The Quick-Care clinic at Propst Drugstore occupies a small corner of the building, just a couple of rooms. I was first in line so they saw me right away. After examining me and taking an x-ray they called the owner, Dr. Allen Campbell, in to see me. I was told they could hear things go “crunch” in my right arm when they listened to it with a stethoscope. Not what I wanted to hear at all, it was starting to sink in that this really was as bad as I thought it was, maybe worse.
I kept thinking, “This is it, no career. It’s done.” Let me try to convey what this meant to me. When you see You Tubes of classical guitar, it’s not usually very interesting, just people sitting in a chair, plucking away. We don’t get to jump around onstage like other guitarists. When I share a show with Michelle Malone at the Flying Monkey I am always a little jealous of that. She looks so cool, bouncing all over the place during her set, and I sit in my chair during mine.
I’ve been fortunate to get to work with some great musicians as well as play solo, and the collaborations get me into some cool venues. The York Arts Centre in England and Greenwich House in New York for example with my wife and pianist Ingrid von Spakovsky. We had a gig in Ocean City with flutist Pamela Whitman a while back, and I got to play Campanas del Alba for my solo at the the Music Pier. I could look out and see the Atlantic from the stage while I was playing to a huge crowd. Even got a mention in the paper for my solo. I was asked to play the guitar part for Mahler’s 7th with the Huntsville Symphony. After the performance during the applause conductor Carlos Prieto looked right at me and played air guitar and grinned. I get to do a show every summer at the W.C. Handy Festival with blues guitarist Microwave Dave Gallaher and Ingrid at the Zodiac Theatre. The audiences are incredible, they are so into the music and very responsive. In the morning when I get my coffee and sit down with the Ramirez Elite, a beautiful guitar with gorgeous tone and response and play Bach to start the day, and have that sound envelope me, I realize it’s a privilege few get to experience. Even with my arm and shoulder in severe pain, I was having to wrap my mind around the very real possibility that all of this could be gone. For good. That hurt a lot worse than the arm and shoulder.
Dr. Campbell had heard me perform several times and knew my concerns. I asked him point blank, “is my career over?” He said “You’re going right now to the E.R. at Huntsville Hospital. You will be met there when you walk in the door and the orthopedic surgery people will take you and throw some pins in that elbow and you’ll be playing again in a few weeks.” What I didn’t realize at the time was how desperately I would hang on to those words in the next few weeks, saying them over and over again in my head, hoping they would be true. So off to the E.R. I let Ingrid drive.