The Banjo Barter System
Long before I played mandolin I knew a little banjo. I was in residency and had little time for formal lessons, so I learned most of it in a hodgepodge fashion I dubbed the banjo barter system.
I never was one to resent folks asking me medical things when I was out in public. Medicine is all I know, so I might as well make myself useful. At first they were reluctant and didn’t want to bother me. I fixed that right away. Whenever a banjo player came up to me at the lunch counter to ask a question they soon came to learn what was gonna follow. I was happy to answer, but in return they had to teach me one banjo lick.
I remember one fellow who pulled off his hat and showed me a gash on his head.
“What in the world happened to you?” I asked.
“Ah, my girlfriend’s husband hit me in the head with a shovel.”
It was a great teaching moment. I gave the guy some pointers on safe sex, sewed up a laceration, and learned “The Arab Bounce” all in one patient encounter.
Most were more general questions, but over the years I added an ace inhibitor kick-off, a kidney stone blues run, endorphin enhancement Irish flavored passages, and a cool gout tag lick.
I kinda miss some of that, and think I’ll revive the tradition. I’m still husband, father, and Doc first, then mandolin player/writer, so I’m not gonna try to go too deep on the banjo; for the first time in my life I’m gonna accept I’ve got some limitations. But if you know the banjo and want to trade out ideas let me know.
It’s a fair trade. I can only give general answers (no specifics allowed without an established doctor/patient relationship) and no one can teach me how to play the banjo in one easy lesson. (that would require a more formal commitment of lessons) Even so, both parties could learn something.
But in fairness and full disclosure, I gotta tell you I’ve got the better end of the deal. You can look all that doc stuff up in a book, but not everyone gets a chance to learn some banjo, and the truth is in the music.
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