The Paradiddle Riddle of a Middle Life Crisis

Thank you!  Let me say with all sincerity how much I appreciate your cards, letters and gifts.  To those who went the extra mile and sent me a telegram, well done for knowing that telegrams still exist.  In the interests of honesty, I’ll simply say that I was mildly disappointed that these didn’t arrive in ‘gorilla-gram’ format, but I’ve learned not to be too fussy.  The thing is that you noticed.  I am grateful for all the ‘congratulations’ and best wishes that you have seen fit to shower upon me.  After all, it’s not everyday that you get to celebrate the start of a mid-life crisis.

Before you start, I’m here to say that a mid-life crisis is as legitimate a life milestone to celebrate as anything else, and I think it should be embraced.  Forget the shame and stigma that so often accompanies the slide into temporary insanity that, in cricket terms, would probably be described as a middle-order collapse.  Eighteenths and twenty firsts are wasted on the young; those kids barely know what to do with themselves.  But a midlife crisis is fueled both by a sense of urgency and, possibly, higher quality liquor.

I bought a drum kit.  I’ve always wanted one and after months of dithering, I finally lashed out and got one.  Granted, it’s not exactly a sports car or a hair transplant, but it is, nevertheless, a desperate and futile attempt to remake a life that – if we’re being entirely honest – has largely slipped me by.

But buying a drum kit is one thing.  Assembling it is another thing entirely, especially as it arrived in numerous boxes with zero in the way of instructions.  Perhaps that’s a good thing.  After all, my relationship with instructions is strained at best, if not entirely subsumed by hostility.  Forget weird drawings that don’t mean anything.  No instructions may well be the way of the future.

I have no intuition for putting things together.  I feel that the Alan key might be my natural adversary, right alongside the key of e-flat.  I dragged all the boxes up to my attic and began unpacking.  I considered making one of those ‘unboxing’ videos that are so popular on YouTube, but then decided that the world didn’t need to see me opening cardboard boxes and looking a little bit confused.  Perhaps it was the additional altitude, but once I finished hauling everything upstairs and was surrounded by a million hoops, nuts and assorted ephemera, I felt a little overwhelmed.

The solution was obvious.  The answers to most of life’s problems can be found in one place – the Internet.  Without a moment to lose, I quickly started googling until I could google no more.  After eight hours, I was no closer to assembling my drum kit but had a newfound respect for cats, especially when they’re using a typewriter.  (Who knew?  About seventy million other people, apparently.)

After a few days, I found some videos relevant to assembling a drum kit, including some hosted by humans rather than cats.  In a short period of time, I had made progress.  The kick drum started to look a lot like a kick drum.  The tom was mounted and hi-hats in place.  I even managed to assemble the wonderfully named ‘drum throne’. 

I stood back and marveled at what can only be described as the kind of achievement that deserves a plaque or, possibly, a statue.  I immediately took a photo and emailed it to IKEA to rebut their continued claim that my inability to assemble their furniture is more my problem than theirs.

Then I sat down.  My right hand reached across for the hi-hats while my left was perched over the snare drum, ready to strike.  I had my right foot on the kick pedal and the left controlling the hi-hats.  I was ready.  And then I started to play.  Or, at least, I tried to play.  The rhythm tripped and stuttered.  It sounded less like a beat than a mild telling off.  I tried to do a drum fill but missed and it went unfilled as a result.  In short, my attempt to hold something resembling a beat failed miserably.  Granted, I could claim I was engaging in some highfalutin jazz chicanery, but who was I fooling?  I was hopeless.

I read once that Keith Moon from The Who would forget how to be Keith Moon of The Who and it would take him a while to remember whenever the band came back from a break.  In my case, the break lasted a couple decades and, if I’m honest, I was never Keith Moon to begin with.  Maybe I’ll get better.  My neighbours are certainly hoping that I do.

I’m not sure what it is that draws us back to the things we loved in our youth.  Whether it’s having either the time or the resources to get things we’ve long coveted or trying to find something of ourselves we may have lost along the way, I really don’t know.  But I find that I’m often drawn back to the past and the people who built it.  As for the drum kit, I’m determined to figure it out, but for now it definitely has the upper hand.  I feel that if I keep on trying, eventually, perhaps inevitably, things will fall into place.