Friday, January 31, 2014

The Embarrassment of Having Stuff

Once a peasant, always a peasant.

It's amazing how one can be sculpted by life into a certain mindset. We were nothing close to destitute while I was growing up, but, let's face it, my dad was a trumpet player/arranger/composer and my mom is a singer and worked as a hairdresser while I was growing up. We weren't exactly swimming in money. We ate. We got college paid for. We had a nice house. But, we never had lots of stuff. Family vacations were rare. That kind of thing.

But, we rarely had "extras."

Which is why I had this absurd feeling last night. Keep in mind: we are anything but rich, but, we're fortunate to be okay and maybe a little more financially flexible than my parents were.

I was fiddling around in my little music studio, arranging things. (Not literally "fiddling" and not musically arranging; like, just moving stuff around.) It is a studio that is funded, mostly, with the money I make as a musician. Once in a while, I cheat and throw in fifty bucks or even a hundred from the teaching income or from our collective money, but most of it, as a result of my silly personal code of not "stealing" money from the family for my own needs, is music equipment with music money.

I recently got a new drum set for playing out in with the band and I just got around to setting up my old kit in the studio. This process included resurrecting some old cymbal stands and doing repairs on a dust-caked kick drum pedal. I finally got it done.

While I was sitting, looking at the drums, I got a pang of what, at first, looks like guilt, but that, I have since realized, is actually embarrassment. The source? -- who do I think I am to have two fully functional drum sets?

Ridiculous, really. But there it is. It's not like I am Scrooge McDuck, or anything. It's not like I am Marie Antoinette tittering and instructing the starving masses to eat their cake and have it, too. (For those of you who might try to correct me on the use of that famous phrase, I direct you to Mr. Ellison [at 2:57].)

Alas, somehow, I have become the guy who thinks that to have more than three pairs of shoes is ostentatious (one brown, one black and a pair of sneakers). I don't think this for other people. I never look at other people with a lot of shoes and think: Stinking one-percenter! It just, for whatever reason, it embarrasses me to have stuff. I'm not sure if this is laudable or asinine, but, there it is.

Someday, maybe, I will allow myself to be in possession of a second, beaten-up, road worn, shell-scratched, precariously-hardwared drum set and not feel like some heartless nobleman swaggering past the serfs as they wallow, mud caking their vibraphone ribs while they nervously finger the buboes on their armpits.

Until then, I guess I will remain one of them, in spirit.

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