Using pedals was a novel experience. There is a strange, innate joy in molding and changing the nature of sounds your guitar is producing, all with the press of a single button along with the turning of a few knobs. It is very liberating, especially due to the fact that you don't have to bend down and press the OD button on your practice amp every time you want to switch to distortion.
By the time all my classes with Bugsy were done with, I had added a lot of techniques to my arsenal, no matter how rudimentary. My entire approach to playing guitar had changed. Nevertheless, my skill level stayed much the same. There is a limit to how much you can improve in ten days, especially if you're spending half your time sightseeing and admiring the beauty of the North Carolinian Outer Banks. As a result, I hadn't been able to master Always with Me, Always with You, and thus, was dissapointed.
"What's with the sad face?" Bugsy asked, during our last class.
"I couldn't nail the song."
He laughed. "Take heart, kid. It took me two years to learn my first Satriani song."
"In my defense, it was a much harder song. I forget which one. You've done a good job, your finger strength has increased a lot, and your technique is a bit more refined. It has a lot to do with the reduced action on your guitar, but you still improved."
"So what should I do next? Learn more Satriani songs?"
Bugsy raised an eyebrow. "Finish this one first. Concurrently, join a band."
"Am I good enough?"
"Any idiot can do it. Look at these Nickelback f--kers. And they say that a hero can save us', BAH! Do it. You'll end up having a ton of fun. Other than that, the best way to improve as a musician is by playing with other musicians."
"I know a bassist."
"Half your job's done, then, hm? Look for a drummer. And buy a really big amp."
"What's it like being in a band? Playing for crowds and all?"
"Scary, at first. It's different for each person."
I smiled. "What about the girls? The groupies of yore.."
"What, you think just because somebody's in band, they'll get laid?" He laughed. "It doesn't work that way. Unless you're like, a member of KISS. Sure, girls will notice you, but that doesn't mean they'll beg you to do them."
"Have you ever done it with a groupie?"
"A groupie? Like I said, only the biggest bands have groupies, man. I've been with a few chicks on the road, but they were just regular girls I met at concerts, not groupies, per se." He laughed again. "Good times"
"Hmmmm." I thought. "How the hell did Mick Jagger get so many girls? He's ugly as f--k!"
"They like his lips. Betterum, cunnilingus. That, and the way he sings. It makes them really horny." We laughed.
" So, next time you come around here, contact me, will you?" He said.
"Sure. What's your phone number?"
"Give me yours, I'll send you a missed call."
Once we had exchanged numbers, I turned to leave.
"Wait." Bugsy said. He opened a little drawer, and removed a binder from it. He gave it to me. "Learn these songs if you have the time. I made the tabs myself."
"Thanks man, I'll be back in the summer." I said.
"Goodbye." He said. "Cut your nails regularly, eh?"
I let Jordan drive while I sifted through the binder. The very first song was "Ball and Chain-Gary Moore." These songs looked harder than any I had attempted before. I shuddered.
"What's that?" Jordan asked.
"What's in it?"
"Guitar guy gave it to you?"
There was a long silence, as I admired the quaint beauty of the North Carolinian countryside. "If not for that Nicholas Sparks guy, nobody in this world would have come to know about this paradise." I wryly observed. I opened the dashboard, rummaging with the contents. I found an auxiliary cable hidden behind a bunch of empty chips packets. Without thinking, I connected my phone to the sound system in the car with it.
I had taken great pains to rip every CD from the box of rock n' roll I had received from Rainn before he left for God knows where. Now, I had atleast six discographies, and quite a few other greatest hits albums in my 32 gig memory card.
"How about some Pink Floyd?" I asked.
"Alright." I selected the entire album Wish You Were Here' and played it.
As we went from one song to another, the terrain slowly changed. Sand gave way to grass, and flat expanses began to turn into rolling hills. We had entered the Piedmont.
After restocking on Doritos and shit, we set off again, though I had to drive this time.
Before we knew it, we were in Cary. My parents forced us to stay for dinner.
