Before you can play the guitar… (Conclusion)

August 22, 2008

Need to catch up on parts 1 to 13? (Click Here)

It was glistening, and that’s not word I use lightly (or often, or at all if I can help it – don’t ask). Freshly patched, sanded, shellacked, restrung, tuned, oh it was an incredible surprise. Like asking the quiet boy to a movie and finding out he’s a great…. So anyways, my guitar was gorgeous, but what about the sound?

Steve, delightfully Bilbo-esque and wonderfully passionate about his craft, came in behind me. He lifted my guitar, ever so gently, off the workbench and cradled it in playing position. “Do you know what this is,” he asked. I shook my head. “It’s a solid body Fender from the 70s, made in Japan. It’s a beautiful guitar. You just can’t go out and buy one of these. Where did you get it?” I told him my story – the much abbreviated version : )

“Listen to this…” he said.

He strummed his pick across the strings and the small room was instantly filled with richness and warmth. Wow. The lush sound resonated all the way into my bones. It had character, was mellow but strong, and a real layered depth. I wondered how many hands had played it around how many campfires, how many bus trips it had taken over how many miles. I felt a thrill. Now it was mine.

“Now listen to this one…” He picked a shiny black Johnny Cash special off the wall. It’s sound was weak, too high, and empty. Like a four year old trying to sing the national anthem – just cute. “And this one sells for $4000.” He went back to mine and played us a blues song. The guitar came alive. The room reverberated with music and feeling. I couldn’t stop saying “Thank You”.

When I left the store, $190 dollars later ($40-my b*t, mr. tambourine man!), it was with a digital tuner, a blues song book, and an extraordinary guitar. Best birthday present I ever bought myself! “Before you can play the guitar” has been such a journey, that now the “after” part should be a breeze. That pawn shop ipod stopped working weeks ago, but I don’t care. It’s time for the real music to start.

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Before you can play the guitar… (part 12)

August 14, 2008

Need to catch up on parts 1 to 11? (Click Here)

The call from Steve came through to my office the next day. He gave me my long awaited second (or is it third or forth by now?) opinion and I promised to head over right after work. My second trip to the Music store was entirely different. I was greeted, by that very same bouncer, as a minor celebrity. I was pointed to a narrow set of stairs in “the back” and told to wait for Steve in his workshop.

The intimate room smelled of shellac and wood dust. One wall held a rack of freshly polished guitars, hung close and friendly. The opposite wall was organized to hold hundreds of tools and parts. He kept his pliers and screwdrivers in a long row of brown Tim Hortons paper cups. Now that’s what I call recycling! The workbench was covered with a soft green felt, the same colour as the divine plush in my case. The atmosphere was close, but not stuffy, like I’d walked into a hobbit hole and Bilbo would be home any minute.  

And there, resting quietly on the felt, almost unrecognizable in it’s new incarnation, was my Fender guitar… 

Stay tuned for the shocking conclusion!


Before you can play the guitar… (part 11)

August 1, 2008

Need to catch up on parts 1 to 10? (Click Here)

When the puddle around my sneakers became too big too ignore (ok, ok, I’ll admit to slight hyperbole on that one, but ever so slight), a large bouncer-at-a-metal-concert man asked me what I was waiting for. I could feel his eyes judging me. I knew he saw the yuppy North Face jacket, the industrial designy eyeglasses under the brim of the trying-waay-too-hard scruffy hat. But I used my most confident laid back music chick voice and explained the situation. Needless to say, the man was did not look overly impressed when I pointed to the bulky garbage bags that were slowly saturating his floor mat.

You know, in reading this, I’m thinking most of this “acting cool” and “acting the part” ends up setting me up to look like an idiot. But I enjoy it. Ya, life is more fun when you let yourself really get into a situation. Act the part. Wear the clothes. You might not be up for an Oscar next March, but I guarantee you’ll have some stories to tell!

So I left my guitar for “Steve” the technician, who’d gone home early (of course), with a note listing everything that I’d been told needed fixing. I started to get that knowing itchy feeling in my gut while writing out the list. You know the one, when you begin to realize you’re going to be spending a whole lot more money than you were planning on…

Stay tuned for part 12!


Before you can play the guitar… (part 10)

July 30, 2008

Need to catch up on parts 1 to 9? (Click Here)

…I had to go on rage. The rain squirmed in under my jacket’s cuffs and collar. It crept up my shirt sleeves and mixed with sweat to dribble down my back. Just lovely, I know. It seeped in through my ears and splashed up off spinning car tires, drenching my pant legs. My sneakers squelched deeper into the mud with every step, but I was too wet and mad to care about any of it.

