Sunday, May 2, 2010

My Pet Nagual


Over the course of my life, I have found most relationships to be hazardous to my sanity. Whenever I have ever wanted to feel used, beat up, dismayed, truncated (what?), betrayed or dismissed then all I have had to do was find some girl I thought was cute or make a friend who I thought I could trust. So far my average is 0 for ... well I dont want to just give it away. Lets just say I've had to take a lot of Mulligans.

Some women have cats. We've all heard of them. Some guys have adorable furry dogs they walk in the park and throw frisbees to. I'm allergic to cats so they're out. And whenever I throw a frisbee it usually hits someones car...a couple of times. By that time even my dog, were I to have one, would likely pretend it didn't know me or just start barking out of embarrassment. Poor dog. I kind of feel sorry for him. And I don't even have a dog.

Enter the Nagual.

What's a Nagual you say? The Nagual is my pet guitar. Named after the Indian shapechangers I read about in Carlos Castaneda's books, I found my Nagual while browsing a halfway house for errant guitars. I knew it was the one for me immediately. There was something about it. Sure it was cute with its sunburst design and vibrant finished gloss, but there was something more...

I came late into the game with guitar playing. I taught myself to play the piano years ago when a friend and I made a bet concerning pianos and par golf. I know...its weird. Anyway, he wound up playing par golf like a pro and I wound up playing the keyboard.

My dad bought me a Fender Stratocaster when I was a kid. But all I really did was look at it and admire how cool it was. Wow. Neat. Way cool. But I never played a chord. I suppose that it just wasn't Nagual material.

Dont get me wrong. The Nagual isnt some thousand dollar guitar with all the bells and whistles. It's no Fender Strat. The Nagual was a stray of sorts and something of a Mutt. I have a mutt guitar. The strings are savagely hard to strum. The tone is akin to that guitar you almost bought once that you found at a garage sale. In fact, it is incredibly difficult to play. There's no action. When I first started playing the Nagual my fingers literally bled and I had to wait out my callouses...and the ones that protected those.

No. Its not particularly great. But, unlike every relationship I have ever had, it has loyal going for it.

I began playing the Nagual, or rather learning to play the Nagual, during the outbreak of the war in Iraq. When we were dropping shock and awe I was strumming along with bleeding fingers. By the time our troops were in Baghdad, I had taught the little rascal some manners.

There was a long time when I didnt play at all. I had moved and sound was an issue where I was living for a while. But I'm back at it I guess.

I bought the Nagual a friend, an electric Telecaster. One of my musician friends in Branson actually picked it out for me. He did me a favor. It is an absolute dream to play in contrast to the Nagual. It doesnt have the Nagual's sour attitude. It doesnt bite me or bark at strangers. I really like my Telecaster.

Still. The Nagual is my old pal. It sits next to my office desk watching me all day do my work. I pick it up every hour or two and play with it. When it comes to feeding time, the Nagual has an eclectic diet. Cat Steven's 'Wild Child.' My favorite Dylan song 'Knockin on Heavens Door.' Bread's 'Guitar Man.' ' Mad World'. The Animal's 'House of the Rising Sun'. 'Hallelujah.' 'Margaritaville.' And since I'm a Led Zepp fan...you guessed it...the old standby 'Stairway.' Admittedly, 'Alejandro' sounds pretty good on an acoustic. But I think I need to write some lyrics that make me feel more like a man for that one. Perhaps if I change the 'o' to an 'a'?

You may not see me jamming anytime soon. But, then again, I do like to BBQ and I do sit around with the Nagual. If it suddenly has friends, say another acoustic or a bass or something...I guess that's ok.

The Nagual still looks pretty good for its age. I put some feathers on it a long time ago as a way to honor my Indian heritage. I'm an Irish Indian so my liver is ever so confused. At least I know where I'm going when I'm drinking.

Playing the Nagual was a gift that was passed on to me by a friend I had who learned to play the guitar while she was off in LA. She used to write songs and sing them to me. I was enchanted. I soon found myself at the Magic Bean Coffee Shop listening to renditions of 'Hallelujah' and thinking about what a miserable talentless failure I was when it came to playing the guitar. It's a good thing I found the Nagual.

I dont really care if I'm any good at playing with the Nagual, my Telecaster or any other stringed banshee. I've never put much effort into learning lyrics so I have to really like a song to pick it up. I'm not playing for American Idol after all. And, while I certainly appreciate those folks who put their performances all over YouTube, I'm probably a bit too eccentric to play it straight. I'd wind up fiddling with a string for five minutes or talking about laundry or how much fun it is to mow my lawn.

I have actually had guitars figure in my semi breakups. They say pets can tell and I guess the Nagual wasnt feeling it. Either that or it was getting territorial. Indians believe that things have spirit. Well...some days I can play it and some days I cant. I'd rather blame the Nagual.

I think when I'm 80, after years of practice, I might finally be good enough with the Nagual to woo a girl with it. I'll probably be playing 'The End' by the Doors by then but you never know...I might be retreading GaGa.

Yeah. I love the Nagual. I guess everyone needs a pet.


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