I need to tell you about this friend of ours.
The first time I met him–or I suppose I should say “the first time I remember meeting him”, because there was a period there where I met a lot of people in very rapid succession and tend to jumble things up a bit–he was sitting in the corner of Star’s living room with a guitar.
(Side story: I went to Nerd Camp–not its official name–during the summer between my junior and senior years of high school. The year I attended it was held on a college campus in the middle of nowhere, and the first several people I met were variations on the Cheerful/Perky/Chipper/Future Greek Pledge theme…and at that point I was firmly into my grunge-angst-meets-hippie-DamnTheMan period, so I felt pretty out of place. So I went on a walk, and ran into another attendee–a long-haired guy who looked like Jesus, wearing an ankle-length crushed velvet skirt, sitting under a tree and playing the guitar. We became fast friends and are friends to this day, some 20 years later. I have good luck with Guys With Guitars.)
…So this guy was in the corner of Star’s living room with a guitar. I was there because Star was throwing a party, and while I now look back on Star Parties with a great deal of nostalgia and fondness, at the time they were a source of full frontal terror: everyone there knew each other, most of them having been friends for periods ranging into the decades, and I was the new kid. The new, socially awkward kid. The new, socially awkward kid who doesn’t like to be in situations where she doesn’t know most of the people (but they sure do know each other), in a new place, in a new city that was about 10 times bigger than her comfort zone really allows for and apparently populated by drivers who believe it’s Thunderdome all day every day around here, who gets overwhelmed pretty easily by a) large groups, b) new places, c) loud situations, d) heavy traffic (did I mention Star lived right off one of the main roads?), and e) being the odd man out. Whee!
So this guy was in the corner of Star’s living room with a guitar, and because I was about ten seconds from shutting down completely and maybe going to the bathroom to cry for a little while but because I knew from experience that Guys With Guitars are usually safe places for me, I went and sat down. And Moon Man came and joined me, and someone called for a tune, and somehow or another (there’s a certain amount of grey, Overwhelmed Just Existing Please Don’t Ask Me Anything time in here) the guy with the guitar ended up playing “I Don’t Want to Live on the Moon” from Sesame Street. Doing a passable Ernie impression to boot, I should note. And I sat there and listened and within about two bars had sunk beneath the surface of the music and shut out everything and was mouthing the words and holding back tears and holding Moon Man’s hand and the only things in the world that existed were the sound of the music and the pressure of Moon’s hand and suddenly, easily, everything was ok. There was a Guy With a Guitar and a voice that resonated at exactly the right frequency to open the peaceful places–carefully, oh so carefully guarded–in my heart, and everything was ok.
Eventually we became friends with this guy and his family, and we get together sometimes to do social things or we go see him perform. And while he’s not exactly playing Shea Stadium–he’s more in the “coffeeshops and occasional private parties” circuit, including playing at our wedding because he’s also a damn good sport about driving 45 miles to Topeka for a tiny private ceremony on the day after Thanksgiving–his music always, always takes me to that place where everything is ok. Even when everything is most decidedly not ok–I went to see him once a couple of weeks after Dad died, and those two hours were the first time in 14-ish days that I believed that I might actually be able to get through this. I played his CD for Little Bit, my feline best friend of 16+ years, while Bit was dying–it calmed him down, and calmed me down, and didn’t change the fact that I was holding my little buddy while he died, but it made it possible to believe that things might be ok again later.
And y’know, it’s just this thing this guy does. He just, like, plays the guitar. And sings some things. He also makes clothes and builds decks and does something complicated with computers and fixes dinner and raises children and, I dunno, tells inappropriate jokes sometimes and grumbles about the price of things. He’s just a guy with a guitar, doing what Guys With Guitars do.
But as it happens, he was the guy with the guitar in the place where I was at exactly the time I needed a Guy With a Guitar. And he’s been that for me more than once, which makes me a little extra glad we both happened to agree to go to that Star Party in the first place.
And here’s the thing, y’all: being a guy with a guitar is just part of his day. If he’s going somewhere, he takes his guitar with him just in case there’s some music that needs playin’. And it occurs to me that a lot of us have That Thing We Do–we have words, or we have music, or we have interpretive dance or underwater basket weaving or being a kung fu master or being a rocket scientist, that Thing We Are Made Of that we do just because it’s in our soul to do it–and I think that sometimes the most important thing we can do is to do that Thing. Even if we’re not making money at it, even if it’s not our main occupation, even if we never get more than a few hundred hits on our blog post or a slightly overfilled coffeeshop for an audience.
Because you never know when someone in the room is going to be in desperate need of a Guy With a Guitar…and if she’s there, and you could fill that need, why the hell would you leave the guitar at home?