Archive | Sunday Brunch

Sunday Brunch: Processing the Unimaginable

Sunday Brunch With Melissa Bartell

There are moments that the words don’t reach
There is suffering too terrible to name
You hold your child as tight as you can
And push away the unimaginable

My adopted city, Dallas, is mourning, and hot tears leak from my eyes at random moments. My heart is still sore from the mass shooting at Pulse in Orlando last month. My friends – gay, straight, cis, trans, black, brown, white, male, female, liberal, conservative, and those who fall into their own positions on a multitude of spectra – are all facing their own bouts of heartsickness, reacting either to events that hurt our communities, or other, more personal losses.

The moments when you’re in so deep
It feels easier to just swim down

We turn to social media for information, for solace, for the sense that even if we are geographically separate from the people we most love, the digital world keeps us together.

And learn to live with the unimaginable

And we are overwhelmed.

Or at least, I am.

It’s easy enough to switch the channel away from CNN or the local news, to turn off cable entirely, and step into the reality-free bubble of endless streaming episodes of “comfort television.” (For me, that involves Gilmore Girls, Star Trek: The Next Generation, and even, though some might think it odd, The West Wing.) Lone Sad Guitarist

Much more difficult is disconnecting from the internet. I live so much of my life online that ignoring email is like ignoring a ringing phone, and taking a step back from Twitter or Facebook is tantamount to taking up residence in a cave in the wilderness.

But there are times when taking a break is the best thing, the only thing, I can do if I want to retain any semblance of sanity (and believe me, I use that term loosely).

And it’s then that I turn to music.

If my life was a movie, it would be a musical. I was singing before I could talk, and I often tell people that I think in music. More accurately, I think in songs.

My tastes are many, even eclectic, and my inner soundtrack varies often. Sometimes I blast classic rock, and other times, I find the greatest release in classical music.

Several years ago, when my nephew was dying, I listened to Melissa Etheridge’s cover of “Hallelujah,” Bette Midler’s version of “I Think It’s Gonna Rain Today,” and the gospel choir rendition of the Beatles’ “Let it Be.” A couple of decades before that, I got through the days after my grandfather’s funeral with endless repeats of Barbara Streisand singing “Papa, Can You Hear Me?”

I don’t pretend to know
The challenges we’re facing
I know there’s no replacing what we’ve lost

I turn to folk music and showtunes more than any other kind of music. I like them because they have the strongest stories, because they have accessible melodies and (usually) discernible lyrics, and because when it hurts too much to be myself, they give me characters to play, even if it’s only for three minutes and fourteen seconds.

I fill my head with music. I stand in the living room and sing. I dance with my dogs (Teddy is tall enough to be a partner, but he’s not good at leading).

I remember random snippets of things that matter – like Noel Paul Stookey (the ‘Paul’ in Peter, Paul & Mary) suggesting to a concert audience that all candidates for public office should be required to sing for their constituents, because while all adults are adept at lying when we speak, it’s almost impossible to lie while singing.

I watch as celebrity after celebrity releases a tribute song.

There are moments that the words don’t reach
There is a grace too powerful to name
We push away what we can never understand
We push away the unimaginable

I used to mock those celebrity tribute songs.

Now, I listen to them, and if I really like them, I buy them. Why? Because celebrities are just people. They’re ordinary people with extraordinary jobs, and writing a song, or joining a chorus of other celebrity singers is really no different than what I do in my living room, except on a grander scale with the potential to also earn money for a designated charity.

Forgiveness. Can you imagine?

The tears continue to flow as I listen to the song that’s helping me most right now. “It’s Quiet Uptown,” from the soundtrack of Hamilton. While it’s technically about Alexander and Eliza reeling from the death of their son, there’s a universality in the emotions of the song, and in the concept of pushing through the worst grief, accepting that the unimaginable happens, and coming, finally to a place of forgiveness and understanding.

Forgiveness. Can you imagine?

I’m not quite ready to interact with the world yet. I haven’t sorted out all of my own feelings about the last few days, and my emotions are raw and too close to the surface.

I do know, though, that we have to – all of us – as Americans, as humans – find a way to come together and move forward and make positive change.

