I get on the Ashland bus at the Orange Line and head north. I thought about biking it, but the mental image of an electric guitar and amp bungee-corded to the bike rack for the return trip, while comical and my kind of challenge, is deterrent enough for reason to prevail for a change.
After seeing the Velvet Underground doc, I got it into my head to try playing again. It wasn’t the first time. I’ve been obsessed with guitar-based music since before I was allowed to quit playing violin at fourteen. But my experience with that instrument made me steer clear of playing. I decided to just listen. Safer that way. But it’s never stopped eating at me.
I texted Bill right after leaving the Landmark, all excited about the guitar again. I asked if he’d help me find the right one. Fifteen years ago, I traded Bill a drawing for guitar lessons. It lasted a few months, then I stopped practicing. He’s always said I still have some lessons left on the tab. Maybe now’s the time to cash in.
I get to the store early. I’m early to everything. I go to the bakery across the street to kill time. I get coffee and an eclair and sit watching an old man in an extravagantly hideous clashing-pattern shirt adjust and readjust a coffee cup, thermos, book, and notebook on his table. He’s completely oblivious to my presence. Doesn’t look up a single time in half an hour. A perfect model.
I cross the street and meet Bill by the door to the music store. We wander around a bit as I tell him what I have in mind. I basically know what I want. It has a lot to do with how the thing should look, but Bill’s here so I don’t waste my money on a beautiful lemon.
We take a couple guitars into a little room with amps and he tries each out before handing them to me. We talk about the wide range of price tags. Is it just aesthetics? Extra bells and whistles? Bill’s been at it over thirty years, so I trust him. As I hold one and pluck this string or that, I don’t remember a single lesson he taught me fifteen years back, but it feels good to make the thing make sounds.
A few days earlier I remembered that I’d bought an electric once before. It was in Boston in the mid-90s. I was driving cab and stopping at the Middle East and T.T.’s to hear bands every chance I got. I never took a lesson. It was before the internet, so I couldn’t play along with a how-to video. Perhaps I’d bought a book. I’ve managed to wipe it from the memory bank. I know that guitar didn’t make the trip back to Chicago in 1997.
So why now? Can’t be a mid-life crisis since I’m way past mid-life. I have a friend who’s been bugging me to start a band forever and ever. Maybe now’s the time. I know I’m not afraid of embarrassing myself. It’s late enough in the game that real aptitude or skill is not really in the cards. But I can just enjoy making a little noise, right?