Monday, January 14, 2008

Guitar Player XOR Safe-Cracker

Sorry, no Christmas post. I had something lined up about how the war against Christmas parallels the War On Drugs, the War On Terrorism, and is really an expression of North American societal self-loathing, but I just couldn't pull it together. God I'm pathetic.

At some point, amidst the unwrapping, the face-stuffing, the food coma and credit card bills, my guitar arrived. Santa shipped it direct from China. My impish face glowed, my eyes lit in child-like wonder as I unwrapped it. Squeals of glee no doubt erupted.

I played it for about a week, but eventually I had to bring it into the shop for the "setup". This is something all electric guitars go through, usually before you buy it from your friendly neighborhood purveyor of musical oddities.

The setup is an array of delicate adjustments and fine-tuning that I couldn't be comfortable delegating to my own mechanical acumen (or dearth thereof), and so I had to give my baby up. I cried, but took solace in the fact that I'd see her again. I'm still waiting.

After a week of playing, I had basically lost all sensation in the fingertips of my left hand. The cold, tingly, frostbitten feeling was annoying at first, eventually soothing.

Someone said these are supposed to be calluses, a necessary step on the path to guitar mastery, but they don't really feel like calluses, like the kind you might get after a couple weeks of lifting weights, or shoveling dirt or something. If you've ever futzed around building model airplanes or the like, and accidentally gotten crazy glue on your fingers, it approaches the feeling I'm attempting to describe, a thin skin of unfeeling, coating your fingertips. The urge to gnaw on my own fingers until the feeling returns is unbearable.

Thus, along with the other trivial male pursuits of looking-without-seeing, listening-without-hearing, eating-without-tasting, and sex-without-loving, I now master touching-without-feeling. I think there's something ironic in there somewhere, that learning to express yourself through music, arguably the most direct conduit to human emotion, should require this deadening of the senses. And so now, these delicate instruments, my human hands, purpose-built for the business of feeling, with more nerve endings than the rest of my body combined, are denied their purpose, and die a little, that my music (such as it is) might live.

Is this a loss? Or a win?

I've heard it said, and maybe this is an urban myth, like becoming a ninja by dint of decades of studying with Tibetan monks, etc. But I've heard it said that safe-crackers actually use sandpaper on their fingertips, to remove the first couple of layers of skin in order that they can feel the tumblers of the lock clicking into place. I suppose the gist is of a heightened sensitivity to the mechanical puzzle before them. If this were true, then I have removed this occupation from the realm of possibility. In the quantum "many worlds" theory, I have amputated and cauterized the set of universes that are home to Cool Ranch Luke, master safe-cracker, in favor of that other set of universes containing Cool Ranch Luke, guitar player wannabe.

P.S.: If anyone out there knows how to get that little pencil icon to show up beneath my posts (the "edit post" link), let me know. In recent weeks, it has magically disappeared, and I miss it.

4 uninformed opinions:

Leila said...

There is a life-cycle for guitared calluses. They come, they fall off, the skin grows permanently hard. Feeling returns. Sounds like marriage after the first seven years, no?

Missing you as always. Here's a challenge. The first one to write the other a song wins.

Erin, you in?

Rules, gotta have rules. Okay. Must be played on a guitar. Erin, somehow I know you can do that.
Must have at least 3 verses.
Must be about one or both of the other two.
Must record and post to blog.

Phil, when you get your guitar back we GO!

(Clapping like a stoned otter...) what fun, kids!

Cool Ranch Luke said...

Okay, three things:

1) YOUR marriage, maybe.
2) Ohmygod. A meme that requires SKILL? Uh... Ladies first. Plus I think I'll have to write one for Wife first...
3) "A stoned otter"?

erin said...

Oh, dearie. I dance to music. I don't create it!
I'm intrigued and possibly in. I could maybe conjure some lyrics, but the real trouble is that I'm musically illiterate. I could identify a note on a page--as in "that's a note"--but I couldn't identify which note (or key...or whatever) it is or come up with tablature for a guitar.

I can sing Do-Re-Mi from The Sound of Music. Does that count for anything?

Cool Ranch Luke said...

Jeez. I just re-read this post. How many time did I use the word "feeling"? If you guessed "more than twenty", you're getting warm...