"What kind of an instrument is a bass, exactly?" My mother asked Jordan.
"Let's just say it's a bigger guitar with four, really thick strings. This curry is delicious, Mrs Levine."
"Do you play an instrument too, David?" My dad asked.
"Nah, I'm not into all that."
Once I had left the Gran Torino at their house and received the keys for my own car, we set off once again.
"Tell me something, man. Why did your brother buy a Gran Torino?" David asked. He had coerced Jordan into taking the Harley.
"A lot of people own Gran Torinos."
"No they don't. I've only seen three in my life."
"I don't know, he watches too many car movies. Remember that Quentin Tarantino movie with Kurt Russell in it?"
"The one in which he stalks those chicks and they kill him in the end?With his invincible stunt car or something?"
"Yeah, that one.He was in half a mind to buy one of the cars that appeared in the movie, I forget which one. And remember that one with the Asian people and Clint Eastwood?"
"Oh, yeah. So he bought it because he saw it in the movie Gran Torino? Is your brother 12 years old?" He chuckled.
"He's just unusual like that."
"Hmm. Just sounds really surreal to me."
I left David at Belmont, which was where he lived. The rest of us went back to Poplar West.
"So, tomorrow, laundry building, six o' clock?" Jordan asked.
"Absolutely." I said.
The next day, as I leaned against a dryer, tuning my guitar, waiting for Jordan to arrive, I thought about what Bugsy had said. "Join a band. Any idiot can do it."
"Dude, I've been thinking we should start looking for a drummer." I said, when Jordan entered, bass in tow.
"About time. So you're ready to burst out of the cocoon and spread your wings now, yes? Livin' the rock n' roll dream?"
I laughed. "You could say that."
"Well, it's not that easy to find a drummer these days. It's hard enough finding a bass player. You're lucky I was sitting at that restaurant and recognized you. More than lucky, in fact. But if we start a band, there are a few conditions I want fulfilled first."
"Nobody will tell me to lower my volume. I've had enough of that shit."
"I want my own solos."
"And I get to name the band."
"Well, count me out then. I've been oppressed by enough guitarists in all the bands I've been in. I'm sick of standing in corners, letting the others hog all the limelight. If I'm gonna be in a band, I'll need to have a large stake in it. I demand the right to name the band."
I tried to come up with a solution for this dilemma. "Alright, then, let's put it this way. When the time comes to name the band, there will be a vote, and you'll have two votes instead of one. Is that cool with you?"
He thought about it, then said "Deal. Let's jam for now. We'll brainstorm ideas later."
Our search for a drummer began the next week. Armed with notices printed from the library, we split up on Monday evening and sauntered around campus, putting them up on as many boards as we could. We pinned two on each of the bigger ones. Every notice had an email address on it that we had made for this very purpose. We put up topics on discussion boards on facebook groups,and even tried a few student mailing lists.
We couldn't find a single suitable candidate. Some were noobs, some had the wrong kind of attitude, and others just didn't like the right music. Nevertheless, we kept up the pursuit, but by the end of the third week, I was beginning to get exasperated.
"There must be like 5000 people on this campus, and not one decent drummer has made contact." I said, murderously jabbing at my noodles with a fork. We were sitting outside the Panda Express.
"I still can't believe you can't use chopsticks." Jordan said. "Nobody taught you? Didn't you have any Asian friends?"
"Well technically, I'm Asian myself."
"India's in Asia, so yeah, technically you are." He replied, munching on an egg roll. "Chill, nigga. To gain something you have to lose something. I mean, we already have a guitarist and bassist. Half our work is done. All we need now is a drummer, and then a vocalist. The glass is half full, if you ask me."
"Optimism isn't going to get us anywhere."
"Let's see what the fortune cookie has to say about that." He opened it. "Patience will bring the key to success. There's your answer, Rob." He ate it, and then opened the second one. "You know where you are going and how to get there." He shrugged, and ate it.
I sighed. "Alright, then, let's trust the cookie then."