Dancing to a New Tune

John McManamy Health Guide
  • Life goes on:


    Friday: I wake up in my own bed, fresh from an LA road trip. Time to start on my tax return, but first a visit to the local coffee shop. I am wearing a tee-shirt with Australian aboriginal art. A guy sitting at one of the tables is holding a didgeridoo.


    The didgeridoo is an Australian Aboriginal wind instrument made from the hollowed-out trunk or limb of a eucalyptus, between five and six feet. Through “circular breathing,” a skilled practitioner is able to sustain a low resonant drone capable of drawing one into “dreamtime,” a mystical state that one can easily transpose into one’s own spiritual or religious belief.

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    The didge guy’s name is Jack, and he has three more “sticks” out in his station wagon, beautifully rendered desert Yucca. He demonstrates on his own favorite, something he made out of a piece of maplewood he found lying on the ground during a family visit to Carolina. He lets me toot on the yucca sticks.


    I used to play trombone, but I have to forget all I know. Instead of attacking the thing, I have to relax into it. I manage to produce a few short-lived flatulent sounds. Still, this is way cool. I get the guy’s business card, return home, and spend the rest of the day procrastinating on my taxes.


    Saturday: I wake up, deciding I am definitely going to get a didge. But first my taxes. Actually, first the coffee shop. I tell one of the locals my intentions, and we start getting silly. After all, I say, if I make a mistake, who is going to know? He says I will know when I find nine romantic moose crashing down my door.


    I return home, ready to start my taxes. But first, a little business to take care of. I pull out Jack’s business card, and give him a call. When can we do a didge deal? I ask. How about we meet in twenty minutes outside the coffee shop? he suggests.


    So much for taxes. The IRS will understand.


    Jack pulls up with about twelve didges loaded up in the back of his station wagon. Well, you know how guys are around didges. We get talking for more than an hour and I have to try them all out, and I wind up buying the most expensive one he’s got.


    I’m up in the mountains on Forest Service land. A didge out here is as natural as pizza in Manhattan. I get the thing home and I’m perplexed at my inability to master it in five minutes. I do find, however, it makes a great megaphone, and I can belt out a pretty mean “Winchester Cathedral” vocal on it.


    One of my housemates, Rick, enters. He has a masters in anthropology and is accomplished on the harmonica. He is definitely impressed by my purchase. He rushes down to his room and returns a minute later with a case of his harps. He starts wailing the blues, and I find myself blatting out some jug band accompaniment.


    We’re off to a great start.


    Later that evening, Rick and I are digging into one of my pastas – penne with roasted red peppers, sausage, and sliced portabella mushrooms fried in garlic butter-olive oil with crushed tomatoes and basil. We engage in one of those conversations about what life would have been like had we not had to contend with bipolar.

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    We’d both probably be very dull people, I tell him. I’m an authority on the subject. Look, I say, I’m in my fifties and I just spent my afternoon jamming on didgeridoo with a guy on harmonica. Who wants to be normal?


    Life is supposed to be a journey of discovery, with new challenges, new opportunities for growing and making connections, not to mention learning from recent failures. Stop moving and entropy sets in, death’s slow dance of inevitable disintegration.


    Here, up in the mountains, I’m dancing to a new tune. And I have the didge to prove it.

Published On: April 17, 2007