As I look to fill my life with experiences, I am often drawn to music. In 2008, I bought my first guitar, and asked my wife to teach me to play. She taught me what she knew and I picked up a lot by playing at a bluegrass drop in, and taking some lessons. She and I both play together now, and have formed a band with my cousin Eric and our good friend Fred. I'm what I call a recreational guitarist. For the most part I use chord and lyric sheets to play, but my chording and rhythm are solid.  

    This summer my wife and I have explored two music festivals. Having never attended a music festival before, I developed a hankering for one. One of the festivals we attended was the Peacham Acoustic Music Festival, “PAMfest" for short. It's held in Peacham, Vermont. I noticed the advertisement on a bulletin board in New Hampshire, after a recent hike. Researching the event, I found it showcased several things I really wanted to do, a bluegrass jam, guitar workshops, and something called a band scramble. 

    The band scramble caught my imagination. You would put your name into a hat, and then be assigned a band as the names were drawn. The band had to come up with a name and a song to perform at an evening concert. You had no idea what instruments the other musicians played, or skill level. It sounded so cool I had to try it out. My wife was being a great sport. This was not her idea to come to the PAMfest, much less take part in forming a band with complete strangers. I applaud her willingness to give it a try. She truly saw how much I wanted to participate. 

    The names were drawn. There were enough musicians to form two bands. My wife and I were in different groups. She was placed in a group with two harmonica players, and a man who played the banjo for their performance. I was in a group with three other guitarists. At this point the bands separated and found some empty rooms to begin our work.

    My band mates and I made introductions and one of the guys proposed a song. It became apparent very quickly that I was the weak link in this ensemble. I had landed in with some very accomplished guitarists. I will leave it to say that my heart sunk a bit during my struggles to learn a new song at the pace these guys could. Their words of encouragement were kind, but the reality of my being able to make a passable performance on this song was not there. 

    Band drama. As much as I liked these new found friends, I was not willing to stand on stage to be totally lost for the entire song. I figured it was better to let the band perform without me. I was not going to be let off the hook that easily. The guys told me to bring a song I knew and to teach them one. I agreed, although, it was awkward to do so. 

    After retrieving my music, I introduced my song. It was an easy three chord song with very predictable chord changes. My band mates didn't miss a note. It was a breeze for these guys. They did some great fill work to make the song sound great.  

    We would perform both songs that evening. My song was done first, and I sang and strummed for all I was worth. I added a few notes with my harmonica to the song they worked on. Because of their willingness to let me show off what strengths I had, it became the wonderful experience I’d thought it would be. All in all, I think it was a good job done well. 

    PAMfest gave us much more than the band scramble. I sat in on one of the best run open bluegrass jams I’ve ever attended. The leader made sure we all knew the key of the song, the chord progression, and any crooked parts that might slip us up. Many of the songs were the same ones I play at my local bluegrass drop in. The performances that happened all day were from many varied acoustic genre’s. Musical inspiration from these performances continues long after the festival is over. 

    The experience I got from music festivals is one I will be repeating. It takes many dedicated volunteers make a local music festival. When local folks are willing to volunteer year

   Because of our obsession with climbing many of the 4000 foot mountains of the New Hampshire, our travels have brought us to, “The Maia Papaya” again. We were in search of coffee, good food, and humanity, while we planed our next hike. The Maia Papaya did not let us down. Coffee, check, smooth and hot. Good food, check, breakfast burrito to die for. Humanity, check, we were introduced to the newest artist, "Greg Williams", who's work is on display this month and next.

   Meeting Greg was completely serendipitous. My wife and I were commenting on how cool the new artwork in the cafe was, when the owner points to a man enjoying breakfast and informed us that this was the artist. After a short introduction, we asked Greg to join us. It did not take long to realize Greg is a man of many passions. 

   Greg is not only an artist, but owns a Dojo and teaches martial arts. He spoke of his love for teaching and inspiring the students at his Dojo. I could feel his pride when he talked about working with at risk kids. Gregs experience in his youth of living in New Zealand, reminded me of my through hike of the Appalachian trail. We discussed finding ourselves, me on the trail, and he living in New Zealand. His art displayed at Maia Papaya is there to help bring awareness and resources to the heroin epidemic within his community. This, in my opinion, makes him a true human being. He is taking the kind of action that actually helps people, and bring awareness of the problem.

   This man of many talents has also done what many teenage kids dream of. He was a stunt fighter in the movies. How cool is that? This summer has been a whirlwind of experiences for my wife and I, and Greg has been one of the coolest. I hope that he, and his artwork, keep inspiring us all. 

   Anyone wishing to see the artwork on display can go to” The Maia Papaya” on route 302 in Bethlehem, New Hampshire. The Artwork will be on display from August to September.

      On our recent travels we have been fortunate to discover some humanity in Bethlehem New Hampshire. Bethlehem is located on route 302 which runs through Maine, New Hampshire, and into Vermont. 

    We had already passed through town once in the hunt for food the day before. We’d eaten from a good, but standard Chinese food restaurant. The food tasted great, however, it not only landed hard in our stomaches, but my doctor will throttle me if I eat any more of this high fat / sugar laden food. The hunt for vegetarian food was on. 

    In America today, the abundance of food almost designed to shorten your life is only footsteps away in any direction. We decide we’d need some local knowledge to find some healthy food. Where is the center of local knowledge in any town? Why the library of course. We often stop at library’s for reading and wifi. The Bethlehem public library was our go to source for all things local. The librarian pointed us not a stones throw away to Maia Papaya. 

    Maia Papaya is in a small unpretentious building next to the post office. When we walked in, the place reeked of humanity. Local artwork and music not pumped in from the classic rock stations greeted us. Vegetarian food; Score! The owner was working behind the counter side by side with her employee’s. Her establishment was an extension of her personality and values. She promotes local artists, and the walls displayed some impressive artwork. 

    I do not wish to sound like an advertisement, but everyone needs to make a living. If you can do that, and be a human too, well I’m all for it. The experience of Maia Papaya is very cool and up lifting. We would make many return trips here to drink in the atmosphere, and good coffee. 

    It's refreshing to see individual local business that are connected directly to the community, and not a corporate franchise. The growth of farmers markets and places like Maia Papaya are taking hold throughout America. I for one am very happy to see this change happening. 

    If you happen to stop in to Maia Papaya, the coffee will cost you, but the humanity is free.