Often I feel that, in the quest for Vital Existence, that sometimes I lose sight of the small pleasures while focusing way too hard on the “big” events of this one life. There are a few places, however, that never fail to inspire me to step back and smell the roses. The music store is one of those places. I stopped by my local shop today.
I’m not talking about a record store, yet, but I am speaking of the traditional “guitar shop” if I may show my instrument bias. While I don’t claim to have a photographic memory, I do have a remarkable ability to remember many events of my life as if they happened yesterday. For some reason, my first ever trip to a music store has escaped me. Bollocks! Certainly, music in general has held sway over my life like nothing else. I do recall being mesmerized by pictures of drum sets and guitars I’d see in the Sears catalogs. Musical instruments have always captivated me. I suspect, and hope, they always will.
I remember the shop I visited while growing up in my old hometown. It was in an aged building downtown, complete with a seemingly ancient glass display counter which held various pedals and musical paraphernalia for my eager eyes to survey. Let me just elaborate on this if you are not a guitarist. Effects pedals, are addictive. I would fantasize about owning and stringing 20 of them together, kicking them ALL on! As you age and mature as a guitarist, you come to understand that running 20 effects pedals at once is tremendous overkill. Depending on what sound you are trying to achieve, maybe 2-3 pedals are needed, if that. Here’s another truth, that does not mean that one stops collecting pedals at 2 or 3 of them. You may just use a couple at a time, but you still justify the 20.
Anyways, this store always seemed alive. Twanging from the guitar area, random beats from the drum area, pieces of conversations around every corner, plus the never-ending opening and closing of the door as people came and went. I had no money. Yet, I never recall ever getting kicked out for loitering, nor getting any frustration from the staff on those occasions when I scraped up enough spare change to drop it on that glass counter to buy one pick or one E-string. I assume that maybe I was lucky to have a cool store nearby, or just maybe they recognized the look on my face as I (nearly) drooled on the floor every time I stood before the guitar wall. What a sight, that wall. I was, and remained, a klutz. I was terrified of dropping a guitar or, horror of horrors, somehow causing the whole wall to collapse. Picking a guitar off the wall and trying it was out of the question, except for the rare occasion one of the staff would generously hand me one. What I would do is casually reach out and (gently) touch the bodies of the ones I really liked, almost wishing that the energy of the axe would transfer into my fingers and, somehow, make me a better player. Essentially wishing for some greater magic to manifest itself, before going home and working lesser magic by practicing for hours.
One year, I was mystified to find that a guitar that belonged to guy that I greatly admired, and had taken the time to give me a few lessons on how to thrash on the axe, was hanging on that wall. I couldn’t fathom it was up there. By this time, although I was older, I was still young enough to be perpetually broke. I don’t know how I managed to do it, to what level I must have endlessly spoke about that red Washburn “Flying V”, but that Christmas I found a rectangular box under the tree waiting for me. Hail Satan! Er, Hail Santa? No. Hail my late Mom, who somehow also scraped together enough coin to drop on that glass counter to buy me that wonderful guitar. I will never forget that day, and let me tell you, I thrashed the hell out of that thing.
I still love music stores. I still don’t buy a thing on most visits but very often I will, which is one of the perks of now being an adult with a job. My local store in the city where I live now, looks little like the one I grew up visiting. It’s about 5 times the size, and is way too clean in my opinion. But, when I’m standing in front of that guitar wall, I can transport myself back 30 years. The conversations around me are the same. The nearby noodling on the drums and guitars are the same, and once again I can get that feeling of total appreciation for life. Surrounded by one of my great passions. For that wonderful moment, I can take a deep breath and smile.