"Count me in, dude." I said.
He handed me the black and white guitar that he had been holding. He said
"You seem to have the true blood, bro. I can tell just by looking at folks." I took the guitar, sat down on a stool, and cleared my mind. This guy waseccentric, but he seemed friendly enough.
The beginner's stuff was easy. He taught me how to hold the guitar, basic chords, fingering, the names of the notes, and all that. It took me some time, but I got the hang of it all. Then, he taught me how to play knockin' on heaven's door, by guns n roses. I had never heard the song before, so I had no idea what it was supposed to sound like, but it seemed okay the way I played it. Chord progressions were kinda hard, but eventually, I was able to get them right. G, D, A minor, G, D, C
Before I knew it, three hours had passed.
"Aight man, I gotta get to work now." He said. He didn't look the least bit annoyed. It was as if he actually enjoyed teaching me. "D'you wanna come here some other time?" he asked.
"Sure, dude. This was great. I'd really like to learn more." I said, gratefully.
He smirked. "Okay. Down payment's 50 bucks, and I want 200 at the end of the month. Is that cool?"
I awkwardly stood silent, not knowing what to say.
"Haha, just messin' with ya. Go on, come here whenever you want. I'm always free." "Thanks man. This means a lot."
"Sure thing." He replied. "Oh and take that guitar home. Practice a bit."
I was overjoyed, but I hid my delight. "Okay. I'll try keeping it scratch free."
"Oh, and take this little baby too." He said, pointing at a tiny marshall amp in the corner. "And a gig bag for that guitar. A few picks won't hurt either."
He gave me a gig bag that had been eaten by termites and silverfish and god knows what else, and the little Marshall amp, that looked like it had at first been thrown off a bridge, then crushed by a tank, and finally, repeatedly hammered by a bunch of gangsters armed with baseball bats, only to be put back together into some sort of a frankenstein-ish apparatus.
"Peace out, bro." He said, turning around to go towards the back of the shop. I wondered what else he had in there. Maybe I'd find out some other time.
Apprehensions aside, I took these new friends of mine home. Though it may not seem like much, this was a profound experience for me.
I reached home, and began thinking about what had happened in the past three hours. I wondered if this whole thing was worth it. Eventually, I realized that my dad was right. I needed something to fall back on when I was sick of my mundane life. Learning to play guitar had felt like learning to skydive, even though it was rudimentary stuff. I finally came to the conclusion that taking some time off to work on this new skill would be a great way to add some colour to the bullshit I had to handle on a daily basis. Besides, it was pure, unadulterated ecstasy.
The guitar didn't feel like an ordinary instrument, even though the only other instrument I had even a little bit of experience with was the ocarina(which isn't really a full-fledged instrument anyway). Despite that, just holding it in my arms made me feel like a badass. Rock n' roll had this strange power, which I was just getting familiarized with.
I knew that if I wanted to do this properly, I would have to be serious about it. So, I swore not to screw around with my guitar, or pretend to be a great player without actually being that good. This would be an authentic, original extension of my own personality. I took a solemn oath to never treat my guitar playing like a joke.
I wondered why Rainn would undertake the effort of teaching guitar to a random kid like me. Maybe he was just really really bored. His intuition must have been really strong. True blood? Sounded like bullshit to me. But the guy gave me a guitar, an amp, and a bunch of accessories. And he didn't even ask me for money. I figured he was a bohemian monk or something.
I tried to shut out these unecessary details, and began practicing the finger exercises he had taught me. They were really hard at first, trills and other shenanigans. The strings felt like telephone cables. However, the guitar didn't seem that bad. It was a squier affinity strat. It looked like it was second hand, but hell, who was I to judge it? I could barely play myself.
Despite the boring nature of these exercises, I did them for an hour, diligently. By the time they had ended, I could see fissures on my finger tips. They were completely skinned. I was pretty sure they would form calluses, but that didn't bother me much.
Then, my old self hit me. There was a project I had to finish. I got out my laptop and began drilling the keyboard, working on the soul sucking piece of crap that was due the week after. Finding citations was especially a pain in the ass, considering the fact that I had to keep resisting the urge to google anything remotely related to guitars.
Before I knew it, it was dinner time. I grabbed a frozen pizza and defrosted it. Today had been a day of new beginnings indeed.
