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..: stories

..: Broken Guitars, Fixed Guitars.

I was invited to a music concert tonight in Irvine. We arrived just 15 minutes before the main act. The lights went off inside the stadium, and the fog machines kicked in. Purple light filled in the room. The light gave me the sense that my eyes were malfunctioning. I couldn't focus on anything, and it was uncomfortable, and wonderful. My eyes hunted for something to focus on. Little points of lights on the electronics is where I focused.

The electric guitar built a slow but steady wave of sound. Soon it would be a wall of sound. Across the floor, hundreds of little hands were in the air, glowing yellow and always moving. My mind drifted to the old days when I led worship in churches. It always does.

The thrill of playing the guitar, creating walls of sound, is of course one of my best memories. But beyond those events, I've also enjoyed fixing and restoring acoustic guitars. Now, I'm not a guitar craftsman or anything. I just happen to know how to buy things like wood putty, and how to use a hand file.

Sam's Brother's Guitar.
My roommate brought home a guitar he had picked up for cheap somewhere. He was going to give it to his brother, who was learning to play at the time. The guitar was black, chipped in places and very hard to play. I offered to work on it, not quite sure what I could do. Sam agreed to let me take it with me over the weekend, and I replaced the strings, lowered the action, and painted in the chipped paint. When Sam saw the restored the guitar, he was so thrilled. It may have been the one useful thing I ever did for him, and he was grateful. I was hooked; I loved doing that for him.

Jojo's Guitar.
Our drummer used to play guitar. He taught himself, and became very proficient. He used this old guitar with one of those rounded fiberglass backs. Kept it in a thick paper case. One night, as he was backing out of my cousin's driveway, he ran his guitar over with his car. His Tercel wagon really did a number on the guitar, and the case. At once, Jojo knew what he had done. He got out of his car, and there we stood, horrified at the scene. His guitar case was mangled. Somebody got up the nerve to open it, and we found that the guitar was damaged as well. The back of the guitar was cracked open, and now had a hole about the size of a quarter. The neck was not cracked, and so after consoling Jojo, I offered to attempt to repair it. The next day, I went to the hardware store and bought some kind of paste that dried quickly. It worked. The hole in the back was fixed. I lowered his action for fun. Gave the guitar back to him that Sunday, and he was thrilled. We joked that it even sounded better now.

Stan's Guitar.
Stan was learning guitar. He made the mistake of buying a soft gig bag to carry his guitar around. One day, he broke the neck of the guitar while transporting the guitar in his car's trunk. The neck broke near the head. I found out a week later, when I saw the head of the guitar bent at a sickening angle away from the neck, held on by the strings and a fold of wood. In the guitar world, this is a fatal injury. I can fix that, I told Stan. Want me to try? He says ok, why not. I took some super glue to it. Clamped it for 2 days with a vise. Then put the strings back on it. The strings did not break the neck. The glue held. Stan went on to play it for another year, and then passed it on to my Korean roommate Moon, who was also learning to play guitar for his fellowship.

Moon's Guitar.
Moon was melodramatic, and the oldest and least mature roommate I'd ever had. He made me look mature. Before he inherited Stan's guitar, he had a guitar of his own. He also made the mistake of buying a soft gig bag for his guitar. One day, while transporting the guitar in his trunk, some items shifted and cracked the neck of his guitar. At the head, just like Stan's guitar. Moon did not tell me. Jean and Helen were downstairs at our apartment when I found out; when we all found out. Moon brought the guitar in while we were talking. He pulled it out of his gig bag, and I was horrified to see it broken, strings limp from the lack of tension. Moon took his thumb and strummed the dead, loose strings to make a sickly chord. I know it was a chord because of his hand position, but the guitar was nowhere near tuned or useable. He played a few more strums, and we all ignored him. He was being melodramatic, trying to tell us something. We got the message, just didn't know what to do with it. Perhaps he felt we didn't hear him, so he stood up, leaned the injured guitar against our coffee table, and lifted up his right foot. His shoe came down on the neck of the guitar, breaking the head clean off the neck with a loud snap. The strings held the head to the guitar, but now the guitar would never be repaired. He had our attention now. We stared at him in slight terror, perhaps some amusement, mostly horror. He picked up his decapitated guitar, walked out to the balcony, and threw it over the railing two stories down onto the concrete below. He went to his room. He hadn't said a word the whole time. Neither did we. I didn't offer to fix his guitar, but I did make it a point to tell him I could have fixed it when it was merely cracked. Then he borrowed Stan's guitar, which I had repaired months ago.

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