Carolina back roads and the Button King

In a break of routine, I did Bikram first thing this morning. It’s tough to get hot and stretchy early in the morning. My body doesn’t want to do it. It pretty much took everything I had just to get out of bed and get to the studio in Winston Salem where I discovered that the owner, Trudy, is married to Bruce, my teacher from yesterday in Greensboro.

Trudy’s a lovely chatty warm lady who made me feel very welcome. She and Bruce own and operate two Bikram studios about half an hour from each other and have considered opening a third. It’s fun to get involved in this relatively small Bikram community. Everyone’s eager to hear what it’s like in other studios and my teacher Michelle, gave me a message to pass on to a teacher in Savannah Georgia when I get there tomorrow.

I’m attracted to teachers with an emphasis on the higher path in their teaching. The lower path is the function of the body and the higher path is the function of the mind and spirit. Bikram – the man who codified the Bikram yoga style – trains his teachers to emphasize certain things and use very particular phrases that form a blend of higher and lower path teaching. But within this framework, individual teachers bring their own style and focus. Insel and Bruce had a strong emphasis on the higher path and talked a lot about what our spirits and minds were doing while our bodies worked. In some regards, a more philosophical approach. Michelle had a stronger lower path approach and was very specific about body placement and the importance of the class doing the poses in sync. While I prefer the philosophical emphasis because I always want to know WHY I’m doing something, as a beginner I need the lower path teaching equally as much right now.

My lesson of the day: Be Still. A hard lesson. I’m getting better at physical stillness between poses – or at least more aware of it – but mental, spiritual and emotional stillness are things way beyond my reach. I’m hoping that the lower path of stillness will lead to the upper path of stillness.

I left the studio and wished I could crawl back in bed. It’s been a long couple days of driving and sweating and seeing stuff and I’m a bit sleep deprived. However, I had an agenda and an end point in South Carolina to see my aunt and uncle, whom I haven’t seen in several years so I got on the road instead.

And it started to rain. And rain. And RAIN. End of the world, torrential, might need a boat kind of rain. Can barely see out my windshield, can only see the taillights of the car in front of me, need to slow down kind of rain. I passed a 7 car pile up started by a taxi hitting the guard rail so hard that parts of the taxi cab were thrown 100 feet away. Scary accident hydroplaning kind of rain. I don’t think I’ve ever driven in rain like that and at one point I just pulled over and waited it out because I couldn’t see far enough ahead of me to drive.

But the storm kept passing over me, or I chased it or something because it would downpour and then clear up as I drove and then downpour and clear up. During the clearer parts I drove the back roads of the Carolinas where tall trees are getting strangled by the most beautiful purple flowering vine.

It’s gorgeous country back there with the farmlands and ancient trees and twisting roads in and out of the hills. And tucked way back in the hills in the tiny town of Bishopville, SC lives Dalton Stevens. Please say hello to the Button King.

He might be the cutest man alive.  His museum, a small church that triples as a recording studio and live music hall and his house are a stone’s throw apart on several acres of land out in the country. I dragged him out of his house to show me his button museum and after posing for me and showing me his button covered pieces, he sat down in his armchair and said “Go on and sit down. I’m gonna tell you some stories.” And then he told me about how he had insomnia so badly in his early 50’s that he started stitching buttons on a suit because his family was asleep and he needed to do something quiet.

His work eventually retired him on disability after doctors couldn’t cure his insomnia and by that point the button fever had a good grip on him and he discovered contact cement so he started covering other things with buttons like cars, clocks, a piano

A toilet.

A coffin for his future use, the red buttons are his favorites.

He’s a musician so he’d show up at local events around town and play his button related songs in his button regalia, Star magazine came down to take some pictures and Johnny Carson saw the pictures and called him to be on the Johnny Carson show. Since then it’s been buttons by the bucket full. He’s featured in the Guinness Book of World Records in some unique capacity and just last week some men from Finland came in to film a cell phone commercial with him in his museum.

He’s 81 now and plays for “old people” at the nursing home in his spare time when he isn’t recording, performing with his band, filming commercials, doing magazine spreads and covering other things with buttons. He says he still doesn’t sleep much but he naps in his armchair and he gets a lot of button work accomplished. He was a complete delight and I’m so glad he gave me an hour of his day.

As I left and the sun was going down, my aunt called with the words every traveler wants to hear: “Where are you? You gonna arrive hungry? Cuz I have lots of food.”

Close and yes, yes I am. Be there soon.

Tomorrow, Savannah.

4 thoughts on “Carolina back roads and the Button King

  1. the higher path is what attracts me to yoga. i love the physicality of it, but need it to be connected to my mind and spirit. LOVE the button king. so great!

  2. Pingback: A Day Off in Pittsburgh « Gypsy Queen

  3. Pingback: Roadside Attractions in Northern AZ | Gypsy Queen

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