Friday, August 11, 2006

In search of some solitude...
Sometimes it's so hard trying to be LEFT ALONE...

Look, I care about my fellow human beings. I've always thought that the "five minutes" you spend with someone can make all the difference between them jumping out a window, versus feeling accepted by someone else and realizing that maybe things aren't so bad after all. Many times I've been in an "owly" mood, and the bright smile of the lady pouring coffee made all the difference, and I emerged from my total funk into a, well, "lesser" funk, which is about as good as it gets for me. But I am thankful for those moments. Sometimes I think I don't matter to anyone on the planet, and all of a sudden I'll see someone I know, we B.S. for a little while, and I've come away feeling better. So, what I'm about to post here is in total contradiction of all of the above. Hey, what can I say, I'm a flake. There. It's been said. Now I'll continue...

I love to play guitar outdoors. There is just something about sitting outside with nature going on around me that makes me play differently, somehow. I'll maybe start out playing something largely abstract, depending on whatever mood I'm in. I guess you could say I am playing "unconscious mood pieces", and when I'm "left alone", my mind is free to wander, and that translates into my playing. It's an intensely private time for me, when I do that. It's personal. But when people see me playing guitar, they come up to me, engage me in conversation, not realizing they are INTERRUPTING me. As I'm playing, they'll ask questions: "Oh, what kind of music do you play?" "Do you know any reggae or progressive rock or Pink Floyd?", and they expect me to stop mid-song, and actually REPLY to something they're asking. This happens all the time and it IRRITATES me. So, to send them on their way, I'll try to play something they know, but that's pressure. I'm uptight, because all of a sudden, I'm having to put on a show.

Sometimes I don't mind playing for others. If I'm sitting in a location where they're walking by, I'm usually feeling more positive and accepting of others. But if I'm sitting ALONE, in a corner of the park, or at a picnic table, ALL ALONE, can't people get the message and just LEAVE ME ALONE? I realize they mean well, but I don't like to be interrupted. The guitar is one of the only ways I can lessen my anxieties and depressions, but sometimes the guitar causes me MORE anxiety, as I realize, "oh, damn, someone's walking this way and I have to deal with them". You wouldn't interrupt someone if they were reading a book, or taking a nap on the grass, after all. Well, the guitar is a very HOLY thing for me. I guess I'm neurotic. I don't know. I'm sure I'll get all kinds of comments about this. And I don't want to play some STUPID song, if I'm in the middle of playing the notes or chord progressions that are bouncing around in my brain. Call it "daydreaming with guitar in hand". It's not that I'm that great of a guitarist; in fact, I don't think I'm all that great, and part of me is afraid if I flub someone's song, they'll think I am a skill-deprived idiot who should never get near a guitar. So that also makes me want to play privately. I don't have a whole lot of self-confidence, as you can tell.

Because I honestly care about peoples' feelings, I get put into an awkward position. If I was a total jerk, I'd probably tell them, "don't you realize you are interrupting me?" "Just because I have a guitar in my hands doesn't mean I want to TALK to you!" "How would you feel if I barged in on your family at DINNERTIME?" This is really how I feel about well-meaning people coming up, interrupting me; this really gets my goat and I don't know what to do about it. Maybe in microcosm, this is how the Beatles felt when nosy reporters always shoved microphones in front of them asking things like, "now that you've quit touring, are you still going to work together?" "Oh, you are? Will you be doing things separately, too?" "Can you see a time when the group will ever split up?" Ironically, many of those same reporters would come up to one of the Beatles after the group broke up, and ask, "what are the chances of you getting back together?" "Don't you think all of your fans want to see you back together?" And all of this time, the (former) Beatles were trying to just be PEOPLE. Well, that's what I am. A person who happens to have a guitar. That's ALL. The Beatles stopped performing because the crowds were too much. In order to progress, they had to get AWAY from people. Shortly after they did that, "Sgt. Pepper" came out. A studio masterpiece.

I don't understand why people feel they can interrupt me. It happens to me almost all of the time. So I've got a guitar and I happen to play it. Meanwhile, the mechanic uses his tools. The bank clerks use a computer program. A Chef uses a spatula. A plumber uses a plunger. Some people sew or collect stamps or read poetry. My guitar is like that. Nothing special. It is just what I DO. But for some reason, everyone who sees me playing, no matter HOW MUCH I TRY TO HIDE, thinks they can come up and meet a really cool person who'll drop everything he's doing to play them their favorite song, and I DON'T REALLY WANT TO. I wish there was a tactful way to just send them on their way, but I can't think of what to do. There is absolutely no reason to be fascinated or be in "awe" of someone playing their guitar. It's just what they do; it that person's way of expressing himself, of dealing with emotions and frustrations. I can't do brain surgery, after all. But I wouldn't go into a hospital, put on a sterilized gown, and then go into the operating room and ask the surgeon a bunch of questions while he's trying to operate!

