Friday, August 22, 2008


So, I took my guitar along to the silat seminar in Las Vegas. I had some vague notion that some of the other folks there, at least a few of whom are excellent guitarists, might bring their axes, and that I might able to learn something from them. That we'd sit around after a long day and sing blues or Kumbaya ...

Didn't work out that way -- one of the guys I thought might bring his guitar was justifiably nervous about trusting his instrument to the not-so-tender-mercies of the airlines on a crowded flight.( Since I was wearing a knee brace and using a cane, I figured they'd let me board early -- which they did -- and that I'd have room to stow my guitar in the overhead compartments -- which I did. Of course, I paid for that, because the brace made the metal detector go ping! and I got to stand there with my arms out, get my hands and leg swabbed for explosive residue, and turn my shorts' waistline inside out. The detector was sensitive enough to pick up the jewelery chain around my neck. Once they realized I wasn't a terrorist and wasn't carrying anything lethal, they allowed me to move along.)

The other guitar player with great chops drove and didn't have room for his because his car was full of family and luggage.

Too bad, but I got to practice in the evenings after we were done working out and before I fell into an exhausted stupor.

(First night I was there, I didn't sleep well -- had to figure out how to use the room card to keep the energy-saver AC working, and then the idiots across the hall kept coming and going all night accompanied by much noise. After the Saturday workout, I went to shower for dinner before meeting friends, and somebody started pounding on the door across the hall again. Enough of this crap, I decided. I'll just have a word with them. Opened the door to see four uniformed hotel security guards there. One knocking on the door, another using his radio, and two flattened against the wall on either side of the door, hands on their Glock pistols.

Oh, my. Perhaps I wouldn't have a word with the occupants of 423 after all ...)

Mmm. Anyway, on the long wait for my much-delayed flight from McCarran International back to Portland, after finishing a Dean Koontz novel, I decided to find a quiet spot and do a little guitar practice. It wasn't hard because it wasn't crowded -- there were fifty or sixty people, all of us waiting for the same flight, plus airport staff in the D-terminal, though a few flights did arrive and disgorge passengers who streamed by. Shops and eateries were all shut down, bathrooms closed for cleaning.

Understand that I am primarily a woodshedder, that is, somebody who plays at home with nobody but the dogs for an audience. Back in the day when I knew three major and one minor chord and one sad way to strum them, I was happy to play at the drop of a hat for anybody with ears who would slow down enough to listen. I thought I was a cross between Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, and John Lennon, and had no shame whatsoever.

Having learned better, I am reluctant to inflict myself upon an audience. I got no chops. I enjoy playing and singing, but I don't expect people to be impressed. It's not stage fright, it's a reality check ...

So, off I toodled to an empty gate. Opened the case, tuned the beast, and spent an hour or so running through pieces I can usually manage. Good thing about a classical guitar is that you can play it very quietly, and my voice also has a "1" setting that doesn't carry too far.

A few people drifted over. Sat down nearby, made as if they didn't notice me, but listened. Couple kids ran up and stood there watching. Nobody threw money into the case, but I didn't see anybody retching violently. I was background music, very soft and low-key, and I count it as woodshedding and not a performance. It was interesting as a venue, though. Against the backdrop of slot machine tones and really tired people waiting for a plane, it's one more experience for the memory bank. I probably wasn't the first, nor the last, to play guitar down the LAS D-concourse, but I don't expect there have been all that many of us ...

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