Thursday, July 13, 2006

Strummin' For (Inner) Peace

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.


Anonymous said...

Music has been my drug of choice for decades. (There are others, to be sure) but know that the joy and even sorrow that art brings is truly comforting to me, and I hope, to you. Oh, and your fingers are gonna hurt like hell.

Howard said...

Could you know make me get off my ass and re-learn to play the guitar I bought 5 years ago? Thanks! :)

Swallow Hill is amazing. I met the owner/founder/whatishistitle one night at, of all places, karaoke at Charlie's. He was a hoot and was quite impressed with my lower singing register when, well, you know, I'm a gay man. My voice isn't too deep. :)

Tamburlaine said...

Ah the guitar ...

It got me through a stereotypically miserable adolescence, and it continues to pull me through when nothing else feels right.

It's even gotten me laid a few times.

So fuck yeah! -- keep at it, Heather. You won't be disappointed. As you're about to learn, the guitar may be difficult to master, but it's also very kind to beginners. You'll be strumming Woody songs in not time.

Kath said...

It's not only the skills you'll gain and music that you's the people you'll meet along the way. And you never know when YOU might be the inspiration that someone needs to give them that inner push!

Happy Weekend, Heather!

ErikaDaisy said...

Heather, you are so wonderful. This one made me both laugh and cry. You so lightly hold joy and pain at the same time in your writing! I will be ther in August and look so forward to seeing you.Much Love, Erika

hotdrwife said...

Ah, Swallow Hill! I worked with the ex-wife of the guy who owns the place. She had some great stories. I think it's a great place. Great karma!