After years of buying other people's albums/cassettes/CDs/MP3s, decades of attending concerts and even a career slice of writing about music, I finally took my first guitar lesson yesterday. I intend to attack this challenge with laser-beam focus ... mainly because I now have much too much time alone and in the Land of ClizBiz, this is a dangerous thing.
My blues-guitar-playing neighbor, Neil, tipped me off to a wonderful place called Swallow Hill - half concert venue, half music school. Beyond the teachers, it is almost entirely run by volunteers and the place feels more like a community center or an old-fashioned town hall than any place you go to see jams. I caught the very charming musical/bicycling duo, The Ditty Bops, last Friday and the whole place felt like one big musical hug. I had to be a part of it.
I'm starting at the beginning, "Guitar For People Who Haven't a Clue" or something like that, from now through August. And so, in the middle of a crazy Wednesday work day, I grabbed the guitar my father bought me at Costco and escaped for an hour. On my way there, I listened, as always, to my favorite radio station, KCUV-FM. Once again, they were blowing me away with their creative playlist - Tom Waits, Golden Smog, Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, The Pretenders, Tom Petty, Splt Enz, Warren Zevon and, as a treat, a long-forgotten Elvis Presley tune, "Once is Enough."
As I pulled onto the dirt (!) parking lot of Swallow Hill, 'The V' put on an old Woody Guthrie tune. Now, I ask you, when is the last time commercial radio played Woody Guthrie?!? I couldn't believe it. I took it very seriously, like some sort of guitar omen, and obediently sat in my truck until Woody finished. Mind you, I have no illusions of Emmylou grandeur but it felt like a blessing of my decision.
Truth is, this is a tough summer, one of the hardest of my life. Though friends and family may call/email offering words of love and support (which I so appreciate,) ultimately, it is my responsibility to make sure I don't slide into the dark abyss of pain and self-loathing. I've been there and not only is it horribly unpleasant but it takes up precious time, something I've become freshly aware of in my 40th year.
The last time I got shoved off a similar cliff (February 2002,) I remember slightly panicking, feeling the ground underneath me becoming slippery and unstable, like emotional quicksand. I had to act fast. I went down a long list of things I could do to make myself feel better (Get drunk? Ride a bike? Call a friend? See a movie? Get high? Buy clothes? Get drunk?) and none of them clicked as a solution. By sheer process of elimination (Knit a sweater? Give birth? Bake a pie?) I arrived at "Get on a horse?" Bingo!
Oddly enough, that was the exact answer and it kicked off a very late pre-pubscent-esque pony phase that has yet to die. Those animals helped pulled me out of the muck and I'm determined not to slide back in and have all our hard work go to waste.
Perhaps this new safety net of frets and strings will be another lifeline for me. Though I am not the accomplished horsewoman I'd like to be and I doubt I'd ever be welcome in a band, I am becoming a master of self-preservation.