Grasshopper Soup: A well-placed dollar wins big
Special to the Sun
TAHOE/TRUCKEE and#8212; I had just sat down at the Dam Cafe to play my guitar, and compete with the deafening hiss of the espresso machine to see which one of us had the right music to compliment the mood of the morning. My guitar was not amped, but I was. A few customers with glazed eyes began dragging themselves in for their first caffeine fix of the day.
Most people appreciate singing in public. Some give the impression that they find such displays vain and inappropriate. Once, on a beautiful Tahoe morning at the lake, a lady ridiculed me for singing a Gospel song. Some of the lyrics were about life after death. She was dead serious about something, and seemed to be struggling with life before death. It happens to the best of us.
Back to the cafe. I barely had time to pick a half dozen notes when a little boy of about five or six walked right up to me, reaching for the guitar strings. My guard was down, so I barely noticed him. Somewhere in the who-cares, blank part of my mind, I recognized a faint image of this exact same situation having turned out very badly in the past.
Usually, when children see someone playing a guitar they will invade the musicianand#8217;s space with innocent mischief and confidence, and, naturally, grab as many guitar strings as they can hold, causing the guitarist a major moral dilemma. Hopefully, the musician will be able to avoid blurting out the first words that come to mind, and resist the urge to administer corporal punishment. No musician worth his or her reputation as an entertainer wants to make a child scream and cry, unless, of course, they can do it to the right music.
Now, when a child, who has never touched a guitar, tries to play one for the first time, at best, it may sound like Pete Townsend of and#8220;The Whoand#8221; smashing his Rickenbacher against the corner of his amplifier. At worst, an innocently curious little child may pull one, or all, of the guitar strings with the power of Genghis Kahn drawing his bow, attacking a Roman legion on horseback. Some serious damage and bloodshed is bound to transpire. Empires will fall.
But nothing happened. Lost in my own muse, I tensed a little, and fully expected a major disaster. But my improvised, musical introduction evolved without interruption. The wave length of each vibrating guitar string conformed to the motion and curvature of my fingers with peaceful ease, and the music flowed unimpeded in a time and space I thought maybe I could lose myself in, at least until someone ordered another espresso.
Thatand#8217;s when I noticed the dollar bill in the little boyand#8217;s hand, which might even be worth something. The next thing I saw were his tiny little fingers carefully finding their way under, and behind the strings, with room to spare, releasing the greenback into the sound hole, and then retreating without touching a string, or any other part of the guitar.
Obviously this was an exceptional child. He navigated the extremely narrow space under the strings that covered the sound hole like jail cell bars, as if he had been sliding dollar bills under guitar strings all his life. But it had to be a first. It was for me. It may very well have been the first time in the history of the universe that such a magnificent event had ever occurred, and I was there. I saw the whole incredible thing. The beauty of the moment overwhelmed me so much I laughed out loud, and completely forgot what I was doing. Fortunately I didnand#8217;t stop the boy from dropping the dollar down the hole, or I would be a dollar short.
A dollar down the hole is worth more than a dollar in the bank. My music sounds richer than before. As fear and panic hit Wall Street, that little kid, with one dollar I canand#8217;t even reach, made me the richest man alive.
Bob Sweigert is a Sierra Sun columnist, published poet, former college instructor and ski instructor. He has a B.A. and an M.A.T. from Gonzaga University. He has lived at Lake Tahoe for 28 years.