Day 25, late evening

Elaine's was a treat.

While her Easy Veronica with meatballs cooked, Elaine took us to Mitch's to see his miniature artwork.

Mitch makes small scenes and people out of sculpey and in eggs, gourds, or plain old dioramas. Some of his scenes included a saloon, an artist at work in his studio ("If you look you'll see the plugs all plug in," noted Elaine), a lighthouse off of Cape Cod, Eskimos on ice, and a Scotland scene. The last one was going to go inside an emu's egg.

"I was looking at the egg and it wasn't quite right. Then it tipped over onto its side and I thought [*snap*] sideways!"

Mitch paints some and he also makes statuettes. He's got a Valkyrie, a gypsy girl, a barbarian with sword, and a female preacher with Tibetan lambswool for hair.

His house smells of old cigarette smoke. Everything was low down so he could reach it from his wheelchair. Once, when he was at a fair, a heavy wind started to blow his tarp away. He grabbed his tarp to stop it from going, it kited up and started to roll him down the street. He stopped it in time, but he couldn't feel his feet drag a harbor scene gourd crashing to the ground. He was alone at the time.

Each scene takes him about 10 months to make. I mentioned that I loved the dioramas at the Museum of Natural History in New York and he told me that that's where he wanted to get his stuff. He asked me to flag down the curator if I ever see him, and, if I ever do, I will. Perhaps for someone in Bazine (pop. 435), meeting one person in New York (pop. 9 million?) might seem easy.

Dinner was fantastic. Elaine told us that if we're short of water we can cool off by jumping into cowbaths at the base of windmills. Dan, her husband, told me a little bit about his many jobs rolling hay or alfalfa, raising cattle for feed, raising feed for cattle, his positive thoughts on organic produce, his negative thoughts on Barack Obama (it was my fault for bringing it up, and my fault for lingering on it). His ears really pricked up when we talked music.

In 1964, Dan and his family were on vacation in Colorado. He and his brother were listening to the AM when they heard that there were tickets still available for the Beatles concert at Red Rocks Natural Amphitheater. With luck and $6.60, Dan saw the Beatles at their loudest.

Dan has seen all kinds of bands over the years. My ears pricked up when he said he broke through the ropes to see The Band play at Harvard. When I told him that I'd been recreating The Band by The Band all throughout Virginia and Kentucky, Dan returned with a copy of that LP and Music from the Big Pink.

We put it on the machine, I sat back and listened to the first scrap of music I've actively listened to in months. Dan apologized profusely for the fact that only one speaker worked and then he took the dogs out for a run alongside his pickup.

One speaker is fine and plenty. A parting lyric from Rocking Chair that I remember misremembering in the Appalachians:

"Oh to be home again,
Down in old Virginie,
With my very best friend,
They call him Ragtime Willy...
This hill's too steep to climb,
And the days that remain ain't worth a dime..."

I am halfway across the country.

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