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A Creative Outlet

When I was a kid, my parents encouraged me to try various musical pursuits. Their own experience led them to not subject their boys to piano lessons, although looking back, I think they regretted it a bit. Phil might even have had a lesson or two. I never did.

I started playing violin in 4th or 5th grade and played in the orchestra through high school, eventually reaching first chair of second (or maybe even first) violin -- at least whenever we had a concert. There was a girl who wanted to be first chair that I would let win when she challenged me and we weren't getting ready for a concert. But I would challenge her and win before the concerts. It sounds more nefarious than it actually was. We referred to each other as "sectional partners" because we were in the same section of the orchestra.

In middle-school, I got an acoustic guitar and, with my brother's help, taught myself to play. In high school, I got an electric guitar. It was a cheap stratocaster knockoff, but was actually a pretty good instrument. I played constantly -- often practicing three hours a day. My father found the incessant noise almost intolerable. My mom (Happy Mother's Day!) said she was just happy to know where I was and that I was doing what I wanted.

I mostly played by myself, but also played with friends and in a few groups. I performed a few times solo and with groups.

Some people tell me I was a pretty good guitar player. I never really felt like I was all that good at it. I had a pretty good ear and learned a few tricks, but I certainly never really felt like I mastered it. I played with a lot of different people and felt like I could be a pretty good backup player, but never much of a lead player. Still, it was a good creative outlet and was great therapy for getting out a lot of teenage anger.

When I got to college, I started to find I couldn't make time to practice. And, after I played a jam session with someone who was really, really good (I was later told he was one of Aretha Franklin's grand-children) I decided to quit playing guitar. I could see that no matter how much I practiced, I was never going to be all that. And I was having a hard time finding any time to practice (I was a double major in Biology and Spanish). It felt like it was a lot of time and effort that just wasn't going to lead anywhere.

I probably didn't touch a guitar for 20 years.

When my kids were little, I thought about picking up the guitar again. Daniel wanted a guitar and so we got him one. But he soon tired of it and I felt like I was trying to make him do something for what I wanted rather than what he wanted.

Recently, however, I've felt a need for a new creative outlet. I poked around a bit and saw an inexpensive stratocaster knockoff that only cost new about what I paid for the old used guitar I had back in the day. It had good ratings, so I went ahead and bought it.

When Daniel heard I had bought I guitar, he looked at me. "I have a guitar," he said. "Yes, you do," I replied.

Although it came a couple days ago, I've been so busy with graduation, I didn't have time to do more than put it in tune until today. But today, I played until my fingers were sore -- which didn't really take all that long. And I'll do the same for a while, until I build up some calluses. I don't know whether it will lead anywhere or not, but I'm old enough now that I don't really care.