It’s Been a Long Time…
One of the things I love about living in a beach community is that the pace of life’s pretty laid back, and sometimes the controversies that rage downtown can seem a world away. So for this Sunday morning, while I could have written about the inevitable lawsuit filed by Waste Management over Trail Ridge, or another in a seemingly endless stream of words about the new courthouse … something happened last Saturday that really captured my attention, and I hope yours.
We’d been to the Fletcher “All Class” reunion, which was really an excuse to have a big block party at the Beaches Historical Society and raise money for the school. My wife went to Fletcher, as did her mom and dad, so I was happy to tag along, have a couple of beers, and watch people try to place me. I even “forgot” to get a name tag just to play the game. I mean, why not.
Since we knew parking would be a hassle (no, there’s no parking problem at the beach), we rode the Beaches Trolley down to the Historical Society. A nice way to get around the beach, BTW, if you haven’t tried it, and a bargain at 50 cents. After the event, not wanting to ride all the way down to Target in Ponte Vedra, we walked across third street and went to pick up the Trolley home on 1st street. Standing at the Trolley Stop, I looked up and saw that The Druids were playing at Bukkets. I knew our night had just been extended.
My friend John Citrone, who’s day job is at Folio, is the titular leader of The Druids. Drummer, keyboardist, lead vocalist, elf. Here they are set up in my backyard for my 50th and Andie’s 40th birthday party last August. They got through 3 songs before some soulless curmudgeon called the Neptune Beach Police. Something about a noise ordinance … but I digress.
John has this affinity for asking pretty much anyone that he knows can hack their way through a three-chord rock and roll tune to come up and play. And Burt, a very talented guitarist in his own right, is only too happy to hand over his Stratocaster and take a break. I’ve been fortunate enough to be asked to play on a couple of occasions, which is how I know about hacking your way through a song. But on this night at Bukkets, a half hour before last call, John invited 15-year-old Don Cardona, a slight young man in a Led Zeppelin T-shirt, to strap on the Stratocaster and play.
And play he did. I had to scoop my jaw up off the floor.
I’ve been playing stringed instruments since I was about 6, but I’m pretty much a rhythm guitarist. Like Guitar George (he knows all the chords) I’m strictly rhythm, but not because I don’t want to make it cry or sing. I just have never developed the talent. Don came by his Zeppelin T-Shirt honestly. He just picked up the guitar, and shredded. Three Zeppelin songs in a row, a classic Guns & Roses, and then John said “you can do a blues shuffle, can’t you … 1-4-5 … just follow along.”
You’d have thought he’d spent 14 of his 15 years playing the blues. The first couple of phrases were a little tentative, but then … I could see his shoulders relax, and the music just ran from his fingers to the fretboard and filled the room.
John asked me to play after him, and I did, but only because it was really late and there was like NOBODY left in the bar, so why not.
It is so amazing to see talent like that where you don’t expect it. For 44 years, I’ve been playing electric and acoustic guitar. When I was Don’s age, I was playing in three-chord rock and roll bands in high school gyms and the National Guard Armory in Bedford, Indiana. Like Jeremy in ‘Zits’, we all dreamed of growing up to be Rock Stars.
Don’s got a legitimate shot. Good luck, and I hope you make it.