When I’m not teaching high school English or moonlighting as a vigilante, I lead a guitar group in Andahuaylillas’s parish. Two or three days each week, I meet with up to ten Peruvian children and teach them to play songs like Every Breath You Take, Three Little Birds and, most recently, Californication. They’re a good group of kids, and it’s nice to spend time with them without having to resort to the disciplinarian role required of me at school.
One of my newer guitar students is Ángel, a kind and not-too-rambunctious fourth-year student (as I teach first and second year, this means I do not have him in class).
Yesterday, Ángel was strumming along while I helped another boy discover the finer points of Simon and Garfunkel’s version of El Condor Pasa. Suddenly, I heard the sound of wood hitting the floor and guitar strings singing together in an ugly, cacophonous jumble. I turned to see Ángel standing over one of the parish`s guitars which, in the fall, had rid itself of the upper-section of its neck.
Naturally, my intial reaction was to be upset. There are already more potential students than available guitars, so to lose one was a significant buzz kill.
More crestfallen than me, however, was Ángel. As I said, he is a standup dude, and while some of his other counterparts might not have thought twice about destroying a guitar, Ángel clearly felt the guilt of responsibility.
Realizing that nothing more than an accident had occurred, I told Ángel that everything was all right, that Padre Oscar had already agreed we could buy more guitars for the parish and that only a truly crappy, piece-of-shit guitar could be wrecked so miraculously by such a short fall. By the end of our conversation, I think Ángel felt better, so much so that he agreed to pose for this picture.
When it comes time to explain to Padre Oscar why this guitar looks the way it does and is no longer playable, I plan to defend Ángel by showing Padre a YouTube clip of Pete Townshend in concert. Because while Ángel’s mistake was an expensive one, at least it put him in good company.