I arrived in OKC and drove to Lake Hefner, where Dane Mann (a kitesurfer from OBX) told me his dad used to kite and spend a lot of time. It was kinda windy so I got my gear ready, but it didn’t pick up to a rideable level. There was a fellow practicing his moves.
As darkness came, I became motivated to work on a cover of Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven” to dedicate to Bob Callaway, my uncle-in-law who very recently lost his 17 year old son to a still unknown cause. It may not be a popular cover of “Tears in Heaven”, but it wasn’t designed to be popular.
I searched for open mic nights in OKC to no avail, and after a mediocre experience of Oklahoma, I became eager to see Little Rock again. The last time I briefly stopped in Little Rock, I was thoroughly repelled by the congested twisting turning hilly roads. However, this tour is called the “Big Picture Tour” for a reason. I want to understand deeper, experience more, and this means giving second and third open-minded explorations of cities I’ve seen before. So I bid Oklahoma farewell, now able to appreciate why there would be an interstate sign that read “Drive Friendly” (lots of unfriendly drivers), and got on the road toward Little Rock.
I have been practicing guitar with a new intensity of focus. I am determined to become a tasteful and well rounded guitarist. I have seen progress and I have finally started to outgrow my current guitar and understand what I want in an acoustic guitar. I have been trying out loads of guitars in guitar centers across the country so that I will know when I find the right one. At the guitar center in Little Rock I played for hours on at least a dozen guitars. While I experimented, a young girl came in with an employee who half-assed tried to sell her a guitar. She was a relatively new ukulele player who now wanted to take up guitar.
I listened as this employee spoke faux-confidently about guitars to someone he was sure knew very little, trying to get her to sign off on just about any guitar within her price range. As he figured out she was going to want to play around for a while and not buy right away, he tried to artfully suggest his departure so he could do other things. After he left, I asked her what her price range was and about her experience. She was indeed brand new to the guitar and was looking for something under $300. I put a $2500 guitar in her hand that I liked a lot. I also gave her a $500 small Taylor with nice playability and a good tone. I gave her a $300 Yamaha that played very nice. I picked out a variety of guitars for her to try and suggested that it would take a LONG time for her to figure out what exactly she wants in a guitar, but for the meantime to focus on finding something that is comfortable to hold and play that makes a sound she likes. I told her that she could play every guitar in there for days and still not know what tone is best for her music, but if what she picks ain’t comfortable, she’ll stop playing!
Not long after my interaction with her, an older more knowledgeable employee came in and tried to sell me guitars. At first he just chatted which I appreciated, but once he could tell there was a real possibility I might buy, he became a salesman, which I did not appreciate and effectively drove me out of the store. He didn’t like that I had put a $2500 guitar into the hands of a newby who certainly would not be buying it. I was glad I did. She was intimidated by the expensive guitars, but I taught her not to be.
The next day I went to a park by a calm river where I noticed a handful of people would come to spend lunch hour sitting in a sedan with the motors running, seeking a little solace from the hustle and bustle. I restrung my Yamaha and practiced picking on some new strings, paying close attention to tones and pitch. It seemed the old Yamaha is still good enough for what I use it for, but I am close to outgrowing it.
I stuck around Little Rock for an additional day to attend an active Tuesday open mic night at “Rev Room”. I expected a hip younger rock atmosphere with a name like “Rev Room”, but what I got was a patio, a relaxed atmosphere, and people relatively new to music performance. The night was hosted by Buh Jones, a mellow man and music lover. Buh was a Little Rock native who spent a little over a decade in Dallas. He was an attentive host. I asked him lots of questions in an effort to understand the Little Rock music scene as much as I could on this last day that I had finally found a community music event. From what I could gather, Little Rock has a fairly active and diverse albeit small music scene.
I had one of my best performances on this night. Whether it was the low key environment, sipping on Dewar’s, or compounded experience, I was comfortably in command while on stage. It was a novel feeling, and a long time coming. I delivered engaging song introductions that were personalized to my audience with spontaneous honest banter. I could brag more, suffice it to say, I’ve never been more delighted with how I handled a stage.
In the morning I got on the road to Memphis. Not long into this journey, as I was having the time of my life dancing in place and completely cutting lose to every random jam that came on my car stereo, my dancing reminded me of a goofy jig my brother once did. I then thought, how can I claim to be on a “Big Picture Tour”, and choose Memphis over my family when they are so close. I enjoyed passing over the Mississippi River once more and took a focused look at Memphis and kept on my way to Nashville.