I saw the poster for the first time when I was taking a walk in the neighborhood. It depicted an earnest looking young man named Lucas sitting with a guitar. The poster advertised guitar lessons.
"Do you have a guitar in your house that you aren't playing?"
Actually I did. Note the clever use of past tense as dramatic foreshadowing.
I sent him an email. We went back and forth. Told him I could play pretty well at one time but hadn't really played in 20 years or so. I told him that I wanted to take it back up but didn't know where to start. He seemed to act like this was no big impediment. Still, I was hesitant. He was playing out in the neighborhood that night. He invited me to come hear him to judge for myself.
When I got there he was sitting outside the local butcher shop/sandwich place playing the living hell out of a Stratocaster. Jazz. Improvising. Riffing off of scales with his girlfriend by his side. I went inside and asked Kevin what he thought about the kid outside. Kevin was a professional musician at one time. I figured he would have an informed opinion.
He pointed to the street. "THAT boy can play," he said. All I needed to hear. When Lucas came in to get a drink I introduced myself and a week later I found myself standing in front of a rent house behind the Methodist church with a guitar case in my hand, fixing to go in for my first lesson in easily 45 years.
To paraphrase Mr. Eliot "In short, I was nervous."
I don't know why I quit playing. I guess I felt like I was too busy to really take it seriously. Maybe I was too busy trying to learn how to play golf. Sheer laziness cannot be discounted in its entirety either. But there I was. Me and the old Ovation that my father gave me when I graduated from high school. Going to give myself over to a 24 year old to try to make the damn thing produce music again.
"So," he said after I had unpacked and stationed myself in front of him. "What do you want to do?"
"I don't know. I don't know where to start."
" Can you play the C, G and D chords?"
"Cool. Let's play 'Twist and Shout' then"
He set the metronome on-naturally-his IPhone. He played it first and then the two of us proceeded to play the first Largo version of Twist and Shout in history. It wasn't very good. But it was playing the guitar again. And it was a lot of fun.
He told me to send him a list of songs I wanted to try to learn to play. In between learning those we would would be working on technique and theory. Sounded good to me.
We did some Neil Young the second lesson. Went pretty easy.
"Seeeeeeee?" he said, in the way of teachers everywhere. "You're 10 times better than you were last week. You can do this."
"Oh yeah. I can tell you once could play and that you are a musician. This is gonna be fine. Trying to teach that 40 year old guy that has no musical background who wants to take up the guitar, now THAT'S a challenge. But tell me. What you wanna do with this? What's your goal?"
"You really want to know?" I asked.
He took a sip of his chocolate milk while nodding his head.
"I want to go to open mike night at the Afterthought. I want to play and sing again and not suck. That's all."
He pit down the chocolate milk.
"Oh, it's gonna suck," he said.
"Don't take that the wrong way. It's gotta to hit a certain level to suck."
"I'm not following you."
"Well, you told me that you like to play golf but that you suck. But you can play golf. And playing golf is really hard to do."
Ah. A sports metaphor. Now I'm dialing in.
"So while you may suck, we just have to make sure that you don't reallllllly suck. So, I'm gonna sit in with you when you perform."
"Oh yeah," he said with a smile. "This will be fun."
Lucas will be going off on tour with some band after next week. He said he's going to overload me with stuff to do while he is gone. This week, he wants me to learn a basic blues progression just because he says every guitar player needs to learn some blues.
Learning to play again is really hard. But it is great fun. The most fun I've had in years.
Besides, while Lucas may have me playing the blues. He's not gonna let me really suck.