Maybe we’ll do that with laws and policies, but maybe, just maybe, we’ll do that with art, and writing, and music.

Peter, Paul & Mary sang that music was “… better than words. It’s the only thing that the whole world listens to.”  I believe they were right.

Forgiveness. Can you imagine?

Whether it’s angry-girl rock that helps us find our inner strength, a lullaby sung to a fretful or fearful child, or a silly pop number that helps us rediscover joy, even in the midst of sorrow, music is the language that lives in our deepest hearts.

Plug in those ear-buds or turn up that stereo. Choose vintage vinyl or stick with the modern technology that lets us hold entire catalogues of albums in the palms of our hands. Find the song that works for you, and play it on auto-repeat or pick it out on a piano or guitar. Sing in the streets or sing in the shower.

That’s what I’m doing.

At least for now.

If I’m quiet, if I don’t write strings of words about what’s going on in the world, but re-post the writings of a few other voices I resonate with, please understand that I’m still processing the unimaginable events that have hurt my community, my friends, and me.

Most likely, everyone else around me is doing the same.

Have pity
They are going through the unimaginable


Italicized song lyrics are from “It’s Quiet Uptown,” from Hamilton: An American Musicalmusic and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Image Copyright: joseasreyes / 123RF Stock Photo


About the author: Melissa A. Bartell

Melissa A. BartellMelissa is a writer, voice actor, podcaster, itinerant musician, voracious reader, and collector of hats and rescue dogs. She is the author of The Bathtub Mermaid: Tales from the Holiday Tub. You can learn more about her on her blog, or connect with her on on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

Sunday Brunch: Circumnavigating My Imagination

Sunday Brunch With Melissa Bartell

“Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.” — Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows

I have this recurring fantasy that usually comes to visit around this time of year, when even though the calendar insists we have a couple more weeks of spring, the heat and humidity are adamant that it’s actually summer, and woe betide anyone who thinks a mere calendar can dictate the changing of the seasons.

Woman on a Sailboat

My annual fancy is this: sailing around the world in a wooden boat. I don’t mean one of those race-against-time circumnavigations that are all about being the youngest, the oldest, or (likely in my case) the shortest woman to do so solo. I have no interest in breaking records or beating time. Rather, I envision the nautical equivalent of meandering through a botanical garden. I dream about sailing from place to place, spending a few days exploring this country or that archipelago, and then continuing on.

I’ve loved the sea since birth, of course. I’m a bathtub mermaid because I live five hours from the nearest coastline, but the scents of salt and tar and the feelings of wind in my hair and sea-spray in my face have existed in my memory for as long as I’ve had conscious memory, just as the sound of the surf is my favorite lullaby and the mournful groans of foghorns were the first tones I learned to duplicate on my cello.

My sailboat fantasy was launched because of a book I read when I was eighteen or twenty, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that books are part of a sequence of events that have become a summer ritual, of sorts.

First, I start devouring ‘ocean’ books. I don’t mean beach books. No Frank or Siddons or Hilderbrand or Monroe. I do read all those authors during the heat of summer, but when I say ocean books, I mean books like John Steinbeck’s The Log from the Sea of Cortez, Tania Aebi’s Maiden Voyage, Susan Casey’s trio of travel-journalism-meets-popular-science books, The Devil’s Teeth  (about the Farallon Islands off San Francsico, and the great white shark population there), The Wave (about maritime science, climate change and rogue waves, and Voices in the Ocean (which I’ve just started reading for the first time, having just discovered it exists – it’s about dolphins). I also read the books by whatever contemporary teenager has attempted her own circumnavigation most recently.

I embrace ocean films as well – things like In the Heart of the Sea and The Perfect Storm, yes, but also the various Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Anything where ships and sailing and the power of the ocean is visualized, up to and including shark movies. (Not Sharknado, but definitely the original Jaws.) I’m not a particular fan of Nicholas Sparks’s novels, but I can watch Nights in Rodanthe and Message in a Bottle over and over, when I’m in sailboat mode.

Next, I reclaim my mermaid tail, making sure I swim for at least an hour every day. I’m a chubby mermaid, but I usually finish the summer tanner, and fitter, than I began it, and being in the water – even if it’s only my pool, makes me happy.

