Wednesday, March 03, 2010

How to Be a Screw-up and Turn Out to Be a Musician, Pt.3

Ye faithful readers may query: Why doth the author suggest himself a buffoon or in more common parlance, a screw-up? All seems to be going well.

Never an athlete, though I did enjoy sandlot football and baseball as a kid, but that was just a way to pass the time. My brief tryout for the football team (in PA) was not so successful. After realizing that the plays were not sticking in my head (too dumb and scared) and that the locker room was always going to have that concrete-meets-rank-dude parts smell about it- this was a sign. Plus, the hazing and bully factors- there was the guy who went around zapping all the younger guys with towels and threatened to beat their asses. The long bus ride home, complete with the flaming assholes in the back leading rowdy song after song, convinced me that this was not my scene. I didn't consider music my scene yet, but jockismo world definitely wasn't it, baby.

I didn't play a band instrument, so forget band nerd. If you aren't a jock in high school, then you have relegated yourself to a lower part of the social hierarchy. Don't kid yourself: that was important to everybody. Basic human nature to want to be in the most important social group. Besides, the cheerleaders were smokin'. Unreachable, but unbeatable.

If it is at all possible to judge these things objectively, then my guess would be that I felt like an outsider because of my lack of athletic ability, shyness (no one would believe that now) and the general awkwardness of that age. One thing I see clearly and have learned to deal with is my artistic view of the world. I may not always act like the brooding artist, but my viewpoint is from that perspective. The teenager struggles with many things and finding their niche is a big part of that turmoil.

Buddy left, new teacher found and his name was Jim Martin. Jim tried to teach me classical, but openly admitted that he could not help me in that direction. Still, Jim helped me read through the complicated classical pieces and kept putting new challenges in front of me. All of which I devoured.

I remember something that really made an impression on me. Jimmy had a gig that night (He's a helluva bass player) and he and two mates were going to rehearse. Jimmy, a keyboard player and a drummer ran through a couple of tunes. The drummer had only his sticks and drummed on a pad. He only needed to get the 'feel' of each tune. This opened my mind up. I had no idea that the simplest of means can accomplish so much.

[Sidebar: the teacher-student relationship remains despite the passing of time. Jimmy still calls me his student. Something that I feel with affection. A few years back, I was in a concert and he was playing in the audience. We were playing Lucky Southern by Keith Jarrett-a tune he and my pal, Lisa, used to play back in the day. Despite all my experience, after the gig, I wanted his approval. He approved. Made my day.]

I would say that, at some point, I became a guitarist in thought after my peers began to recognize me as such. Our peers are so powerful. We need their approval. I was the best guitarist among my immediate peers. That sounds immodest, but true. None of them were into it like me. Somewhere in the hormone raging teenage years, the guitar became my anchor. It was one of the places that seemed to make sense. There I connected and found solace. Solace from my shyness. Seems ridiculous now, I know. It seems absurd to me, but that's how it felt to me at that time.

The kingdom was small and I certainly wasn't playing anything astonishing, but I became known among my tiny group of friends for the guitar. Maybe I didn't deserve it, but I did enjoy it.

The only time my guitar kingdom was challenged when a chance encounter with some guy whose name now eludes me, but picture this: black dude with 'fro, 70's stylin' with platform shoes. He was the smooth ladies man (or at least one of them) of the school. But what really hurt was his black Les Paul. It was beautiful, sounded awesome and I was thrown for a jealousy loop. He let me play it, but I was lost on it. The feel, the weight, the strings-all completely foreign. I remember him saying, "There's a lot of difference between an electric and an acoustic, man." Without a doubt.

Another time, Paul Wilson (Still around town. Just saw him actually) was backstage at a church music event. When he picked up my guitar and started playing, I felt this little feeling in my stomach like I was on a roller coaster. After the tender ego was massaged for a while, this would only furthered my resolve.

Off to Boot Camp (SMA texts)

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