Blowing the ole tin sandwich

My harmonica arrived today. Proud of his purchase, Him conspicuously placed the instrument on the kitchen counter so I would be sure to see it as soon as I arrived home. Conjuring up every image of Bob Dylan I could, I cupped my hands around the Hohner Special 20 and blew my first reedy shriek. But the cats were having none of it. Wild-eyed, Eli froze in step, his tail puffed out like a test tube brush. My second attempt, a bold, full swipe of the comb, sent all three felines frantically scurrying behind the couch. They’re tough critics but they have a point: I have absolutely no idea how to play this thing. It was simply the smallest instrument I could think of to jam with Him as he plays his new travel guitar on the trip.

Him has been taking private guitar lessons for a few years, and his teacher somehow convinced him that lugging a delicate, two-foot long wood box around the Eastern Hemisphere was a good idea (Yes, my husband — The man who talked me out of packing a matchbook-size sewing kit because it is “just one more thing to carry.”). I’ll let him thoroughly introduce his new carry-on later, but to give you an idea of what we’re dealing with here: If a guitar is shaped like a woman’s body, this gaunt gal’s missing both her shoulders and hips. Somewhat shy, Him doesn’t usually perform for anyone but me and the cats, and I hope this new accessory might change that. I had sort of envisioned the two of us masquerading as a hip musical duo, somewhat older and wiser than our Birkenstock-clad dormmates but able to bridge the gap with a pitch-perfect rendition of Blues Traveler’s “Hook.” After my first crack at this tin sandwich (killer band name, btw!), however, I’m detecting more of a desperate hobo vibe. We’re both packing hats, so if times get really tough, perhaps we can use them to collect coins from kind strangers we serenade in Tokyo subway stations.

Harmonica 101 (courtesy of the little booklet that came with mine):

– The harmonica was invented by German Christian Friedrich Ludwig Buschmann in 1821

– Also known as the mouth organ, pocket piano, blues harp and (my new favorite) the tin sandwich

– An estimated 40 million people in the U.S. play the harmonica

– First instrument played in space

– A harmonica deflected a bullet and saved the life of Jesse James’ older brother Frank

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