My pool time is enhanced by my vivid imagination. My backyard is kind of a jungle (because we are not DIYers and we’ve had a lot of rain) and the trees and flowers obscure the fence that surrounds my yard, making me feel like I’m swimming in a lagoon on a tropical island and the susurration of the balmy breeze through the treetops easily becomes the sound of surf.

Sometimes, swim-time comes with pleasant surprises: a sudden summer rainstorm (the kind with no warning and no lightning), birds alighting on the branches that form a canopy over half the pool, dragonflies showing off their colors. Most of the time, though, it’s just me, slicing through the water or bobbing in it, and letting my thoughts float free.

Finally, I try to make my writing and reading spaces as boat-like as possible. I’ve always wanted a captain’s bed (they make them in queen sized, which is what our current mattress is), but that wouldn’t be practical in the house we have, so I must content myself with our headboard, which has built-in lights and cabinets, and in my collection of nautical stripe sheets and summer quilts. I have scented candles in my bathroom that echo the aquatic scents I love so much, and the Word Lounge is filled with mermaids and seashells and toy boats. I even have special summer coffee mugs that feature starfish and seashells on them.

As the summer heat rises and falls, and then rises again, even higher, I flow in and out of my sailboat dreams. I’ve come close to booking a week on such a boat, but I never quite do it, because while I love the fantasy, I also know myself incredibly well. I’m the girl who never liked camping, and the woman who considers ‘roughing it’ to be staying in a hotel that doesn’t have room service or free wifi.

A few years ago, while visiting my parents in La Paz, BCS, Mexico, I couldn’t sleep – it was too quiet in the desert, even with the water only a couple hundred feet away – so I used the Tune In app on my iPad to find something comforting and relaxing to listen to. I stumbled across a podcast from RTE Radio 1 in Ireland: Seascapes. It’s part fishing and tide reports, and part maritime culture, and every episode begins with the host (who in my head is much older than he probably is in real life) calling out a cheery “Hello!”

For a while after that, I listened to the show every week. Now, though, I save the episodes for when I’m in a marine mood. I seal myself into my writing studio, light the candle that sits in a pile of shells inside a fish-shaped dish, and binge-listen while I write and sip strong black tea.

Isak Dinesen wrote, “The cure for anything is saltwater – sweat, tears, or the sea.” For me, it’s enough to circumnavigate the vast oceans that exist in my imagination, because the waves and I are old friends, and my blood is equal measures of seawater and caffeine.

Image Copyright: nickolya / 123RF Stock Photo

About the author: Melissa A. Bartell

Melissa A. BartellMelissa is a writer, voice actor, podcaster, itinerant musician, voracious reader, and collector of hats and rescue dogs. She is the author of The Bathtub Mermaid: Tales from the Holiday Tub. You can learn more about her on her blog, or connect with her on on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

Sunday Brunch: Miss Cleo vs. The Squirrels

Sunday Brunch With Melissa Bartell

It’s Mother’s Day in the United States today, and it’s Mother’s Day on Tuesday in Mexico. I don’t have any human children, but my husband often refers to me as The Mother of Dogs, just as I often refer to my home as the House of Bark.

So, in honor of the day, and in celebration of all mothers, whether they are raising human children, fur-kids, or some combination of the two, I want to share a true story from my life.

It happened in 2009.

It was a cold and sleety January day in the DFW Metroplex, with many of us indulging our inner ten-year-olds and watching the weather reports with one compound question on our minds: Will we get snow, and if so, will it actually stick?

In my back yard, however, there was another question to be answered: in the matter of possession of the patio furniture, who would win: Miss Cleo or the Squirrels?

I should explain a few things before I begin my story:

Miss Cleo StalkingMiss Cleo was a twenty-pound spayed female dog. At nearly nine years old, she still thought she was a puppy. She also had an aggressive streak that generally only manifested itself with veterinary personnel, smokers, and strange men with clipboards who dared to ring my doorbell and provide repair services or present packages.

