Dick MacKenzie - www.dickshideaway.com
A most unlikely star
My younger brother remembers me from his pre-teen years as the cool guy who would often toss his guitar and sleeping bag into his Volkswagen and drive away - sometimes for weeks at a time.
Truth is, I never learned how to play that guitar. Matter of fact, I couldn’t even tune it. I did have high hopes, but somewhere in the last 50 years between then and now I gave up on the guitar and got rid of it, admitting that my musical abilities are outshone only by my mechanical skills. I describe myself as the second worst mechanic in the world. I’ve never met the worst mechanic, but leave the door open to the possibility that somewhere there’s a more pitiful specimen of a wrench wielder.
Recently a friend in town - a musical magician if ever there were one - announced he would be opening a guitar school. Immediately I pictured myself as another Keith Richards, or Chuck Berry, or Bob Dylan. I know that my musical friend is the one who’ll be able to teach me.
So, I signed up (but only after talking with him, warning him what kind of totally talentless beginner he was going to be saddled with) and searched the Internet for just the right guitar to begin my new career.
I was already at camp yesterday afternoon when my office called to tell me my “big package” had been delivered and I got so excited I popped the cork on a special bottle of wine, and spent the evening dreaming of the Christmas holidays in front of the fire strumming my new baby. I created only the most modest of aspirations. I would use the little pitch pipe that would be included and the little beginners booklet/chart that was sure to be in the box and would learn to tune my guitar. I hoped I would be able to play one note - maybe middle C.
That’s it! Simple. And I have a whole week to accomplish it.
Well, maybe, just maybe if all goes well I’ll be able to play a chord.
Okay, maybe it’s possible to learn three chords and be able to sound out some basic boogie woogie... After all, I have a whole week.
This morning I got up, had a quick breakfast, then fired up my snowmobile and hustled to town, drove to my office and sure enough, there was my big package - 57” x 29” x 6” and as light as a couple feathers. I couldn’t have been more excited if I’d won a leg lamp!
Within an hour I was back at camp and ripped open the shipping box before I got out of my snowmobile suit.
There, inside, was another box - a tiny little box. Three or four of those tiny little boxes could have fit inside.
My disappointment was exceeded only when I opened the tiny little box and discovered a midget guitar. It looks like a ukelele. No pitch pipe. No beginner’s book. No pick or extra strings. Nothing!
Suddenly I wasn’t dreaming of Keith Richards or Chuck Berry. All I could see was my face on Tiny Tim’s body strumming a miniature guitar and trilling Tiptoe Through the Tulips With Me.
I held my guitar the way I think Bob Dylan would hold it, hit the big string twice with my thumb, shook my head and muttered, “Out of tune,” and put it back in the box, and then decided to take some pictures.
Here’s a Whiskeyjack just flying away. And a Nuthatch eating suet (I seem to have gotten his head and his ass mixed up, as I don’t see a beak). There’s another picture of a nuthatch flying away (I think the sunflower seed shells blasting skyward are like little fireworks, without the fire), and the squirrel I’m trying to lure into a live trap is sneaking away on the back side instead of going in. I know he’s still around, though, because every time I open the door I can hear him chattering at me from a nearby tree.
Not all days are created equal, but there are some pleasures and lessons to be had, even on those that are not stellar. I’m thankful for good wine on a snowy day and for the joy of realizing I’m a better photographer than musician.