Saturday, August 14, 2004

My Three Olympic Heroes

On the night Chet Atkins died, some three years ago, the high E-string on my old Yamaha gave a loud snap while the guitar was still in its case. Still encased, the guitar gave off a strong harmonic aftertone. The same thing happened after George Harrison died, and again when Canadian novelist Mordecai Richler died. Three snaps followed by a high ping. Shades of Carl Gustav Jung, who was said to be able to shatter crockery just by thinking about it. My poltergeists had no idea while they lived that I even existed, but the medium seemed to be the guitar, the interface.How the ghost of Mordecai Richler got in there is beyond me, unless Mordy himself may have been a closet guitar player. Music and writing seem to be in the same family.

Things happen in threes. If you don't follow anybody's religious convictions, then you have already won, says Kafka, but not all a genius says is true. I am convinced, in my own writing that I haven't had a sufficient study of the Talmud to be at least as good a writer as Herman Wouk. That is the secret. That is the entire secret. Religion gives you discipline for fine work. And discipline leads to success, however small it seems at the time. No religion? Join an army. Become a cop.

Not too many Vancouver pot advocates become even as well known as the rubby poet Jacob Bukowski.

Discipline or no, I will never be as good a guitar player as Chet Atkins or George Harrison. I will never be as good a writer as Mordecai Richler (What living Canadian writer comes even close, damn your fershlugginer Gellars).

Goodbye Chet. Goodbye George, goodbye Mordy.

Married into both of your tribes, I am, I suppose, a modern urban Canadian, though there is a gene in me that has me and my children still hankering for a scoff of cobassa or weird dumplings.
I did finally open my guitar case. What were the ghosts telling me? It did seem to be about discipline. I looked at the packaged E-string through its envelope, on which was printed: Fender. Plain steel. Ball end. Acoustic/electric.

Nuff said?