Last month’s contribution to the L2P blog zone of the musical world relayed my experience in regards to a nasty fall resulting in a torn thumb ligament, my standard brand of panic and the big question as to whether or not my upcoming tours would miraculously be salvaged.
The bigger question for me of course was, “Is my career as I know it over?” Nothing could have been more appealing to an eccentric, moody and dramatic musician than to fully embrace the fantasy that there was no justice and the God’s had spoken. Doom had arrived and now what would planet earth do without me?
Once my morning coffee had kicked in I realized that it was time to once again re-enter the world of what I like to call, reality, and investigate the best way to proceed. I searched for someone who might know a little something about hands and how to use a scalpel and laughing gas.
Although I mentioned Dr. Mahmood with the Othopaedic Institute in Ocala, Florida in the last installment of this episode in my life, it doesn’t hurt to mention him again and reiterate that this magician and his little elves in therapy crafted a new thumb out of one of my toes. For me to explain that visual any further would simply ruin the story, but have faith as that segment is from the world of reality.
Prior to the surgery, while on tour in Europe, New Zealand and Australia, I became increasingly aware that in all likelihood some of my techniques might eventually have to be modified or live with the fact that some of my hard earned chops might outright and permanently be eliminated. I wore a specially designed hand/thumb brace for playing and one for everyday activities, which gave me a window on my dilemma. I had already resigned myself to asking total strangers to tie my shoe laces and carry my guitars.
At this point, I realized from a past experience that change is possible and might be somewhat desirable if I modified a technique or approach to the instrument – in my case, the acoustic 6 and 12-string guitars.
For example, I previously used metal banjo fingerpicks (once referred to by a friend as my “Freddy Krueger Starter Set”) and when I elected to go to a bare finger approach as a fingerpicker, I believe I came out far better in the long run. I recall that during the transition it was an absolute willingness to go very slowly, feel each string, and enjoy the journey of modification, although it was at first awkward. Now, once again I had to be willing to change so I trained myself to turn the tuning keys of my guitars with my index and middle fingers instead of using my thumb and index.
Again it was that same attitude that if a change must be made – so be it. Always up for a challenge, I recalled while staring at my toe, uh my thumb, that I once wrote an entire tune without a first string on the guitar. I composed another by utilizing my right thumb exclusively (the one that still exists in its original glory) with a multitude of nothing more than repetitive and dynamic down strokes. Never one for brilliant song titles I settled on “Thumbsing.”
Today, I still have a knuckle that somewhat resembles my chin, a toe tendon with a couple of screws on either side, and a temporary inability to hook my thumb over the top of the fret board – a move that sends chills up the spine of any dedicated classical guitarist. I also have a toe that taps independently of the rest of the foot it’s attached to. But I’ll bet in time my thumb will achieve its dream of being a thumb and I’ll catch that F# in the bass with it at the 2nd fret, after finding some muscle relaxers that only affect the feet.
And by the way, for those of you who don’t know, a musician who claims he actually had morning coffee probably made it at 11:58am and drank it at 11:59am. As I’ve always said, “The music only comes out at night.” Chances are I’ll once again re-enter that world of reality.
Originally posted 2013-09-30 22:49:28.