Yup, spring has come to Upstate New York in typical damp, grey style. The foot-plus snow that fell while I was in Chicago a couple of weeks ago is slowly fading away. Soggy, brownish grass is outlining virtually every yard in the neighborhood.
The birds, which must be hiding in the evergreens, are singing up a storm as a gentle rain does it's best to keep the streets from drying out.
I'm getting ready to head off to California for about six days, listening to some good streaming rock & roll as I write and lamenting the fact that, well, I have to leave more than my family behind...
Enjoy "The Guitar," this month's feature story.
Oh, since March 23rd was my 49th birthday and I still feel like celebrating, go ahead and do something spontaneous and fun... Tell them (whoever "they" are) I gave you permission.
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Cai demonstrating the art of enjoying Winter... before the arrival of Spring
Going back to the first time we asked my son Cai what he would like to do when he grows up, his response has pretty much been the same: "I want to sing and dance on stage." (There was a very brief period in kindergarten when he said he wanted to be "a fireman with a monster truck and a huge hose." Make what you will out of that...)
Even though both Danielle and I can carry a tune in a pinch, it would take a bit of a charitable leap to describe either one of us as singers. And we do enjoy dancing, though it would also be a a stretch to label us as dancers...
All this is to say that Cai came up with the whole "sing and dance" thing on his own, and it persists.
About a year and a half ago he amended his original idea to "play guitar and sing and dance on stage." Ah my son, the compleat rock star...
We've been offering to provide Cai with dance lessons ever since he first mentioned his plans. His pat response is "I already know how to dance," and as he leaps around the living room or shakes it across any floor in any room where music is playing, it's tough to say that he doesn't have a point. His style, which appears to be an energetic mixture of tap, hip-hop and acrobatics with a healthy measure of Irish Step of the "Lord of the Dance" variety tossed in, is unorthodox to say the least. It sure is original...
Not long after the "play guitar" announcement, Danielle checked in with the folks at the local guitar shop and asked their advice on getting a kid started.
"Get a decent kid-sized nylon-string and let him bang on it until he decides it's something he'll really enjoy," they suggested. "Then you can start with lessons..."
One day a month or two before his eighth birtday, Cai and I were wandering around in town. We stopped in front of Saratoga Guitar, (corner of Broadway and Caroline St., just in case you visit) oggled the variety of six-string wonders dangling in the window, and went in.
At this juncture, Dear Reader, I would be remiss were I not to fill you in on some important historical detail. You see, a short while back - 'round about three decades ago, though no one's really counting - I bought a guitar. My buddy Richard and I took a bus into Manhattan, walked into Sam Ash Music, and I plunked down $150 for a fine looking Japanese acoustic. I took lessons for several months, then Richard and I headed off on a cross-country journey. One small car, two guys, two guitars, and a solid commitment to see the Pacific Ocean and return to New Jersey in 30 days...
Sometime just before Richard and I left on our journey we bought electric guitars: He a Fender Stratocaster, me a used Gibson Marauder with a buzzing sixth string. We left them home while we traveled.
Several years later I sold the Gibson to an ex-girlfriend for $50 less than I paid for it. The acoustic went with me whenever I moved. Not that I played it, mind you. I just moved it along with my books, blankets and skis...
Back to the real story...
Cai and I stepped into the guitar shop and poked around a bit. After shuttling up and down the one-aisle store a couple times, one of the employees asked if we would like some help.
"Sure. My son would like a guitar, and we're checking out what you have for kids who are just starting out."
He gave me the same story he or one of his comrades had given Danielle. I asked Cai to sit on a low stool, then asked the fellow helping us to show us one or two different instruments.
"Here Cai. Hold this and see what it's like."
"If we're going to get you a guitar, I'd like you to at least hold it and see what it feels like."
Silence. Eyes turned toward the floor. No response.
I thanked the fellow who had offered to help us, and off we went.
Several months later we tried again. Cai was happy to hold the guitar, even to strum it once or twice.
As we were checking out, I asked Cai if he thought it would be fun if I pulled out my guitar so we could play together. "Sure!"
It had been over twenty years since I had played with any sort of regularity, and I knew that back home in my closet, a very old set of strings were rusting away quietly in the dark.
"Um... I think I need some new strings," I said rather sheepishly.
"What kind would you like?"
"Something for someone who hasn't played in a couple of decades..."
"Silk and Steel... They shouldn't hurt too much."
"Sounds good. How 'bout one of those tuning things..?"
"Um... Let's not go nuts," I said, "how about a pitch pipe?"
He looked at me in that quizical way people who really know what they're doing look at people who clearly don't, handed me a list of local music teachers, and asked, "Anything else I can do for you?"
Guitar, strings, tuning pipe, and three fresh picks in hand, we returned home.
Keep in mind that the last time I had spent much time playing anything except the stereo was ages ago.
For the first few days, Cai and I banged around together, and it was good fun!
Within a week or two I became a man possessed. I started trawling the net for chord diagrams, tabulations of favorite Grateful Dead songs, anything I could print. Then I started in on heavier stuff - Beatles, Zombies, John Hiatt. It took me two weeks with "Puff the Magic Dragon" before I could get through "Dragons live forever, but not so little boys" without sobbing...
After a rather nasty ski injury left my right upper thigh too bruised to handle the pressure of the guitar, I unearthed my old strap so I could stand up to play. I've been wearing the blasted thing ever since. I went back to the guitar store, bought the digital tuner, then went around the corner to the music shop and purchased a book of eight zillion chords. I began to question my sanity with respect to decisions made way back when - after all, who in their right mind would ever sell an electric guitar? My family has begun to wonder what has become of me.
I'd like to say it's getting better... And it is.
