Thursday, June 01, 2006

Andrea and I just got back from a visit to my parents out in Warwick. I sometimes wonder if flying isn't something like giving birth. Apparently there's a process that mothers go through where they forget just how bad the actual birth process was once it's over - nature's little defense mechanism.

There was a period on the airplane last night when, after having flown several hours out of our way (we flew from Boston to Phoenix by way of Seault St. Marie) we still had to fly between two major lines of thunderstorms. So I'm sitting in the airplane, with Andrea snoozing on my left, and the plane starts shaking. Really shaking. Intense buffeting - we're flying into a serious headwind. This is the kind of buffeting that makes me seriously think about where I am in the timeline of my mindstream, and try to do the practice of not feeling attached to my present body, so that if I find myself suddenly ripped from it I won't freak out, but will just move on happily to the next rebirth with the Wish to help others firmly in my mind.

And then the pilot gets on and says "sorry, folks, I'm going to have to put on the fasten seatbelt sign because this turbulence is going to continue for at least another fifteen minutes." And I'm thinking to myself "great, I have to do this practice of not being scared shitless due to attachment to my present life for fifteen fucking minutes?!?"

Well, really, I'm supposed to be becoming a great meditator, and fifteen minutes is nothing, but just then it was looking like a really long time. But what are you going to do? You can't get out and walk.

The thing is, I have this experience pretty much every time I get in an airplane. I really, really don't like flying. I know that my visceral reaction to the situation is not supported by a genuine risk analysis, but the problem isn't that I'm at risk - it's that I'm having a really unpleasant visceral reaction.

But I have commitments that require me to fly, so I fly anyway. And I think the only thing that lets me get back on the airplane again and again is another completely irrational human capacity - the capacity to forget just how bad an experience was.

I'm not sure what this says about anything - I'm just making an observation about the human condition, I guess, as it emanates in the form of my own personal experience.

On a happier note, the visit to my parents was nice. I never really feel like I get enough of a visit with my mother, but it was nice to see her, and we had some nice chats. Mel and I traded our usual affectionate barbs. But the highlight of the trip for me was that I brought my guitar along.

I hadn't originally intended to, and frankly Andrea isn't entirely pleased about the whole bringing the guitar along thing, but it was nice. We're a fairly musical family; I think my father had hopes when I was a kid that I'd follow in his footsteps and become a piano virtuoso, but for a variety of reasons that didn't happen. I always felt like I ought to be a keyboard player - my big hero when I was a kid was Rick Wakeman, who I think embodied the qualities of my father's piano playing - he's wonderful both at playing jazz and classical, but Rick had long hair and played in a rock band, so I could at the same time admire the qualities I liked in my father, but have a comfortably rebellious teen idol.

So I spent a lot of time and money on the keyboard playing ambition, and I actually got to the point where I could play a couple of pieces pretty well, but never got any kind of visceral connection with keyboard playing - I never got to the point where I could play the sounds that I heard in my head, and once I got to the point where I could play the toccata and part of the fugue from Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor, I never really felt like practicing. So I'd have these $2k keyboards lying around collecting dust, and I would eventually get disgusted and sell them.

I don't know for sure that the guitar is different, but there is something visceral about it that was missing from the keyboard experience. It reminds me of my reaction to a friend's harp that I got to play once about ten years ago. Maybe it's the physical strings, I don't know - if I could have managed to have a real piano, I might have stuck with it, but they're kind of bulky.

So anyway, I showed up at my parents' house with a guitar, and we wound up pulling out my father's guitar that he hadn't played in 25 years (man was it dusty) and he started showing me things. When I was a kid, with the piano, that didn't go very well, but this time it went really nicely. I now know six or seven more chords than I knew last week, I know the standard key of E blues progression, and a couple of hard chords like G and F. Still working on C. I'm getting close to the point where I might be able to do a fairly decent accompaniment for House of the Rising Sun.

Anyway, it was a lot of fun sitting with my father learning some things about guitar. As far as regular guitar practice goes, I feel a little funny if I don't practice for a day. Practice right now consists mostly of reviewing chords and playing with the relationships between them, but this is very different than the practice I used to do with the keyboard - that practice was 0% theoretical and 100% "can I play this particular piece?".

Traveling with the guitar was a little exciting - when it came out on the carousel at Logan, two of the three latches on the case were not latched. I don't know if this was due to TSA not latching them after searching it, or due to the latches just coming undone during handling, but it was a little disquieting. On the way back the guy at checkin hand-carried the guitar through to TSA, and made sure they latched it, and when it came out on the carousel it was still latched, so I suspect some fumble-fingeredness on the part of the Tucson TSA, but who knows? Sigh. I can see the blog headline now: "Terrorists wrecked my guitar." It'll be interesting to see how the luggage fares on the way to India...


Anonymous Stephen said...

It sounds to me like that flight was a wish-fulfilling jewel. :)

Sunday, June 04, 2006 9:25:00 PM  
Blogger Ted Lemon said...

Oh, definitely. I always get in a good death meditation when I fly. But that doesn't mean that I wouldn't rather drive, if that were an option.

Sunday, June 04, 2006 10:04:00 PM  

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