Cold

The room was small and bare. Stephen could touch all four walls without leaving the wooden bunk, and he could touch the heavy pine rafters if he stood up. He could see his breath, but it was warm enough when he crawled into the pile of of bearskins they’d left him. The one tiny window was so badly grimed and scratched that it was more translucent than transparent. It let in thin, wintery light for a few hours every day. The room wasn’t far enough north for total darkness, but the days were short.

 
The supplies they’d left him were as minimal as the room – a bottle of cheap Polish vodka, a box of no-cook MREs, a wind-up flashlight, a pack of cards.
MRE – Meal Ready to Eat. Three lies in one acronym. Stephen hated those things, would have given anything for a loaf of bread and some butter.
It took him a week to realize why he was losing every game of solitaire. At first he assumed that, like everything else, his luck was down. Then he realized that the deck was missing the king of diamonds.

 
He spent a couple of days after that realization wondering if someone had done that on purpose – trying to tell him something.

 
He finished the vodka then.

 
He didn’t need to come hide in a tiny room this far north in the winter to get the message that they were underfunded. He knew that, all too well. He thought about opening the door, walking off into the snow – let someone else continue the struggle.

 
But he stayed huddled under the bearskins and waited.

 
He was running out of MREs when John showed up.

It’s only fair

To gain some perspective, I remind myself: at any given moment, someone is dying, somewhere.  But this really doesn’t help.

I looked at her while the words “six months left” echoed in my head.  Later, I realized that my grief wasn’t simply losing her – I was losing my best future, too.  No wedding, no kids, no growing old and fat together in the suburbs.  All those dreams were smoke now.

Two weeks after the diagnosis she broke up with me.  “It’s only fair.  You should move on now – we’ve only been together for a couple of months, anyway.  I’d feel like I was leading you on if I stayed with you when we both know it’s going to end.”  No rational argument, no pleading, no tears would change her mind. She stopped returning my calls, even before she was too sick to do so.  She had her brother come talk to me, tell me to let her go.  Tears in his eyes, he declined to give her a message for me.  I refused to shake his hand when he left.

“It’s only fair.” Yet all I wanted was to spend every moment with her, whether that lasted six months or sixty years.  It’s been eight years since then, but I still haven’t gotten over her.  She was the one for me, but I didn’t get to keep her.

She’s been cancer free for six years now, and got married last year.  I just heard that she had her first child last week.

To gain some perspective, I remind myself: at any given moment, someone is being born, somewhere.  But this really doesn’t help.

Alternate Picking Exercise

You want a cool finger exercise for guitarists that helps with alternate picking? I can help. Tab for the first part of the pattern looks like this (click on pictures to make them bigger):

Remember that slow is smooth...

Now, here’s part two, which includes a little bit of string-skipping:

...and smooth is fast.

A couple of things to keep in mind:

  • Start the first pattern with an upstroke.
  • Start the second pattern with a downstroke.
  • As you play each four note sequence, keep the pick between the two strings you’re hitting. This is the whole point of the exercise – don’t hit the string and go past, as if you were strumming – hit the string and then move the other direction to hit the other string in the four note sequence.
  • Smooth, clean, and perfectly timed is way way way more important than going fast. You will get fast eventually, but only go as fast as you can go while still doing it perfectly.
  • The synchronization between your right hand and your left hand is crucial – if they aren’t together as you’re doing this, you’re reinforcing the wrong things. Go slow and get it right.
  • If you have a metronome or a drum machine, use that as you do this exercise. You want to do this as rock steady as possible.
  • Run through this a couple of times a day. Be patient – you’ll get super-fast sooner with patience than with impatience.
  • Finally, please remember that this is an exercise that uses geometric patterns on the fretboard – it is not particularly musical. Do practice this. Don’t put it in your song or your guitar solo – that would sound dumb.

If you have any thoughts about this, please leave a comment – I’d love to know whether this was helpful (or a waste of time). I’m hoping to post more guitar exercises over time.

By the way, the tabs are drawn on the back of giraffe-pattern napkins. I’ll leave you with a shot of the front of the napkin:

Yes indeed.

Nice to meet you for the first time again!

Hello, I’m back! Posting for the first time.

What?

I’ve blogged on and off at various places on the web – most of them are no longer online. I’ve even blogged a bit at tysonwright.com (the site you are now on), but after changing hosting services last year I never got around to putting my old blog back online.

Time for a new start. While I probably will repost some old items that I still like, the main point of this blog is to get myself back into writing regularly. So, hopefully I will be posting mostly newer pieces.

Anyway, enough introductory nattering. Hope you enjoy the new site.