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Thread: Mid-life ramblings...

  1. #1
    Registered User Ken Olmstead's Avatar
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    Default Mid-life ramblings...

    Grey hair, spread around the middle, college degree, a wife, a daughter, two dogs and a mandolin? What happened to me?? I was a wild child! I was gonna be a heavy metal guitar hero! Ask me anything about Fender Strat, I can tell you. There is a difference between Shoreline Gold and Aztec Gold and basswood sounds different than alder you know!

    However, fast forward 23 years and I am an accountant playing a mandolin on youtube dressed as Santa?!! This is not where I thought I was going to be at all! Don’t get me wrong, I love playing mandolin, but I am supposed to wearing spandex, blowing the transformers out of a Marshall JCM and drinking a six pack through a funnel!

    Now here I am excited about a new flat top mandolin and a Young’s Double Chocolate Stout (more than two and I don’t sleep well!) Quite a change in life style….

    …what was I talking about? Sorry but my wife just came in and explained why it was necessary to turn down the James Brown I am listening to. We used to blow our ear drums out listening to Black Sabbath and now I have to “turn it down” so they can watch Scooby Doo! Times certainly have changed.

    I guess it is safe to say that I have arrived at “mid-life!” Happily, I am not in crisis! In fact, while I have not fulfilled my “guitar god” dream, I couldn’t be happier! I have a happy, healthy family and a good job. I have a couple of great mandolins, I play decent and I have mandolin buddies now in several countries that I regularly correspond with. I love hanging out on the Café and I have a youtube audience that must number near 50!

    However, I still sometimes feel like I should at least have a pony tail and play Day Tripper on a Les Paul Deluxe in a coffee shop on Thursday nights from 8-10pm…

    Thank you Mr. Grisman, you saved my life!!

    Anyone else out there that would never have guessed that you would be playing mandolin and passionate about tailpieces, strings and picks in your 40's and 50's? I am happy to be here, but it freaks me out when I think about it!

    Group therepy anyone?
    http://www.youtube.com/user/tenorbanjoguy

    "Gettin' by" with the imports!

  2. #2
    Tommy D
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    Default Re: Mid-life ramblings...

    Thank goodness for a happy life. Cheers,
    TD
    Everything you can imagine is real.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Mid-life ramblings...

    <Thank you Mr. Grisman, you saved my life!!>

    Well I wouldn't go that far but David Grisman, especially the first Quintet album certainly changed my life.

  4. #4
    once upon a time, drmole Joel Spaulding's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mid-life ramblings...

    Ken,

    Nice post and well said!
    Former Rock singer/keyboardist here! 21 years ago, I quit college, gave up $20,000 in scholarships to join a "real" band with bookings, equipment an agent and manager - the band lasted 3 months. I stayed at music fulltime, playing 200+ gigs a year as my only means of support for about five years.

    Nowadays I play the role of clinical pharmacist and associate prof of pharmacy. Lovely daughter & wife. Four Cats. My consumption of Stout and Pale Ale is probably two-three a MONTH. Compare this to the "Canadian Tour" of 1989, while in Sydney, NS my bill for seven nights of Labatt Blue and Rumplemintz exceeded my modest ~$300 weekly salary! Not a proud moment to look back on, now.

    I discovered the Cafe about 18 months ago. This instrument and my passion for it, has without question, been one of the most positive experiences of my lifetime. Piano, organ, guitar, drums, percussion, bass - they were all great and I own one or several of each. But I LOVE the Mandolin. Obsession would probably be the correct term. Were it not for my wife & daughter, the Mandolin would likely consume my soul to where I would be escorted to a secure state medical facility, babbling the whole way about the role of a Virzi in today's geo-political climate.

    Thank You Mr. Grisman, also!

