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Why I Play The Banjo
We've talked about a lot of technical music stuff in this book, but to wrap things up I think we need to kick back for a moment while I tell you a story.
Hey, it wouldn't be a book by Patrick Costello without at least one story now would it?
I was just a teenager when I had my first epileptic seizure. I don't remember the seizure itself. All I know is that I was eating French toast watching television one moment and the next thing I knew I was being rolled through a CAT scan. To say it was a terrifying experience would be understating it more than a little a bit.
It was almost a full day before anybody got around to telling me what was going on. I was sitting in a hospital bed hooked up to an IV when this doctor strolled in and informed me that I was an epileptic. I'll never forget the disinterested way he said it. He could have just as easily been informing me that I had a soup stain on my tie.
He hung around long enough to knock off a list of things I was never going to be able to do. He also informed me that I was going to be on medication for the rest of my life. He was wrong on all counts. Then he wandered off before I could ask a single question.
I thought that there was somebody in the next bed, but the blinds were closed so I couldn't see him. In fact, I didn't even know for sure if anybody was over there until the doctor was leaving and I heard this guy on the other side of the curtain cursing. I was too confused to pay much attention.
I just sat there by myself for a while until my folks came in to see me. We didn't talk about what was going on that much because we really didn't know for sure what was happening. Dear Old Dad brought my banjo and stuck it in the corner but I wasn't in the mood to play.
Later that day one of the priests from our parish came in to see me. He was just as distant and as preoccupied as th e doctor had been. Somewhere in the middle of his spiel he blurted out that God was punishing me.
He never said what he thought I was being punished for because he never got the chance. The curtain around the next bed flew open and there was this really big guy cursing and screaming at the priest to get out.
I thought I was flipping out again. Between the shock over what the priest had said and the sight of that very angry, very big dude thrashing around all I could really do was just sit there and watch the show unfold.
The thing I'll never forget about the big guy was his tattoos. Back in the early eighties you didn't see too many people in my hometown with that much ink on their skin. His arms were covered with spider webs, flames and dancing skeletons in so many colors that my eyes had a hard time taking them all in. He was the living image of an outlaw biker from a B-movie.
So there I was with this goofy priest on one side and the illustrated man on the other side when I finally