Second, a week before this incident, when we were at jury duty, we came home to discover that some animal had carved a bowl-shape the size of a Cool Whip container (the big ones) out of the seat of one of the patio chairs. (Lest you believe we aren’t taking good care of said chairs, please understand, we’d planned to replace all the cushions in the summer, anyway.)

And now for the fun part:

Round One:

It had become necessary to walk out into the back yard (at least to the edge of the deck) with the dogs when they were sent to complete their morning “rounds,” because my older dog (Zorro, 14YO neutered male Chihuahua) had, in his old age, become cranky and neurotic. He’d never liked to get his feet wet, and if he was not supervised, would go to the end of the deck, come back inside, and leave puddles in the middle of the living room floor.

That morning, as I escorted the dogs to The Place Beyond the Door (we could not use the word ‘out’ with Zorro or Cleo because they recognized it. This is a tradition that continues with the current members of the House of Bark), Miss Cleo and I noticed a small furry animal perched on the back of one of the patio chairs. It was large enough that at first I thought it was a stray cat, but it was, in fact, a red squirrel, with a mouthful of cushion foam and a cheesy grin. It gave us a wave, flicked its tail, and was scooting along the top of the back fence before Miss Cleo could even stop pawing anxiously at the ground.

Score: Miss Cleo – 0, Squirrels – 1

Round Two:

Not fifteen minutes later, we were all sprawled on the bed (well, the dogs were sprawled, and I was sitting, writing an article about the future of Saab for work), when Miss Cleo’s hackles rose, and she began producing that really low guttural growl thSquirrel on Fenceat small dogs generally emit only when there is a rodent to be attacked. Or, you know, a sock. Or a leaf blowing in the breeze. Or someone walking down the street three miles away. You get the idea.

I glanced out the window, and sure enough, another squirrel – or perhaps the same one – was on the patio chair harvesting foam.

Miss Cleo and I went out to the yard to investigate.

I wanted to try and snap a picture; she wanted to play ‘eat the squirrel.’ Sadly, my camera batteries were dead (note to self: charge camera), but Miss Cleo went outside into the sleet, and approached her prey.

When she was two feet away, the squirrel glanced at her.

When she was one foot away, it stared balefully over the foam it was holding.

She hopped onto the seat of the chair, tail curled so tightly I feared it might never unfurl again, and then – and I swear I am not making this up – the squirrel threw a wad of foam at Miss Cleo. It bounced off my poor dog’s nose, and while she was shaking her head trying to figure out what the whitestuff was, the squirrel gave a shake of its tail and scampered out of sight.

Score: Miss Cleo – 0, Squirrels – 2

Round Three

Several hours later, I had just finished giving Zorro his evening drugs (Lasix and vetmedin), and giving Miss Cleo treats to help disguise the fact that Zorro was getting drugs (I’m sure he knew, but he was willing to play the game in order to get extra treats).

I escorted them into the back yard, which had become decidedly icy once the sun had set, and guess who was back? Yes! The squirrel! I didn’t think they were nocturnal, but apparently they really dug (no pun intended) the innards of my patio furniture.

Miss Cleo took off across the yard and the squirrel took off into the trees.

Miss Cleo jumped up onto the brick ledge that forms the back wall of the pool (and is about two and half feet above the water’s surface).

Miss Cleo learned that icy brick and dog feet are ‘unmixy things’ (to use a Buffy-ism), and went splash! into the freezing water, while the squirrel sat on the opposite fence, laughing.

It is a well-known fact that squirrel laughter sounds uncannily like Bart Simpson.

Final Score: Miss Cleo – 0, Squirrels -3
Squirrels FTW!Miss Cleo on her Pillow

Neither Zorro nor Miss Cleo are still with me. Zorro went to the Rainbow Bridge less than a month later, a week after I brought home my first big dog, Maximus. Miss Cleo joined him in 2013.

The current members of the House of Bark, Max, Perry, Teddy, Piper, and foster-dog Madison never met Zorro (well, Max did, but the others didn’t), but all of them except Piper lived with Miss Cleo. She was always a prickly sort of dog, but she was my dog, and I loved her.

The squirrels remain, but ever since that winter, they’ve left the patio furniture unmolested, and none of the other dogs have managed to land in the pool.


