My American Life — June 2016

AdrianCarla_9130My few summer months in Daylesford, Victoria, Australia, passed by quickly (too quickly), as I enjoyed life there with my husband, Adrian, and Miss Jelly Bean. We had lots of lovely visits with family & friends and a few wonderful road trips. A three-to-four month timeframe doesn’t seem like enough time to be in some places, sometimes, but at other times, that’s plenty of time to do something good and move forward.

I’m here in America now, with Adrian, in Clarksdale, Mississippi, having my second summer of this year. Already, it’s very hot, although this Mississippi Delta summer has just begun.

Adrian and I have been enjoying a visit from our Australian friend and bandmate, Phil McNamara. Phil is The Holy Moly’s first guest Artist-in-Residence! We’re happy to have Phil’s help in setting up a system for future artists in residence at The Holy Moly. PhilMac2

Our friend from Portland, Victoria, Australia, is also coming and going, visiting us in Clarksdale, and sharing her amazing enthusiasm for life and travel, not to mention her knowledge of knitting! I’ve been her obedient student, knitting my days away for months, and loving it. Currently, I’m waiting for Jacqui to return to help me finish up Adrian’s V-neck vest which is in progress but was put on hold the minute I actually began to knit the V in the v-neck vest.

Meanwhile, craft bear work is my specialty! I’ve been knitting up little cuties — I’m enjoying my new love of craft bear (as opposed to craft beer, get it? hahahaha) — and having a lot of fun with photographing them.Bears640



Carla Maxwell’s Mountain Dulcimer

Adrian and I recently played for the breakfast crowd at the Bluesberry Cafe in Clarksdale. There’s music there every weekend morning, just around the corner from our house! Bluesberry_9084


As far as family life goes, I’m loving being on this continent, closer to my all American daughter and other family members. We have had several really good visits, recently, and I am thankful for that! Our family’s big news is that Alex is getting married! Her fiancé, Kevin, is a fabulous addition to our family. We’re having fun with the excitement that goes along with planning a marriage. alex_9504

Adrian and I are working on the latest ideas in The Holy Moly project and moving forward, slowly, but surely, always in the pursuit of happiness and our next Waffle House experience.Waffles_9431


Living with the Blues in Clarksdale, Mississippi

Blues music brought me to Clarksdale for a visit in 2006.

At the time, I never imagined I would return to Clarksdale to own and live in an old masonic temple building in Clarksdale’s historic downtown blues precinct; but, here I am, doing just that!

My husband and I needed a project, and it looked like Clarksdale needed us.

In 2012, my husband and I needed a project, and it looked like Clarksdale needed us.

In 2012 my husband and I purchased a building to help revitalise Clarksdale and to give us something to do while we were in the U.S.A. My husband had experience with this sort of thing (revitalising buildings), although it had been 10 years since he had refurbished any buildings.

It didn’t take too long to set-up our living area inside the old masonic temple building, but it has taken almost three years (including many months away, returning several times to Australia for various reasons) for us to “complete” the revitalisation of this building. By “complete,” I mean that we are now feeling happy about the way the building looks and about having tenants (and a functioning cafe) inside the building!

We did not revitalize this building by ourselves. It has taken a whole team of good community-minded people wanting to see The Holy Moly project succeed.

The Holy Moly project has brought people, music, and fun, back to the corner of Third Street & Issaquena Avenue.

The Holy Moly project, combined with blues music, has brought people and fun back to the corner of Third Street & Issaquena Avenue. (October 2015)

Right now, I’m not wanting to write a description of the renovation project. This is not the right blog for describing the project in detail. What I do want to do is share a few videos I made recently, whilst working in the cafe in the corner of The Holy Moly. I’m also wanting to describe what I hope to see continue in Clarksdale – at The Holy Moly!

Here’s a little sample of the music, people, and fun that has come to one small section of The Holy Moly. I made this video in October 2015, on my last night working at The Holy Moly Drug Store, although I did not know it would be my last night. My husband and I had recently sold the restaurant business and leased the space to a couple from Australia. The new tenants/owners of The Holy Moly Drug Store decided not to reopen the shop the next week.

The musician playing in the video above is Terry “Harmonica” Bean.