Hello. My name is Ken, and I can now pick out tunes with less trouble than ever before. I remember that Every Grand Beluga Dines on Fish and Fierce Albatrosses Control the Earth. I'm beginning to have thoughts about really learning to read music...
I think this is my version of the mid-life crisis. Only in this dream I get to keep my family and the Camry. There is, however, something in the trunk...
I asked Cai how he felt about me and my recent "interest."
"Good," he said. "You can be a one-man band and get us backstage tickets!"
Not exactly what I had in mind, though I do like the way he thinks.
Once my father retired from the consulting practice he took on after leaving his corporate job, he picked up the violin again. It had been a long hiatus. He started taking lessons, playing with the local college orchestra and another local string group, even dabbled with building a violin. He's still playing and enjoying making music, so I figure there is some genetic programming at work here. If nothing else, it gives me some sort of excuse... not that I need one.
Of course, I want an electric guitar - something along the lines of a Gibson SG, a Fender Telecaster or a PRS SE Custom - and an amplifier to go with it. At this moment I'm a hack. In my dreams I'm a loud hack.
One challenge I like to give my clients is to leave no creative stone unturned and to act on any creative urge that comes up, regarless of how irrational it may seem in the moment - just to see what happens...
There's a guitar show at the local convention center in two weeks. Stay tuned.
Bitten by the Muse
A Fiendishly Fun Creative Journey in Four Parts
Knock-knock-knock..! Ding-dong..! Ya wanna come out and play... even more??
We have a mud puddle, a forest full of interesting creatures, the hugest playground around, (yes, "hugest" is a word) crayons, paint and some colorful goop that - well, no one really knows exactly what the colorful goop is - but it sure is fun to play with!
On a serious note, (must we..?) "Bitten by the Muse" is for folks who want:
• A solid connection to their creative energies.
• A little intimate, one-on-one time with their creative spirit.
• To get to know their creative inner child... again.
• The opportunity to meet their inner judge - and play games with him or her.
• To claim their creative birthright.
• To reveal how creative their best excuses really are.
• New pathways to creative expression in everyday life.
• Some hang-out time with other cool creative travellers.
• To begin to take creative action now... as in "this now..."
Geez... Do you really need to know a whole lot more..? Who needs all those serious notes when "Bitten by the Muse" is really about having big fun with your creative self? (And that colorful goop, too...)
The creative urges you feel are as much a part of your individual experience as they are our common human cultural history. From ancient cave paintings (evidently made with some very high quality, long-lasting colorful goop) to working your mojo in the kitchen (tasty goop) with the stereo blasting while no one is looking, creativity will always seek an expression. The Muse will bite. How you choose to respond is your business…
“Bitten by the Muse” is a fun, colorfully goopy - and more than occasionally irreverent - invitation to explore and respond to your creative urges. If you’ve ever dreamed of tapping into your creative energies – whether to create your first masterpiece or simply to expand your range and appreciation for full-out living – well, what are you waiting for?
Take a bite of your creative birthright!
“I am now very much centered with the fact that I’m an incredibly creative person. I’m even somewhat artistic. I’ve more confidence in myself, and more trust…”
“Suddenly I got that I could just sit down and write a book. It’s a breakthrough in my ability to see the actual possibility of writing something that people will pick up and read!”
“I'm bitten - I mean smitten...”
• “Bitten by the Muse” is a four-part teleclass.
• Dates: Wednesdays, April 4, 11, 18 and 25, 2007 (That's soon!)
• Time: 2 PM to 3:15 PM, Eastern Time. (11:00 AM to 12:15 PM PST)
• Tuition: $99
• Maximum class size – 12 curious creative souls. So intimate!
• Materials: Could be a little glue and paper, pen and ink… Then again maybe a little flour, sugar and chocolate… Don’t sweat it – you’ll find out!
• To register: Visit the Cirrus Leadership programs page, email Ken or call 518.580.0550.
More Muse Buzz:
“I have come to see more of what I do as creative, and to tune into creative impulses that I might not have recognized.”
“I’m clearer about the fact that I have barely tapped my creative potential. I also got clear that much of my difficulty in letting myself be more creative has to do with my own negative self-assessments, and my deep-seated belief that ‘Art is just silly stuff. It’s playing, not work, and I have real serious work to do!’ I get that doing art unleashes my creative energy in many ways that directly enhance my work performance… Besides, it’s ok to just have fun, too!”
“So far a lot of my creativity has been around word shaping, I feel more open now to take that to a different medium - song, paint, clay, dance.”
Behind the Curtain
Creating Magic by Bridging Experiential Training with Coaching
A Next Level Teleclass Series
With Tom Courry and Ken Mossman
The January class was a rousing success, and Tom and I will be offering "Behind the Curtain" again on Mondays in June, so stay tuned and join us to:
• Discover the nuances of using experiential programs for teams and groups
• Learn and use The Next Level’s ARCTIC ™ training/coaching model
• Learn fun and effective ways to sequence experiential activities for maximal impact
• Put fresh, new arrows in your experiential training quiver
• Have fun creating learning that sticks to your client’s ribs…and brain… and heart…
• Add depth and breadth to your team offerings
• Learn handy ways of modifying activities to stretch your experiential toolbox
• Dig into the power of metaphor
• Receive an ebook packed with cool exercises, resources and other fun goodies
Behind the Curtain: Creating Magic by Bridging Experiential Training with Coaching is a four-part teleclass for anyone who wants to bring their team or group training and coaching to the Next Level.
Each class will give you fresh ideas for experiential activities, coaching and debriefing that you can use with groups or teams. You'll also learn about selecting activities to suit specific situations, how to “play with playing” in team and group settings, how to use consequences to teach real-world lessons, and much more.
Visit the The Next Level website for more information...
Quote of the Month
"You're never to old to rock & roll... if you're too young to die..."