Thursday, December 20, 2012

As tears go by.

I think I was around eleven or twelve when I received one of the greatest gifts ever for Christmas - A GUITAR!

I had begged for one since the dawn of MTV and envisioned something red, shiny and electric. Instead I got something beige, bulky and acoustic. But I was still pretty excited about the whole thing.

Dream vs. Reality.

My parents had hidden it away in the closet – after I had opened my final gift and come to terms with another year going by with no guitar, my dad told me to go and get something for him out of there.

Annoyed, I opened the closet door.
And there she was.

All curvy in a big black case - when I saw it I let out a yelp so loud our neighbor next door called to make sure everything was ok.

Things I loved about my childhood living room:
Stop-sign-shaped table with poinsettia.
Avocado carpet.
Fancy folding wood-paneled doors.

The closet was through that opening on the right.

Along with the guitar, my parents had also gotten me some private lessons at the Ossining Music Center, which was a good long walk from our house. I couldn’t wait to start and become the next Eddie Van Halen! Because that was what was totally going to happen! Totally.

My first lesson was the following week with my instructor, Mike. Before I met Mike I had a picture of what he would look like in my head. I was expecting someone resembling Jimi Hendrix or Jimmy Page - instead I got someone who was a mix between Jerry Garcia and my math teacher.

The best part of guitar lessons was the walk up to see Mike.

Strutting my stuff carrying that big old case – to say I felt like hot stuff was the understatement of the year. People driving/riding their ten-speeds by must have been in awe of my coolness. In my mind they saw a guitar-playing-chick on her way to play her next big gig. In reality what they saw was a chubby, pre-teen girl sweating bullets trying to lug a giant guitar case while dodging traffic.

Over the first few lessons I learned some basics; how to hold the guitar, how to tune the guitar, a few basic chords, etc. But just like anything in my life the whole process wasn't moving fast enough. By lesson three I was bored and wanting out. I practiced, but not enough.

Here are the few gems I took away from guitar lessons with Mike:

As Tears Go By - The Rolling Stones.
This was my crowning achievement, the only song I could play in it's entirety. Totally worth my parents hard earned money. I can still pick up a guitar today and whip this one out, complete with singing, and have people say, "I didn't know you played the guitar!" Awesome.

Solo from We're Not Gonna Take It - Twisted Sister.
I'm sure Mike taught me the whole song, but I have no memory of ever playing anything other than the annoying, loud solo part in the middle - which is somehow even more loud and annoying on an acoustic guitar. I can still play that bad ass solo with no sheet music. Call me a musical genius.

Opening chords from Metal Health - Quiet Riot.
You see where I'm going here? See, I'm not gonna learn a whole song, that's for suckers. But I will play the hell out of the opening of Metal Health, and it will make you want to bang your head and it will drive you mad.

So that about completes my guitar achievements - Merry Christmas.
I don't think Mike would be very proud of how well I've kept up.

My guitar made several moves with me, from New York to Florida to Oregon, until a few years ago when I finally sold it at a yard sale for fifteen bucks. Like most things I sell at yard sales, I kinda regret doing that.

When I do think back on some of the greatest Christmas gifts ever, the "Year of the Guitar" is right up there along with the "Year of the Atari "and the "Year of the giant Barbie Make Up Head."

Thank you Teacher Mike, for making an entire Stones song somehow stick in my brain forever, a whole song - not just the opening chords to Satisfaction or something like that.

Every time I hear that pretty, pretty song, I think of looking in that closet, that big 'ol guitar, and Christmastime.  

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