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Drumsticks and Dog Tricks



We were driving around on a Saturday not long ago, running errands and thinking about a place to get some lunch. Joan was driving, and I was putting my passenger time to good use by talking too much and singing along to the radio.


During one song, I started tapping my feet and gently slapping my legs to the rhythm of the music. “Man, I’d love to play the drums,” I said, first to myself, then louder, “I’d love to get a drum set.”


I could feel Joan looking at me, not with her eyes (after all, she was driving), but with her mind. “A drum set? Seriously?” she replied with irritated impatience. “At your age, you want to learn a new instrument? And just where and when are you going to play these drums? Are you going to start a band? Where are you going to put them? We don’t have room for a full drum set. And the noise. Oh my God, I can’t even believe how loud they’d be. Have you thought this out … at all?”


In reality, Joan said none of those things. Instead, after a brief pause to digest my comment (she's an old pro in waiting a beat after one of my "brilliant" notions), she simply – and sincerely – said, “Well, then I think you should look into getting a set.” And with that, she continued driving as though she hears comments like mine – from people my age – every day. (I’m relatively sure she doesn’t.)


After another brief pause to digest her comment, this was my reply. “Seriously?” I replied sheepishly and a bit apologetically for even hatching such an idea, much less verbalizing it. “I’m not sure at my age I should be looking into learning a new instrument. And, where and when would I play them? It’s not like I’m going to start a band. And where would I put them? We don’t exactly have room for a full drum set … do we? And what about the noise? I can’t even believe how loud they’d be. I guess I really haven’t thought this out … at all.”


After another brief pause, Joan got the last word. “Well,” she came back, never taking her eyes off the road (she’s an excellent driver; very attentive), “I think if you really want to do it, you owe it to yourself to see what’s out there.”


Here’s the back story. I love music, and for what my limited skills allow, I like to play music. I have a couple of guitars which I play at a “novice to serviceable” level, along with a ukulele and a couple of harmonicas. It’s a fun hobby, learning songs I like and playing them in the basement, sometimes wishing I would have been more serious about it years ago, when maybe I could have joined or started a band or played local open mic nights.


The thing is, last spring, I injured my left hand in a stupid, freak incident. Not only is it my dominant hand, but for a guitar player, the left hand shapes the notes and chords (unless you’re playing it left-handed, which ironically as a leftie, I don’t).


Anyway, now eight months removed from the incident, I still have numbness in a couple fingers, and it’s been slow going to get back into “guitar shape.” In truth, things may never quite get back to normal for my hand. Not a big deal, since I don’t make my living as a guitar player, or a surgeon or someone who manually threads needles. And since I do have good strength and decent utility of that hand overall, I feel fortunate. (So many people have issues that make mine trivial. I also think about that, and that snaps me out of instances in which I’m feeling sorry for myself.)


Nonetheless, it’s been something of a “bummer” that I can’t just pick up one of my guitars and start playing. It’s become more like work. And that’s what led me to think about the drums. Born with a solid sense of rhythm and better-than-average hand-eye coordination (which still has me baffled that I’m not a better golfer), I believe I could “do” the drums. Could I “do” them well? Jury’s out on that (you know, the “old dog/new tricks” thing), but I think I could at least get to the same “novice to serviceable” virtuosity of my guitar/ukulele/harmonica playing … with time and practice, of course.


Plus, I think it would be a ton of fun. When I think about it, it takes me back to the episode of The Brady Bunch when Mike and Carol were searching for an activity for Bobby, one he could have all to himself, and frankly, a diversion that would keep him from being a pain in everyone’s ass.


After much consideration, they (Mike, Carol and Bobby) chose the drums, and after originally locating his “hobby” in Mike’s den, it was decided he needed an exclusive practice space. That landed him in the carport, banging away like Animal from The Muppets, far away from the family and Alice, and to the chagrin of the rest of the neighborhood.


(This should not be confused with the time Mike and Carol bought Bobby a pool table, which also ended up in the carport. I’m starting to think maybe they were simply looking for an excuse to estrange from this kid, but knowing they couldn’t just throw him out on the street, and that if they offered boarding school to him, maybe all the kids would want that -- and how would they afford all that tuition on an architect’s salary? -- they opted for the next best thing … the carport.)


But I digress. Will I get drums? Probably not. Would I like drums? Like Bobby, you’re damn right I would. And also like Bobby, I’d love a pool table in our basement.


But really what I’d love is if my hand would get just a little better, just enough so I could get back to the “novice to serviceable” level of guitar playing that has brought me so much satisfaction all these years. Then, I wouldn’t even need to think about things like drum sets, pool tables or The Brady Bunch.


But, if my hand doesn’t improve, then I guess this “old dog” will have to learn some new tricks to find a more creative way to play my favorite songs. If only Mike and Carol were here with the sage and well-timed advice featured in the last three minutes of every episode.


But I guess I’m on my own on this one.


© 2022 David R. Haznaw







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