Prologue: What is a Bo(a)rder?

Time present and time past

Are both perhaps present in time future,

And time future contained in time past. -T.S. Eliot

I am the Bo(a)rder. In many ways, everyone is a bo(a)rder. We inhabit our lives not as a permanent resident but as ones given permission to stay in them until it is time to go. We move around the edges of our existence creating boundaries and then wantonly crossing them. Or, perhaps, we wait by the borders of our lives like some would-be immigrant hoping to be granted asylum to a life that we would rather be living.

I am the Bo(a)rder. I am a product of tenants who occupied similar space for generations and bequeathed me the lease on a rent controlled life, neither a luxury condo nor a tenement. Every choice I have made has been preordained by their status as bo(a)rders, and yet every choice I make, good or bad, is completely mine. To them goes credit for my triumphs and blame for my failures as much as credit and blame must be assumed by me for both mine and those of my descendants. This will be my story, my testament. This will also be the story of my ancestors, and, who knows, perhaps my descendants.

I live my life on the periphery of greatness. The worst and best that can be said of my life is that it has been and continues to be interesting. Those who interact with me daily, people whose lives are interesting in the most elegantly private and beautifully subtle ways, think of me as extraordinary, partly because I have accomplished some modestly extraordinary things – and yes, I know that is an oxymoron.

I have become acquainted with some truly extraordinary individuals, people whose accomplishments change the world in dramatic ways. I count among my acquaintances people with Grammy awards, people who have made fortunes, people who have been knighted. To these people I am quite ordinary. So my tenancy is one that sees me edging along the fringe of true greatness without ever quite crossing that border. I trade cordially with those on the other side and they know my name and deeds, but although I have visited them, I am no citizen of their country.

It may appear that before entering this world I chose parents who were also modestly extraordinary. They chose likewise, as did their parents and grandparents. This choice, the truest natural selection, was given then to my children.

Who, then, am I? The obvious answer is that I am a musician, a guitarist, a teacher, a writer, and a scholar. I have spent my life as a passionate servant to the greater cause of music, giving concerts whenever I can in order to find some meaning to my life by sharing that passion with a receptive audience. I have performed in bars, cafes, and restaurants, I have provided music for brides to walk in and out of their public ceremonies, and I have played music to create an atmosphere for people at social gathering, all in order to make a few dollars plying my craft. I have made a few recordings that, while not commercial successes by any stretch of the imagination, have represented the best artistry that I was capable of at the times of their recording. I have taught more students than I can count over nearly a half century of giving instruction. Some of those students have satisfied my soul by becoming accomplished artists themselves, and most have given me some real pleasure by simply becoming enriched by the experience. All have helped me to feed my family. I have written articles about the guitar and am still amazed when 25 years after the termination of my monthly guitar columns I am still contacted by guitarists who thank me for inspiring them to stretch artistically and become the better players that they now are. I have even made a small contribution to music history by resurrecting the reputation of one of the most significant classical guitarists of the 20th century, Miguel Llobet, by way of my doctoral dissertation.

I am a husband, a father, a stepfather, an uncle, a son and a friend. I am married for the second time in my life, and my wife will inevitably figure in my writings – it was she who inspired me to write. My son, my daughter, and my step daughter will also be a part of my writing. How could they not be? I am not sure how far afield my writings will take me. How uncomfortable am I willing to make myself? How uncomfortable am I willing to make others? Although I will continue to write about who I am and to, hopefully, reveal to someone the inner workings of an everyday artist I also believe that I am a product of my forbears, and so I will also write my family history. And who knows? Perhaps someone will find this history interesting.

My mother possessed a brilliant mind, and accomplished a remarkable feat before settling into the comfortable life of a suburban wife, mother and professional. My father, although less obviously gifted than my mother, had his own share of accomplishments. My paternal grandparents are shrouded in some mystery, although there are some clear moments that distinguish their lives. This is a veil that I intend to lift over time, but my father’s quiet nature provided me with little on which to proceed. My mother, on the other hand, was gregarious. In her final years of dementia her past became her only reality which meant that there were stories of her childhood and her parents that seemed as if they had happened yesterday. My story is their story, and theirs is mine – my parents, my grandparents, their parents and their grandparents. My roots extend back to Spain, France, England, and who knows where else. I hope to discover more as I research and write. I am writing for them (my predecessors) as much as for me, and hopefully someone will find this all interesting.

I will leave off with a composition of mine, Agenbyte of Inwit. The title means “The Pain of Conscience” in an early dialect of old Kentish. It reflects regrets that we all have. It is a view of conscience as a nostalgia for one’s own innocence.

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