Birth of an obsession #2
So I had the guitar. It felt like it was staring at me from the back seat of my car as I pulled away from the electronics store. Now I was not a complete novice when it came to the guitar. Granted, I had never played one but I could pick one out of a line up if need be. So the fact that there were only three strings, two stretched taut across the neck and one swinging free like some sort of belay line on radio tower, indicated to me that I needed to get a new set. I aimed the car towards a small music store that I had passed a hundred times in the past.
The store sat in a strip mall, tucked back between an Italian restaurant and an auto parts store. I walked in, my guitar held out in front of me like I was carrying a half-mad, rabid raccoon. The store was crammed with equipment and instruments. There were a lot of people wandering around, some carrying guitars, some with drum sticks. In the back, sounds of lessons that were going on drifted out towards the showroom. The owner, Marty, a short, powerfully built man with half-glasses and a permanent scowl stood behind the counter with his arms crossed.
“New to the guitar?” he said as he nodded at me.
“Uh, yeah. How did you know?”
He stared. “Because you’re carrying it like it might turn around and bite you or something. So, is there something I can do for you other than take that out back and shoot it?”
“I think I need a new set of strings.”
“You think?” He said in a voice that was dripping with sarcasm. “What kind of strings do you want?”
It was clear that this man had no patience for me or the fact that I knew nothing about this instrument. “Uh, straight?”
“Funny. I meant brand. You want D’Addario, Ernie Ball, Dean Markley, GHS? Do you want bronze wound, nickel wound, coated, un-coated? What gauge? .08? .012?”
My head was swimming. I had no idea what he was talking about. “I really don’t know. You tell me. What is good for someone who has no idea what he’s doing?”
He finally broke a smile. “You’re going to break a million of these things. If it were me, I’d go with the cheap ones for now.” With that, he sat a set of GHS strings on the counter and proceeded to ring up the sale. I paid for the strings, grabbed them and headed for the door.
“Hey, dude,” he called after me as I was pushing on the door. “Do you know how to put them on?”
“Um, no. Not really.”
He walked towards me, took the guitar and the strings. “Tell you what, I’ll put this set on for you as a favor. Next time, I’ll charge you.” He proceeded to string the guitar for me and then ran it through a quick tune. Handing the guitar back for me, he grinned. “You’re all set. Here, take a pick and give it a strum. See what you think.”
I grabbed the pick, held the guitar in the same fashion as I had seen countless guitar hero’s do it over years and years of concerts, formed what he told me was a D Major, raised the pick and brought it down across the strings, expecting a sweet sound.
What actually broke free from that guitar sounded like a cross between a 76’ Pontiac dropping a transmission and someone throwing a radio down a set of stairs. And, of course, the high E string exploded with a ‘twing’.
He laughed, grabbed another set of strings and rang them up.
This was going to be a long, long road.
"All I can do is be me ... whoever that is". Bob Dylan