About the author: Melissa A. Bartell

Melissa A. BartellMelissa is a writer, voice actor, podcaster, itinerant musician, voracious reader, and collector of hats and rescue dogs. She is the author of The Bathtub Mermaid: Tales from the Holiday Tub. You can learn more about her on her blog, or connect with her on on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

Sunday Brunch: Kite and String

Sunday Brunch With Melissa Bartell


“What is it like,” I asked my husband earlier this weekend, “being married to someone with a creative personality?”

“Well,” he answered slowly (but then, he does most things both slowly and methodically), “it’s never boring.”

“That was very diplomatic,” I told him. “But not terribly helpful.”

Kite and StringHe pointed out that since he was in the process of hanging all the clean laundry that doesn’t get folded, he was being helpful enough for one day. “Anyway,” he added, “you keep telling me I suck at multitasking.”

“Well,” I responded. “You do.”  Then I turned on my heel and left the room, fighting not to laugh.

Last month, Fuzzy (that’s my nickname for him, though his real identity isn’t a secret) and I celebrated our twenty-first wedding anniversary. Our celebration was tame – we went out for breakfast – which may seem like nothing, but a lot of our first dates involved breakfast food, so it was appropriate for us.

Besides, we bought each other our big gifts – VIP tickets to Dallas Comic Con in June – back in February. Going to cons is something we both enjoy, and we’re comfortable enough in our mutual geekiness that we’re not embarrassed about it.

If you’d asked me, when I was seven, if I was ever going to get married I would have giggled and blushed and admitted that I had a crush on Shaun Cassidy, who was known to me, then, as Joe Hardy on the Hardy Boys television show.

If you’d asked me the same question when I was twelve, I would have glowered at you, and insisted I was never, ever getting married, but on the off-chance that I did we would have separate apartments. (Sometimes, I’m not sure that was a bad idea.)

I was never the girl who dreamed about getting married, had her wedding planned before she could construct complete sentences, or gushed over brides and babies.

At nineteen, I had this romantic notion of being a contemporary version of a foreign correspondent, traveling all over the world, sending thick, vivid letters back home, and having a succession of brooding, artsy lovers.

That didn’t happen, but I did date a musician for a while when I was twenty-one. He was older. And he was a mess. But every relationship teaches you something, and I came away from that experience with a great appreciation for jazz and blues and The Great American Songbook.

From the beginning, our relationship – Fuzzy’s and mine – was uniquely ours. We met online in a time when nobody was doing that, and the world wide web… wasn’t. We started planning a proper wedding only to realize we didn’t want to deal with the fuss, or our family’s differing religious and political views, or the fact that I’d just moved from California to South Dakota to be with him, and didn’t have a job (or health insurance) yet.

We eloped on a chilly Friday in March, in the courthouse where Laura and Almanzo Wilder’s marriage was registered (I was a life-long Laura fan, and became more of one when, on my first visit to South Dakota, the drive to the family farm took us, not only down the Laura Ingalls Wilder Historical Highway, but past DeSmet – the actual “Little Town” on the prairie.)

My mother refused to talk to me for a month after I told her, but then she sent us a box with some great gifts, and a check… and months after that, she threw us a fantastic party where we had a re-commitment ceremony in her front yard, and a pot-luck reception featuring a smoked turkey and the traditional wedding foods from several of her friends’ cultures of origin, in the back yard.

Holding HandsOver the years, our marriage has gone through several changes. For a while I made more money than Fuzzy, but he was proud of me for that, even though he often worried about the number of hours I spent at work. For the last decade, he’s been the primary wage-earner, and while he won’t admit it, I think there’s a part of him that secretly likes being able to be the provider.

Sometimes, I’ve worked at an office while he got to spend a couple days a week at home, and sometimes he’s worked over an hour away while I could walk to work. Today, we both work from home (which is why there are only two of us plus four dogs living in our five-bedroom house – we each need our own office), but he travels for work, and every so often I travel without him for one reason or another.

There are also things that have never changed: we’re both nocturnal, more likely to see dawn because we haven’t been to bed than because we just woke up; we still make each other laugh at least once a day; we both sleep better when we’re curled up together in the center of our bed (dogs permitting) than on separate sides.

