275. Altered Images

As it turns out, I wasn’t the only one contemplating a trip to another planet that night. Chris and Paco had picked up some peyote from someone they’d met in the park and I later found out they were in fact “tripping their brains out.” I also found out that the someone might have been the same two women Ziggy and I got the bracelets from.

Colin told me about the peyote when I sat down to give him a guitar lesson before lunch.

“Are they going to be okay?” I asked.

“Oh yeah. They’re sleeping it off now. I hear it’s a very spiritual and kinda commune-with-the-Earth sort of trip,” Colin said. We were sitting on low couches in one of the dressing rooms. Colin looked taller than he was, with his knees too high and the Takamine sort of perched there. “Once they wake up they’ll be fine.”

“You’re not just saying that.”

“No, I’m not just saying that. I’ve never heard of anyone dying from peyote.”

“I’ve never even heard of anyone taking peyote,” I countered.

“Point, but no, it’s really not something to worry about. I checked and they were both snoring.” He smirked a little.

“Okay, enough gossip, from the top, MHFL.”

He made it through Mary Had a (Fucking) Lamb easily enough, so I cranked up the heat a bit. “Okay, let’s play something together.”

“You didn’t call what we just did playing together?” Colin looked up with what I can only describe as the hairy eyeball.

“I mean together but not in unison.” I tried to remember something that would work for this. Something Remo taught me. “Here. Follow me.”

I took him note by note through a pretty simple Irish folk tune. I’ll be damned if I can remember the name. Someone or another’s jig, I think. We played it a lot slower than a jig, though.

“Right, here’s the new bit, you’re learning to double pick here, too. So instead of just some notes being down and some being up, some are like this.” I gave it a little repeated flourish which made it sound very Irish.

“I didn’t know you knew folk music,” he said.

“Hush. I know a hell of a lot more music than you’ve ever heard leaking out from under my door, too,” I said. Which was true. When was the last time I played around with flamenco? Put it on the to do list, Daron. “Focus on what you’re playing right now.”

He flubbed a couple of the notes, but he got the picking right. I played it through with him a couple of times in unison, until it was starting to sink in.

“Okay, keep doing that.” I listened to him go around one more time with the A section, and then I came in with the B section.

He crashed and burned immediately. “What’s that?’

“Don’t worry about that. Just keep playing.”

“But I want to hear it.”

“I promise I’ll play it for you next. Now go on…” I picked up the A section again and it was like his hands were listening to me even if his brain wasn’t, and he followed along.

This time we got further through, with him playing the A section and me playing he B section, at the same time. This trick didn’t work on most of the folk tunes I knew, but it did on this one. I made a mental note to ask Remo next time I saw him if he remembered what it was called.

Sure enough, when we got to the end, Colin asked, “What’s it called?”

“Colin’s Folly,” I said, but he didn’t seem to realize it was a joke. “Actually, I don’t remember. Okay, ready to learn the B section?”

“Is that the part you were doing?”

“Yeah. The tricky bit is that it goes up the neck more than you’ve done so far.”

“That’s all right,” he said with a sly smile. “My fingers are longer than yours.”

“Yeah, well, my dick’s longer than yours,” I said. “Seriously, don’t underestimate how much you need to move your hand. You’re better off moving it than giving yourself tendonitis from trying to reach and acting like your thumb is glued in place.”

But every beginner acts like their thumb has been glued to a spot. So his fingers might have been a little achy by the time we were done. But once he’d learned both sections, we could just start going around, swapping from A to B when we felt like it, so that sometimes we were in unison and sometimes we were harmonizing.

And I saw that moment when his eyes sort of glazed over, when his fingers started doing all the thinking and his brain disconnected completely.

It didn’t last long; he jarred himself out of it with a wrong note, but it was cool while it lasted. He shook himself a little, like he was waking up.

“That doesn’t happen when you’re singing, does it?” I asked him.

“Nope. I used to check out sometimes in band practice, but… I think this was different.”

I nodded. “And some people never get there.”

“Well, the way you play is pretty hypnotizing as it is.”

“But that’s just it, Col. It wasn’t my playing that did it. It was yours.” I set the Ovation aside then and yawned. “You did it to yourself.”

“Huh.” He looked a little skeptical, but set his guitar aside also. “I’ll have to think about that.”

“No, don’t think,” I said in a half-Yoda voice. “Only do.”

He snorted. “Yes, sensei.” And then he was back to being talkative. “So who taught you to play the guitar anyway?”

Remo Cutler taught me at first, just a couple of lessons, and then I started playing on my own and teaching myself mostly. I had some lessons at summer school, too, rudimentary stuff but it was good to learn the fundamentals. And I had different lessons at summer arts camp for classical, folk, and electric guitar. That was where I learned blues improv, too.” I shrugged. “Some lessons at the local music store, too. Anyone and anything I could learn from, I did.”


“I had no life outside of playing the guitar,” I said. No long-lasting friends, no sports, no other hobbies. One disastrous attempt at Boy Scouts at Digger’s urging had been enough to keep him from pushing me to join anything else. Thinking about it made me laugh. “Not that this has changed.”

“At least you’re getting to see the country,” he said.

“And so are you.”

“True.” He smiled and looked like a happy puppy.

“Now play that through twenty more times,” I said, as I stood up. “Before tomorrow. That’s your homework.”

“I’ll do it now,” he said, and picked up the Takamine again.

“I bet you won’t,” I said, cracking my knuckles.

“You doubt my commitment?”

“I doubt your fingers can take it.” I waggled my fingertips at him.

He went to play a chord and let go the neck after a moment. “Holy hell, you’re right. They hurt.”

“Until your calluses build up, that’s about as much playing as you’ll be able to take in one sitting. In fact, we probably overdid it a little.”

He sucked on the ends of his fingers and tried to talk at the same time. “Do I still have to practice, even though they hurt?” he managed to say.

“Yes,” I said. “You’ll build up the calluses twice as fast. Twenty times. Not right now if it’s too much.”

He took a deep breath like he was steeling himself to practice right then, but then let it out. “Okay, later. I’ll do it in between tuning guitars.”

“There you go.”

I felt a little bit bad about putting him through that. But something about the puppydog looks Colin gave me made me want to push him. It wasn’t sadistic or anything…. well, okay, maybe a little.

“You’re a good teacher,” he said, as we put the guitars away and went to look for lunch.

That just made me want to push him more.


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