Monday, December 12, 2011

I want a new banjo for Christmas

“When I was growing up I always wanted to be someone. Now I realize I should have been more specific.” 
 Lily Tomlin

One early-80s Christmas I convinced my parents buy me the instrument my guitar teacher helped me select: A brand-new Iida 5-string banjo. Not top of the line, but nice, and all I needed to establish my own identity among the 2,000 students I shared a campus with.

I quickly became a legend in my own my mind. Countless hours were spent in the privacy of my room perfecting riffs to Orange Blossom Special and Foggy Mountain Breakdown. Geek! I didn't care. Transitioning from guitar to banjo was easy, and I was able to start sounding like a b-version of Earl Scruggs in no time. I performed at my high school talent shows (OK, one high school talent show) with my backup band, the Hicktones, consisting of my brother, best friend, and boyfriend. So lame. Good times though.

That was then. All through college and into the early years of my marriage, I didn't pick up the banjo at all; not once. And the more I didn't play it, the more I knew I'd hate myself for not practicing and becoming horrible at it. I ended up selling the thing at a garage sale (we needed to make the mortgage payment that month) - figured I'd purchase a superior version in the near future and start playing again. Which never happened.

But I've had banjo on the brain lately. Those after-school jam sessions between me, myself, and I were some of the most fulfilling hours of my life, and I want them back. I might never have the confidence to actually perform it in public, and I can think of every reason in the world not to take this on: I'm almost 48. I have rheumatoid arthritis. I'm a full-time working mom with no time for such things. My daughter will think I'm lame. I'll miss out on my favorite TV shows. I won't be any good.  I'm scared to death.

I've been following an online reality series called "Failure Club" in which people set out to do the thing they've always wanted to do, but until this experience, have been held back by their own fear and self-doubt. Sound familiar? (In this clip, a 48-year-old woman decides she wants to do show jumping even though she doesn't have any experience with horses). Inspiring.

So here it is. Certainly not the smartest use of the meager funds in my savings account. (Suzie Ormand would DENY my request for sure!)  I'm likely to fall flat on my face, in which case I'll turn the whole experience into a really funny blog entry. I'll keep you posted.


  1. Yikes! That's a lot of money. But I really think you should get a new banjo somehow, some way. :) Not cool? How could they not be cool at a time like this when like half the coolest bands in the world are using banjos?
    If you want to talk about the not cool instruments, let's talk clarinet. Man, what was my 4th grade mind thinking?

  2. It's a huge amount for me. I'm hoping to find a comparable one on Craigslist or E-bay for a much lower price. It has to have a fabulous tone, and you really don't get that with less expensive banjos.