    These days I let my hair grow for about 3 months before the inevitable scissors come out. In 3-4 months when the pony tail is possible, maybe I'll head to a Coffeehouse, sans Les Paul Deluxe( ) for a little Daytripper on the 8 string?
    Last edited by Joel Spaulding; Dec-20-2008 at 3:25am.

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    Dave Keswick Ravenwood's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mid-life ramblings...

    But guys, the coolest gig is yet to come ... when a grandchild says "Grandpa will you teach me to play the mandolin?"

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    Chief Moderator/Shepherd Ted Eschliman's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mid-life ramblings...

    Just turned 50 this summer, and one of my classmates put it to me quite eloquently: "There has never been a better time in history to be in our fifties." We have this incredible set of life experiences and wisdom, but an extended life expectancy that may very well give us several MORE decades to accomplish some great things.

    While many of us geezers have been wired to anticipate coasting to retirement in our early sixties, with health and creativity, we have many years of rich accomplishments yet to tackle beyond that.

    No stopping me, now...
    Ted Eschliman
    Tenor Guitar Enthusiast

    Author, Getting Into Jazz Mandolin

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    Isolated enthusiast Caleb's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mid-life ramblings...

    Ken,

    That was a very good read. I really enjoyed it.

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mid-life ramblings...

    If I'd known I was going to live this long I would have taken up the mandolin earlier.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  10. #9
    Registered User Jon Hall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mid-life ramblings...

    This string is really encouraging! I'm 60 and I enjoy playing music more than ever.

    When I look back 30 - 40 years I don't miss constantly comparing myself with the other musicians I knew. There were always people that played better, faster and knew more songs than I did. These days I relish the opportunity to play with better musicians.

    Although I have a day job, as a lumber buyer for a millwork manufacturer, I had to look for additional income. I have been blessed with the opportunity to teach guitar and mandolin at a local music store. I currently teach 20 students and I love it. The money is good, the variety of musical interests are challenging and I experience an incredible satisfaction when a student actually learns how to play.

    My family; wife, teenage daughter and college age son, are very supportive and even allow me to practice with a couple of groups each week.

    I want to encourage everyone that thinks they're too old to learn something to get over it and just do it! It takes effort and some time but the reward is sweet! During the last 5 years I've learned to sing harmony, read a little music and teach kids to play music that I've never played or they have never heard of.

    Merry Christmas (and any other Holiday you might celebrate)

    Jon

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    Registered User Randi Gormley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mid-life ramblings...

    I've been fascinated by time since I was in my teens, and how there's always another door in front of you to open no matter what's going on in your life. I remember looking in a mirror at 10 and wondering what I'd be like at 21, and I can see somewhere around my 25th birthday when my journal maunderings switched from "what is wrong with me?" to "why am I surrounded by idiots?!?" I never guessed back when I was trying to disappear into the landscape when I was in high school that I'd spend more than three decades breaking big and little news stories, being a wife and mother and holding offices in a couple of community theater groups and an irish community band. I like to joke that the life I lead, as generally quiet and out-of-touch as it is, is my reward for past bad times.
    --------------------------------
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    its a very very long song Jim's Avatar
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    53 and just about where I thought I'd be with music, Did the Rock & Roll bar band lead guitar thing for half my life but prefered acoustic music then and still do, though I crank up the old Peavy and charvel strat still every once & awhile I get more of a kick ripping through Blackberry Blossom on the Rover. Thanks to Mandolin cafe in part I'm a better player now then I was 10 years ago and I'll be a better player in 10 nyears then I am now and that makes this journey a good one.
    Jim Richmond

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    Registered User stratman62's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mid-life ramblings...

    I am 54. Held a mandolin for the first time 32 years ago. I haven't got over it yet.
    I have a friend who is 85 who inspires me every time we play. I have a lot to look
    forward to. I feel I have been blessed by my compulsion to make music. I've got it
    (the compulsion) as bad now as I ever had, and so does he.
    dwight in NC

  14. #13
    Moderator JEStanek's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mid-life ramblings...

