Since I was a kid I have wanted to learn to play the guitar. In my imagination it was me playing the smooth, complex riffs coming from my stereo speakers. That dream hasn’t gone away.
Several years back, around 2001 I guess, I bought a guitar from a coworker. This guy was one of those people that amazes and inspires other people. He was charismatic and charming. Always sincerely super nice, and very positive. As a lifelong soccer player, he was athletic. He was the kind of guy that could do a standing backflip, and would demonstrate with a simple request. And he was a talented guitar player. I don’t think I ever saw him when he wasn’t attached to some really hot girl. All of that was housed within one guy.
Oh, and he did all that while legally blind. He suffered from macular degeneration. Though, if he was suffering at all, no one would have been able to tell.
Anyway, I had been talking about buying a guitar and he mentioned that he’d been thinking about selling his acoustic-electric and getting a new one. I asked him how much. He thought maybe $150. I said bring it in and I’ll look at it.
So, he brings it to work a couple of days later. This is what he brought me. A Gibson Epiphone Acoustic-Electric with an ebony gloss finish, ivory-like body trim, and pearlescent accents inset within the head and frets. It has a deep, naturally rich sound.
Now it isn’t top-of-the-line or anything. But it sounds amazing and is immediately impressive. Also, it was just over a year old. So I asked him why he was selling it so cheap. He pointed out the two inch long crack on the face. It turns out that he had tripped in his bedroom one day while in his soccer gear. The guitar was resting in its stand and he happened to kick it.
Really, the scar wasn’t too big of a deal for me. It even came with a little story. I agreed to his price of $150 but didn’t have the money on me right then. He said he wasn’t worried about it, and that I could take it home and just bring the money to him later. Cool guy. I pulled the money from the bank and brought it with me to work. When I saw him, I asked him again to make sure he was only expecting $150, because I thought it was a really good price. You know what he said? He felt like it was too much. He felt like $150 was too much money for the guitar! So he lowered the price to $125. I insisted that we agreed on a price and that I intended to pay in full. The cash was in my hand. But he refused. He would only take $125 and no more. I felt really bad. Like I was robbing the guy. But, after some more futile protesting, I relented.
After the purchase, I went to the Internet for tips and how-to guides. I found tablatures of some favorite songs and tried to pick them out. I bought some books and accessories. I studied, quietly picked, and practiced fingering chords. Friends and other people from work had been getting into the guitar as well, which may have been my impetus. It felt great to finally be holding my own guitar. Certainly, I was on my way to musical fame! At the very least, I could be the guitar-guy at the party.
Well, things haven’t really turned out that way. I still can’t “play” the guitar. It’s been about ten years now, and after all the reading and studying and picking here and there, I am still not a guitar player. I am a guitar owner. And I’m not even good at that! The poor thing gets left out for months at a time and has a perpetual layer of dust all over.
Turns out that learning to play the guitar well is hard. It takes dedication to a craft in which I only have had an occasional interest. A fact that remains very embarrassing. My friend Ed dropped by unexpectedly once and the guitar was leaning against the couch, where it had been for weeks, and while I was in the kitchen opening beers he picked up my guitar and started playing a song. Just like that. I don’t think he even owns a guitar! But he picks mine up and picks out a couple of tunes. I had to explain to him that I don’t play. That I’ve owned a guitar for ten years and can’t play it in any real sense. He chuckled. Of course. Because it’s ridiculous.