I drink coffee, and he drinks warm orange soda. He wears shoes to the beach, and I’m barefoot as much as possible. I double the amount of walnuts in anything I bake because he loves them, and he brings me flowers every time he goes grocery shopping. I’m a Star Trek fan to the depths of my soul, while he prefers Star Wars, and he’s a Marvel guy while I’m a DC girl, but, at the end of the day, whatever we have works.

He still flirts with me, at home, in public, everywhere.

I still can’t get enough of his kisses, or his singing voice.

If there are times when his somewhat introverted, often pedantic, stoic, engineer self makes me feel like I’m actually married to the android Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation, I’m certain that my tendency to bounce from topic to topic, change my accent on a whim, and wander around the house talking to myself as I work out lines of dialogue for an audio drama I’m in, or a story I’m writing, makes him feel like he’s married to Sibyl.

So, what is it like for my sweet, loyal, list-following, spreadsheet-loving husband to be married to someone who has a creative personality? Here’s how I described our relationship to my friend Caroline (in Sweden) a few days ago – and how I describe us to most people:

I’m kind of like a kite – flying around doing all sorts of things – writing, improv, music, voice acting, podcasting – letting the wind take me where it will, and he’s the string, giving me enough room to fly, but still keeping me anchored to the earth.

Kite and String.

Me and Fuzzy.

Twenty-one years.

It isn’t always perfect, but at the same time, it totally is.

Kite and String Copyright: altomedia / 123RF Stock Photo
Holding Hands Copyright: worapong / 123RF Stock Photo


About the author: Melissa A. Bartell

Melissa A. BartellMelissa is a writer, voice actor, podcaster, itinerant musician, voracious reader, and collector of hats and rescue dogs. She is the author of The Bathtub Mermaid: Tales from the Holiday Tub. You can learn more about her on her blog, or connect with her on on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

Sunday Brunch: Guitar Journey

Sunday Brunch With Melissa Bartell

There’s something magical about walking into a store that sells musical instruments, even if you’re not a musician. Maybe it’s because all the wire and wood, all the skins and snares, represent more than just the instruments they compose, but the music they will eventually produce. Maybe it’s because bows and sticks and mallets and pics whisper to the most innocent, childlike, fun-loving parts of our brains, telling us, no – urging us –  just to play.

Maybe it’s because we know that when we’re sitting at a piano keyboard, stretching our arms out to get a violin ‘fitted,’ or cradling the curves of a cello against our bodies we’re not just considering the purchase of a musical instrument, we’re buying possibility.

I hadn’t been into an instrument shop in years, but last August, I recognized that it was finally time to follow through on a dream: after 31 years of cello, I was finally going to take the guitar journey I’d been flirting with, and never committing to, for years.

I was going to buy a guitar.

I started on the internet first, of course, researching types of guitars, and learning a bit about the instrument so that, at the very least, when I entered a brick and mortar store, I’d be able to speak intelligently.

My research taught me that I wanted a six-string acoustic guitar. My taste informed me that I wanted an instrument that would be good for folk music. My history with my cello, and the process of shopping for that told me that I wanted a guitar that had as much real wood as possible. Guitar HandsMy size – I’m exactly five feet tall and have fairly small hands – made a smaller instrument seem like the wiser choice. My budget dictated that I not spend more than $500 for my first guitar.

Armed with this information, recommendations from friends, and a few things I’d learned from a guitar blogger who also reviews instruments, I went to my local Guitar Center.

At first, I was a little daunted. Most of the people in the room were sporting visibly edgy looks – I saw piercings that surprised even me – and the vast majority were twenty-something males. I was expecting them to look at me, short, round, white, old (although I still get carded), hobbling because of a recent knee-injury, and not give me the time of day.

I was wrong of course, mostly because I’d forgotten the bond of musicians, the one that is just intrinsically there. It’s this little undercurrent that says I know you even if you’ve never met the other person, and even if you play drastically different instruments.

“I’ve played cello forever,” I said, “but I’ve always wanted to play the guitar.”

The long-haired sales clerk who sported a few very well-placed tattoos on his muscular arms and had the piercings in his ears filled with discs the diameter of quarters, smiled at me. “Okay, let me ask you some questions.”

