I was at an all-day volleyball tournament at Calvin College today, the campus where my parents met. Small. Dutch. Christian. And you wonder why I'm cynical.
On the way there, we were stopped by a train. The building on the other side of the tracks made caskets and parking bumbers. Parking bumpers and caskets. I wonder if they get their shipments mixed up sometimes. I thought it was kind of odd. It made me laugh, though.
And for some reason, every time I approached the ball to hit it, Counting Crow's "Perfect Blue Buildings" ran through my head. I think it was because I was listening to it last night before I fell asleep. I remember trying to inject deep personal meaning into the song before I blacked out. I really need to stop doing that. Bizarre.
Oh, and we won the tournament for our age group. There really wasn't any competition. There were 8 teams in our bracket, and three of them were from the same travel club as us.
That's all I can think of, right now.
Fresh squeezed by melly at 6:03 PM
Thursday, April 10, 2003
I found him sitting downstairs in the family room, watching a football game with the sound turned off.
“Whatcha playing?” I asked my Uncle Eric.
“David Bowie” said Uncle Greasyhead, never looking up from his fire engine red Fender.
I started humming Ziggy Stardust, because that was the only Bowie song I knew.
“No, no, not that one.” Uncle Greasyhead insisted, pushing his long gelled hair out of his eyes. “A different one.” He added, by means of an explanation.
I nodded with intelligence, then sat down on the couch a few feet away from him, watching his fingers. I think he forgot I was there, or he just didn’t care. Uncle Greasyhead began singing along in his tone-deaf voice that matched my father’s. I couldn’t make out the words.
“Can I play?” I asked this quietly because I didn’t want to interrupt his fingers, only his voice. I asked quietly because I really did want to play, not just in a curious sort of way but in a wholehearted “I’m meant for this” sort of way, and I was afraid of being shot down.
He grunts, not trusting his young niece. “Not this”, says Uncle Greasyhead, indicating the Fender. “Take the acoustic over in the corner.”
I tiptoed over to the tooled brown leather case sitting on the piano bench; one stringed instrument protecting another from the hazards of dogs and toddlers and the elderly, all common sights at Christmastime. Fumbling with the silver clasps, I managed to take out a beautiful spruce and maple guitar.
It was too big for me. Wrestling it in a dainty manner to the couch, I sat down again and rested it on my lap.
He looks over. “You’re holding it wrong.” Chords continued to drift out of his fingers and he line of vision was directed at the mute television screen. I was neglected.
I looked down at the guitar. I thought I was holding it right, or rather, I thought this was how they held it on TV. Maneuvering it into a new position, with my left hand on the neck and my right poised over the strings, I coughed to gain Uncle Greasyhead’s attention and hopeful approval.
“Good” was all I got, and I took it and ran. I began strumming the acoustic, all six strings one right after another. Again and again until I all I could hear was the onetwothreefourfivesiiix and not a strum of Bowie.
He wrinkles his nose. “Do you know any chords?”
I shake my head. I am not musically oriented. I broke someone’s cello once but did not mention this to Uncle Greasyhead.
He sighed. “A Major” he said, “is your middle three fingers across the third, fourth, and fifth strings on the second fret, and don’t hit the first string.”
“Fred?” I asked.
“Fret.” He gruntedsighedsaid.
I played. Fingerfingerfingerskipstrum. Some of the strings didn’t sound right. I tried again, and again. I played A major until the doorbell rang. Uncle Greasyhead left to answer it. I heard carolers singing “The First Noel” upstairs, accompanied by my not-perfect A major. I recognized the Bill Clinton lookalike pastor’s voice singing. Such a shame for a holy man to bear such a striking unholy resemblance.
He (Bill, Uncle Greasyhead, and Grandpa) came downstairs, where I was.
“This is my oldest,” said Grandpa, “Meredith. You remember Meredith, don’t you?”
“I do believe I saw her in the service on Sunday.” Bill said, with a smile and an outstretched palm.
I faked a smile back but did not offer my hand. I was busy continuing to strum.
Uncle Greasyhead made an unintelligible noise, and Bill “I Do Not Tell A Lie” withdrew his palm. Instead he asked, “What kind of a guitar is that?”
I stopped strumming. I did not know. All I knew was A major. I looked to Uncle Greasyhead for help. He was gazing at the pigskin. Removing my hands from the guitar I pushed my hair behind my ears, buying time with no returns.
“Oh,” said Bill, reading the neck, “A Crafter. Good guitar. Is it yours?”
I fake smile again, and nod to Uncle Greasyhead.
Grandpa steps in. “It’s Eric’s” he says, clearing his throat.
Bill turns to Uncle Greasyhead and starts a conversation about music. Grandpa follows behind like a proud father.
I start playing again, my fingers slipping and sliding and producing ugly noise. Bill turns to face me, knowing that I am a beginner of the half-hour sort.
“Merry Christmas”, I say, then readjust my grip on the guitar and run to find Aunt Jenny.
She was half-asleep, half-reading in her elected bedroom. I was about to flop myself on the bed beside her when I remembered the Crafter in my hand. I stopped myself.
“Boo. Whatcha reading?”
“Jonathan Franzen, The Corrections” she mumbled.
“Auntie Yennifer” I said, sweetly. “Teach me how to play the guitar.”
She mumbled again, bordering a gurgle.
“Please?” I set the guitar down and then proceeded in throwing myself on the bed next to her and blocking her vision of the book.
