Tuesday, June 9, 2009

one day out west

i've never told this story before. i'm not even really sure i'm gonna tell it now. hon's told it a few times. her way. but her way is awfully slanted. and when she tells the story and i'm around, i try to correct her. after all, i was there, she wasn't. but she likes to humiliate me to the extreme. i, on the other hand, try to minimize the humiliation and embarrassment. so i'm gonna give this a shot. please understand, this a very personal story.

i'm not a musician. well, i played trumpet from sixth grade til my second year of high school. hardly an accomplished trumpet player. but i was in the band. as a high school sophomore i was forth trumpet. there were the three lead guys - they were all good - then they had a couple of us mediocre types, we played the harmony spots, then the few others sat somewhere to my right. i don't even know what they played.

but that gives you an idea that i do have a scosh of a musical background. still, i hardly think that hardly qualifies me to consider myself a musician. or musically inclined.

while still in high school, around the time the beatles landed on u.s. soil and dazzled all of america, particularly us influential teens, i began to develop interest in guitar. actually, i wanted to play guitar. but i didn't have any desire to put forth the time and effort that it would take to learn to play the damned thing.

my best friend played guitar. even took lessons. and another friend played somewhat. and when i was around them i frequently grabbed one of their guitars and plucked and tweaked a bit. even learned a tune or two. very primary stuff.

but when us guys got together we always envisioned ourselves as rock stars. we'd sing at the top of our lungs along with the radio (in the privacy of our own homes only). and to us, we sounded every bit as good as john, paul, george, and probably better than ringo. we just didn't have the good fortune of being discovered. yet.

i grew up a bit in college. several guys around the dorm had guitars. some played them well. some plunked and picked. i learned to plunk and pick a little more. no chords, mind you, just picking the melody of some great rock song that i liked. it was fun, but i never did get serious about it.

then i got married, and grew up a bit more. and my first wife played guitar. she'd sung in a duo with a friend of hers in high school and college. and she got me more interested in the instrument. i learned some chords. and then for my birthday one year she actually gave me my very own guitar. wow. suddenly i'm a guitar player.

i learned the basic chords. c, d, g - you can play most any song with some combination of those chords. f was a bit more challenging. a soon followed, then e. never did master b, but g7's a cool chord. e minor, d7. so the wife and i would sorta jam together, again, in the privacy of our own home.

she ultimately joined a band, country and western back then. everything was country and western in the mid seventies. (my friend buford apple and i were driving somewhere once in my car. buford's from kentucky, liked different music than me. since i was the host - it was my car - i asked him what kind of music he liked to listen to. his answer . . . "i like two kinds of music - country AND western.") anyhow, she's in a garage band with some pretty good guitar players and drummers and all that. and i was envious. but knew i lacked the talent to join in. i just listened.

i never gave up guitar playing. to say i've gotten better over the years would be somewhat accurate. but i've never undertaken the task of really learning anything much. i play the chords, strum somewhat in accordance with the rythm of the song. even finger pick a little now and again. along the way i've dabbled with banjo. it's a little different. but still simple when you keep it simple.

but my guitar playing has never left the house. and one of my diversions has long been to lock myself in my room with my big, thick notebook full of music lyrics and chords, and strum my guitar/banjo and sing along to my little heart's content. my family hears me. and they ridicule me about it. (i'm told that contrary to the way i felt about my singing back in high school, i really don't sound a bit like paul mccartney. on a positive note, though, i might just sound vocally better than dylan. but that's not saying much, is it?)

ok, that's the background. now on to the story.

our last home in flagstaff, in university heights, was a two story. upstairs was a large master bedroom adjoined by a huge master bathroom. the room was probably 10 x 10 and had a large vanity. hon always kept a chair there as it was built to double as a dressing table. and it occurred to me that this was a great place for me to sit and play guitar and sing to my heart's content without the whole neighborhood being subjected to my gawd-awful music. i could spread out my music on the vanity/dressing table, i had a chair there, and the lighting was excellent. perfect spot.

back then hon worked in a retail shop. and she frequently worked mid-afternoon until closing - 9 pm. so some evenings when i'd get home from work, and scooter was in the college dorm back then, home alone i'd find myself bored and grab my trusty guitar and head for the master bath. and sing and play. in private.

well, as luck would have it, on one of these evenings hon was at work and decided to call me about something. at this point i should interject this: hon would frequently begin a phone conversation on the cordless phone in the bedroom upstairs and end the call in, oh, the living room, the spare room, the kitchen, all downstairs. which was the case on this particular evening. hence, when she tried to call me, i didn't hear a phone ringing.

and i'm sure i had my cell phone on vibrate, cause when she tried calling it, i didn't answer either.

so she figured i'd either stopped for a beer on the way home, had maybe decided to go out and get a burger, or maybe i was outside or in the garage doing something. she waited a while. then tried calling me again. and i still didn't answer. i still didn't hear a phone ring.

then she did something really silly. she called cathy, our neighbor, and told her she'd been trying to reach me but i wasn't answering. a good wife, she was a little worried and asked cathy if she'd go over and check on me.

now i'm upstairs having a great time, all alone, in total privacy, pounding on my guitar strings and singing loud as i please. sounding absolutely great. to me. but in total privacy. nobody outside the immediately family hears me play AND sing. i'm just way too self-conscious about that. not to mention that i've come to understand that i'm really not very good.

and that house, for some stupid reason, didn't have a doorbell on the front door. and for some stupid reason i hadn't locked the door either. and i guess cathy knocked on the door a bit. then opened it, stuck her head inside and called out to me.

now even if i'd been completely quiet upstairs i wouldn't have heard cathy's voice. she wasn't really a loud talker. and i was upstairs at the extreme opposite side of the house. additionally, i was strumming and singing. strumming and singing. dylan, garfunkel, jagger, and even waylon. i was lost in my very own, very private, music.

and i guess that as cathy entered the house and maybe heard the music a little bit, it wouldn't have been clearly evident that some painfully horrid singer and very basic three chord charlie guitar player was making the music she was hearing. she probably just recognized that there was music coming from upstairs, and that would probably where she'd need to go to look for me.

and i guess she continued to call out to me as she ascended the stairs. but i'm making music, or at least noise, so i don't hear her. but just about the time she reached the bedroom door i finished the final chorus of donavan's "catch the wind", and i grew silent. and that's when i heard cathy call out. and imagine my humiliation. here i am making this horrible music, and even though she can't see into the bathroom, i'm making this music in the bathroom! and lord knows what else she may have considered i'd be doing in that bathroom. i know my face turned as red as my shirt when i heard her call out and i ran into the bedroom to intercept her before she had to come al the way into the bathroom. i don't even wanna think about what she may be telling as she relates this story to her friends. but that day i learned to always make sure all doors and windows are locked when i drag out the ol' guitar. and i have a phone close by. god, that was embarrassing.

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