Pickin' The Pageant Princess

I love how life is so unpredictable. There are some days that I feel like I am in my regular routine, but most days there is no routine. Work involves different things everyday. Home is the same, Karen works some nights, some nights I'm there by myself, some nights we go off and do stuff, some nights we don't, some nights friends just randomly drive 2 hours south to come see us. It's a good thing for me. Too much routine has the potential to make life pretty boring.

However, Monday threw a curve that I never would have expected. It seems that our Pastor at the church has an uncle who is in charge of a Beauty...eh-hum....I mean Scholarship Pageant in Cullman AL. Apparently this uncle was in a bind and needed judges for this past Tuesday night. Our Pastor couldn't do it, so he asked if Karen and I would be interested. Of course at first I just laughed and said no, but then he said it was a paying gig and I had a change of heart. It turned out that Karen couldn't do it, so I called in my good buddy Heath and we headed to Cullman to be the two rookie pageant judges for the Miss Cullman Fair or something like that.

Now, you know I live in North Alabama and there are just certain stereotypes that go along with anything Alabama, especially being that I am from Georgia. Sometimes this stereotypes are blown out of proportion. Tuesday night they were not!!! Oh my goodness! This Pageant was at what I suppose is called a County Fair. I have only experienced one true fair, that being the Georgia National Fair in Perry. All other fairs are viewed through the lens of that fair. Well you could have fit the Culman county fair inside of the Perry Fair about 100 times. Small fair! However, at least there were some exhibits. For instance, one exhibit consisted of hay bales that had been judge for what I can only assume would have been their hay bale-y-ness??? Of course they were right beside the Muscadine display. How do you in fact judge a muscadine? And what in fact is a muscadine? There were all sorts of vegetables and fruits that had been entered in competition. The best question of the night as we viewed those fine organic specimens was "what is the difference between purple hull peas and black eyed peas" I could only think to say that purple hull peas came from a purple hull while black eyed peas came from black eyed hulls.

There were also some nice displays, the best one going to Ross Funeral Home. Nothing says a fair like a funeral home booth!!

Anyway, you get the idea about this fair right? Not a national fair. They did have a midway complete with about 6 rides! And of course the obligatory cotton candy and funnel cake of which I surprisingly did not partake!

So the pageant was at this fair, but I assumed surely it would be in an exhibit hall, theater or auditorium. I now know why they say what they do about assuming! This particular event was held in an open-air "theater" that had a stage of sorts, and looked like it was typically used to show cattle of some description. That would be outdoor, as in heat and all. And we were in suits. Sweated like a horse!

The judging portion was unique to say the least. We judged the high school senior girls on 5 categories including 1)Pre-Competition Interview 2)Poise and Posture 3)Evening Gown 4)Talent and 5)Speech. The winner would walk away with something like a $1500 scholarship to the school of their choice. A couple of others, like the talent winner and Miss Congeniality (no, not Sandra Bullock) would win smaller scholarship.

The Pre-Competition was perhaps the highlight of the night. This consisted of the 5 judges sitting in a room (which consequently was the dressing room that the girls were using to get ready in.....talk about awkward...of course the girls weren't in there at the time...but still!!!) asking one girl at a time random questions for 7 minutes. Thankfully 2 of the 5 judges had some experience in questioning the girls about all sorts of things from current events, to why they entered the pageant, what the other girls would say about them, and what their future plans after graduation would be. I could only think of 2 questions for most of the night. 1) If you were a superhero, what would your super power be (which I did ask) and 2) If you had to choose, which would be worse eating poo or drinking urine (which I did not ask).

One of the best moments was when a girl mentioned that to prepare for the competition she had gone to a speech coach. When asked why, she said that she was "real country" and needed to work on her vocabulary and her proNOUNciation. As in Pro-Nown-See-A-Shun. Classic! It was all I could do to keep from laughing.

Another notable moment was when a girl mentioned that she wanted to be an event planner when she grew up. One of the judges who happened to be an event planner asked the girl if she was good at handling stress. The girl promptly responded "To be honest, NO." The next follow up question to that was "Do you think quickly on your feet." Her response.................................long pause.........."well apparently not!"

The final highlight of the interview portion I will mention was the one girl who said that she wanted to go to school to be a pharmacist. When asked what school she replied "Alabama. I know they don't have a pharmacy program, but I will do that after I graduate." Hmmm...ok.

One girl said "like" (and by the way that is like with a short I as in liiik-e) at least 11 times in the 7 minutes.

The interview proved that the Alabama public school system is failing students in at least the area of English and Grammar. Our poor language took a beating the likes of which it probably hasn't seen since the last NASCAR race in Talledega!

Once the actual competition started, with the girls parading on stage, giving their 2minute speech, and doing their talent, it wasn't so bad. I discovered how hard it is to be a judge, especially knowing there are about 300 people behind you who are there to support one specific girl. It was harder than I expected to cover my judging sheet so that no one saw what I was writing. I felt at any moment I could have been hit over the head with a brick. Instead I only got hit by one or two spit wads. The evening gown competition was by far the hardest.....as if I know what makes an evening gown good, pretty, or whatever. It felt a little odd.

