Thursday, June 3, 2010

19 Days Until NMA Reunion

When I awoke this morning at around 5:00 am, I thought I was dreaming: I smelled fresh coffee and a light seemed to be on downstairs. Going down to the kitchen, I saw Dracrevocsid, the Lady of Lake Taneycomo looking in the cupboards for a coffee cup and I said, "Oh, it's you... What are..." She held her hand up, palm toward me as if to say "stop" and then said, "Don't talk to me. Not until I've had my cup of coffee." "But...," I began, whereupon she gave me the look and said, "Not... until I've had me cup of coffee!" Mindful that she could turn me into a newt, if she so desired, I shut my open mouth and waited patiently while she sipped her cup of coffee. Finally, she asked cheerfully, "Would you like a cup?" and while it crossed my mind that it was my coffee and my cup, I thought it best not to say anything but, "Thanks. I would."

"I see that you've been practicing diligently. That is good. What have you been working on?" she asked. "Well, I've been playing a lot of scales and exercises to increase the speed in which my pick hand changes strings. People don't seem to know this, but your pick hand is one of the hardest things to master. You see, it's like this..." "Yes, yes..." she said, "I'm sure it's all very interesting, but what have you been working on which does not involve picking scales or whatever?" "Oh, well, I've been working hard on learning or relearning a few chord solos, especially a chord solo by Barney Kessel called It Could Happen to You. Some of Barney's chords are real stretchers, sometimes across 5 or 6 frets, while others are so close that you have to mash your fingers into the frets, especially as they get smaller up the neck. His fingers must have been really long and really thin. In fact, I'm beginning to think that Barney was actually an alien from another planet or a government experiment or something."

"Yes," said Cradrevocsid, ominously, "You might be surprised at how close to the truth you are."

"Jeez," she said, glancing at her watch which, I couldn't help but notice, was a Rolex, "You sure get up at an un-godlike hour." I pointed out, "Wow, that sure is a nice watch you have" "Yes," she said, "It was given to me by some of the musicians in the shows down in Branson." Noticing the surprised look on my face, she laughed and said, "You didn't think you were my only client, did you? In fact, my phone has been ringing constantly since you started this blog thing. Yes, I work with many other musicians in the Ozarks and they wanted to express their appreciation. Oh, I suppose that accepting such a gift, strictly speaking, could be construed as being against union policy, but..." Incredulous, I interrupted, "You don't mean to say that you are unionized, do you?" "Why, yes," she said, proudly, "Amalgamated Union of Angels, Trolls, Ladies of the Lakes and Other Musical Magical Beings, Ozarks Chapter Six and Seven-Eighths."

"I guess I just never thought of you as being organized," I said, and she replied, "Oh yes, a subsidiary of the Teamsters, you know. Union, and damn proud of it!" she said, looking over the top of her glasses as though daring me to object. Having seen that look on the faces of some members of the Musicians Union (also a subsidiary of the Teamsters) I thought it best to change the subject: "I never realized that Angels, etc. were into jazz." "Oh yes," she said, "at our union jam sessions, Ladies of the Lakes usually supply the instrumentalists while the Angels supply the lead and back-up singers." "What do the Trolls do?" I asked. "Drums, of course," she sniffed, "It's good for them. Gives them something to do besides bang on rocks with sticks until either the rocks or sticks break," and she giggled "They always look so confused when their sticks break."

She went on to say, "I well know what you've been working on: It Could Happen to You... over and over and over... But what I want to know is how you feel about what you've been working on." "Okay," I said, "I've been practicing really hard on..." "Again," she interrupted, "I want to know how you feel about what you've been working on. Sorry, but my last job before taking the Lady of Lake Taneycomo gig was as a psychologist at the Veteran's Administration, or have I already mentioned that? (and of course, she had mentioned it many times before) No matter. Old habits take a lot of time to break, and five o'clock in the morning is no time to start breaking them."

"I guess I feel a bit nervous, now that you ask," I said, "I mean I know I've been working very hard to regain my chops before the NMA Reunion. I'm doing all I can, and there's only so much a mortal can do ("Ain't that the truth!" she interjected) so there's nothing left but to keep practicing, play as well as I can, and try to quit being nervous. But... it's really hard not to be nervous."

"It sounds to me," she said, "as though you've got a bit of stage fright. But let me ask: do you ever read the obituaries?" "Sometimes..." I said, puzzled as to why she would ask such a question. "Just 'sometimes'?" she asked. "Well... maybe just on Sundays..." I answered. "Just on Sundays...?" she prodded. "Okay," I admitted, "Often. I read the obituaries often... You see, in a strange way, it comforts me. I'm 57 years old and have 'wasted' a lot of time and, musically speaking, I have about 30 more years of things to say. It comforts me to see how many people live to be 80 or 90 years or more." "Yes," she said, drolly, "I'm sure it's all very therapeutic. So in all your readings have you ever noticed what these people usually die from?" "Sure," I said, "Things like cancer, heart attacks, strokes... sometimes just old age." "Well, then," she continued, "Have you ever noticed the cause of death as being 'stage fright'?" "No," I admitted. Going on, she asked, "Can we then conclude that nobody ever died from stage fright?" "Yes," I said, "I guess nobody has died from stage fright. I can see where this is going... You are trying to show me that, stage fright won't kill me and that I should just prepare as well as I can for the NMA reunion." "Good," she congratulated me, "You catch on pretty quickly for a mere mortal."

"And since," she said, "we can surmise that you won't die of stage fright and that you should just prepare for the reunion as best you can, where does that leave us?" "It seems," I said, "that it leaves us where our conversations usually leave us: I should quit whining and go practice." "Good...," she said in a patronizing tone, "I think we've had a breakthrough. Now, don't you feel better?" I had to admit that I did feel somewhat better so, mumbling under my breath that she hadn't been kidding about the psychologist thing," I picked up Axecalibur and began to practice.

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