    When in high school (late 80s) I never thought I would live to see 30. Reagan was in office saying those things he used to say after all...
    When in college I had grand dreams of photojournalism, science, and theology.
    Grad school made me a scientist! Got a sweet wife, got a job and the golden handcuffs started clicking. Now on the cusp of 40, with a healthy family, a very good job, and all the comforts I need, and many I feel I want or deserve, I'm content.

    If I were to show young me the now me, I bet young me would be disappointed. Wouldn't most of our younger selves feel betrayed by our older selves? Isn't that the point? We're not supposed to be indestructible teens our whole lives. The river of life flows and changes. With floods, droughts, falls we carve our way through the unknown. Our life is often influenced by choices not our own, but our happiness, is entirely incumbent on our choice in facing them. So, my advice to the younger selves is, enjoy the ride and try and find the joy, beauty, or at least black humor that life throws at you and to the older ones among us, don't give too much advice to the younger ones as we/they likely won't listen anyway . (That goes double for me.)

    Good post, Ken!
    Jamie

    PS: 1 Young's double Chocolate stout is better than 12 of just about anything else younger self would have gotten his grubby little mitts on. I still have my camera and I've added the mandolin. Life is grand.
    Last edited by JEStanek; Dec-20-2008 at 12:27pm. Reason: Oh yes... a PS
    There are two things to aim at in life: first, to get what you want; and, after that, to enjoy it. Only the wisest of mankind achieve the second. Logan Pearsall Smith, 1865 - 1946

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mid-life ramblings...

    I turn 65 this month. My spreadsheet listing music gigs is complete for 2008, and it shows 205 of them. A career civil servant and part-time musician, never made much $$, but took advantage of pre-age-60 retirement and a decent public employee pension. Forty-five years of playing at the journeyman level, coffeehouses and senior centers, libraries and historical societies, schools and regional festivals. A dozen recording gigs, all for others (no solo albums yet). Two grown, wonderful sons, a political science Ph.D. and a software engineer, but no grandkids as of now. A nearly-40-year marriage that has weathered the storms pretty well. A basement full of instruments, paid for by those small-time music jobs that come with regularity now.

    Not a hugely interesting story, perhaps, but the one constant through much of it, has been a commitment to traditional folk music, and a wish to share and communicate that passion to others. And, of course, the great folks I've met along the way -- Cafe friends included. It's all good, at least most of the time.
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    Innocent Bystander JeffD's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mid-life ramblings...

    In some ways I entered middle age as a young man. I skipped right over the dreams of fame and glory, opting instead to learn to be an old guy.

    I took pipes and cigars, good scotch and bourbon, fly fishing, soup making, books nobody reads anymore. I studied and diligently practiced how to be gentlemanly romantic around women, and also how tell slightly inappropriate stories and jokes and make slightly inappropriate noises, how to sit and think, or just sit, how to play dominoes, and to top it off, to play mandolin, and a little bit of fiddle.



    I didn't want to be entering old age just learning how to do these things. Nothing worse than being an incompetent old guy, dribbling cigar ash and drinking oversweet adolescent cocktails and stammering when someone asks "what'll you have", hooking my earlobes on the back cast and playing "smoke on the water" on the bottom strings of my mandolin.



    The plan seems to have worked with one exception - around women I am still in large part an adolescent - albeit a very old adolescent.

    Indulge responsibly!

    The entire staff
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    I was 16 in 1963 when I walked into a converted brownstone called 'The Philadelphia Folk Workshop' and for the first time in my life was surrounded by walls full of instruments. It gave me more of a thrill than I realized at the time, and for almost 50 years I have deeply enjoyed repeating that experience. For me, an instrument is among the world's most powerful objects just because of its potential.

  18. #17
    Usedtobeawannabee opie wan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mid-life ramblings...