Why can’t it ever be easy?! All I wanted was to play a guitar! Was I asking too much of the universe! Why did it have to be raining? And if it had to rain, why did it have to be raining so bloody hard? And why, oh why, didn’t anyone seem to know that the fabled “yellow awning” I was supposed to be looking for was, in actual fact, a flat BLACK sign!

Turn back, you ask? When I was so close? Never. And it was with great sopping triumph that I finally laid my guitar case down in the middle of the Music store. My jeans had undergone the incredibly economical, but indescribably uncomfortable, transformation from medium wash to dark. Claustrophobia, anyone? Water from my green too-cool-for-school newsboy was dripping into my eyes and I could feel my core temperature starting to plummet. Do you think any of the half dozen wandering/chatting employees noticed any of this? Of course not. Apparently, it takes more than a funky hat to get any attention from this class of hardcore music buff. (TW- take note ; )

Stay tuned for part 11!


Before you can play the guitar… (part 9)

July 28, 2008

Need to catch up on parts 1 to 8? (Click Here)

This wasn’t rain. There was no quantization involved, no individual droplets spread evenly throughout a supporting medium. This was an unbroken deluge sent straight from the heavens. If you ask me, whenever the world soaks through and turns gray and heavy, a person should take themselves off to the nearest bed and curl up with a good book and a bowl of maple syrup drizzled cottage cheese yum… but enough daydreaming. Let’s get back to the action!

There I am, soaked, trudging along beside some forsaken highway on the other side of town (after riding a bus and a city train for over an hour!), in all my tweed capped bag lady glory. You can imagine how delighted I was to discover there were ZERO giant yellow Music store awnings on the route mr tambourine man had prescribed. None the first time I walked it, none the second back and forth, and wouldn’t cha know it, no sign of it even on my third pass after getting more directions from a Cowboy Hat store. Here in Calgary, you’d figure asking anyone wearing plaid would be a safe bet for gettin’ the lay of the land. Not so much. Drenched and exhausted, I finally hauled my 5 ton guitar case into a Second Cup and called the Music store.

I remember hearing a far away voice on the phone saying, “You’re almost here”. But almost isn’t good enough when every muscle in your body is aching from carrying an impossibly slippery, garbage bagged, hand held harpsichord. And I was all out of new ergonomic body/guitar case configurations to help spread the weight. There was only one way I was going to manage the next five blocks…

Stay tuned for part 10!


Before you can play the guitar… (part 8)

July 21, 2008

Need to catch up on parts 1 to 7? (Click Here)

I had two choices, and the one having anything to do with quitting was not an option after I’d come this far. The afternoon’s weather forecast called for rain, “scattered showers” if we’re quoting verbatim. There was nothing for it but to take the guitar home to suit it up for its coming adventure.

Two garbage bags did the trick, their overlaps secured with a twist around the plastic handle. As for myself, I took a red nylon shell for the afor mentioned rain, and my infamous green tweed newsboy for some serious street cred to take with me to the next guitar store. I was sick of being spotted as a newbie. With that funky cap on my head, I looked like I was ready to rattle off “Me and Bobby McGee” at a moment’s notice. So what if my guitar might be earmarked for the campfire!

If walking down the street with a beat up guitar case is the pinnacle of coolness, carrying said case obscured by billowing garbage bags while wearing a homeless styled tweed hat is the valley – the dark, dark valley. Add rain, not “scattered showers” (as if the weather is ever verbatim, sigh), but a solid sheeting two hour downpour, and you have quite a pathetic figure. Oh, I almost forgot; there’s one more ingredient to set the scene…remember those street directions from the human tambourine? All I’m going to say is nobody is that colourblind!

Stay tuned for part 9!


Before you can play the guitar… (part 7)

July 4, 2008

Need to catch up on parts 1 to 6 of this blog serial? (Click Here)

He had a pained expression on his face. I guess it’s tough telling anyone their loved one might not make it. He took me through the symptoms: warped neck, loose tuners, broken nut, dead strings, battered body, and that Band-Aid. Do you want to know what it was covering up? Nothing. As in empty space. As in a hole! He stared down at the instrument and shook his head. I had to agree with him. It didn’t look good.

“But it’s a Fender,” I said.

He shrugged and gave me directions to a technician, conveniently located on the other side of the city. “Steve can fix it for you. It’ll cost you about 40 bucks,” he said. He told me that I’d still be stuck with a cheap laminated guitar, but fixing it would be a lot cheaper than throwing in the towel and buying a new one. “And if you’re just learning…” he reasoned, tapping his chin stud thoughtfully.

I asked him if he could at least re-string it for me so I could fool around with it. He said that he could not, in good conscience, replace even one string. “It’ll just make it worse,” he said. And I, of course, believed him.

Stay tuned for part 8!