March 2, 2020:

First encounter with the world of ineptitude.

The guitar they sold her is defective. It has a fixed bridge and its intonation is incorrect, meaning, it cannot be tuned. Yet every adult involved in that purchase and in my guitar lessons blamed the poor tuning on me. My mother with her degree in music told me flatly and repeatedly, You're tone deaf.

They all had their agendas. The shop wanted to not buy back defective guitars. The instructor wanted to not lose students. My mother wanted there to be no noise of any sort coming from our apartment. It all went hand-in-hand, where blaming the victim solved all of these problems in one easy gesture.

The instructor set out to teach me to sight read "On Top of Old Smokey" from volume one of the Mel Bay guitar series. I don't know if that was his mandate from on high, meaning, the mother who paid his weekly fee. Or if it was his own incompetent suggestion. Either way. My goal was to play "Roll Over Beethoven". So that "On Top of Old Smokey" was shall we say something of a letdown.

There were moments when we came close to the cruxes. Once in exasperation I handed the guitar to my music major mother, saying, "You tune it, then." She couldn't. I remember her look of puzzlement, and I remember there was no exchange of words, she simply handed it back. So close yet so far. If she were competent she'd have figured it out, but, she trusted "the experts" to sell her the right thing. So that ended there.

Another time also in exasperation I summoned up my inner expert to tell the instructor I didn't want to learn "On Top of Old Smokey", or, "She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain" or any of the other shit Nineteenth Century folksongs for morons he wanted to teach. I wanted to play Beatles songs. So he handed me "Michelle", without question the single most emetic mistake McCartney ever made (I blame weed).

It's very difficult to revolt when you're ten. You trust the adults to do the right thing, and you can't really confront their misplaced authority, you can only subvert it. I subverted the false school by pretending to be sick. I subverted the guitar lessons by not practicing. In the end in frustration the teacher dropped me, saying, "I can't do anything with this child."

For the rest of my childhood my mother sincerely believed I was tone deaf and had no sense of rhythm. Those were the twin outcomes of her own incompetence and that of the "experts" around her.

Much later, when I was about thirty, she heard some of my Latin-inflected pop songs and was amazed. "I really thought you had no sense of rhythm," she said.

Well. Seriously. Fuck all of them and the dead horses they rode in on.

Kids, here's the drill. All you're life you're going to encounter "experts" who aren't. If you find that you're struggling to understand something, it's not you, it's the book, or it's the teacher. Find a better book, find a better teacher. You'll have to do that on your own, because "The Experts" who aren't will by definition be unable to help you. Read up on Dunning Kruger Effect. It applies to the "experts" who aren't. Remember that their failure is not yours.