Most women carry a purse. I carry a guitar. I have been playing for more than 50 years, starting with a Blue Chip Stamp Store La Valenciana guitar in a cardboard case, working up to the Martin I play now.
I lugged my first guitar over a mile on foot to Blackford High School and by bus to West Valley College. I have carried the others to work, on trips, and to countless gigs. I have lifted them in and out of my car so many times the edges of my cases and the edges of the car have corresponding scrapes.
Guitars in their cases are big and impossible to hide. Nobody says anything about the computer in my other hand, but everywhere I go, someone has to comment about the guitar. “Hey, are you going to play for us?” “You got a gun in there?” “Do you know how to play that thing?” Men keep wanting to help me carry it. I’m fine on my own, thank you very much. It’s funny how men think women can carry babies and toddlers but not guitars, which don’t weigh as much and rarely drool.
People comment on my case a lot these days. The edges have worn completely off. I have patched them with red and zebra-striped duct tape, which is also wearing off. It looks bad, but a wise friend tells me a guitar in a trashy looking case is less likely to be stolen. I have thought about buying a new case, but this one is still perfect inside, its plush red lining offering a safe home for the guitar.
I have used “gig bags,” those plastic or leather guitar bags you can strap on like a backpack, but I’m a klutz. I keep banging them into things, which is not good for the guitar. Also, the zippers keep breaking. The hard case weighs more than the guitar, but it’s safe in there.
When I’m on the road, I may not open my case for days, but the guitar is always first out and last in. A guitar is like a dog or a baby. You can’t leave it in the car if the weather is warm. Or cold. Extreme temperatures can ruin an acoustic guitar. The wood warps, the glue melts, and the strings pop off. The guitar dies.
Back in March, I traveled to Tucson for a writing workshop. The motel was a disaster. A Mexican guy saw me dragging my guitar upstairs as I changed rooms, leaving the one with the non-functioning toilet. “What are you going to play for us?” he called. I was so tired and so pissed, I said, “Anything you want” as I continued to my corner room with my view of the wall.
On the last day of the workshop, I had to check out of my room early. The weather was too warm to leave my guitar in the car, so I carried it around all day. Everywhere I went, people wanted to know if I was going to play for them. Mostly I said something noncommittal like “maybe.” If I were carrying a book, they wouldn’t demand that I read it in front of them, but with a guitar, they somehow think I should entertain them. You might say that I should share my musical gift. I agree. But if I don’t prepare and practice privately, you’ll wish I hadn’t. Now if you want to jam, with the understanding that we’ll both make lots of mistakes, I’m ready.
Sometimes, I just want to play my guitar in the real sense of the word “play,” to amuse myself, to remember why I love the guitar so much I would carry it for miles while people make comments. Thank God I don’t play the cello.
My novel Up Beaver Creek will be available at Amazon.com this Friday! I’ll post more about that in a few days. I can’t wait to share P.D.’s story with you.