My specialty was the talent portion of the night, or so I thought. I mean, what I don't know in gowns, I more than make up for in knowledge of talent. Well, not so much when the talent involves tumbling or baton twirling. There were a couple of singers that I knew I could judge. My favorite was the girl who sang and "played" the guitar. And by played I mean held and fake strummed. Can you say deduction?!?!? There was also a girl who twirled the baton, you know the type, the twirl and throw the baton in the air, do splits while throwing the baton, etc. So this one girl was twirling, and bless her heart you know she was nervous and she was just having some trouble catching it. She probably dropped 2 or 3....which was no big deal.....until she walks behind this little wall and comes back out brandishing new batons....ON FIRE!!! Oh deal Lord, this could go bad quickly! All I could think was "please don't throw it, please don't throw it, please don't throw it." Turns out she didn't throw it, which was good in that we didn't all die, but it did make the whole fire experience a bit lackluster! There was one standout performer who, when she talked in the interview was as Alabama country as they come, but when she sang she was like a white Whitney Houston. Mad skillz! She won the talent portion!

The worst part for me was that I couldn't show any reaction to the performances. I asked the two veteran judges any advice for the program. They said "have a concrete face" I said "You mean don't smile?" They said "No facial reactions whatsoever, because someone might see it and say you smiled more for this girl than that,etc." Now, if you know me, I am Mr. Facial expression. Not on purpose. My face just automatically reacts to the thoughts in my head. Happy = Smile, Frustrated = Furrowed Brow, Constipated = well you get the idea. So the whole time while they are up there, I am trying to have a stone face. Which kills because while doing their talent the girls would look right at us judges, and I felt so bad not at least giving them an affirming smile or nod or something. And then afterward we see them in the hall backstage and I couldn't even tell them good job...well I kinda did, but it was to all of them, not just one of them. I felt so mean, so detached!

The ending of the night was interesting as well. All I could think as they got ready to announce the winner was that I wanted to be as close to my truck as possible. How far away from the crowd could I get so they couldn't punish me for being a judge. They announced and we promptly left. All in all, there were some handsome scholarships awarded to at least 3 of the girls. And I gained a new appreciation for those who judge these type competitions. I also have a new respect for these girls who get up there and do what they do. Imagine the nerve it takes to get up there and do even just the talent portion. I was nervous for them.

So I am now officially an experienced pageant judge. Not highly experienced, but experienced nonetheless. It's enough to put on my resume. If nothing else I can take the money I made, put it in a no-load, high yield mutual fund averaging 12 percent per year, keep it in there for, oh say 250 years, and I'll be a millionaire....assuming that I contribute monthly to said mutual fun. It's really a win-win!!!

The New Gear

I just realized that I have not yet posted about my new gear (that would be musical equipment for those unfamiliar with my vernacular or interests). As I mentioned several months ago, I have had the same electric guitar and amp for nearly 10 years. It had been played in many different places, and had been shoved in all manners of cars, trucks, trailers, closets, and rooms. So it was time for an upgrade. What gave even more motivation to upgrade was the impending birth of our first child. I figured I'd better spend the money on some gear before I had to spend it on diapers.

So I got a brand new amp, a new electric guitar, and I finished off my pedal board with a few more effects.

For my amp, I knew I wanted a Class A amp. I don't really know a lot about that stuff, all I know is that every Class A amp I had heard sounded amazing. Of course, I also knew that they were typically twice the price of other amps, but I also know that you usually get what you pay for. I also knew that I wanted a combo amp. My old rig was a head and a 2X12 cabinet, which was a bit cumbersome to lug around. So I started my search with 6 or 7 brands and models of amps that I knew were in the ballpark of what I was looking for. Way back in early May, I took a day and drove up to Nashville to do a little test driving. The top picks from that day were a Divided By 13 JRT 9/15, Bad Cat Classic Cat, Orange AD30, Vox AC30, Matchless Cheiftan, and a Reinhardt (the 18). Well I came back empty handed that day, but continued my research, calling around, reading reviews, looking online, etc. After much research, I finally decided that Bad Cat was the amp for me. However, instead of the Classic, I went with a Custom amp straight from the Bad Cat shop in California. It's a Bad Cat Cub II Custom 15/30 watt with Tremelo. It was an artist loaner that they put in a 1X12 cabinet complete with my choice of tolex. So the finished product looks just like this I am extremely pleased with the amp. It sounds amazing and despite its weight is pretty easy to move from place to place. One of the coolest features is that it has a switch on the back that allows me to switch from full to half power (thus the 15/30). It's really versatile and suits my needs perfectly!

For my guitar, I was debating between 3 different guitars. I've always wanted a Gibson Les Paul Standard. It is such a classic and can really rock! However, I already have a guitar similar in style and use with the dual humbuckers, so I thought I might look for something different that fits the context in which I play most often a little http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifbetter. So I started looking at the Gibson ES-335 and a Gretsch Tennessee Rose. All the reviews I read raved about the Gretsch, while most of the reviews I read about the ES-335 were pretty bad. I played both and leaned more toward the Gretsch. It was about $1000 cheaper as well, so the Gretsch was the winner. It looks a lot like this .

As for pedals, I got an Ernie Ball Volume Pedal, a Fulltone Fulldrive II overdrive, a Boss RC-20 XL looper pedal, and a VooDoo Lab Pedal Power II which powers those along with my existing Boss Super Overdrive, Boss DD-5 Delay, Jekyll and Hide Distortion, Boss Chorus, Digitech Whammy, Boss Tuner, and Boss Reverb/Delay. Truthfully, my pedal board might be a bit overkill, but I now have all the pedals I would like, and I use all of them at least some!

So there ya have it. That's my new rig that will last me a really long time. If you should like to hear it, you can come to The Church at Lake Guntersville most any Sunday, or you can catch me on a weekend retreat here or there.

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