March 29, 2021
So what do we do all day?
Well, not nearly as much as when we were working and raising a child. That leaves time for two new things in my life. Social media and guitar. Just a quick word on social media before I get to the good stuff. I signed up for Facebook in 2008, because “some old guy” (my age now) in my office was bragging about using it being hip and I had FOMO (fear of missing out) before that term was even invented. Well, within an hour of signing up for Facebook I had a stalker and I was off Facebook until this week. So yesterday, after a brief 13 year hiatus, I log into Facebook for maybe the third time in my life, and start inviting friends. As I’m poking around, an invite for a live feed comes up. I didn’t know there is such a thing, but I click it, and there is my cousin, jamming on the guitar. His last name is different than mine, and he performs under his stage name, Jack Grace. I look down and see I am wearing a t-shirt that’s from a couple years ago when I saw him play in Brooklyn. Whoa!? Is FB looking at me and figuring this out? I’m creeped out, but persevere and listen to him play guitar, and later get his post that he just had a baby girl, and I missed his birthday by 3 days. The whole social media thing is both awesome and scary!
That brings me to guitar. Jack Grace is great. He’s like next generation Johnny Cash. I’ve always thought playing guitar looked really cool, but never even picked up a guitar to try. Well, last summer, I bought a “Gibson” on amazon for $50, and thought I’d get started after I finished working. In September, I tried Marty Music on YouTube because another cruiser recommended him. He seems really nice, and is a talented player, but he clearly has no recollection of what it’s like to be a rank beginner. My fingers hurt, and I was totally lost. A hiatus ensued. By October, I had no job, and there were times during the day when I knew I should clean the boat because I had nothing better to do. This would not stand! Much Googling ensued and low and behold, I discovered Justin Guitar. He is infallibly cheerful, wears silly hats, and breaks it down into teeny, tiny steps. And, in a genius move, before filming his lessons, he decided to remind himself what it’s like to be a beginner by learning to play left handed. (And he is now awesome at that too!)
Fast forward to today, I’ve played with Justin at least every other day for six months, and I am on stage 3 of 9 stages of the beginner course. I know 8 chords and have mastered 6 of them. That means I can strum and fret my way through dumbed down versions of lots of songs I love. I do everything from Johnny Cash to Daft Punk, poorly. My best one is The Joker by the Steve Miller band. There is no fancy technique other than fretting my way through 3-4 chords on the beat, but I get a TON of enjoyment, and feel a lot of hope for the future. By the time I’m 70, I could even be excellent, if I stick with it. I’m not convinced the other people in the marina get the same enjoyment, and might not love when I curse when I miss a chord change, but I try to play quietly in the forepeak. Except, some days, I will have the odd “coordinated person” days. I am not one, but I like to think I can imagine what that would feel like. Anyway, I had one of those the other day, and rocked out, playing Wild Thing, and Credence’s Down on the Corner with a nice rich, round tone. Did I cause any boats to leave the marina? One of the great things about there being no windows in the forepeak. Just a hatch over my head for breeze. It’s sort of like when you golf, and out of the 100 strokes you hit that day, 2 are perfect, so you have to come back the next weekend.
I’ve peeked ahead to see what stage 4 looks like. I don’t graduate stage 3 until I can do 60 chord changes a minute for each pairing of my 8 chords, and I’ve only checked off 20 of the 28… Stage 4 turns out to be some horribly difficult stuff, about 7th chords, where we start to introduce the pinky finger into the mix. Justin calls it the fourth finger, hoping my pinkie and I wont realize the outrageousness of the ask. My pinkie, operating independently of the ring finger, is supposed to firmly press down on very sharp strings, causing a new note or two to ring out. Yeah right. My pinkie is on to us. It has seen the thick, unladylike callouses on the tips of my other three fingers, and wants no part of that. It is actually making the teacup gesture, simultaneously reminding me it’s destined for more refined activity, and trying to make a break for it. It clearly was saying, I am no lemming, to fling myself roughly down on to the rocks of the fret board, just because those other fingers are doing it. So, we shall see. Will I break through this guitar equivalent of the glass ceiling? Or remain 1/3 of a beginner for the rest of my life?
Sailing is long stretches of boredom punctuated by intermittent periods of terror. Now for poor Jeff, his days not sailing are punctuated by brief stretches of tone deaf caterwauling. Justin remains unflappably cheerful, and unflagging confident that I and the many people like me with zero natural ability can do this through pure tenacity. I have 1/10th the musical ability of a normal person, and 10X the tenacity. I even named our last boat Tenacious, that being perhaps the quality I most admire. I got this.