Closing a Chapter: How Far We Came

Sometimes we do not realize how far we have come until we look back to see where we began.  Maybe working to finish the “Last Lesson” post put me in a particularly reflective and egocentric mood.  This will be the last “contemplating my belly button” kind of post -- at least for the foreseeable future.

For the first lesson with Paul the Pyronaut, I made the 40-minute drive from Sacramento to Loomis.  Driving nearly one and a half hours round trip was a small price to pay for a half hour lesson devoted to surf music.  A half hour with somebody who knew the music, played the music, and was enthusiastic about the music was valuable when the usual response to "surf music" was "yeah, like the Beach Boys." 

Paul must have been confused by the potential student who sat across from him in the tiny lesson room.  He probably thought, “This will go nowhere.”  I had a black Schecter Corsair -- a somewhat over-sized 335 knockoff with a Bigsby vibrato.  That certainly did not give off any “surf vibe.”  New wave or blues, maybe.  Surf, no. 

Even though I had taken lessons for awhile, I really did not know squat.  I only knew what music I wanted to learn.  Musically, no skills were discernible.  I could not do a glissando to save my life.  Or palm mute.  I did not understand the first thing about playing surf music.  My skills were so deficient that I did not want to play for Paul out of fear of embarrassment.

In view of my “stage fright,” our half hour mostly was spent talking and with Paul demonstrating some techniques.  He concluded the session with “learn to palm mute and play glissandos.”  As he walked me down the hallway and out to the reception area, he must have thought, “I’ll never see this guy again.  He’ll have that guitar listed on eBay in a couple of months.” 

Instead of quitting, love of the music triumphed over talent deficits.  Sometime after that first lesson, we started real lessons.  We got together regularly twice a month for nearly six years.  Even after all of that, I still am not very proficient at palm muting and glissandos.  But that is no fault of the teacher.

And we played.  Paul taught me songs.  He assisted in writing songs.  He then guided three neophytes through the recording and CD release process.  He got us on stage.  Over six years, Paul and I discussed music, performing, and life in general -- happiness, loss, issues, problems, and successes.  Even though we delved into some serious matters, Paul always kept the goal for playing guitar in perspective for me -- let’s have fun.

Yes, we came a long way from that afternoon in Loomis to his last words of advice, “It’s what you make of it.” 

Thank you, Paul the Pyronaut.

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