Of the many secret delusions I harbor in life, one is that I would today be a great musician, if only someone had offered adequate training and encouragement in my youth. I like to tell myself that since my raw genius went unnurtured, there's really nothing to be done about it now. This allows me to continue spending my time on episodes of 24 while blaming my parents for my own sloth and lack of achievement.
The only possible explanation for my having signed up for drum lessons recently is straight-up denial. I bought drum sticks and keenly awaited my first lesson, ignoring the fact that we have no room for a drum kit, that most of my peers have by now traded rock-star fantasies for children and promising careers, and that I can't really read music.
I arrived at the community music center early and waited until my instructor was finished with the lesson in progress. An eight-year-old boy and his mom emerged from the room, and then the seat was adjusted up to "rejuvenile" level for me. The instructor excused himself to make some photocopies. "Have you ever played drums before?" he asked. "No," I answered. "Well, I'll be right back," he said. "Go ahead and play. The room's soundproofed, you can hit 'em hard!"
For a moment it felt like I had been told to race a burro. I slumped in front of the drum kit. I hit it tentatively, but all of a sudden I wasn't feeling very Sheila E. What was I doing here? It was a relief when the teacher came back and I didn't have to make conversation with the drums anymore.
He had a brisk, well-developed patter you could tell he had used time after time, probably mostly for audiences under 10 years of age. "You'll want to buy a drum pad," he said. "The reason for that is, you don't want to ruin your furniture practicing."
I laughed dutifully. "Or my cat," I offered. He frowned. "Your cat?" "Well, it's my boyfriend's cat," I said. He seemed thrown by the audience response. "OK, some issues there. Moving on..." I decided to let him be the jokester and focus on learning the rimshot.
We went through the basics and I felt some pride when the instructor commented that I was picking things up quickly, until I realized that basically meant I had managed to make contact between the sticks and snare on some kind of rhythmic basis.
Now I sit in my apartment, happily tapping out exercises on my drum pad. I love this phase; it's like dating, where it's 100-percent potential and imagination. If it were a movie, you'd just see a montage of me rehearsing (over a couple months, maybe?) before I get to the big gig and knock everybody out with my amazing percussion skills.
Unable to stop myself, I went to Craigslist and looked up "drummer" in the musicians listings. At the moment, no one seems to be looking for someone with one week of experience who doesn't know how to use the cymbals yet, but my eyes are peeled.