September 8, 2006
Volume 34
Issue 36
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Saturday, Dec 05, 2020



Tour De Life by Beau Burriola
The family strings
A few months ago, on my twenty-seventh birthday, I decided to take up guitar. It was nearing spring, my frozen will to live was thawing, and I was lying on my living room floor blaring my grandfather's CD, "The Miracle Album."

"/In a lonely shaaack by the railroad traaack, I spent my younger daaaaays,

and I guess the sound of the outward-bound made me a slaaaaaave to my wanderin' waaaaays.

/Oh the wayward wind is a restless wind, a restless wind that yearns to wander"

The slow drawl of the old, old country music filled my apartment and spilled out my windows into the neighborhood for everyone on Capitol Hill to hear. I could only imagine what confusion such music could reap, but I was missing my family and soaking in my roots, when suddenly I made the decision. I leapt up, grabbed the phone, and called Izzy.

"Buy a guitar," I told him, "we're going to start taking guitar lessons at my house every week."

"Huh?" he asked, grandpa blaring away in the background. And that's how our Weekly Guitar n' Happy Hour was born, a first step in our inevitable journey to super-mega-stardom; or at least, to playing well enough not to suck.

Why guitar? Why take up the most overplayed instrument on Earth? Why imagine I could make a noise any different from anyone who has ever played before? Why now? Because I got rid of my TV long ago, so I've got the time; and anyway, sappy, annoying, drawl-heavy music is what Burriolas are known for. The older I get, the more I find myself trying to rediscover the fascinating people I come from. What better way?

"You can't know where you are going," grandma used to say "unless you remember where you're from." I knew, too, that my family would be getting together on Labor Day weekend in Texas for a family jam session.

For months, I've imagined walking into that dance hall with my cowboy hat, boots, and huge Virgin de Guadelupe belt buckle, brand new guitar strapped in a soft case across my back; the pink sheep of the family returns to play. I'll pull out my guitar and start in on a familiar song. "Oh the wayward wind is a restless wind, a restless wind that yearns to wander/ and I was boooooorn the next of kiiiin, next of kin to the wayward wind."

I've imagined sitting and playing for hours with the men in my family, plucking out in strings what all the years of awkward conversations, unsure phone calls, and one short trip home haven't been able to say. I imagined that somehow the music would all make the same awkward Gay vibe evaporate completely, leaving only the feeling we always had before it all changed. The family strings are the language we are used to, and the drawling howls of two-steps and waltzes are our ritual.

Now, with only one lesson left before the Big Weekend, when I'll board a plane for the long flight home, I'm ready. I've practiced endlessly, playing right along with grandpa's CDs and searching out sheet music, having weekly lessons with Izzy and Julia, and strumming until my fingers are tingling with numb pain. I've avoided any hint to my family that I've been taking lessons, and in just four days, I'll have my chance.

To me, my family was always weird and embarrassing. I wanted to escape. To them, I was different and embarrassing. They wanted me to go. Now, as time goes by and we all get over the small stuff, we're finding ways to grow back together.

"I was booooorn the next of kiiiin, next of kin to the wayward wind."

Beau Burriola is a Gay writer, still reserving the top playlist spot in his i-Pod for "the Miracle Album," by Tino Burriola. E-mail him at or visit
visit Beau at

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