Monday, August 18, 2008

A Biannual Event—A New Post

Lately it seems that my sons are getting along better. Partially this has a lot to do with my youngest, Emmett, getting older and more of a companion and contributor to the fun. Like my little brother, he finds the greatest delight in every silly thing his older brother says—or grunts or screams. It can be a bit maddening.

Some quick highlights.

Friday I took the day off and went with the family to Ogunquit, Maine. I'd never been there before. My wife loves the beach and I don't have much use for it—at least I didn't before Friday. Ever since Garp lost his son to the Under Toad (a child's mispronunciation of under tow), I've had the fear of losing my own children in the same way. The ocean can be harsh. But at the beach in Ogunquit, the shore feeds so gradually into the sea that the grade is barely perceptible. It's a sandbar in fact, such that you can walk in ankle-deep water for at least a hundred yards. The waves were beautiful, so we got boogie boards at tourist prices and went for a romp. I transformed from grumpy old man to old man of the sea. Now I'm thinking about getting a surf board.

This is sorta cute. While I was sweeping the pool yesterday, the kids made water balloons, then got down to their skivvies and went swimming with them. The water balloons all had names. But the one that stood out was Snot Knowledge. No idea where it came from.

My oldest son Jackson is going to start taking guitar lessons. Willingly. Oh. My. God. Pinch me.

I've resigned from the soccer board that I previously belonged to, and have decided not to coach any more. Too much drama was my answer to the question: but why?! Oh, and incidentally, I said, Coachzilla owns the soccer board. But she quit the board, I was told. But she'll be back. When she left you she was but a learner, but when she comes back, she will be the master.

Jackson doesn't want to play anymore and Emmett can't be bothered anyway.

Oh, we saw the new Clone Wars animated movie. Much, much, much better than episodes I through III. They finally ditched Hayden Christenson and got some voice talent. The action rocks and the characters were actually likeable.

I'll stop by and say hi as I get the chance. Football is gearing up and my Boys have a lot of work to do. I'm really excited about Felix Jones.

What? You don't know who Felix Jones is? As Yoda once said, "You will. You wiiillll."

Monday, August 04, 2008

Play Guitar

My latest obsession is more productive than my previous addiction to Call of Duty 4, the latter of which I hope I am truly over. Since I bought a new computer with the latest video technology, I had been on a power binge of gaming every night until two in the morning. It became an awful feeling, knowing that I should be getting to bed but being unable to step away. The addicting part of it was that I wanted to be the best at it but kept coming up short.

But hopefully that's all over now. I have a few buddies that I play with on occasion, and I'll save myself for those times.

But the good news is, I have something new to occupy my time. Of all things, it's my guitar.

I am taking lessons again. The beauty is that I'm already a pretty good player, and by that I mean a passable strummer on the acoustic with some ability to play leads. I'm solid but by no means flashy. If you asked me to play a song you would glaze over in thirty seconds. That's because I really don't know anything you would want to hear, and I've forgotten everything I used to know that would come close.

My intention was to learn songs that people like to hear, but songs that have a little pizzazz, something to make the guitar sound interesting. Oh, and songs that are within my singing range.

The guy I am learning from is a bluegrass guitarist, but he is purportedly one that can play any style. I asked him if he knew how to play Drive by Incubus (definitely out of my range), and he replied, "What by who?"

I'm thinking at this point that rumors of his diversity had been greatly exaggerated.

So I said, "I like country music as well." I didn't want to admit this because all I know are country songs, and I don't meet many that want to hear it. But I could see that it had pepped him up.

"Who do you like? Name a few artists."

Before I could stop myself I blurted, "George Strait and Alan Jackson."

He had his pencil poised over a notebook page, but he dropped both. "Ah, classic country—ok. Play me something you know."

Not to be sidetracked down the same old road, I snapped the capo on the fifth fret and said, "Have you heard of Death Cab for Cutie?"

"No," he said with a hint of disappointment.

I rattled off the intro to I Will Follow You into the Dark, which I had just finished learning the day before. As I'm playing he rifles through a stack of papers and puts one in front of me entitled Walk on Boy.

"Have you heard of Doc Watson?"

I told him that I had with a hint of resignation. Doc Watson was old school country.

"It's similar to what you just played." He put a CD into his computer. The first few strums from the speakers sounded so typically bluegrass that I almost refused, but then Doc Watson played a riff that arrested my speech. The shock was mild, but the guitar instructor saw it and played it back for me.

"That's awesome."

So now I can mostly rattle off that riff, the part that he transcribed for me. I've immersed myself in this song and am feeling that old feeling once again, the love for my guitar. My old friends remember this way, but this time I actually have some talent.

My next lesson is this Wednesday. I've got the solo down and am learning the nuances of the verses, which fly counter to how I normally strum. I'm wondering how the instructor will react when—and hopefully if—I play it just like the recording, even learning some of the parts he didn't transcribe for me. I'll settle for the parts he did for now.

In other news, I had a great idea for a novel. Unlike my previous ideas, it's clean and simple, easy to explain in a sentence or two. What has killed my previous efforts is the lack of a focused overall concept. This recent idea was inspired by a conversation I had with some friends over the weekend. When it struck, I told them about it, which was based on the story they just had told me about their relationship. When I told them the twist (there's always a catchy ending to my ideas, or they aren't worth my attention), they both loved it.

It needs a middle part.

But I'm working on it.