August 22, 2006

While My Guitar Gently Weeps

I thought it would be just like typing. Playing the electric guitar, that is. I have no natural musical talent, but I saw those song books with the little diagrams over each chord showing where to put your fingers, and I figured, that's just like typing. And I'm a damn good typist. I thought, how hard can it be to play the electric guitar? The answer is, that hard.

Some years ago, I was friends with a cool, bass-playing office assistant where I worked. He was a big cheese in his church choir backup band. I must have made it known that I had an acousic guitar on which I dabbled a bit, and had always wanted an electric guitar. He presented me with a great offer: a Yamaha copy of a Fender Stratocaster, in mint condition, for a modest price, with an amp thrown in. I grabbed the offer without hesitation.

A few days later, I was greeted at the office by a mysterious object in a soft black leather case. Inside was everything that had been promised, and more. From the black lacquer finish to the white bridge cover to the rosewood neck, this was retro heaven. I bought a padded stand with a locking arm to hold it, and displayed it proudly in my living room, between the Twin Towers -- my cd tower and my right front home theater tower speaker. It was the best of both worlds -- a thirteen year-old's dream possession alongside the trappings of an adult.

But electric guitar playing is not like typing. With no natural talent, I would have to practice an endless amount of hours, giving up all other hobbies and interests, to get any good. I wasn't willing to do that. Unlike Bryan Adams, I was not willing to play it till my fingers bled. The guitar stood in the living room, lonely, mostly unplayed, its shiny finish blunted by dust.

Recently, I have been exploring a move across the country. In anticipation of the possible move, I decided that I must shed many possessions. Highest on the list are items that I no longer use. And that meant the guitar. Coincidentally, I saw a tv commercial for iSold It, a chain of locations where you bring your old stuff, and they put it up for auction on EBay, write the copy, take the photos, create the ad, ship the item to the buyer, and send you the check, minus their cut. Even more coincidentally, the object that the customer in the tv commercial brought to iSold It was ... an electric guitar. This was a sign from above. I carefully polished the guitar and placed it in its case for the first time in years.

I located the nearest I Sold It location, which is not too nearby in Gaithersburg. The place was like a pawn shop, only cleaner and less depressing. There was a counter up front, and a back area loaded with all kinds of stuff, including computers and even a truck tire. There were booths behind the counter, with white paper on rolls in the background, where items were to be photographed. It looked very professional, except for the college-age kid running the store and photographing a ski parka -- on the floor.

I proudly unzipped the case and showed him the guitar. I explained that I had done some research on EBay, and that what set my guitar apart from the others was its cherry condition. I expected that the guitar, stand, case and strap should easily be able to fetch at least $100. However, my hopes were dashed right away. The kid started shaking his head and said that there were tons of guitars for sale on EBay, and that they were difficult to sell. He got online, did some research and some more head shaking. He told me that, at most, the guitar would sell for $30-$40, which, considering the high shipping cost, did not make it worth buying. I thanked him and left, the guitar strapped to my back.

On the way home, I passed by a Goodwill location. Without hesitation, I pulled in, grabbed the guitar and stand out of my trunk, and handed it over to them. It was quite possibly the end of my childhood, my adolescence, and yes, even my dreams, all at once.

But I still have the acoustic guitar.


At 9:02 AM, Blogger Barbara said...

My experience is that playing music is always a helluva lot harder than it looks. WEEPS can become SQUAWKS so easily. The pros make it look so easy and sound so good.


Post a Comment

<< Home