She rolled over. “Gimme fourteen minutes.” She doesn’t like nice, square numbers like fifteen.
I obliged. Walking out of the room and hearing no oaths being sworn by Bill, I retreated back into the family room to practice my A major. Yennifer would be so proud.
She came into the room some seventeen minutes later, her eyes looking puffy and tired. I didn’t care. I was selfish, I wanted to learn how to play.
“Ok,” she said, obviously wanting to get this done and over with quickly so that she could go back to bed, “G Major is the first string on the third fret with the second string on the second fret and the sixth string on the third fret, all other notes open.”
This was a lot for me to digest. The lesson continued on like that, her rattling off frets and strings and open notes and me trying to wade through it all.
After a little bit she took the guitar from me and announced that I now knew enough chords to play One Tin Soldier. I remembered that song from camp. Tricky little song, it seems all pretty on the outside and all ugly underneath. I wrinkled my nose. Aunt Jenny began to play, accompanying herself with a high soprano voice.
"I’m going to bed,” she said, even though it was four in the afternoon. “Good night.”
I took the guitar back and continued to play.
A month later I announced to my mother that I wanted to learn to play guitar.
“You don’t have a guitar.” she said. Mom’s good at pointing out what I already know.
“Right, Mom. I was hoping that it could be my birthday present.”
“Ummm…what about volleyball? And track? And ATYP? I don’t think you’ll have time.”
“My birthday’s in the summer, Mom. All of those things will be done then except for volleyball. And I’ll need something to do.”
She was stalling then, I know. I could see that she did not want her daughter to play guitar. She wanted me to play an instrument, yes, but Mom likes instruments of the classical nature, instruments that can be played in an orchestra. The thing is, I’ve already failed at two of those instruments and while third time is supposedly the charm, I just can’t get myself worked up about an oboe.
“I want to play an acoustic, not an electric.” I said this to reassure my mother that I would not be dying my clothes black and I would not start to listen to Metallica or whatever. Granted, I know that plugging in a guitar does not constitute a heavy rocker, but I wasn’t sure if my mother did.
“Those are the wood ones, right? Without any plugs?” My mind flashed back to a conversation in which I had to explain to my mother that most DJ’s use assumed names. (“His last name can’t really be Backfire!”, she said.)
“Yes, mom. No speakers involved.”
Yesterday I came home from track practice, sweaty and sore. We had been doing wind sprints, 10 50 meter dashes in a row.
“I signed you up for lessons.” said mom.
“That’s nice. Can you get me some water?”
“Guitar lessons,” she persisted.
“I don’t have a guitar, Mom.”
“Your father’s bringing you out tonight to get one. I wanted to do it, but I figured if you went with me you’d probably come away with a really bad instrument.”
I thanked her profusely; both out loud for letting me get a guitar and inside for having my father take me.
I got a Crafter, just like Uncle Greasyhead’s. And I discovered, last night, that I hadn’t been playing A major right.
Fresh squeezed by melly at 5:04 PM
Tuesday, April 08, 2003
I must sadly admit that I succumbed to stealing a book off of my kid sister's bookshelves yesterday, as I had nothing to read.
And because nothing on her reading list looked particularly appetizing, I decided to just close my eyes and read whatever book I picked first.
Because of Winn-Dixie. Because of Motherfucking Winn-Dixie.
I hate dog stories. Children's dog stories, especially.
Where the Red Fern Grows. Old Yeller. Shilo. THEY ALL DIE AT THE END OF THE STORY. What are we supposed to teach kids today? "Sorry, kids, ol' Fido there is doomed!"?
But, anyway, Winn-Dixie lived. And I kind of liked it. Even though it was about a dog.
Fresh squeezed by melly at 5:25 PM
Monday, April 07, 2003
I find that I have too many sweaters.
Today was a purple ribbed turtelneck "It's cold outside and I don't feel like taking a lot of time to dress" sweater day.
Tomorrow will be a red ribbed loophole "I know it is April but I like wearing sweaters" sweater day.
Other sweaters include the yellow-and-grey striped "I am just too cool" sweater, the tan zip-up "I am sexy and stylish" sweater, the multicolor striped "I just stepped out of a Gap Ad" sweater, the plaint white turtleneck cashmere "This matches my leather jacket" sweater, the blue pinstriped "I am smart" sweater and the mottled gray zip-up "I Just Threw This On Over Another Sweater" sweater.
There comes a time, I think, when we all need to just start boycotting sweater production of any kind.
Fresh squeezed by melly at 7:40 PM
Sometimes I feel like my words are so jumbled up that I forget what their original meaning was and am forced to start over.
There. Insert whatever you deem appropriate.
Fresh squeezed by melly at 5:07 PM
Sunday, April 06, 2003
I never promised to tell the truth; it's just that this expectation is weighed down upon us from our childhood. Yet expectations and duties and protocol and morals and tradition can all be broken like the forty-nine wooden boards the angry man smashed with his angry red head in one minute; splintered and unpretty. But I realize that I am not strong enough in mind or body to break these things, and so I am forced into honesty even when the truth hurts.
And I never promised not to fall in love; it's just that that was who I was growing up. I was independent, I was shy, I wanted to be successful. You don't fall in love then, not ever. But the thing is, I don't think I'm that same person any more. It's good to change; it's bad to break.
And so, with these two not-promises, I am dutifully admitting that I am different, I am insane, I am a bundle of hormones--I am in love.
Fresh squeezed by melly at 11:23 AM