September 20, 2020:

Guitars in the lounge.

There are some good players, including an older fellow named David who's not a student but is always welcome. His tone is pure and his technique reminds me of Mick Taylor, with his melodicism and emotion. I watch his fingers intently. I'd like to improve, where after a lifetime without mentors perhaps these experts will help.

I'm free now to own my first electric. An older student named Ken lets me borrow his 1972 Telecaster Thinline, the blonde version with the Seth Lover humbuckers. It has terrible cheap frets but he's replaced the terrible cheap tuners and I love its feel and sound. Eventually he sells me it, and I love it so much I sometimes sleep with it after late nights in the lounge.

A student named Richard offers to teach me if I'll play rhythm for him to practice to. At first I'm thrilled, until practice demonstrates his meaning. He wants me to repeat the chord progression to "My Favorite Things" over and over for hours while he improvises little jazz doodles. That's all he ever shows me, so that I eventually revolt. Get a fucking tape recorder, asshole. I'm more than disappointed: my feelings are hurt, an early example of exploitation by putative friends which forms an angry theme through parts of my adulthood. I keep playing but I dump him and withdraw from the lounge jams. I'm not sulking, I'm confused. I don't know how to relate to other musicians.

This all changes dramatically during my final summer, when I'm living with a housemate whose boyfriend is in a band. They're younger than me but they're great fun. I sit in sometimes when they practice in our house, until eventually I'm asked to join. They're playing ska and I'm rhythmically adept enough to add touches of reggae and latin beats. We go through an evolution as personnel come and go. First we're Sitting Duck, later The Estonian Gauchos, with David Lowery and Johnny Hickman, who eventually form Cracker. When I leave the Gauchos morph into Camper Van Beethoven, so that I've participated in the early history of one of the '80s indie movement's more fun little bands. But this is no longer about school, it's now life, and as I grope my way forward I'm forever bouncing like a pinball between music, activism and writing.