"Have you seen them Harry Potter movies?" Rainn asked me.
"Yeah, the first one." Oh come on, who hadn't?
"Guitars are like wands, man. The guitar chooses the guitarist. Believe me, I've seen it happen, like, I dunno, a zillion times."
"Let's see if that's true. Are any of these for sale?" I said, pointing at the guitars mounted on the walls."
He smiled, almost narcissistically. "They're all vintage. I don't think I have a single guitar, except for that Squier I gave you, that costs less than a thousand bucks."
I was surprised. "They don't look that expensive. Some of them look like they've been through terrible abuse." I said, as my eyes wandered onto a Fender Strat with whole chunks of wood missing from its body.
"That's why people pay more for them." He said. "Guitars are like, I dunno, wine. People pay a shit load for it if it's really, really old. Vintage guitars cost more, probably because they're of a better make than the guitars made in the past 20 years."
"That doesn't make any sense. They're still made by the same company, the same way, right? What difference does a few years make? Does it have something to do with the aging of the wood?" I asked.
He shrugged, and then said "John Frusciante, who used to be in the Red Hot Chili Peppers, only plays Strats made before, I dunno, 1964 maybe. I guess it's because CBS bought Fender around then, and that kinda affected the make."
"WowI didn't know that. This shit keeps on getting more and more complicated." I said.
He laughed, "Some people call Rock N' Roll a religion, but it's more like Science and a little bit of History. There's also some Civics in there. You'll know what I'm talking about someday."
He switched off his amplifier. Jimi Hendrix stopped playing.
"Anyway, there's a Guitar Center at Northgate. Did you drive here?"
"No." I said. "I biked here."
"Aight then, I'll give you a ride. Let's roll, friend."
He went to his counter, and pulled out a few keys from a drawer. The keychain was also shaped like a tongue.
"Dude," I asked, "What's with you and tongues?"
He made a face that expressed something along the lines of Eh, what the f--k?'
"I'm sorry, what?"
I quickly said "You're wearing earrings that look like tongues, and your keychain also looks like a tongue."
He chuckled and said "Oh. Well, I'm a big fan of the Stones." "The Stones?"
"The rolling stones, bro." "Oh. Okay." I said. I had heard only two songs: Satisfaction, and Paint It, Black. We went to the parking space a block away. I wondered what this guy's car would look like. Rainbow minivan, maybe? He was full of surprises, and I knew that even his car would be something worth seeing. I was wrong. It wasn't a wiener car. It wasn't the Batmobile. Or the Batwing. Or the Batpod. It was a plain, dark green Toyota that looked at least 10 years old. I made a mental note to stop jumping to conclusions about people.
In about ten minutes, we reached Northgate Mall, and sure enough, I saw the big "Guitar Center" sign blinking at me from a distance of around a 100 yards. My insides rumbled with a mixture of emotions. It was a cocktail of feelings consisting mainly of excitement, with traces of fear and apprehension. The sophisticated word for this is euphoria, I think.
While walking towards the store, I asked Rainn "How will I find the right one?"
"You won't be able to identify the right one." He said. "That's the beauty of the whole thing, bro. I told you, the guitar chooses the guitarist."
"Yeah, right." I said. "That shit isn't possible."
He laughed. "It'll feel like, I dunno, like an extension of your arm. Nay, your soul. You'll easily know when you're holding it in your hands."
"How the hell do you come up with phrases like that?" I asked.
He gave me a smug smile. "You're just a noob right now. A recent convert to the religion better known as rock and f'n roll. If I'm a priest, you're still in Sunday school, bro."
We entered the Guitar Center. My jaw dropped.
There were guitars everywhere. It made Rainn's shop look like a thrift store. The aura of these beauties was blinding. A few cabinets were stacked with all kinds of amplifiers, and a separate section of the store held drums. This place was heaven.
Rainn was unaffected by the spectacular display. It was like he saw this every day. "Come on, Rob, we're runnin' outta time. Find your mate, and find her quick."
He stretched, and said "I'm gonna go look at a few pedals. Guitars in your budget will probably be over there." He said, pointing at the left side of the shop. "Meet you in like, half an hour. May the force be with you." He said, winking. He went to another section of the shop.
I approached the area he had pointed towards. From another part of the shop, I heard Rainn yell "Leo, my man! Where's the Paul Gilbert AF2?"
The guitars hung here were mostly Squiers and Epiphones, with a few Ibanezs here and there. I picked up a black Squier strat much like the one Rainn had given me, plugged it into a little frontman amp, turned on the overdrive, and played knockin' on heaven's door, just three basic chords. It sounded okay, but there was nothing extraordinary about it. Nothing special happened. Angels certainly did not come down from the clouds to drop rose petals on my head. Lions didn't roar in the distance either. I noodled around with the squier for around 15 minutes, playing some other simple songs I had learned, before putting it away.
I tried an epiphone les paul after this. I tried Boulevard of Broken Dreams. Rainn wasn't happy with the fact that I had learned this song. He said Green Day was a joke and he also said something about makeup, feedback, power chords, and bastardization. I thought he was being kinda hypocritical, because I had seen a Dookie LP lying in one of his album shelves. I had kept quiet about it though, not wanting to piss him off.
The epiphone definitely sounded different. It had a crunchier sound than the squier. However, it still felt generic, like any other guitar. I spent another ten minutes messing around with it. Finally, I tried an Ibanez. It had a highly layered sound. I couldn't feel what I was playing at all. An attendant came by for a moment. He gave me a scrutinizing look, and walked away. I started wishing I could shred a million notes per second.
Rainn soon came back, and said " Rob, my man! Did you find your soul yet?"
"No, I don't like any of these guitars." I said, defeatedly.
He smiled, and said "There's always another day. Come on, let's get you home, son."
He drove me to my apartment building and then proceeded to go back downtown. I dejectedly made my way up the steps.
"I guess playing guitar isn't for me, after all." I thought. I unlocked my door and slumped onto the futon. It hadn't always been mine. I had adopted it. It had been abandoned near the apartment dumpsters, and I had painstakingly dragged it up to my place. A lot of the things I owned were previously abandoned in much the same fashion, like my kitchen table and three other chairs. That's student life for you: Scavenge to survive. I cleaned them thoroughly, of course, and I had made sure there were no jizz stains or other creepy shit on the Futon I had flicked.
As I lay there, thinking about how I hadn't been able to find a decent guitar for myself, an image suddenly flashed across my mind. I closed my eyes and focused on it. Eventually, the details became sharper. It was the cherry red guitar that had seduced me! Its charms had lured me to Rainn's shop! I had to have that guitar, because I knew I was destined to have it.
Rainn wasn't lying. I suddenly felt knocks on my window, and when I turned up the blinds, I saw something truly amazing. Hail. I had never seen hail anywhere around these parts of the state in my life. This was the power of rock n' roll. I had found my soul, and this was a sign. I decided to brave out the odds, and somehow get to his shop as quickly as I could, because I definitely had to have that guitar.
There was no way I would be able to drive all the way downtown, because there was a risk the car could skid. It was hailing really hard, and the streets would be covered in five minutes. So, I grabbed my all-weather jacket and foolishly decided to try to bike there instead.
The hail hit me like big fat porcupine needles. I quickly went back inside. Feeling downtrodden, I switched on the T.V and surfed to the weather channel. According to predictions, it would continue hailing and raining and eventually snowing, and the skies would only clear in the afternoon the next day. This was a freaking storm.
"Tomorrow it is, then." I decided, with finality.