

Predicting what will appeal to any given festival attendee can be difficult. As a caution against stereotyping, a reader last week brought up the fact that she drinks both Jim Beam and smoothies, which I applaud (unless both are consumed right before a bumpy flight, and you’re the pilot). I myself have forced multiculturalism on my own stomach by trying (and enjoying) pork rinds and Perrier simultaneously.

This gave me an idea, though, that I think will make some festival vendor a millionaire: The Jim Beam Smoothie (local licensing laws permitting). I can see the sign now: “If you like eggnog, you’ll LOVE . . .” Seriously, the first person to start selling these is going to have a line longer than the booth giving away free money. A pork rind and Perrier smoothie, on the other hand, would be less successful.

And speaking of pork rind and Perrier smoothies, this week I plan to do some research, so that next week I can come up with a list of the biggest product failures, edible or otherwise (usually otherwise) ever introduced by festival vendors. Alka Seltzer or its generic equivalent may be needed to settle the stomach churning you may experience just as a result of reading the list. I take no responsibility for any other ailments or mental and emotional anguish which may or may not occur due to that or an other column (see above disclaimer).