0005 The Friendly folk of Lewistown (USA 005—new)

Lewistown Travel Blog

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Day 001: 4 Hours, 3.9 kms

Evening is fast approaching.  I’ve been in Minstrel Mode for over 12 hours.  I need to go back to my home and day job, to let this whole experience sink in… I’ll need some time to figure out if this is just another one day outing, or the start of a Lifelong adventure.

But I still want to push my luck and try to squeeze in one more town, so while driving south and I see an exit that says “Lewistown”, I figure I’ll give it a shot.

I don’t know if it’s just the contrast with the glitz and glamour ofState College, but there seems to be something seriously wrong with Lewistown.  The houses all look quite run down. Main Streetis half abandoned.

  All around is a ghostly feeling of emptiness and slow decay.  The only thing I can find for a backdrop is a Civil War Era cannon in the middle of a large, vacant traffic circle. 

I head out for a stroll, soaking in the mysterious vibe and wondering what ever went wrong with this town. A lonely car drives past. “I’ve got a pair of drumsticks if you want me in your band!” some teenager howls out.  I guess seeing a guy walking around carrying a guitar is the closest thing they have to entertainment here in this town.


Then again, as I walk past a scruffy house with a couple of folks sitting on lawn chairs on the sidewalk someone calls out again.

 “What are you doing with that guitar?” I quickly scan the voice for sarcasm and it comes out clean, so I head on over for a chat.


“I’m just wandering around and playing music wherever I go” I tell them.  They seem interested, so I offer to play a couple of songs for them. 

Finally, I have an audience.  And a more attentive and appreciative audience would be hard to find.  They ask for me to sing my song “Vacuum” over and over again. 

One lady rushes in to bring me a cold glass of ice tea.  They quickly have all sorts of ideas for what I can do with my music. “Every year we have a big festival here, it’s called the ‘Goose Festival’—you should come and play during that festival” one woman volunteers.

“You should come with me and play songs at the old folks home—they’ll love it” another blurts out. 

Of course, I can’t resist doing a video clip with a couple of my new fans.  It’s one of my favourite clips to this day—especially the part with the teenage kid dangling a baby behind me… Finally I’ve managed to capture a very special moment on camera.  There’s also an interracial couple in the group—which is interesting… not something I would typically expect in a “redneck” town like Lewistown…

As I sip my ice tea, they fill me in a bit on the history of this town. “This city is dying” I was told “there are no jobs here.  None of the young folks want to live here anymore.”

Later, I did a bit of research and learned the reason why.  Years back, there were a couple of bad floods that did a lot of damage and discouraged future investment in the town.  Nowadays most folks have to commute as far as Harrisburg for jobs.

Finally I bid my new friends goodbye and I head off, still absorbing this magical little experience.  It’s immediately clear that these human encounters are essential experiences in a Minstrel’s Journey—not necessarily in every town… but every now and again, I’m going to need to have a human audience to share my songs with and to learn from them.

And I couldn’t have asked for a better audience.  They listened closely to my songs and seem to have been inspired by them.  They shared with me insights about their lives and their town.  They even gave me a token of their appreciation—a cold glass of ice tea! 

It was a fair exchange—I shared something with them, they shared something with me.  We were all enriched by the encounter.

But this does mean that I might have to hold on to my day job for a while, until this minstrel thing really gets rolling…

I get back in my car and drive off into the night.  Back to my home, my family, my job and the routine.  But there’s a slight possibility that my life has changed forever.  Well just have to wait to find out.

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photo by: nathanphil