Writer’s Workshop: Play vs. Practice

I didn’t learn to play the guitar until I stopped taking lessons. I took lessons for over a year, and that taught me more about not playing the guitar than about how to play.

I had a hand-me-down guitar from my cousin, and my friend Willy had a ukulele. Neither of us knew what the hell we were doing, but we’d get together once or twice a week and bang on our instruments, make lots of noise, and sing goofy songs. I talked about it here.

Anyway, we were driving our moms crazy, so they decided to sign us up for guitar lessons. Willy got a guitar, and the two of us were off to the Marion Cole School of Dance and Music to take lessons from a guy named Stan. Stan told us both to get Mel Bay’s Modern Guitar Method and a thin guitar pick, and come back the next week.

After a couple of weeks of ol’ Mel, I wondered what the hell I was learning. I knew other people who played the guitar, and they didn’t do anything like I was learning how to do. My Aunt Bitsy would come to our house, grab my guitar, and play all kinds of songs, like "Edelweiss," "Green Back Dollar," "Yellow Bird," and "Sloop John B". Meanwhile, I was struggling to learn the notes in the key of C on all the strings. My mother told me that I was learning real music, music that I had to read off the staff and all that. Screw that noise, I thought to myself, I want to play the guitar, not read notes off the staff.

Willy did fine. He took to it like a duck to water, and soon was on to Mel Bay’s Modern Guitar Method, Volume 2. Meanwhile, I was still dragging myself through "The Volga Boatman" and the ever-popular "Etude #2." I really hated Mel Bay by this point, and swore, if I ever met him, I would knee him right in the groin.

Stan wasn’t much better. Stan was a real jerk to start with, and I probably made matters worse by not practicing. Oh, I was playing the guitar just fine by then; I just wasn’t playing what he assigned me to play. They actually threatened to call my Mom. I begged them not to, then went home and told Mom I hated the lessons and Stan was a jerk and it was a real long walk to the studio and that I wanted out. She was amenable to that, and I called the Marion Cole School of Dance and Music and told them to take their guitar lessons and shove them where the sun didn’t shine. Well, I was a little nicer than that…

I considered burning Mel Bay’s Modern Guitar Method, but settled for throwing it in the garbage. Thus liberated, I went on to play the guitar and actually have fun doing it. I was doing what I should have done in the first place…

Writers Workshop: I’m All Over The Place Here…

This week, I was looking at the prompts, and every time I’d start one, I’d ask, "hey, haven’t I done this already?" So I’d check, and lo and behold, yes I had. Since Saturday is our 45th anniversary, I was going to do #5, "Write about your proposal," and found that I already had.

Then, I thought of doing #1, "Write a blog post inspired by the word: fly," and saw I had done that one as well.

I checked the next one, "Tell us about a crush you had when you were younger." Uh-huh. Kat even said to me, "JOHN HOLTON STOP REMEMBERING THE PROMPTS YOU’VE ALREADY WRITTEN ON!!! lol! I’m going to start asking you to submit new prompts so that I can add them to the Spring list of writing topics!" I’m sure I did, but they might have gotten lost, or maybe I didn’t.

Anyway, I’ll come up with more and send them on to her, because I like this weekly exercise and I like Kat even more. If you have any, you can pass them on, or send them to her. I’m going to comb through some of the prompts I’ve seem with some of the other blog hops I participate in and see if any of them are appropriate (or can be made so), and pass them along. I have several books of them as well.

Okay, on to this week’s questions:

The older I get, the more I realize that I’ve done a lot of dumb things in my life, and made a lot of mistakes, but the one decision I made that I know was a good one was asking Mary to marry me. She’s always doing nice things for me, particularly in my current condition. I need help doing a lot of things now, including dressing and bathing, and I know that’s a real pain for her to do, but she does so without complaining. She does all the driving, and in fact is the one who does the shopping, though lately we’ve been using Instacart to do the shopping. That way, they do all the heavy lifting.

I used to take a limo service to the airport that was run by a man from Nigeria named Bernard. We were good friends, and as far as I know he’s still doing it. He was also their only driver. This one Sunday, I was leaving Atlanta, and Mary, who had been visiting her folks, was flying back in. I arranged with Bernard to drop me off, then pick her up and take her home.