I decided to create some kind of a schedule for the rest of the winter break. Meanwhile, I bought a bike. Every morning I'd go downtown to Rainn's shop, which was called....Blooming Soul Music. I was totally sure it was a hippie story. I finally had a sensei, albeit he was kinda like a chilled out, stoner sensei, who played guitar instead of beating the shit out of people. Then, I would head over to the University library and work on my graduation project till lunchtime. The roads in Durham mostly alternate between uphill and downhill, and cycling would wear me out, but soon, I got used to it. Meanwhile, I learned all kinds of simple songs. I hadn't even heard OF most of them, but I would go home and go on a downloading spree. Then, I would try to imitate their guitar parts note for note, to exhaustion. It would give me fits of spontaneous joy whenever I was able to nail a particular song, no matter how easy it would be. Gradually, my confidence increased.
On the eighth day, after I played Californication, by the Red Hot Chili Peppers, with Rainn as my audience, he was genuinely amazed.
"You've got a great ear, man." He said, grabbing a beer from the little fridge he kept beside his counter. "Most kids can't even play twinkle twinkle little star before the third week."
"I dunno" I said, shrugging. "I gotta say, I really like playing. Learning all this new shit is fun."
"You're really dedicated, bro. You should buy yourself a proper guitar. I knew it. You have the true blood in you."
What he said made me uneasy, but I managed to keep a straight face."YeahI'll think about it. It's too early to decide, though." I wouldn't stop practicing a song he would teach me, until I had mastered it. As a byproduct of the new chain reactions that had begun taking place in my insignificant existence, I began to discover newer music. I started off with a small library of about 22 songs. Another week later, it expanded to 50. I didn't really learn to play all of them, but I formed my own musical taste. I fell in love with the red hot chili peppers, Metallica, Guns n roses, Aerosmith and other similar artists, and became acquainted with the classics.
The winter break soon ended, and classes began. It became harder for me to visit Rainn for my makeshift lessons. Three weeks passed, as I made my way through shitloads of paperwork, and studied carefully for tests. I would go to classes in the morning, and then to the library during extended intervals between them, to do my research. After a while, I'd head to the Alpine Atrium Caf at the University Center to work on tiring assignments, charged by caffeine. Then, I'd attend afternoon classes, following which I would head home at around 5 in the evening. I'd usually have around three hours of free time on good days, and I would spend at least an hour and a half practicing guitar, with tabs and shit from the internet.
I soon learned that Rainn played guitar in a surf rock band called Waves Of Destiny'. It was instrumental, and they had three other guitarists, a bassist, a drummer and a guy who played keyboards. Most of his own money came from touring around the southern states with them. The shop was just something he had inherited from his granddad. Customers would hardly come here, and it was more like a novelty store. Three weeks had passed since I had first started learning from him when I finally decided to buy a guitar.
"Dude, I think I'm finally ready to buy a guitar. Should I get an acoustic, or an electric?" I asked him, apprehensively. "You can have that squier back."
He opened a little drawer, and pulled out some filter paper. "Doesn't really matter, dude. Some people say you gotta first master the acoustic before you move on to the electric, but I don't think it really makes a difference."
"I want an acoustic. I guess it would be easier for the basics."
Now, he opened another drawer, and took out a bottle of Axe.
"You're done with the basic shit dude. You should focus on more complex songs." He opened the bottle, and pulled out a tiny plastic zipper bag of pot from it. "Most people say theory and all that bull is important, but you can do without it. Jimi Hendrix couldn't even read tab, and he was a fucking badass guitar player. All he ever did to become that good, was imitate the styles of various players before him, and condense them into his own. Most importantly, he felt what he played with his bare soul, bro. That's primal shit right there, the way I see it."
"Who's Jimi Hendrix?" I asked.
He was silent for a moment, as he deftly prepared the joint.He lit it, took a drag on it, and then looked at me like I was a monkey on crack cocaine. He picked up his ipod and connected it to the crappy marshall amp, with an audio cable. It immediately started playing this really trippy, dreamy song.
"This." He said, cranking up the volume. "Is James Marshall Fucking Hendrix."
The song that was playing sounded like three different guitars to my untrained ears.
"Damn. And that's one guitar?"
"Hell yeah, dude. He was a master of that technique. He probably got the idea from Curtis Mayfield or something.They say he had a deal with the fucking devil man...that he got his crazy skills from Satan himself." He said, in an even thicker southern accent.
"Shitwhat he's playingthat sounds freaking impossible, dude. How the hell can anybody play like that? What's this song called?" I said, mesmerized.
"Little wing. Every guitarist learns this song at some point or the other during his or her life. It's easier than it looks, but it takes a lot of soul, man." He proceeded to take another, slow drag from his joint.
I sighed, and looked at the black and white Squier that Rainn had given me. I thought, "Someday, I'll play like that guy."
Rainn turned down the volume, and then said. "Now we gotta find an axe for you, bro."
I shivered, wondering what I had gotten myself into.