Thursday, June 5, 2008

Little Drummer Boy

I like music. I am fascinated by those that can play a musical instrument. I have always dreamed of being able to play some type of musical instrument. I remember when I was young I wanted a drum set. My mother did not want me to play the drums. I knew she was serious because she also told my grandparents that they were NOT to buy me a drum set for Christmas either. After all, grandparents have been known to please their grandchildren from time to time and mine were no different. Instead I received a toy organ which I never learned how to play.

I had a friend in 5th grade that had a drum set but his mom did not allow any of his friends to play it though. I had another friend in Junior High School that also had a drum set but he did not allow any of his friends to play it either. He played in the marching band and so I decided to join the band. Instead of getting a pair of drum sticks and snare drum or a pair of timbales or toms, I was given a trumpet. I did not last three weeks in band because I got caught blowing spit on the clarinet player that sat in front of me. I was a very mean kid and looking back drums might have been the perfect thing for me to take out my aggression on without hurting anyone’s feelings . . . well, maybe my mom’s . . .

I joined the US Navy in 1986. In 1989 I was living in Bremerton, Washington. In those days, I had a lot of friends. We were all single guys and some of them had the means to live out in town on their own and avoid the rules and regulations that those of us living in the BEQ (Bachelor Enlisted Quarters . . . barracks for short) were required to follow. One particular weekend in the summer of 1990, I was invited to a friend of a friend’s house for beer and BBQ. He had the perfect bachelor pad, at least in my eyes, because his living room was filled with amps and guitars and a small little drum kit. I remember that day well because Keith asked me if I could play. I did what any friend would do and lied through my teeth and said “of course’ because any of the guys I grew up with would tell you that I played the back seat and head rest with the best of them. I was never an ‘air guitarist’ but I would use my hands and feet and the imagination of drumming that had been in my head since I first heard “Wipeout” or “Ball Room Blitz”.

That day in Bremerton was one of the happiest of my life. Lucky for me Keith was a lover of punk music. I can still see him standing there with his Black Flag t-shirt and tore up blue jeans. Anything I played that day ‘worked’. It was raw, it was passionate, it was loud and in my ears, for someone that ‘never played’ it sounded pretty good. Did I mention that we had lots of beer? Well, the house was right there on Puget Sound so there were no neighbors to complain.
In 1991 I purchased my first drum set. It was a very old beat up Pearl 3 piece with half the hardware missing. I got it for less than $200 which I thought was a bargain. Over the weeks ahead I would buy a piece of hardware or a cymbal on payday and soon enough I had a small little kit to play around on. I played as often as I could until someone would knock on the door to ask me to stop. This happened fairly regularly but diminished as I got better at keeping time and honed my new skills.

The barracks were sized for four people but often only had 2 or 3. I eventually had to move into my own room because I was on the last nerves of my two roommates. It did not take long for me to get another roommate. My new roommate was not only a good friend but he also had taught himself how to play an electric guitar. He also had a little four track recorder that used a standard cassette tape.

We had a several year age difference between us but we found music was able to bridge that gap very well. I was able to turn him on to Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd and he was able to get me to listen to the Cure and the Jesus and Mary Chain. When worlds collide . . .

That year I wrote 20 songs or so and he did the same. We made our own tape with original songs and had other friends help us with the bass guitar and lead guitar tracks . . .what a cool experience that was. I still have that tape too.

I got out of the Navy in 1993. My friends all went their way and I went mine. Sometimes I wonder what it is like to pursue our dreams. I learned that I could do what I enjoy without quitting my day job.

I sold that drum set in 1995 to get the cash I needed to buy an engagement ring. Sometimes my wife wonders if I love her. I want to tell her, “Just look at your ring”. I know I gave up part of my childhood dream to pay for that ring but I do not say anything because her dreams are as precious as mine. While she may doubt my love for her from time to time I refuse to add to her angst with guilt. After all, I am not all that old . . .and there may yet be time to put together a blues band. . .

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