I know all about black holes. Stephen Hawking, the noted physicist who recently passed away, brought black holes into the public consciousness but i consider myself the real expert (at least in a practical sense). Black holes are super massive collections of matter. They are at the center of galaxies and Albert Einstein’s equations predict that they have so much matter nothing escapes them. The Schwartzchild Singularity. A supermassive black hole is at the center of our own Milky Way. Nothing escapes a black hole, not even light. Whatever is out there close by is sucked into the massive gravity machine that is the black hole.
I am by nature a messy person (my wife can give you all the gory details). But when I lived as a bachelor I didn’t have to be as neat as I have to be now. Back then I became an expert on black holes. If I had known about Stephen Hawking and his physics theories I could have sent him some very good data. I lived in a two bedroom apartment and I was only one person so I made the second bedroom into an office. I had a desk in there with a computer (this was the 1980’s when computer meant glorified typewriter).
Mostly I used my extra room to put stuff in, stuff I didn’t really know what to do with. And once something went into that room, it never came out. A black hole. Fortunately for me, I moved away soon after dubbing my spare room the black hole. It got cleaned out. Stuff got thrown away or given away that needed to be tossed and I became a free man. I escaped from the inescapable black hole.
I hadn’t really thought much about black holes after those years until recently with the news of Hawking’s passing. Then a couple of weeks ago I went to a meeting for the Cloverdale Fiddle Festival. I was a volunteer again and I had to go. I live in Healdsburg and the nearby Cloverdale Fiddle Festival has been a staple of my music year since I moved to this area. Mark Hogan cajoled me into volunteering as a data entry minion last year to keep the threatened festival afloat and I said yes.
The Cloverdale Fiddle Festival is a real treasure. I have spent many hours cruising around the Citrus Fair grounds listening to unbelievably talented musicians and sometimes even playing with them. But let me tell you, volunteering sucks. You don’t get to do any of that cool stuff I was used to. My job was to enter contestants and their scores into a database. We had to register them, randomize their play order and crunch the numbers from the judges scores for a winner, playoff or whatever in a very limited time frame. It was so stressful I can’t believe I signed on for another year but i did.
Back to the meeting I had to attend in Cloverdale. Judith Jones was in charge of organizing this year’s festival. She had bravely assumed the role of festival producer after Mark Hogan had stated just after last year’s festival that he didn’t want to do it any more. Of course Mark was still at the meeting and still closely involved with the festival he had helped save when it almost folded. As the duties were being assigned I sat next to Loraine Nichols, an experienced word processor and my de facto data entry boss. She was just as tired as I was after slaving away in 2017 and I saw her chuckle when Janette Duncan, this year’s new fiddle boss (probably the toughest volunteer job at the festival), referred to our assignment as “The Black Hole”. I thought of the Black Hole of Calcutta, a dreary dungeon and I was proud to be there again for another year.
I hope some of you made it to the Cloverdale Fiddle Festival the first weekend of this month. If you did I’m sure you had a good time. Don’t worry about me, I did too although I probably didn’t see you from the black hole. Volunteering has its own reward whether it’s for the CBA or our friends in the California Old Time Fiddle Association. Technically I am a CBA volunteer all year long because I write a regular welcome column. But it doesn’t feel like that to me. I do it because it’s fun. In my heart I admire all those CBA volunteers who do the tough jobs year after year. They make it possible for all of us to enjoy our festivals and events without worry. Maybe most of them enjoy what they do in service as much as i do just writing. But could one of those dedicated volunteers please take my stint in the black hole next year so I can have some fun?