    I guess we're all pretty similar from what I can tell. Anyone ever do demographics research on who posts on BBS's on the internet. I'm going to tell a little of my story (it's way too long and complicated) but, in the grand scheme of things, I'm just thankful to have a good family, my health thus far, a fine career, and a great hobby. My thanks goes to God and all those around me who support me.

    I was born in late 59. I got a job with the Austin Fire Dept. when I was just past 19. I remember standing around the kitchen table at station 3 when I was a rookie and telling them I'd either be a chief or a rock star. Looking back that was pretty cocky stuff coming from a 20 year old. Anyway, I ended up a Captain in the AFD before I took early retirement to go to medical school.

    I had a small recording studio when I lived in Austin but I put all that behind me (I thought) when I decided to go to medical school. That didn't last long. Ended up in a medical school band (we sucked but we had fun) and haven't stopped the music since. Started with the mandolin ... oh.. maybe 5 or 6 months ago.... and I love the instrument. My hobby is still recording and I've learned quite a bit about it in the last year (more than I ever knew). I'm working on my second record (already way better than the first) and there's a song on there that is appropriate to this thread called "scars." I'm going to post it on my myspace for a couple of days so that if any of you actually read this far, and want to hear it... you can.

    Everyday of the year is a great day to be thankful. Your health and your family's health is everything. Anything beyond that is just cake. Mandolins and music are the icing. Be sure and lick the bowl.
    Last edited by opie wan; Dec-20-2008 at 5:46pm.

  19. #18
    Okay, I'm with you fellas tburcham's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mid-life ramblings...

    Ken,
    Ken,

    Your YouTube audience is now 51! Mid-life isn't that bad...it sounds to me like you're very Blessed.

    Merry Christmas!

    Tim Burcham

  20. #19
    Willie Marsh papa willie's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mid-life ramblings...

    Merry Christmas to old you old geezers. From the posts, it sounds as if everyone is where they should be.

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    Registered User man dough nollij's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mid-life ramblings...

    I guess I'm mid-life, if I'm going to be around to 92...

    I was very interested in the mandolin even when I was a little kid. An uncle went to Romania when I was about nine, and I asked him to bring me back a mandolin. He brought me a Saz-- a weird three-course instrument (IIRC), with no soundholes at all. I never did play it.

    My mom got me a classical guitar at about that time, and got me some lessons. The teacher wanted me to sing right off the bat, and I just wasn't up for that. As a very self-conscious nine year old, I wasn't going to sing for nobody.

    I never picked up another instrument for about thirty years. I felt inspired to learn to play, and got a cheap Fender to learn on. Shortly afterwards, I ordered a Weber Gallatin--I knew this was going to be a long term thing.

    Around that time I got bitten by some extreme ambition, and immersed myself in school. I finished a long-unfinished BS degree, and got a master's degree and a half. Probably 110 college credits online (RIT, Penn State, and UIUC) while working 60 hours a week for the phone company. Obviously didn't have much time to practice playing during those years.

    Now I'm done with the degrees, and have a little more time. Spent 8 months in Antarctica, which I thought would advance my playing greatly. A dead Sweat Pea, and a horribly set up Pac-rim loaner made it hard. Polar T-3 syndrom didn't help (I learned about ten songs that I struggle to remember).

    Now I'm back in the states, and may even take a "normal" job. I'm really looking forward to getting some lessons.

    Yep.

  22. #21

    Default Re: Mid-life ramblings...

    I will only be in my 50's till april 2nd. I've played guitar, mostly fingerstyle, since the mid 60's. my guitar teacher played banjo and mostly didn't charge me if I would come bum-chick behind him on weekends. I thought I was in heaven in 1965. I never quit playing through my life as a skilled trades auto worker. Seeing the writing on the wall I took the early retirement,moved here to Tucson, and took up mandolin. Where have you been all my life? I'm just a pig for it. I am lucky to live in a town full of good musicians who have retired or moved onto something stable.Moxie

  23. #22
    Registered User groveland's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mid-life ramblings...