Once, I was playing guitar alone at a picnic table, and a young guy, about 20, sat down AT my table without ASKING. He was asking me all kinds of questions: "Do You Write Your Own Music?" "What Kind of Music do you Like?" He wanted me to do an "original" song. "Have you written any original music?", he asked. I grunted 'yes'. "Oh, I'd really like to hear some of your original music!" HE JUST WOULDN'T SHUT THE F*** UP!!! I sat there motionless, playing very little for ten minutes until he went away. Where does rudeness begin in this situation? Do I have the right to tell people, "I JUST WANT TO BE LEFT ALONE SO I CAN PLAY!!!!!?????" I have written songs, and sometimes I've played them. But those are very private for me as well. I think I'd be a really terrible 'star'. I can see why Bob Dylan behaves like a total jerk to everyone who interviews him. He throws up a "wall"; in one of his documentary movies, he barks at an interviewer, "I CAN'T HELP IT IF SOME PEOPLE HAVE A PROBLEM WITH SOMETHING I WROTE." (And, no, I'm not comparing myself to Dylan, either.)

As you can see, this really, REALLY bugs me. I am not a public person just because I'm playing an instrument somewhere else than my living room. My guitar playing is personal to me. My own original songs are personal to me. Sometimes I have the feeling that 99% of the human race just doesn't know what "creative"-type people go through. Maybe I'm an oddball; I know I'm not that good of a player, but I like to do more than just be someone's "human jukebox". I hear things, I get into moods, I have to go somewhere, work them out, and if I have the guitar with me, that comes out in my playing. But I can't work things out when someone comes up to me and starts CLOGGING my brain full of THEIR ideas. Sometimes I think that most people are on "one level", and that a relatively few people are on "another level". I feel like I'm on "another level". Not that "my level" is any better, or anything like that. I'm just not one of these people who takes things lightly and I never have been, and I'll never be able to change that. At 52, I am who I am. It's disrespectful to interrupt someone. Of course, it's my own fault, I guess, that I am so terribly self-conscious. I realize as I'm writing this that if you're walking thru City Park and you see someone playing guitar, you may want to walk a wide circle around them. I've met some musicians, and all they wanna do is show off for the public. I've done that to a point, but I am really reclusive when I'm playing. I love people and care about them, but I kinda wish they'd just walk that "wide circle" around me when I'm playing. Listen from a distance if you must, if at all. And don't INTERRUPT me.

This is a post where I've been able to get a whole lotta pent-up things off my chest. Kinda therapeutic, actually. And it makes me think back to 2002 when I went to the Oregon Coast and played guitar on the beach with the waves crashing all around me. Pelicans flew overhead, Seagulls danced upon the wind, and I could swear there was one little seal out there who would poke his head out of the water and listen to me; he kept popping up in the same place over and over, and I could swear he heard the music. I love to be out in the world, but I feel like my "people skills" are rapidly diminishing. I read a "huckleberries" post that said people are losing the ability to communicate because they're on computer all the time. I literally had times where I was too nervous to speak, but as soon as I began playing guitar, I felt better. I don't really understand that. Maybe I've got brain cancer or something. Is this computer to blame for what I see as a sort of self-diminishing capability of interchange with my fellow humans? I don't think so, since the thoughts I've put here are things I've WANTED to say for a LONG time. You are more than welcome to comment, to tell me how YOU feel about all of these things; perhaps thru what you post here, I can find out "where I am", how "off-base" I am, etc.

I'll leave you all now with a little weird photo-satire I did. It's a "huckleberries online" ( photo, and it looked so gawdawful weird that when I first saw it, I just sat there and stared at the monitor in total awe. It really was a brain-stretcher. I may have used up my last working brain cell here...but anyway, it's your little reward for digging and tunneling your way through this obviously overstated post.

Peace, everybody...


Blogger Jinx said...

I have an idea how to get people to leave you alone when you are playing. Put a sign in your guitar case.."Leave tips here" then they'll stay away.. either that or you'll get rich..


10:30 PM  
Blogger little ol' me said...

Better yet, Jinx...(you may not know what you've started here), how about I charge a $5.00 per minute LISTENING FEE? (gosh, I'd better hurry up and learn enough to play better if I'm gonna be earning that much!)

5:15 AM  

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