It’s that wire that no one sees but draws us to the magician’s hand.
It’s the true north that mysteriously keeps our needle pointing one way.
One day we hear the jangle, the strum of an E chord, the tip-of-a-hat in a G run, or the one-man-band of a fingerstyle song and we’re never the same. We wander through life with a different song in our mind.
We notice everything guitar—-of course in sound on the radio and in recording-—but also the physical presence of the guitar. In the background scenery of a movie set, in a commercial on TV, we'll notice the guitars. If we walk into a strange place and there happens to be a guitar in the room, little else occupies our mind.
It calls our attention like an overheard conversation that sounds more interesting than the one in which we’re currently engaged. "Oh, excuse me. Did you say something?”
Maybe it’s the sound that hooks us first but almost simultaneously we’re drawn to the guitar as a work of art. Curiously, in the horizontal position we view it as a practical tool to make our music. But we view it as art in the vertical—resting on its heel, that perfect balance, that anthropomorphic symmetry. Proof? --the guitar tester’s dance-- you know the one. You’ve seen it and you’ve done it. Play a riff, a chord, a song, and as that final strum is cast…we pick it up, left hand still holding the neck, right hand on the end pin…and we do that graceful pirouette ‘til we’re face to face with the guitar and the sound it’s making. Eyes take in the beauty from peg to bridge. Then the grin…
…..Fred, meet Ginger.
It’s simple biology.
It’s called imprinting.
It’s that instinct that has a little gosling follow around the first thing upon which its baby eyes focus. Its survival depends on this instinct. We hear the guitar and it’s as though our ears are open for the first time. We see the guitar and we become alive like never before…and follow for reasons we can’t always explain. We follow because the guitar holds…
…the promise of greater joy in the good
…and solace in the bad.
…the promise of challenge when we’re feeling ambitious.
…the hope of enriching our lives when the mundane “have-to’s” of everyday living become hard to bear.
…an escape from sameness.
Few things in our lives can give us so much hope, so much joy, so much meaning.
Joe returns the guitar to his lap and begins to retune apre le fall, and the noodling begins.
Ike wads up the napkin that held his now eaten sandwich and absentmindedly sprinkles some salt on the wooden table top and proceeds to balance the glass salt shaker as he becomes entranced by Joe's playing.
Ike has just been imprinted.“So you work with your Dad but live…” Joe says in between chords, eyes still on the guitar and where his hands are going.
“I made some bad decisions, got in some
trouble a few years back and it really caught up with me. Dad asked
me to leave his house. He said he wouldn’t stand around and watch
my habits become my character. He and Mom are kinda religious and…
no…that’s not fair. He’s right. I
REALLY screwed up. I don’t get their religion thing but they’re not weird or anything—just something I don’t…you know…he’s hoping I’ll be more responsible.
Besides, I have a younger brother and sister and he thought I might be a bad influence—he was probably right. I’m getting straightened around but I have so much money to pay back that I’m …well, that’s why I’m sort of…camping out…” Ike is talking while excavating a tiny salt hill prop on which he determinedly gets the salt shaker to balance.
Just then Joe settles back in his chair a bit, which in turn shakes the table just enough to topple the salt shaker. Ike’s eyes dart quickly to Joe, assessing intent, then both break into grins, Joe at his own mischief, Ike at the glimpse of a friendly, playful side of Joe.
“So does your Dad know you “camp out” here…”
“Oh my gosh, are you going to tell him?” Ike’s eyes register the fear of a new possibility he hadn’t planned on.
“I don’t think I have to. Still, we’re going to have to do something about this arrangement. I know you haven’t been trying to take advantage here, but I’ve got considerations like liability and…”
They talk for a while and decide that, as Ike usually works nights cleaning, and really wasn’t living there so much as crashing occasionally after work, he could go ahead and continue until he got on his feet. His concert crashing was, somewhat to Joe’s relief, an unusual occurrence for a Friday night as he usually worked later.
As Joe stands, obviously preparing to “call it a night” Ike nods toward the guitar still clutched in Joe’s hand.
“Would you teach me to play a little?” he says in a manner a little too anxious, revealing that it had been on his mind—he was just screwing up the courage to ask.
“Y’know I’m really not that much of a …I don’t really teac…You really should find a good teacher.” Joe says but falls back into his chair and looks thoughtfully at the kid. He remembers when he was “bit”.
“I think you play GREAT” Ike says. “You play like…when you play it’s like when you paint with primary colors and sometimes the colors run together, there’s these really beautiful paintings within the painting…you know?”
Strange. Joe knows just what the kid means…
John Bauman is a very talented Potter from Warsaw, Indiana. He sells his pottery at some of the best known art shows around the country. But his creative talent runs deep and John also writes songs and stories such as this one to channel his creative energy.
John is a frequent and well loved contributor to Acoustic Guitar Magazine's "Guitar Talk" Forum, and this story was created and posted by John piecemeal over a period of months on that forum. It has been reproduced here in its entirety for all to enjoy.
Hopefully, he will be so inclined to share other stories with us in the future.