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Today at the pump

The Sole Prop's Sister?


Under here.

June 8, 2010

For Three Months
Tuesday. Off to get the haircut in a little bit. I'm thinking of walking over to the music store on Broadway after and renting a guitar and amp. Looking at their rental prices on the web it's hard not to pop for a three month minimum rental, save a bunch of money over buying any equipment, and just see if I actually pick the thing up and learn to pluck out a chord. Or two. See if it brightens my eyes, my day, my..., well, you know. Otherwise I'd probably say “another dumb way to spend your money, bucko, get real”. A way to spend very little money (if their web posted prices are correct) and find out if there's a budding Clapton lurking inside? No blame if it ends up sitting in a corner gathering dust?


In my rock and roll youth, listening to every rock and roll band on the planet, I never had an urge to pick up a guitar. I'm not sure why I'd even think about it now, but I have been thinking about it for some weeks. Next I'll be getting a drawing board and a box of pencils. Actually, that would make more sense, I did draw when I was a kid, the parents encouraged it as they encouraged learning an instrument. In my case the piano (no deal) and the clarinet, which I played through the age of twelve or thirteen before my clarinet teacher urged me to quit. “He doesn't have the interest.” He was right. My parents were kind enough (perceptive enough?) to understand and that was it. I later found rock and roll, started buying records (the little ones with the big holes in the middle), but never had an urge to play clarinet (or guitar).

Except now?

I'm not trusting this impulse. I've known this guy for a long time, know his habits, learn to play an electric guitar? It isn't that I couldn't do it, he couldn't do it, but it takes genuine interest in order to practice, practice, practice and I can't see it inside.

So don't do it.

Which would break the rule.

The rule?

Follow your instincts, no matter how weird; distrust the intellect, it lies..

Later. A haircut. It doesn't look all that different from the way it looked when I walked in, but that's the idea. Look it over, trim it up, exchange encouraging words - “it's OK, don't worry, so what if you look like one of the Fabulous Furry Freaks” - get out the door freshly combed, head for home. Oh, yes, and maybe go by Best Music on Broadway, a store I've passed with mild interest a hundred times. It's been there for forty years. Many stores in Oakland have been here for forty years except for all the rest who didn't and have left the many vacant spaces you see along the streets. But another subject for another time.

OK, I entered the store, talked to a young woman about their thirty-five dollar a month for three months minimum on an electric guitar and amp. The young woman I talked with was encouraging, the older guy who I believe does the guitar repairs and such, a nice enough guy, mumbled about not giving me a new guitar (a Fender something or other priced new at $200) but something used they'd rented before, they were really advertising guitar and amp rentals for thirty-five dollars? I rented what turned out to be an electric guitar made just north of here in Santa Rosa, bright yellow, and a Fender amp (heavier than lead, I later learned when I returned in the car to pick it up), the guitar they gave me I discover going new for $1,200, checking later on the web. I'm guessing that's good.

So you got a deal and you want to crow about it?

My friend, I don't even know what the little switches on the body are about: the toggle switch, the two volume controls, the little five position lever switch. It works, it's bright yellow, it looks like an electric guitar, it seems to tune up just fine (I bought a small inexpensive electronic guitar tuner that works like a charm) and I was able to play actual notes. Play notes as suggested as I began guitar lesson number one for absolute beginners on the site. The tips of my fingers on my left hand hurt. The guy in the video said they'd callous up in about a week, keep at it. Do that first set of scales they said. Do them a lot. Sit in an armless chair. Upright. Grip the neck properly. Grip the pick (properly). Hold your arms in a particular way. Smile.

I knew I wasn't going to be able to practice in my recliner. I knew that wasn't going to cut it, that the proper position and such are important. I also knew this was not going to go like a rocket. Still - pick! pick! - get that pinky finger (finger number four in the diagram) properly pressed against the string just above the fret - pick! pick! - a little pain in the pinky can't hurt, can't but hurry it along, this learning to play the guitar.

And so?

We are an adult. We understand not everything happens overnight. The tips of the fingers on the left hand have to harden up and learn to find the strings and frets and such, which takes time. We know this. We shall be a good old coot for the three months with our excellent guitar, give it a good shot. Get these fingers toned up, tuned up, turned out. Whatever it takes. Guitar hero in three months! Well, guitar practice for three months. Relax. Enjoy. People have done this before, people are doing this now, people will be doing this in the future. Buck up. You can keep up. For three months.

The photograph was taken at the San Francisco 2010 Carnaval parade with a Nikon D3s mounted with a 70 - 200mm f 2.8 Nikkor VR II lens at f 8 at 1/125th second, ISO 200.