The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

By Tommy Wells
Seward Phoenix LOG 

Just a'pickin', a'grinnin and a'hummin'


I admire people who can play musical instruments. It doesn’t really matter what instrument it is … the guitar, the drums or even the spoons. I find it amazing that someone can do that. Probably the reason I admire them is because I have trouble tuning the radio in the car.

A few years ago my youngest son decided he was going to teach himself (with help from YouTube) to play the guitar. And, if I must say so, he has become pretty darn good at it. He can probably come up with 40-50 songs by now. I’m not saying he sings like George Strait, but for sure he can play.

Really, someday when you’re looking for fun come down to the LOG office and have him strum a few chords. If it’s Halloween, I’ll sing and we’ll scare the dickens out of the trick-or-treaters.

Inspired by the fact that I should be able to do anything my youngest son can do, I decided to learn to play the guitar, too. So, I did what I had to do. I went down to the mall (keeping it as a surprise for She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Made-Mad) and purchased a guitar, a strap and two dozen of the coolest guitar picks man ever saw. Then I called Bobby and told him that I was going to learn to play.

“That’s cool, Dad,” he said. “When are you going to start?”

“I’ve already started,” I told him.

“Awesome! I’ll come by and check it out,” he said.

About a week later, Bobby walked in and asked to see the new guitar. As fate would have it, I was sitting on the couch with the instrument, practicing the correct places to put my fingers on the fret board when he came in.

“That’s a nice guitar,” he said after he hugged his mother, who was sitting beside me reading the latest volume of “How to Spend a Billion Dollars at Walmart.” “But it would be better if you put the strings on it. How have you been playing without any strings?”

“I had the strings on there earlier,” I said “But they kind of had a problem so I had to take them off.”

My son shook his head knowingly and told me not to worry about having a string break while I was learning to play. It is fairly common, he assured me, for new players to break strings, especially the smaller one at the bottom.

“It can also hurt when they snap,” he said.

“Oh, I didn’t have a string snap,” I said.

“Really? Then why are there no strings on the guitar?”

“Well, I had them on there for a few days but I found that the tips of my fingers got so sore from having to push them down that I almost called for someone to come in and put me out of my misery.”

He shook his head sympathetically again, admitting that his fingers hurt like heck when he first started. Just keep practicing, he said, and eventually I’d build up calluses on the ends of my fingers.

I told him that I knew it would take time and practice to get better, and that I was already to the stage where I could perform in front of others.

“Dad, you’ve only been playing for a week, and on only three of those days did you have strings. How can you already be playing in front of people?”

“Tommy ...” SWMNBMM said with a roll of her eyes.

“What happened, Mom?” Bobby asked.

“Tell him what happened, Tommy,” SWMNBMM said in her polite She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed tone.

“Well,” I said, “the other day one of those encyclopedia salesmen came by and we got to talking while I looked through the volumes. When we got to G, I told him about my new Guitar. He said he wanted to hear me play, so I kind of gave him an impromptu concert. I even sang the words. I’m telling you, he was so impressed he was running around bouncing off the walls, just like those groupies in the music videos. ”

“The funniest thing, though, is I think he really wanted to get out of the encyclopedia business,” I said.

“Why would you say that?” he asked.

“The whole time I was playing and singing he kept yelling ‘My grain! My grain!’”

“No,” SWMNBMM said calmly. “He was yelling ‘migraine.’

“And, because of your father and that guitar, we now have to pack up and mail all of his encyclopedias back to the encyclopedia company.”

“That is the real reason he doesn’t have any strings,” she said with a benevolent smile.

It is true. SWMNBMM has limited my guitar sessions to days that she or anyone else is not within telephoning distance, or to any time I am out of the country. To guarantee that I would not be assaulting the peace she took the strings off my instrument and put them in time out. I can assure you I haven’t come within 25 feet of those strings in several weeks.

In the meantime, Bobby can play the guitar pretty well. As for me, I can hum “Bad Moon Rising” like a pro.

And we haven’t had a door-to-door salesman in a loooong time.

(Tommy Wells is the editor of the Seward Phoenix LOG. Everything in this column is true, except for the parts that have been fabricated, exaggerated or are just plain lies.)


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