    Good post, Ken.

    My story would be like all of the above for the most part. I had a chance to go to college after high school, but the band talked me out of it. It didn't take too much convincing, either. A shortsighted and irresponsible move, but not without value: Over the next decade I learned (haven't we all?) that the 'music' business and the lifestyle that accompanies it can be as bad and as ugly as it gets.

    On the flipside, the excellent life I enjoy now with job, home and family is better than I will ever deserve.

  24. #23
    Registered User dulcillini's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mid-life ramblings...

    Ken: Just fast forward 20 years and you will be where I am ! I am a pharmacist and mountain dulcimer player that "discovered" mandolin when I purchased a CD featuring Butch Baldassari and David Schnaufer (the absolute best dulcimer player). Those two made a great duo on that CD. I was hooked.

    I have a nice Weber Yellowstone Custom and I could not be happier at 62 years young. I am working my way through two lesson books at the same time trying to fast track the learning process. I absolutely love the mandolin and I am tinkering around with the idea of adding a mandola to the mix next year. I did have some problems with my short stubby fingers, so I the Yellowstone I purchased has the slightly wider nut which seems to be working.

    I enjoy your playing very much Ken. My daughter hopes to travel to Alaska later this winter. She is a veterinary nurse and has volunteered to help out in the Ididerod (sp). I am nervous about her traveling up there. If I were younger, I would probably take a look at Alaska. Pharmacists are in very high demand there. I might have trouble with the light-dark cycle for a while, but would probably adjust.

    I hope to attend one of the "camps" in 2009. I will probably never play before an audience, but that is OK. I love making music. I enjoy the folks on Mandolin Cafe and Everything Dulcimer sites. Both families of musicians share so much.

    Keep on playing for us Ken. I pick up your You-Tube performances often !
    Michael A. Harris
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  25. #24
    Registered User Ivan Kelsall's Avatar
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    Default Re: Mid-life ramblings...

    And now ladies & gentlemen,for my next tune "Midlife Ramble " - has a certain ring to it don't you think ?.Certainly a new tune for your 'Redline Traveller' Kenneth
    We all have our personal regrets,but at age 64 next Jan. (the 14th actually - checks,cash,food parcels & cast-off Lloyd Loars, gratefully accepted),i don't dwell on things past too much these days,there's nothing i can do about it,or the future for that matter - (that's my next project ! - "I'm Comin' Back,But i Don't Know When). I'm just pleased all the way through that i had the fortune to meet my great friend,Jack Lee,who taught me how to play the Uke when i was 17 years old. From there i went to Banjo,Guitar & now Mandolin - 47 years of joy & frustration & something
    i would never change even if i could.
    Right now i'm just so glad that i made the desicion just over 3 years back to buy a 'try-it-out' Mandolin,just to see if i could hack it - i found that i could. That's lead me to eventually to become the proud owner of my beloved Weber Fern Mandolin.
    Where to from here ? - no idea !. I just take each day as it comes & praise God that i'm still in pretty good health & thank him for the wonderful gift that i have. Even if i'm NOT the greatest testament to music that ever lived - i'm still the best Mandolin payer on my block !,
    Saska
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  26. #25
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    Default Re: Mid-life ramblings...

    Glad all you had a good time going to school ( I hated it ) finding a good job, (bla ) after the service 1959 1967 I explored my passions to much happened in asia than, worked construction to support myself, family raced bicycles, road track,BMX mountain, national champion cycling 1971 ,shot archery on a national level ran track and road races, again at a national level did 3sport races swiming cycling and runing, 2 sport cycling and runing until injury and illiness got to me at 62 retired and tryed to take up music still trying now I play alot with the same diligence I used before. Lot a memorys buckets of medals trophys and other awards Now disabled and still trying to play music but can remember when I was on top and the best with no regrets and still have enough to live comfortable
    fred davis

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