Saturday, November 05, 2005
The Forlorn Guitar
So Lori went up to see the girls in Austin, leaving me a little mopey and out of it down here on the Island. That’s OK, when those girls get together they all cackle at once, shouting, crying, screaming, quiet, serious, pouting, guffawing (is that a word?), and laughing all at once – surely no man’s territory, and far too complex for us dummies of the duller sex.
And then I found my little honey, my old Spanish guitar, looking so forlorn, just like me. It is the second in a line of Willie Nelson-like guitars, the first being a gift from my mother – now quite old in the wood and almost falling apart. The newer one was brought back from Spain in something like 1974, a Grenada. I’m trying to recall the name of the gal I purchased it from, but she was a friend of Liza from Guildford, Connecticut. Thirty-five dollars is what it cost – similar ones today might be five to ten times as much.
Anyway, please forgive me if I talk about my guitar in personal terms, since my wife Lori doesn’t mind because that’s how she fell in love with me playing guitar, or so she says. I was making up impromptu songs like ‘The Bear Missed the Train’ and “Hippopotamus Blues’ and ‘Somebody’s Alter Ego Has Been Sleepin’ in My Bed,’ and I guess with those final three songs I was a marked man for life. I wish I could remember exactly what I played or sang, but it sure worked at the time.
I don’t have a name for my guitars, like Lucile or something. But I do talk to them, gently bending notes and stroking the strings and damping the buzzing sounds and getting that difficult G-string just right (I know what you’re thinking and it’s not like that!). If you’ve ever played one, the G-string is always going flat or acting up like a teenager. So I talk and whistle softly, like talking to a horse. That’s a good analogy. It’s almost like you have to reassure the thing you’ll be gentle and that you care, with loving strokes on the flanks and behind the ears.
But no, I’m no prodigy either, never had a lesson, and learned by playing “air guitar” to the real pros with lots of experimentation. I could care less about playing a real song. I listen to the guitar and wait for what it wants to say. And we talk, passing the night away, in blissful noises that are incomprehensible to most people, with difficult fourths and strange sevenths and improbable, jazzy elevenths, enjoying ourselves in the maddening silence.