The Hell of Castanets

It’s funny but a little sobering when you bump up against your limitations.

I’ve never been even competent at any sport. None.* I have, however, had a huge interest in the arts. I’ve tried most of them: writing, painting, photography, Japanese/Chinese ink drawing, Western ink drawing, pencil drawing, crayons, sculpting, wood burning, collage, graphic arts, music, and a few others that I’d rather not think about. I’ve known better than to try dancing. And let’s not even talk about acting; actors are singularly gifted mutants.

When it was all said and done, I found my talents in writing and photography, and writing (theoretically) paid some money; so I followed that path with photography on the side. This choice was both correct and incorrect, but that’s a different story.

But music…. I love music so passionately. When I was a kid, I liked the Beatles, but I loved Beethoven. Schroeder was my favorite Peanuts character. I tried drums, trumpet, guitar, piano, organ, accordion (not that easy to play), bongos, castanets….

After all these years, I’ve developed functional skills on guitar and keyboards, but that’s about it. Castanets remain beyond me.

And I can’t sing, damn it. I can’t hear myself do anything but go off-pitch. Then I freak out and I’m embarrassed and lost. I have no sense of rhythm, and I can’t support a singer because they’re all over and around the rhythm, depending on me to keep it together. This does not help either of us.

I do have a meager talent for making weird noises.

It kills me because I love the idea of having music in my hands as well as my ears, but the idea and the reality remain so distant.

I suppose this is true of most professions: learning is hard, practicing is tedious, and success is very far away (to steal from François Villon).

Then, when you hit your confidence point, and you’re feeling a little cocky, you realize that there’s roughly a million steps to go before you can even copy the artists that have inspired you.

We’re all artists in our own way, all in our struggle with ourselves. I don’t know how many times I’ve watched a waitperson in a restaurant do their thing and thought, damn, they are good. Or a bus driver. Or an auto mechanic. Or a business manager. Or an IT tech. Or doctors, dentists, lawyers, and all the rest of you.

Of course, I’ve also lived through a few situations where I caught myself thinking, maybe this person should take a whirl with the accordion.

*I did exhibit some talent for baseball. I could hit respectably, and I could sprint for the bases, but, for some reason, they held it against me because I couldn’t catch. Go figure.