Mario Villalobos


That Which Admits of Being Counted or Reckoned

  • Journal

I’m somewhat obsessive about numbers. It’s not something I’m consciously aware of, but they are something that quietly rules my life. I add page numbers to every notebook I write in, count every book I’ve read, and log how much I weigh every week or month. Recently, a few more numbers have emerged that I want to note.

The first is that yesterday I completed my thirtieth consecutive day of practicing my guitar. In 2021, I had stopped my regular practice, and I wanted to change that for 2022, so I decided to do Austin Kleon’s 100-day Practice and Suck Less Challenge. I printed out the PDF and pasted it to the inside cover of my notebook, and after every practice session, I would mark an X over the current number. After 30 days of this, I can truly say I suck less at playing my guitar. My callouses have returned, and my playing has improved greatly. I’m happy about my progress and eager to finish out the next 70 days strong.

One hundred days ago I hit my move goal 1,100 days in a row, and this morning I hit 1,200. My health is a big priority for me, so seeing this number keep getting bigger every day is validating. I notice when I don’t move around much, which has been happening a lot in the mornings as I get work done, so my evening workout routines are a great way to wind down for me. It relieves any pent up stress I’ve accumulated, and it helps me sleep well at night.

Which brings me to the final number I wanted to note. Ever since I purchased the Apple Watch Series 6 in September of 2020, I’ve worn it to bed every night to track my sleep. A few nights ago I woke up to eight low heart rate notifications. The lowest number you can set for this notification is 40bpm, and throughout the night my heart rate dipped below 40bpm eight times, reaching 36bpm at one point. I’ve never seen it get this low. I regularly see it get down to 38 and 39bpm, but never 36bpm. My heart rate has averaged about 45 to 48bpm for the 10 or so years I’ve been tracking it, so I normally have a low heart rate, but goddamn. How I’m still alive is beyond me.

  • Notes

I created a new tag: guitar. I went back and tagged a few older posts with it. I want to slowly start building an archive of notes and achievements on my site in regards to my guitar practice. I’m not sure what that will look like yet, but I’m excited to find out! So let’s go!

  • Notes

I bought my first capo and tried it out for the first time yesterday. Intellectually I knew what a capo was for, but it wasn’t until I clamped it down and played a few chords that I truly understood what it did. It’s incredible! I’m eager to learn new songs with it now.


  • Journal

The other day I asked a photographer how she has the confidence to carry a camera with her everywhere and photograph people. I will remember her answer for the rest of my life. “The important thing,” she says, “is not to let your shyness get in your way. The thing about photography is that it throws you into direct contact with life, and that can be scary at times, but if you want to do the photography you want to do, there is simply no way about it except to go out bravely and shoot.”

I picked up my guitar for the first time in a week and learned about time signatures and the F chord. I’m having trouble with this chord, but I know I’ll get better with practice. I know I won’t get anywhere if I’m afraid of failure. Is not all art a tribute to the artist’s battle with fear? A testament to their bravery?

I remember how much my fingers hurt when I first started playing my guitar. I also remember how badly my chords sounded. If I had stopped then, I never would’ve developed the callouses on my fingertips that made it easier to play, and I never would have experienced the joy of producing my own music. That, in itself, is an act of bravery I will always be grateful for.

A Guitarist

  • Journal

There’s a scene early on in The Last of Us Part II where Ellie and Dina find an old music store, and as they explore it, Ellie finds an acoustic guitar inside a black hard shell case. She opens it up, grabs the guitar, and starts playing a few notes before breaking into a melancholy song while Dina lies by her feet and listens. It’s a beautiful scene, not least of which is the story behind Ellie first learning how to play the guitar. Four years prior, Joel gives her his guitar and promises to teach her how to play. It’s a touching scene in a game full of them.

I bought my first guitar in March, a Gibson G-45 acoustic in standard walnut and handcrafted in Bozeman, Montana. A few months prior, a friend of mine lent me one of his guitars that I played on and off, never seriously and never really that well. But when I received this Gibson G-45 acoustic guitar, in the middle of lockdown no less, something new was sparked within me. I opened the package, pulled out the hard case, and grabbed the guitar. It was light and smelled wonderful. I tuned it and played the few chords I knew and loved the sound. It was warm and the strings felt great under my fingertips.

Wishing you were one thing and actually becoming it are two very different things. Before owning my guitar, I felt like a pretender, like someone who wished to be a guitar player rather than being one. After owning my guitar, I felt different. I felt that not only could I be a guitarist but that I would be a guitarist. Since then, I’ve been practicing on a near daily basis, and even though I’m still not good enough to play in front of people, I’m on that road. I can see it, I can feel it, and I can taste it.

While I watched Ellie play, I felt all of those emotions rise up again. I picked up my guitar, wrapped the strap around my shoulder, and started playing.

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