Australian blues musician, Fiona Boyes, was also recently seen performing on The World’s Smallest Stage at The Holy Moly Drug Store. Here’s my video, from my perspective behind the counter:

There have been a number of successful events/tests in The Holy Moly.

We have had lots of music downstairs on The World’s Smallest Stage (that’s Deak Harp in the above video) and upstairs in The Holy Moly Theatre — Heavy Suga & the SweeTones performed a couple of months ago:

Now that the testing phase is over, hopefully, Adrian and I can move forward with a bigger calendar of events for the theatre and dining room on the second floor. I’m dreaming of house concerts, workshops, mini-festivals, and more.

We’re going back to Australia with our thinking caps on, and we hope to return to Clarksdale in March 2016 with renewed enthusiasm.

We're going to be in Australia for the next couple of months, planning  fun events for The Holy Moly Theatre and dining room.

Dulcimer players — Adrian Kosky and Carla Maxwell — “We’re going to be in Australia for the next couple of months, planning fun events for The Holy Moly Theatre and dining room.”

Blues is just one of the musical genres to be featured in the future of The Holy Moly project. It will definitely be included as a genre, but not as my way of life. I am in the pursuit of happiness in this Americana Music Triangle in which I have made my American home!

Juke Joint Jam Academy at The Holy Moly – April 9-11, 2015

I’m about to re-enter music-workshop-world — not just Memphis dulcimer workshop world — but general music workshop world — at The Holy Moly, in the downtown historic blues precinct of Clarksdale, Mississippi! This is so exciting!

Mountain Dulcimer in the jam at The Holy Moly, Clarksdale, Mississippi 38614

Dulcimer cartoon by Carla Maxwell

I chose to study the mountain dulcimer in my leisure time, through workshops and independent practice, when I attended the Memphis Dulcimer Festival and took a beginner dulcimer workshop, in 1990. The workshop method of relaxed, casual, hobby/leisure learning among other people with similar interests, without academic pressure, was perfect for me. I was able to learn to play a string instrument at my own pace and enjoy making music for the simple joy of making music.  I enjoy the schedules and the organisation and group activities that an academic world provides, but I do not enjoy the stress of taking tests and receiving scores nor the guilt and shame that sometimes comes with all that.

I get inspired when I see and hear inspired musicians. I learned this about myself when I was a teenager, and I was reminded of it in 2000, when I attended my first week-long mountain dulcimer workshop in Swannanoa, North Carolina. That was the year I decided I wanted to host/facilitate educational, entertaining, music gatherings.  During my return for a second week-long mountain dulcimer workshop at the Swannanoa Gathering during the summer of 2001, I began my plan to host mountain dulcimer events in a classroom that was available to me in Memphis, Tennessee.  By the end of 2002, I had planned and hosted the first Memphis Dulcimer Gathering with Larry Conger and was scheduling a second annual event. My first mountain dulcimer event was a great success, as it was a lot of fun and, for me, confirmed that the world needed more music workshops for people like me who just wanted to make more music.

A lot of musical fun was launched in 2002 from the first event I hosted with Larry Conger and a couple of friends. The Memphis Area Mountain Dulcimer Club was started and commenced its monthly meetings. In 2004, I co-founded and became the first president of The Memphis Dulcimer Gathering, Inc., a 501(c)(3) organisation. The Memphis Dulcimer Gathering & Folk Festival, an annual September event, came to be just as beautiful and musically-nurturing as the old Memphis Dulcimer Festival that had inspired me.  I felt blessed to be part of a world of positive musical movement.

Unfortunately, in 2007, I attended my last week-long mountain dulcimer workshop in North Carolina, the same year I  resigned as president of the Memphis Dulcimer Gathering, Inc.  My life’s circumstances were changing for the better, but my connection with Memphis dulcimer workshops and house concerts was fading.

Since 2007, I have had a continuing daydream, though. For years I have been imagining hosting events that would interest and entertain musicians…..all kinds of acoustic musicians….not just Memphis dulcimer players. I also dreamed I might be able to join in a jam as my Memphis dulcimer-playing-self and feel warm and included with acceptance, as well as confident with my playing skills, sharing the joy of community music-making. (That dream actually started in 2000 in Swannanoa, North Carolina, as I heard all the musicians come together to jam in the evenings, when the workshop hours were over. I don’t think I had ever before heard music so beautifully played and enjoyed.)

