Sunday, September 23, 2007

Plaid to the Bone

One of the things I like best about fall in Memphis is that it's festival season. As the humidity fades away and the daytime temperatures gradually slide downward from "deep fat fry" to tolerably warm, it's the perfect time of year to be outdoors, wandering through crowds of people celebrating pretty much whatever an organization with even the sparest of corporate and media sponsorship can dream up.

An annual favorite of mine is Clanjamfry, staged yearly by Evergreen Presbyterian Church in midtown, which, as we all know, is indeed God's own country. I miss midtown so much, with its old and funky houses, representing a cross-section of time, socio-economic status, cultures and levels of education. Evergreen, anchored by the venerable Rhodes College ("our ivy is in a league by itself") is an upper middle-class mixture of Craftsman bungalows and Tudor-esque mini-manors. Bordered on the south by our rather good zoo and on the east by a jumping part of Binghampton, it even looks like its name, with yard after yard full of stately, ancient trees, both deciduous and evergreen.

The festival naturally centers around Scots history and culture, seeing as how the hosts are Presbyterian, but once the music starts and the vendors set up their wares, the lines between Scots and Irish tend to blur a wee bit (something my own Scots forbears would have reportedly taken a dim view of) and it all becomes a whirl of Scots-Irish-Celtic jolly good fun.

Dear Daughter and Best Friend wandered around, teetering on the edge of teenage ennui. The games were all either geared for small children or involved tossing cabers or two-handed broadswords, so their choices were somewhat limited. We watched some bands, the Highland Dance competition, the Boniest Knees competition (more on this in a moment) and strolled through the vendors looking at home-spun wool, hand-crafted mountain dulcimers, silver jewelry and tartan bedspreads. The live sheep caught our eye, and a bit of our hearts as well. These woolly girls were lovely shades of cinnamon and steel and appreciated a good skritch between the eyes.

We ran into several friends, and made a few new ones. We thrilled to the Wolf River Pipe and Drum band, especially the "chick" drummers with their precisely twirling lambswool mallets. Not hungry for offal, we passed on the opportunity to try haggis. The girls made beady-things in the crafts booth and I made photos.

The Boniest Knees Contest was a good laugh. Three blindfolded women fondled the knees of brave contestants sporting Highland garb and selected the ones they liked best. It was hoot, and the winner seemed proud of his honor. Quite a few people strolled the grounds in an approximation of Scottish dress, and I must admit a specific fondness for the sight of a man in a kilt--not any specific man in particular, seeing as how the Loved One won't put one on, but just men in kilts in general. It's a good look. And I have a special shout-out to the gentleman with the exquisitely cabled and seed-stitched socks. Despite how insanely hot he must've been, those were some serious socks.

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