Just This Banjo

Patrick in high school with his Dobro banjo.
Patrick as a teenager – right around the time many events in Just This Banjo take place.

My upcoming book, Just This Banjo, is almost finished. There are still a million things to finish, but the book itself is just about written.

Work has been impeded a bit by my health. The pain of peripheral neuropathy can be so overwhelming that it can send a potentially productive day down a dead end street. On some days the pain is so bad I just can’t think.

In spite of bad pain days, we are pages away from the final draft. Once that is finished we have to format the work and get it ready for release.

As a treat, here are the first couple of pages of the latest draft: Sneak Peek: Just This Banjo.

Next week I have some long days of medical tests and appointments in preparation for surgery to install a neurostimulation device on my spine to help manage my neuropathy pain. For the rest of this week into next week I will be putting The Daily Frail on hold so that I can finish up the last bits of writing and complete Just This Banjo.

Private lessons will continue as scheduled

If you have any questions about Just This Banjo, The Daily Frail, private instruction or electric banjos, call (410) 968-3873.

Six Gun Memories

When I was around seven years old, my parents drove to Florida to visit an old friend who happened to be a Seminole County Deputy Sheriff.

I could go on for ages about the trip and Deputy Jack. It was like visiting Buford T. Justice at home.

Deputy Jack took us to some of the tourist attractions, but there was one location he really wanted us to see: Six Gun Territory.

If you don’t know, Six Gun Territory was an old west theme park. They had stunt performers doing shootouts and amusement rides. It was good clean violent historically inaccurate American fun that would be shut down in ten seconds today.

When we arrived at Six Gun Territory, the place was closed.This is where I learned an important lesson: in Florida, things don’t close for deputy sheriffs. A few words with a flash of the badge from our friend Jack and the park opened up just for us. The stuntmen did a private show for us with a bank robbery and shootout. Then we got to go on any ride we wanted for as long as we wanted.

Imagine being seven years old and being told you can go on any ride you want – for as long as you want – with no waiting in line. It was awesome. We felt like royalty.

In a lot of ways, it was better than Disney World.

Today the Orlando Sentinel ran a story on Six Gun Territory. It made me smile to remember the fake gunfight and the smell of the blanks going off. The way Jack hitched his belt before flashing his badge and the way we had the whole park to ourselves.

Whatever happened to the staged gunfights and carnage at Six Gun Territory?

In Outrage We Trust

I refrain from talking about politics in works, so I was perplexed reading this comment on today’s Daily Dojo:

Walt Whitman was a marxist and antithetical to american norms and virtues. Love your musical musings and videos, but please lose the political tangent you seem to embrace.

A pissed off Internet twit

Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass is one of those books that was so new, so different, so brilliant on its publication that it continues to resonate with people and scare the hell out of shallow and stupid people.

Antithetical to american norms and virtues? Really?

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,
The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.

Walt Whitman, I Hear America Singing

Poetry, and art in general can act as a sort of Rorschach test in that the reader will see the bugbears or angels of their psyche reflected in the words. If you see gay marxists in my work I would be willing to bet you see them in your cornflakes or the wood grain of your desk.

Part of this nonsense stems from the fact that America has become a land where everybody is outraged over something stupid.

“This person said something I don’t like. I am outraged!”

“Well I am outraged that you are outraged!”

“Oh yeah? Well I am outraged by your outrage over my outrage!”

“I am outraged by your outrage over my outrage over your outrage!”

“I see your outrage, outrage, outrage, outrage and raise you even more outrage!”

“This is outrageous! I am outraged!”

“Wait. . . what are we outraged over? I lost track.”

“I am outraged that you forgot the cause of this outrage!”

“Really? Well, I’m going to be on The View talking about how outraged I am! Jim Carrey is going to do a painting and everything!”

“Oh, big deal! Fox News is going to have me on talking about how your outrage is destroying America!”

Any topic on any given day

It’s like a critical mass of lunacy. Who’s On First circa 2019. Everybody is pissed off about something, acting as if being outraged – or simply disagreeing with something – is a mortal wound.

I keep politics and religion out of my work. If you see a tangent other than my usual, “Love the world and share!” my advice would be to find yourself another music teacher.

Onward!

Patrick and his Dobro 33D

Social Security and the IRS think I am dead.

I was not going to argue this, but Dear Old Dad argued that it could complicate things down the road. So, albeit reluctantly, we are taking steps to remedy the situation . . . but I have to admit that I am enjoying my status as a zombie.

My health after the harrowing Suboxone withdrawal has been steadily improving. Lately I find myself battling my old foe peripheral neuropathy, but I have a good neurologist on the case. Last week on a scale of 1 to 10 – with pain being the worst pain I ever experienced – I was at around 23. Crying time.

Today I am between 7 and 8. So it is improving bit by bit.

There is a lot going on here musically. The Daily Frail is still happening over on Patreon. A few folks are either unnerved or just plain angered by the fact that I am breaking away from using tab. Somebody pointed out that my very popular books used tab and I replied that the books were written long ago and even Picasso was prone to painting over old works to create something new.

