Tuesday, February 24, 2004

When I Grow Up

I get turned on by people carrying guitar cases. Not the soft ones that you carry like a backpack, but the hard cases, preferably visibly scuffed, well-traveled. The kind of guitar case that says, "Here I am, give me a wide berth, unless you want my nose in your ass." Arrogantly, it takes up space in the aisle of a train or commands a seat on a bus. In the hierarchy of instrument cases, it is supreme. It has heft, a sensual shape--not impotent like a clarinet's or anonymous like a trumpet's.

Carrying a guitar case imbues its owner a sense of purpose: this man is going somewhere. When I go to my guitar classes at OldTown, I will park a couple of blocks away to give myself more ground to cover, more time to perfect my broody gaze, my sullen walk. Not content with my weekly jaunt, I would take my guitar and take a walk around the block a few times. I would hang out at the bus stop. I would set the case down and peer thoughtfully into store windows.

When I first learned to play guitar, I couldn't get enough of it. The last time this happened, the instrument involved was not made of wood. Hmmmn, maybe on second thought, it was.


In those days, I played a lot of Oasis. "Don't Look Back in Anger," "Wonderwall," "Champagne Supernova" all involved the same six basic chords. And what I couldn't play, I faked. A few more months of lessons, I learned enough to play songs by the Indigo Girls, Barenaked Ladies and Sheryl Crow. But I still consider myself a novice. I have not mastered the "barre" chords where it's like you are holding down six strings with one hand. It's very frustrating.

There is a young man, maybe about eighteen, who occasionally plays his guitar at the corner of Diversey and Clark, right outside my gym. The guitar is strapped over his shoulder, its case, open, a couple of feet in front. A empty plastic milk crate sits right beside him. I want to be this boy who sings like a young Eddie Vedder and plays like a wet dream. Or maybe I just want to get into his frayed corduroy pants? Or wear his ratty green Kiwanis t-shirt. I don't know, it's all very confusing.

When I grow up, I want to be this boy with his guitar on the corner. That doesn't sound right, he's over a decade younger than me. Am I already grown up? When you're in your thirties, can you still say "when I grow up, I want to be..." Or is all my growin' done?

In the movie Glengarry Glen Ross Al Pacino asks, "What is our life? Our life is looking forward, or it's looking back. That's it. That's our life. Where's the moment?"

When is the moment when we arrive? I don't know, but I will be carrying my guitar case.

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