And he did.

What kind of music did I want to play? Was I looking to record or just have an instrument to learn on. Had I tried any guitars already? Was there a make I had in mind? How much did I want to spend?

I answered his barrage of questions and he led me to a room full of guitars. “There really isn’t that big a difference between a ‘travel’ guitar like the Little Martin that Ed Sheeran uses and a full-size guitar, but those few millimeters can make a difference. Try some out, let me know if you have questions.”

My husband had come with me for support and consultation. Like me, Fuzzy is a musician, but not a guitarist. He’s not even a string player! His instruments are piano, trumpet, and accordion. (No, really, accordion.)

Still, it was nice to have someone there to help me lift the guitars off the racks, and give me an external opinion that wasn’t colored by my initial overwhelmedness – I mean, a room full of guitars – really.

I strummed about five guitars that day. Luna Safari I had no intention of buying one on the first outing unless I fell in love with it, and left pretty much thinking I’d be back in a week to get the solid spruce-top Little Martin. It was at the top of my price range, but Martin is a good brand and I liked the feel of it.

I’m glad I waited to buy it, though, because in the meantime, I discovered a brand called Luna, that specialized in guitars that were designed by, and marketed toward, women. The Luna guitars that I looked at online had everything the Little Martin had, but they were also pretty.

Obviously, what a guitar looks like does not affect its sound in the slightest, but when I bought my cello, I was able to customize it so that the fittings are rosewood, which gives it a more feminine look. Was it wrong, all things considered, to want my guitar to be sort of pretty and feminine also?

My next issue was that the spruce-top travel guitar Luna wanted was not in stock at any of the instrument shops near me. I could have ordered it from Zzounds (a company I highly recommend for recording gear), but even when you think you know what you want, you should never buy an instrument without trying it first.

I did more research, and finally, the day before my birthday, Fuzzy and I drove to the Guitar Center in Dallas (as opposed to the suburban branch I’d initially visited), where a man who was a dead-ringer for Anthony LaPaglia (back when he played Joe in Empire Records) greeted us.

“I know you don’t have the Luna I’m looking for,” I said. “But you have a Luna travel guitar that isn’t spruce-top and it will, at least, let me see how it feels.”

He showed me several smaller guitars, including a Baby Taylor, that was too pricey and not as pretty, and then I played the laminate Luna.

It sounded like a cigar box.

But it felt like I’d met an old friend.

(Just for fun, even though I’d just made my choice, I also played a cotton-candy pink Luna electric-acoustic, but I didn’t like it nearly as well, even though it looked cool.)

We went back to talk to not-actually-Anthony-LaPaglia and he said, “Oh, we can special order the model you want. If you have it delivered to your local store, there’s no shipping fee.”

Four days later, I was holding my Luna Safari Supreme in my hands, tuning it with an app I’d downloaded to my iPhone, and taking my first guitar lesson via a collection of YouTube videos. I haven’t started formal lessons with a live teacher yet – that will probably be this summer’s project – but I’m enjoying the challenge of learning a new instrument after all these years.

I’m also enjoying telling people about my guitar shopping experience, which is best summed up thusly: When I told not-actually-Anthony-LaPaglia that I’d played cello for decades and wanted to take up a new instrument, he looked at me like I was some kind of musical goddess.

“I tried the cello once, a long time ago,” he confessed. “I couldn’t figure it out. Dude… cello’s hard.”

I don’t remember what my response was, but I know that my journey with this guitar – with the wire and the wood, and learning a whole new way of using my hands and fingers, feeling this instrument become part of me – is only just beginning,   and I can’t wait to find out where it takes me next.

I mean, anything’s possible.

(Image credits: Guitar Player is from djoronimo / 123RF Stock Photo; Guitar Face is from Luna Guitars.)

About the author: Melissa A. Bartell

Melissa A. BartellMelissa is a writer, voice actor, podcaster, itinerant musician, voracious reader, and collector of hats and rescue dogs. She is the author of The Bathtub Mermaid: Tales from the Holiday Tub. You can learn more about her on her blog, or connect with her on on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

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