Tuesday, May 26, 2009


I've been writing a lot over the last few days. Almost all the time, actually - day and night. This kind of thing doesn't happen very often - about once every couple of years. Today I arrived at work late, but planned on making up for it with another burst of writing in the evening. I was relieved that office hours were over and the risk of things like people just walking into my office were therefore virtually eliminated. I use the adverb "virtually" advisedly.

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?
Me: [Silence]
Him: I can't remember.
Me: [Silence]
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.


  1. Sounds more like he's your insecurity guard Dr Flemo.

  2. oh my god that was the greatest story ever.

  3. Chris - I thought we could be friends?

  4. Well, it's a step up from the security guards at one of my former places of employ who would regale me with stories about the manner in which their fellow guards - all of whom were viet nam veterans - had gone off the rails recently, complete with coded references to their own personal demons and related episodes. There is only so much talk of firearms offences, massive alcohol consumption and stays in psychiatric institutions that one can hear before beginning to feel just a little uneasy...

  5. The trick is to be slightly rude to everyone all the time. You end up with no friends, but at leaat things like this don't happen.

  6. God I know exactly who that is. He's a pretty cool dude actually, but C. always feels a little stumped when he comes across people either as or more eccentric than himself. Don't believe in the old saying "birds of a feather" it's all BS. Sure they hand out and taunt the F. out of each other, it's just their way. Life's pretty good, yeah... I'll second that.

    Khe Sahn, hahahahahahahaha... traumatised were you, tryin' t' drop a hint. Those witty hints rarely work on the innocent.

    Now I understand why many lecturers lock their doors, even when they're in. Maybe they should start installing peepholes but then they'll never open the door to me. :]