Pete's Blog

Suffering

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I was playing one of my instrumental gigs tonight, three hours of guitar after a day spent teaching (and thus playing) the guitar. My fingers hurt. I was tired, so I kept my eyes closed a lot, and I had to really wrestle with the intrument to keep little accidents of fingering from turning into actual mistakes. Sometimes the pain in my fingers made me wince. At first I was pretty down about the whole thing, another of Life's Disappointing Episodes, etc. But then I realized that the audience really liked it. With my eyes closed and grimacing I looked like I was really into it. It was intense, and people like that. Then I realized that this was not just a shuck; I actually was playing pretty well - better than average, anyway. There's a pattern here. In my young-man days they had a game called pinball, which involved shooting metal balls at various targets on a tilted table. I had my moments of greatness: I once set the table record at the Dover Taxi garage in the West Village, the garage featured in Maretin Scorcese's film "Taxi." And the psychic condition that best suited me to high-level pinball was active discomfort. If all I could think about was how badly my wrists hurt and how tired I was of standing and how much I wanted this stupid game to be over the targets would fall and the multipliers would multiply ad infinitum. Once in the old Kettle of Fish bar on McDougal Street somebody had to put Neil Young on the jukebox singing "Helpless" to stop my run. Suddenly I couldn't shoot for beans. What is it about suffering? Is it the Tortured-Artist Aesthetic? My grim Puritan heritage? I don't know. But the next time I'm too beset by the hopelessness of it all to get out of bed (tomorrow morning?) I'll tell myself that I do my best work under these conditions. So suck it up. Appendix: Good, trashy, early-'80s rock to play pinball by. "Whip It"/Devo "She's So Cold"/the Rolling Stones "Sara"/Fleetwood Mac "De Do Do Do"/the Police "Turning Japanese"/the Vapours "I Love LA"/Randy Newman "Takin' It to the Streets"/the Doobie Brothers "Flamethrower"/the J. Geils Band "You Make My Dreams Come True"/Hall & Oates "Rapture"/Blondie "Hungry Heart"/Bruce Springsteen, although it should be credited to Flo & Eddie because theiir backup chorus makes the track.

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