Tab never helped me with the guitar, and I used it so rarely with the banjo that I practically had to relearn how to use tab when I wrote my first web-based workshops. On plain paper tab was a useful way to help people visualize the left and right hand mechanics – but we are living in 2019 and the printed page is going the way of the rotary phone. We don’t need to cling to old methods that never really worked. This should be a time of innovation and discovery!

So I am getting myself mentally, physically and musically ready for something new. For the banjo I find myself thinking back to the way I used the teaching methods employed by my karate instructors. There was nothing written in the dojo. I was expected to pay attention, internalize what was presented and then put it into action.

When I was learning music I only met my teachers briefly. Some encounters lasted a few minutes but I left with enough to work on for months. Given my progress over the years it’s safe to say this approach works. My challenge now is to create the same sort of environment on the Internet.

So a new banjo method is on the way. My friend Dobro Libre will be doing similar with the guitar to take some of the workload off of me.

A lot of this new teaching method will fly in the face of a lot of the material out there now – including my old workshops. This is inevitable because change always generate conflict and controversy. The momentary angst will not bother me because I am looking at a larger timeline. Forget somebody being pissy today and look fifty years down the road or beyond.

When I met Tiny back in the 1980’s the fiddler’s picnics in Pennsylvania were filled to capacity. Every time I go back there are less musicians. We lost something at some point. The same happened to karate, going from tough training to a weird sort of day care where seven-year old kids get back belts without throwing a punch.

Keep an eye on frailingbanjo.com for updates on the new lessons, the book in progress and some other cool things we have in the works. I would share more details, but that would spoil the fun.

Right now I am off to do a bit of yard work and then scare the neighbors by practicing Modern Arnis on the heavy bag. Nice to know I can still throw a punch and make an even heavier blow with my sticks. I hope Ed Parker and Remy Presas will be watching my comeback!

Stay tuned!

God bless,
-Patrick

The Cat Ate My Laptop!

So last night my neuropathy was going crazy and I was in agony. I passed the hours listening to music and assuring myself that the only way things could get worse was if I accidentally set myself on fire.

This was a mistake. Things always get worse.

To prove this. Pooka decided to latch on the the cable of my cheap headphones. The headphones do not work well for me, but at this time I have no way to hook my bone anchored hearing aids to the laptop.

I tried to get Pooka to let go before she chewed through the cable, but she decided to run for it. In the process she dragged my laptop off of the bed where it came crashing to the floor. The hard drive is toast. Sigh.

Without laptop cables to entertain herself with, Pooka spent the rest of the night attacking my feet. Neuropathy pain is the worst – but when a seventeen pound tortoiseshell calico sinks her teeth and claws into a neuropathic big toe . . . well that’s just hideously painful.

Not sure if I will replace the laptop. Being able to work in bed is a bit of a big deal when I am in a lot of pain, but Pooka is such a crazy cat that I am not sure what to do. Giving up on Pooka is not an option – I don’t have that many friends left!

Pain, Pain and More Pain

So far quitting Suboxone has generated only minor side effects. I’m doing pretty good except for one thing – peripheral neuropathy.

Peripheral neuropathy is a condition where your sensory nerves get damaged and start sending pain signals to your brain.

I am okay during the day, but when I try to sleep the pain jumps in and just kicks my ass all over the room. On a scale of 1 to 10 – with 10 being the worst pain ever – I was at about 15 last night. It got so bad last night that Dear Old Dad handed me a double shot of some seriously good Irish Whiskey. It helped.

I see my doctor on the 27th, but from what I have read there are not many effective treatments for peripheral neuropathy. I am guessing that I will have to learn to live with the pain and/or look for alternative therapies.

I could wring my hands and cry, “oh woe is me”, but that never accomplishes anything. My hands still work and my head is clear. I’ll keep on fighting.

Tomorrow is my mom’s birthday. We’re taking her to Salisbury for the Chinese Buffet and shopping at the Hobby Lobby – she loves that.

On Monday I turn 49. Dear Old Dad is going to drive me to Assateauge, and then we will pick up the heavy bag and other equipment for the backyard dojo.

The Daily Frail will be back on Tuesday.

Slow Going

The seizure on Monday night still has me a little shaky – and that is on top of the lingering side effects of the Suboxone withdrawal. As a result I am moving slow right now, but still moving forward.

Somebody was kind enough to help me order a heavy bag and some other equipment to help with the backyard dojo I am putting together under the honking huge pecan tree. Everything should be at the store on Monday – and that happens to be my birthday. Dear Old Dad is going to drive me to Assateague Island that morning. It should be a nice day.

The Daily Frail will return to production soon. Work continues on my current book in progress. Careful planning is underway for our YouTube replacement series . . .oops! That last part was supposed to be a secret!

Welcome Back, Epilepsy :(

On the way to Monday Music Night I had an epileptic seizure.

Me being me, I went to Monday Music Night anyway. Then we went to the hospital.

Now it’s 4:00 AM and I am home safe with an aching head.

I can handle most anything, but it sucks when your own brain can’t be trusted.

I am not sure if I will able to drive for a while. I guess I’ll have to start shopping for a bicycle to get me through the summer. I’ll just make the most of it. Can’t let it get me down.