Anyway, I was at the gate waiting for my flight, and I hear Mary calling my name. Bernard had gone to the gate to pick her up (this was long before 9/11), and when he saw my flight hadn’t left yet, he brought her by to see me, since I was going to be gone all week. It wasn’t the last time someone did something nice for me, but it’s one that stands out in my mind.

Mary and I are not into Valentine’s Day. We treat it like any other day, and don’t buy gifts for each other. I tried once: I bought her a red knit top with lace down the front, and she thanked me, but never wore it, and it became kind of a joke between us.

I’ve talked about our first Valentine’s Day, when we went to see Sarah Vaughn and Count Basie at the Park West, a concert venue where you sit at long tables and have a couple of drinks during the show. Our seats were right up front, facing the stage, right in front of the horn section, the standard four trumpets, four trombones, and four "woodwinds," all of whom play saxophone, a few of whom play flute and/or clarinet. They were all seated when Count and his longtime guitarist, Freddie Green, came onstage. One look at each other, and they were off to the races. Then the horns came in, and practically blew us over. Mary was shocked at first that it was SO LOUD, but as the show went on she really enjoyed it. I, of course, was in heaven. We really had fun: we were seated across the table from two middle-aged gentlemen who were clearly a couple, and somehow it just made the experience even better, because they were really funny.

Writer’s Workshop: The Business of Business is Business

Image by Marcin from Pixabay

In my Saturday post, I talked about my early career and my life as a production supervisor at a food manufacturing company, and thinking about Charles, who was the president of the company and who really built the business after I left. (Not that my working there and leaving had anything to do with the company’s growth.) I mentioned that, having seen the company’s growth, I was sorry that I had left, but you can see things more clearly looking back on them.

The majority of my career was spent at a software company, and the majority of that time was spent as an instructor for several of the company’s products. In those years, I worked with a lot of clients, including federal, state, and local governments, hospitals, grocery chains, retailers, food processors, banks, insurance companies, public utilities, airlines, school boards, universities, heavy manufacturing, and the list goes on. The closer I worked with a company, the more I learned about the company and what they were using our software for. That was the interesting part of the job, learning what the companies did and what types of clients used their services, and how they stayed in business. Sometimes I was called on to help them during a merger, other times during bankruptcy, and still other times during reorganization. That’s where it gets really interesting, because I was called on not just to know how the software worked but something about the business end of it. A friend of mine, who was a CPA, once said that I knew a hell of a lot more accounting than I let on. In my case, it was survival, and I certainly got my money’s worth out of the three accounting courses that I took back in the ’70’s.

I’ve been retired since 2014, not entirely voluntarily. There are times I’ll wake up in the middle of the night with a problem on my mind that I remember solving, and I’ll try to remember what I did then and try to see if I could take a different approach to solving it today. I usually fall asleep before I arrive at an answer…

Writer’s Workshop: Stop!

I learned about an AI program called Genie yesterday, and thought I would try it out on today’s prompt, “Write a blog post inspired by the word: stop.”

Stop and take a moment to appreciate the beauty of life. We often get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of our daily lives that we forget to take a step back and appreciate the little things. From the sun rising in the morning to the stars twinkling in the night sky, there is so much beauty to be found in the world around us. Take a moment to stop and appreciate the beauty of life. You may be surprised at how much joy it can bring.

Enh… could be worse, but it has a nice theme to it. Kind of like that song “Stop And Smell The Roses” that Mac Davis did back in the ’70’s.

So, stop and appreciate the good things around you. You’ll find there’s a lot of it.

Writer’s Workshop: Made Me Laugh

I’m supposed to share something that made me laugh this past week. Here are a couple of things:

No doubt, you remember the famous video of Rick Astley singing his huge hit, “Never Gonna Give You Up.”

Well, he’s redone the video as part of a commercial for AAA, some 35 years later…

Mary found this one: it’s a rescue beaver building a dam in the house around Christmas.

Maybe that’s more cute than funny, but I got a laugh out of it. This is from the description box:

This beaver is being raised by wildlife rehabbers after being orphaned as a newborn. Her parents were killed and their dam and lodge destroyed. Beavers are classified as nuisance animals in many US states and can be killed anytime. Beavers need to spend 2 years with their human rehabbers. They need to have lots of opportunities to practice instinctive behaviors. This beaver enjoys playing this game inside the house but lives with the other orphaned beavers outside most of the time. We hope you fall in love ! This misunderstood and unique species needs lots of it!

So let’s be good to the beavers, all right?