Although you won’t hear many mountain dulcimers, on any night of the week, live music can be found, here in Clarksdale. And, some Clarksdale musicians go on world tours, advancing with the musical momentum of the Mississippi Delta. But, the Mississippi Delta needs musicians to come here for mutual inspiration. I need musicians to want to come here for inspiration, whether to learn more about the blues or to be inspired by Americana music, in general.

So, here I am ready in Clarksdale, Mississippi, in the historic downtown blues precinct, to co-host the Juke Joint Jam Academy, a Clarksdale Juke Joint Festival related event, with my husband. I encourage other musicians to gather here to study instruments that interest them and become inspired to make more music, start a music club, lead a music workshop, host a house concert, or just enjoy the music of Mississippi.

To learn how to host music events, I recommend attending music events.

Click here for the schedule of workshops and instructors for the Juke Joint Jam Academy. Click here to visit the venue: The Holy Moly, P.O. Box 1531, Clarksdale, Mississippi 38614 Click here to register for the Juke Joint Jam Academy, April 9-11, 2015

Cartoon of Carla Maxwell playing a mountain dulcimer

Cartoon Selfie by Carla Maxwell,

I Got Married on a Monday in March!

Adrian Kosky and I decided (spontaneously) to get married on Monday, March 17, 2014…..St. Patrick’s Day will be an anniversary party day for us every year from now on!!

We had fun without a plan.

On Monday afternoon, we went to buy a wedding ring from the local jewellery store here in downtown Clarksdale, Mississippi, but the store was closed and not opening again until the 19th of March.  So, I have a Wal-Mart wedding ring!  It was the only one in Wal-Mart’s jewellery department that fit my finger……AND it was very reasonably priced!! 🙂

Our wedding was officiated by our wonderful friend, Randall Andrews, at the Atzimba Mexican Restaurant on State Street in Clarksdale……yes, right at the table, pushing the chips & dip and Diet Coke aside, Adrian and I exchanged our vows and took a selfie for our first wedding photo.  The event was lovely, it was fun, it was definitely relaxed, and it was sincere.

We are happily calling each other “husband and wife.”  We’re a little giggly about it, and we are enjoying all the love and good wishes that we are receiving as messages from friends & family via facebook. 🙂

Here are a few photos that tell the story of our wedding and the first day of our marriage.

Atzimba Mexican Restaurant, Clarksdale, MS

The Surprised and Spontaneous Wedding Hosts at Atzimba Mexican Restaurant, Clarksdale, Mississippi

Randall Andrews,

Randall Andrews signs our marriage certificate

Adrian Kosky holds his marriage license

Adrian admires our fancy marriage license

Wedding Rings Selfie

The Ring Selfie — Showing my Wal-Mart wedding ring

Wedding Photo of Adrian Kosky and Carla Maxwell

Happiness with a marriage license, wedding rings, and true love – photo by Robin Colonas

The Atzimba wedding chimichanga

Chicken chimichanga dinners! The wedding feast!

Money for Rope playing on the Juke Joint Chapel stage at the Shack Up Inn

For our reception/party, we borrowed Money for Rope’s gig. The Australian band happened to be playing at the Shack Up Inn in Clarksdale on St. Patrick’s Day. (I don’t think they know they were our wedding band.)

First day of marriage breakfast -- cream filled, devil's food, donuts from Delta Donut

Cream-filled, devil’s food, donuts from Delta Donut –Our first breakfast together as husband and wife–enjoyed at the famous crossroads of highways 49 and 61, Clarksdale, Mississippi

Egg and cheese biscuits at the Crossroads in Clarksdale

Egg & cheese biscuits at the cross roads in Clarksdale — Our second breakfast together as husband and wife — Just after donuts!

It’s Wednesday now, and we are back at work on The Holy Moly project….scrubbing and sealing floors.  It’s our unusual life, as usual, today.

Adrian and I are always thankful for life together. We are both now thankful that we will be “married” wherever we might be and will no longer need to explain the “de facto” relationship we had in Australia.