At just after 7pm, a security guard entered my building, doing his rounds. I sort of know him - and sort of know that he sort of plays the guitar. Yesterday I took my own acoustic guitar in to the office to provide me with a safe and easy diversion: I write "funny" songs on it when I want a break from my "serious" work. He saw it.
"Guitar? You brought your guitar in?"
He didn't actually ask if he could play it. We smiled and exchanged guitarist's nods, which effectively gave him the go ahead. He stopped momentarily and apologised for one of his fingernails. It had been hanging off, getting caught on clothing. He cut it today; it might affect his playing, though.
"I'm sure you'll be fine."
He picked up the guitar and sat down.
"What kind of guitar is this?"
"It's a Maton."
"What model?" he inquired.
"I don't know, it's um..."
"Where's the pickup?"
"I'm not sure."
"Oh, it's on the bridge."
"Oh yeah, that's right."
"Hang on, no it isn't. It's inside somewhere."
He strums it, then winces.
"It needs a bit of a tune."
"Yeah, I know. [And let me just say again how sorry I was to hear about your nail.]"
He started playing. For the next twenty-five minutes he played almost non-stop, each segue invariably punctuated with a question, asked by him of both of us: "What's the name of that one?"
Me: I don't know.
Him: Oh yeah, that's right, it's My Funny Valentine.
Me: Right, of course.
Only at one point did I know what he was playing. I actually joined in and quietly sang Honey Pie. I kept singing it a little after he'd stopped to make my point.
Him: What's that you're singing?
Me: Honey Pie. You were playing Honey Pie, right?
Him: No, Blue Moon. They sound similar, though, don't they? Honey Pie actually goes like this...
He played Honey Pie, The Boy from Ipanema, and Caravan - and gave scary impersonations of Scotty Moore and Merle Travis. In short, he was spectacular - a shockingly good musician. The problem was that he couldn't stop. At the start I was smiling at him and the guitar as he played; by the end I was staring morbidly at the wall, motionless. He kept going. I announced that I needed to eat some dinner, took a tin of salmon and two slices of bread from my cupboard. I went to the staff kitchen, made a sandwich, put it on a plate and returned. I then ate the sandwich. Still he played.
Him: What's that one called again?
Me: Khe Sahn.
Him: No...what is it?
Him: I can't remember.
Him: Oh, that's right, All the Things You Are.
Great tune - beautifully played. Robert, I hate to say it, but all good parties have to come to an end. I've got to do some work.
Yeah, I've got to go too - I'm late.
He went to hand me my guitar, but I motioned for him to put it on the other side of the room -to lean it against one of my "consultation" chairs. I wasn't going to play after that. Or perhaps ever.
Chris, we'll have to have a jam.
Yes we must.
I'll bring my guitar in to work and we can jam in your office.
I'll announce it here if we do.