Life is full of little big moments. Those times you least expect something fantastic to be right there in front of you. They are merely a grain of sand within the beach of life, but are boulders within our memories. Sometimes you see them coming, sometimes you don’t even know they happen until the moment has passed. Not too long ago I had one of those moments. It lasted an entire night, and I won’t soon forget how special it was.
I found myself in the very small town of Staunton, Virginia on a lazy Tuesday night with my friend Jody. We were staying at Jody’s parents beautiful farmhouse just outside of town. His dad, knowing I was a music fan, told me about a magical place called “Marino’s Lunch”. It’s a hole in the wall general store/bar/diner that pretty much only sells cash only Natty Light and PBR cans and has about 2 bottles of ketchup in stock. But every Tuesday evening for the past 40 years, this empty 2 room Mom ‘n Pop shop turns into a bluegrass jam. Everybody comes… and I mean EVERYBODY. I found myself standing on a bench in the back of the tiny back room. Shoulder to shoulder, standing room only. There were 10 year old girls playing guitar, 80 year old men playing banjo, construction workers watching harmonica players, guitarists, washboards, stand up bass, mandolins, lap steel and every other acoustic instrument you could think of. It really was magical. This little town comes together to sing along to bluegrass classics and local band favorites. They all know each other. They all add to the jam, whether it be singing along, nodding their head, or just getting a cold beer for the dude stuck in the corner with a banjo who has no hope of making his way to the bar (and by “bar” I mean "10 foot long front counter").
I felt like I was in a movie, where every member of a small town came together with no other purpose than to be with each other and forget about life for a few hours. Like the last scene in It’s A Wonderful Life when the whole town comes to support George Bailey. Kinda…
I find it tough to describe the feeling that reverberated through every string and every soul that night. But it was certainly special. HERE is a youtube video that somebody shot at one of the jam sessions to give you an idea of what it's like. And HERE is a fantastic article (starts on page 9) from Blue Ridge Magazine about Marino's Jam. If you are ever within driving range of Staunton (pronounced "STAN-ton"… seriously, they will shoot you if say it wrong), you should really stop by Marino’s Lunch. It will be the biggest little moment of your day.