Get ready to be proud of me. What? You've been ready for 31 years and it still hasn't paid off? Well, wipe the dust off your Pride Pantsuits because I'm about to take up a musical instrument again.
Remember when I played violin? If you don't, that's perfectly understandable because I don't recall ever practicing. I started taking violin lessons in third grade simply because it was considered a privilege (and therefore a mandate), one more thing to separate the smart kids from the fun kids at the earliest possible age. We had to take a musical notation test in class and those who scored above a certain percentage of correct answers were automatically qualified to sit at the feet of the master, Mr. Hunt. I didn't want to sit at his feet, especially to play violin, but at that age I was too young to brood anyone into surrender.
Hunt was a cruel taskmaster with a beautiful head of Eastern European hair, and a wart of great distinction. (men like him often possessed all of these qualities, along with well-groomed and unnaturally long fingernails.) He made me pluck pizzicato until my fingers bled and my heart sagged. And to what end? I hated my violin, I hated my bow, I hated the velvet-lined plastic case with "P.S. 23" written on it in black permanent marker that I had to haul everywhere, I hated all the other smart kids and savants suffering beside me for not seeming to share my obvious scorn, but most of all I hated Mr. Hunt and his self-important wart. I must confess I did love his hair, and its thick, wavy channels carved by Hunt's ever-present unbreakable comb. But I hated Mr. Hunt even more for lording his perfect coiffe over me.
It was a full year before we finally had our recital. I felt I had already invested in too much time with this instrument, between practicing after school, lying about practicing at home, and all those actual hours I spent chalking up my bow far more than necessary. (it was the only part of playing i enjoyed; i found the preparation of playing was more pleasurable than the actual playing. i was really good at pretending i was a concert violinist, and took a great deal of pride in my ability to mimic the important rituals preceding performance.) Because of my lack of commitment and my near-ineptitude with the instrument, I was one of several kids in our violin class who was asked to "mime" the bowing sections of our performance piece, "Pop Goes the Weasel". (perhaps you've heard of it? it's a traditional. thanks for the faith, herr hunt.) So we had to air-bow while the stronger violinists carried us. The only part we were allowed to physically participate in was one single, plucked note to approximate the wonderful "POP" the song's hero suffers at the hands of the Farmer.
Honestly, even though I was given no advanced warning of my minor role in the recital I didn't mind air-bowing at all. It took a lot of the pressure off playing and allowed me to dedicate more time to faking - cleaning my fret and chin-rest, rasining my bow, adjusting and readjusting the position of the violin. I received many compliments on my chicanery which, for the recital, extended to holding a pained expression while I air-bowed, as if I were practicing a sort of alchemy too mystical and powerful for others to possibly comprehend. And when it came time to pop, I popped so hard it actually sounded like a declaration of war. Fuck you, Mr. Hunt. I never picked up another instrument with any serious intent again, until last night. You see, folks, all your hard work paid off. I'm going to start playing the musical saw.
Do you know how many people play the musical saw? Not many. And do you what percentage of people - men and women included - who do play the saw chew on roots to freshen their breath and wear wool slacks with suspenders? 100% And do you know who is going to totally fuck up that statistic? Me and my expensive chewing gum and suspenderless hotpants - that's who.
I listened to someone play the tenor saw last night. Before she picked it up I had a very mild curiosity about this instrument, but when I saw her bowing the saw and that sad, undulating warble escaped its flexible body, I realized how important it is for musical saw to be included in every song ever written. I can't think of a single song that wouldn't benefit from saw, except for songs actually containing saw already. (and some songs with theremin.) Watching her bow the saw, and use her top knee to gracefully create a kind of hysterical vibrato, I knew I had found my calling. It's the perfect instrument for me because it's all presentation, and very little actual practicing.
After the show, I had a million questions about the saw. Eventually, the performer broke down and offered to teach me. I wasn't shy or modest at all. I picked up that saw and jammed it between my knees, placing my stronger knee slightly above the weaker for extra leverage. I was surprised by how difficult it was to make the saw resonate, since there didn't seem to be much to it - one saw and one wooden dowel as a bow. But once I held the dowel correctly I made beautiful sounds with my tree-felling instrument and my shaky knees. I had to have a saw. I've only felt this way twice before - once when I saw the new Shogun Warrior 18" poseable figures in Toys'R'Us, and again when I saw how cool my girlfriend's heroin addiction made her.
I didn't want to put the tenor saw down and, frankly, I could have stolen it anyway, since it wouldn't be terribly difficult to turn it against its owner as a deadly weapon. And that's the beauty of the tenor saw. You can chop wood with it. You can build a house, declare it a sovereign nation, and then play your saw until federal agents start shooting tear gas bullets through your makeshift windows.
I'm going order a saw here, and soon I'll be able to join the brave, hip musical ranks of men like this. I can't wait to get a saw case and sling it over my back on the subway. I'm even going to name the saw - "Lethal Weapon 3". (lethal weapons 1 and 2 are my left fist and my right hook. actually, the hook is technically only a lethal weapon when i've sharpened it, which is ALWAYS.) Can you feel your pride swelling?
I can't wait to play it for you, and if you really like it I promise I won't even kill you with the saw, even though that's totally the best part. You see, I might as well not pussyfoot around it. If people don't like my sawing - and what the hell is wrong with them if they don't? - I have all the means to chop off a leg or open an artery. And then write a song about it. AMERICA! (leaping into the air with a sparkler in each hand, as fireworks explode behind me.)