Saturday, August 9, 2008


I think i’ve found my instrument. After spending much of the summer watching friends play theirs, and wishing i had more than just my disharmonious back-up-singer voice to contribute to the din, someone put a harmonica in my hands this weekend. And then he let me keep it, when i wouldn’t let it go at his bedtime, lo, around four in the morning. I apologize wholeheartedly to those who had to weather my blips from high to low, twangy-but-not-in-a-good-way arches up and down the silver stick; my too-loud exaltations at some particularly caught-up-with-it-all points on that first night.

But me and that thing got somethin’ goin’.

Let me elucidate for you why the harmonica is the perfect instrument for a person like me. First off, it takes little to no fuss to carry it around. There are no strings, no picks or bows, no fragile keys to worry about, no large cars needed to haul pianos and trap sets – just a black plastic case that snaps safely around a simple assemblage of notes. It fits easily into a pocket or a pretty little downtown purse. With an instrument that small, you don’t feel bad if it’s added to the weight of your backpacking gear – plus it will surely come in handy around a star-soaked campfire. And if you break it, or lose it mid-bender, you may cry a little, as all musicians do when they lose a beloved instrument; but in a minute you wipe your tears, buck up the seven dollars and get another one.

O, and you can play it while driving. But watch out for that one – i have been cruising around the city in the heat with mine for the past couple days, and i can tell you first-hand that getting light-headed behind the wheel is not a good thing. Still, the looks of surprise on other drivers’ faces are almost worth the near-fainting spells.

If i didn’t make it clear in earlier paragraphs, i want to thank the wild-haired motorcycle man from the coast (your name starts with a J and you’re old friends with Nathan, i remember that much) who left that Sousa Marine Band harmonica in my hands. It all came about when we were singing campfire songs at the Pickathon (one of the dopest, non-scenester festivals in the Norfwest) long after the stage music quieted down Saturday night. We had a guitar, and a banjo player had just sat down, but what we lacked was a bass. So we started calling to the stars to make one come down among us. The stars didn’t deliver, but the people in the camp next to us did. They started yelling at us from afar. We all started cracking dirty jokes back and forth in the dark – not yet knowing who we were joking with – until they appeared out of the shadows, bass and harmonica in hand.

And the rest goes something like

doo doo doo doo
doo dooooooooooooo
all night long, til the dawn and beyond…

A brief history of the harmonica.

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