Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Roof guitar

Back in the 1980s, my girlfriend had a guitar and encouraged me to learn it. I have an interest in music, and I sometimes thought I might be good at creating it1. But I have no musical ability.

Here's how I know... I used to go up on the roof of the apartment building, when I was in my guitar mania phase, and "jam." I tried out a few chords. But see, they were my own chords, not the chords other people play. I thought that one should be able to approach guitar playing the way one approaches self love: Just do whatever feels good, and something will come out.

The main thing was to play with energy, a driving rhythm. I broke several of her guitar strings over the course of a month or so.

I made up "songs" which were a series of "chords" strung together and played really, really hard. I never learned to pick, because it was too difficult.

Now, imagine that you had put a young Jimi Hendrix on the roof of a building with a guitar, before he'd ever learned anything about playing it. I think that over a few days or even a few hours, he'd figure the thing out, and some pretty sweet sounds would result.

I'm no Jimi Hendrix.

When it comes to guitar, I'm not even Richard Nixon, or Alan Greenspan. Or Koko the gorilla.

Or Teri Shiavo.

The neighbors knew this. See, I somehow thought that by being on the roof, the sound of my "playing" was vanishing up into the troposphere, unheard by those below.

But imagine having some jerk on your roof, clashing away at a guitar. You know how awful that would sound? My girlfriend was never around when I practiced on the roof, because I would go up there when she was gone, for lack of anything better to do. So she never told me.

In my usual style, I will find a way to criticize them despite the fact that I was the transgressor. This: They didn't have the courage to go up on the roof themselves and ask me to stop, or leave a note in the hall or on the roof or something like that. I think that they called the manager. He came over and told me no guitar playing was allowed on the roof. Not long after that, I went up on the roof to play again ("He can't be serious about that silly rule. And besides, no one can hear me."). That time, I heard a very loud and prolonged guttural moan of frustration coming up the central gap that all our bathroom windows vented into.

I don't think the moan came from Peeping Tom, the guy who'd moved in with the single mom right across from us. Her son, who was five or less, and who watched the A-Team on TV, once told my girlfriend: "War is good, because it gets rid of the bad people." Now you know why my kids don't watch TV.

I once caught Peeping Tom looking in disappointment at my tits. I lived in that place with my gf and her art school friend, a woman. I suppose that would make it like Three's Company, but I wasn't pretending to be gay. You know, I watched many episodes of that show in the '70s, and as a kid, I never caught on that Jack Ridder was supposed to be (or be pretending to be) gay. I did catch that he was crazy wild for Suzanne Sommers. But otherwise I just thought that he was pretending to be silly, or childish, and non-threatening.

My gf and her roommate kept the bathroom window open so that the steam would vent out into the central gap. Everyone did, I suppose. But that gave Peeping Tom a chance to lie or squat by his front door and watch a titty show as my gf or her roommate showered. Yum. As I mentioned, once I bent down to pick up the soap and saw him looking back at me with a sour look on his face. I guess it was because I'm so flat.

I think it was someone else who released the Moan of Agony, because it didn't sound like Peeping Tom's voice, and the direction of origin was wrong. I think it was the aspiring chiropractor.

After the Moan of Agony, I suddenly realized that people did hear me and did not like it. I quickly slunk down into the apartment and put the guitar away, forever. My girlfriend was just coming home at that moment. "Were you singing?" she asked.


"Oh, because I thought I heard you singing at the end there. It sounded kind of feral."

"Nope, not me"

No, don't mention the GarageBand software.

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