The Old Man On The Mountain

A View From the Backwoods of NH

Write Like A Banjo

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve written anything worth posting here. I’ve sent some missives to friends extolling my opinions on certain subjects but, for the most part, it’s been a quiet few months. Most of my opinion pieces reflect things that I see wrong or broken in the world around us – negative things that I feel need fixing. And while that’s all well and good, I think there could be more positive, upbeat pieces that I post as well.

So I’ve spent some time reflecting on that point of view, looking for the silver lining in the dark clouds around me and, while it may come easy to some, my more recent travels through life have left me with a great disdain for mankind. Especially for those in fields that I believe should have a positive influence on one’s life – healthcare being one, another being community. And as hard as I’ve tried to find the sunshine in my experiences, for each ray of sunshine I’ve found, there have been a myriad of dark clouds blocking their way.

That’s why I’ve spent so much time trying to figure out how to write like a banjo. Now you may be wondering what I mean by that phrase, so let me explain. I’ve always loved comedy – from the greats (George Carlin, Richard Pryor) of my time to the just laugh your ass off funny (Robin Williams). But one of my most sophisticated favorites has always been Steve Martin.

Steve is really a triple-threat in disguise – he can do visual comedy, he can do straight-man humor, and he can incorporate his major talent into all – playing the banjo. In his act (and song of the same name) “Let’s Get Small”, Steve extolls the fact that you just can’t sing a sad song while playing the banjo. He then begins a banjo riff while singing “Oh death and grievance, sorrow and murder”. And he’s right – the two go together like milk and mustard. He goes on to make suggestions of how the banjo could improve life – give one to the unemployed. Or how he believed that the banjo could have helped Nixon’s public opinion (I’d like to talk about politics, but first a little Foggy Mountain Breakdown).

And that’s why I want to write like a banjo. To be upbeat, to be able to pull the rays of sunshine through those dark clouds. But, for the most part, I can’t. It’s not for a lack of want or ability – it’s because every time I do some asshole comes along and rains on my parade. Oh, sure, I could be Suzie Sunshine and just blow the glow up everybody’s ass, but I’m far too honest (or maybe it’s blunt) to do that for more than a minute. Honesty and manners – two things that my Mother taught me which should be considered positive traits, but in today’s world only count as a handicap.

But that doesn’t mean that I’ll stop trying. Dad taught me tenacity, tempered with reality. I know that there’s a place out there somewhere – where people are honest, speak their minds without fear of retribution, actually care about their neighbors and know what friendship means. I’m not talking about just a few individuals – I know a number of individuals (rays of sunshine), no, I’m looking for the community that’s full of them – a “sunny day” so’s to speak. And then I’ll be able to write like a banjo.