by Mark Dvorak
I am at the airport in Chicago with ten million other people. We are all waiting and hurrying and eating, keeping ourselves occupied; keeping ourselves together, enduring the unsettledness of air travel. I don’t fly often enough to have become real good at it. I bring too much stuff and I leave too much time. And I am still suspicious of any vehicle that goes faster than, or flies higher off the ground than my little truck. I am further suspicious of any mode of transportation which does not require me to be the driver.
One of the ten million is a young man who appears to be new to airports. He has longish brown hair and thick sideburns. His chin is bearded and it looks as if he is traveling alone. He wanders slowly down the long hall of gates at the American Airlines terminal, alternately checking his boarding pass and the sequence of gate numbers posted overhead.
A group of three women sashay past. Thirty-fiveish, bubbling and chatty, they look happy to be traveling together. All are dressed colorfully this summer afternoon, skirts flowing, high heels clacking. A man pushing a heaping luggage cart lags behind. It appears they have brought entirely too much stuff with them, but who am I to say? I don’t know where they are going and I don’t know what they are going to do when they get there. Besides, I have brought too much stuff with me.
To my left, a mom smiles between sips of juice. Her two boys are squeezed together in the seat next to hers, their young faces bright with anticipation. A few aisles across from them, an African-American gentleman chews his sandwich. He is sporting a ball cap and wears a knit shirt with the K-Mart logo on the left breast. He chews slowly, scanning the passing river of humanity. He is the very picture of cool collectedness in this buzzing hive of voices, ring tones and public address announcements. Everywhere around him people fidget and stretch. They dial and type and yawn. They gaze glassy-eyed toward something far off and unseen by the rest of us. We are pilgrims awaiting departure, readying ourselves on another airport day, for the next new thing.
At this point, I have seen ten million guitar players in my lifetime, and good ones are something like good air travelers. Mostly, they are self-reliant types, alert and always learning as they go. They are problem solvers who are able to focus and juggle. They borrow ideas from others as needed and they come to regard firsthand experience as the hardened Truth against which all else is to be tested. Good guitar players tend to be reserved and helpful to those with less experience. They learn how to help and when to help; and when not to. And generally speaking, good guitar players care little about what anyone else may think so long as they get to do their work; so long as they get to where they are going.
And by watching the veterans - the good guitar players who have been doing it a long time - we learn to stay cool and to chew slowly. They model awareness and have learned to get along comfortably without all the gadgets and paraphernalia. They teach us to pay attention to the little things so we can better improvise and plan. They teach us to leave the excess baggage behind and to travel light. It really is the only way to fly.