Thursday, September 5, 2013

Adventures at Guitar Center's Grand Opening

Imagine with me, if you will, that you walk up to a store to get that sweet deal on 12 packs of strings for 30 bucks and there's a line outside (ok, not too unexpected for a GO). While you wait in line, you are addressed by a man with flyers for lessons. You say politely but firmly, "no thanks, I'm not interested in lessons" because you don't want to carry around pamphlets all night. He says, "Oh, well, I bet you know some people who want lessons." And I thought more a minute--do I? "No sir, not really." I stand in line for a few minutes and the same dude comes up to me trying to hand me a flyer "no thank you," says I, thinking "this dude can't possibly have forgotten my firm but polite reply from 3 minutues ago. . ." But alas, this man would try and give me one of those damn flyers at least three more times while you are inside.

Did I mention that at the same time a rock band is playing in a tent in the parking lot. They are pretty solid sounding, but you can't help but laugh at a name like The Heroin. (not Heroin. Not Heroine. The Heroin.) Still, you probably would have been better off watching their set while everyone else scrambled to 'sample' a guitar or bass.

They really do like they are having fun like this child. 

When you finally enter the main room, it is full of electric guitar players, all plugged in. They all are either shredding or playing the best riff they learned from the internet over and over again, trying to impress their girlfriends, boyfriends, or friends they brought along for the ride, knowing they aren't going to buy a guitar. But that's not the first thing you hear. No. The first you hear is a poorly sung rendition of a song you can't quite pin down. You think: Where is that coming from? It can't be a recording because its out of tune. You swivel your head around searching for the source and low and behold there is a fucking elvis impersonator singing in front of the electronics/mic/recording section. You double take. Nope. Still there. He's real. You think again: ok, let's get these strings and get the hell out of here. You find the string shelf, you see the Martin SPs, mediums, that are supposed to be 12 for 30. But there are only 10 packs. What the hell? There must be a mistake. Oh god, do you I really have to find someone to go check the stock? Damnit, I knew I should have stayed home. But just then, you see them. You see that there are prepackaged packs of 12. You grab them and rejoice for your journey is almost over. You see a pack of 12 tortex picks and decide--what's another 6 bucks?

You go to one of the multiple lines that don't seem to have any particular ending, find one, wait, and check out.

But then you get curious: You wonder if they are selling F-Style mandolins (they aren't). You wonder if they have any good bass amplifiers I could try out? (Ampeg, Acoustic). You wonder what kind of Martins and Taylors they have in stock (plenty). You squeeze your way into the acoustic room where you find several people playing the acoustic guitars to a MUCH less annoying effect since most of them are playing quietly and honestly look like they may be trying out acoustic guitars for actual music making rather than girl-impressing or that guy-who-plays-the-guitar-in-every-music-shop-to-show-how-good-he-is.

Just then, you hear the announcement that there will be a raffle, which you did fill out a ticket for cuz-- you know -- why not? Maybe you'll win a guitar. But most likely, you will stand in the heat and watch others win and politely clap, knowing that if something were to happen that it would be a bonus. Hell, you didn't even know the raffle was taking place -- the strings were enough to drag your ass to the store. But of course, as with all raffle drawings, there are the two guys who are tryign to get the audience riled up asking stupid questions like "who wants a 300 dollar gift card" and then pretending to care that people aren't as enthused as these guys (who do openings for a living) would like. The raffles comes and goes. You sense the people around you are actually quite disappointed that they didn't win anything. You can almost hear their thoughts : "Why did he win. What is that little shitstain kid gonna do with an Epiphone Les Paul? Oh god, that's a horrible thought. But still -- I can already shred the shit out of that guitar and he has to still learn."  Or another guy to your right who is clearly thinking: "I bet that old fart is gonna sell that guitar on ebay. He's not gonna love it like I would love it. Damn old people." Maybe you are making all this up, but it entertains you while you stand there knowing that you are probably just gonna go home with your new sets of strings which will save you (hopefully) a lot of stress of coming up stringless when you inevitably break a string while drunkenly bashing out the chords to a Lucero song on your balcony--or another such situation.

The raffle ends. You think: I should probably just go home. Do I really need to see if I can play some of the nice basses. I could do this anytime -- ANY other day. But, well, there probably won't be that many people who go back in.

You are wrong. Again.

But you head back in anyway. As you cross the threshold, this lady ever so politely asks you if you have your receipt (she is your favorite part of the night: just seems like a decent, calm human being amidst the chaos).

 "yes, yes I do, ma'am."

"Ok well, I need to hold your bag while you go back inside -- but keep the receipt and I'll give it back to you when you come back out."

(Huh? you wonder)

"Oh, you know I could just put it back into my car and come back if that would be easier. . .or wait. . .no I gues--"

"Oh no, just let me hold it -- you're already here. It will be easier."


So you entere the guitar room again -- a barrage of dissonance and riffs peaking out here or there that are technically correct and sometimes sophisticated but, for the most part, without any kind of goal (like a song) or soul (like when you play a song). But in the far corner, someone is slapping the bass like a motherfucker through that Ampeg amp you desire. It's impressive. You are grateful for the relief of the low end from the chugging and screeching guitars surrounding him.

You wander again, thinking you may have missed the mandolins. You encounter your good friend Pamphlet/Flyer guy who once again tries to hand you something -- at this point you just ignore him.

It's clearly time to go. It's not like you'll be able to hear yourself if you even got to play an instrument that night. You've accomplished your goal. Now its time to go home and eat.

As you drive home, you think: Man, that place is gonna be great to go to for strings and other minor accessories. But that's it. You'll probably never buy a guitar, mandolin, bass or bass amp there (unless there's a good used instrument for a good deal). For some musicians, that's analogous to buying a dog or a cat from PetCo when there are tons of pets looking for good homes at the shelter and who will not only give them shots and spay/neuter them for you, but if you buy an older cat for instance -- just straight up give it to you.

But who knows.. .maybe a fender jazz is in my distant future.

 Guitar Center Gainesville lives. And despite its corporate image, I like it better than the local store in town already. It's better than Best Buy used to be too

Why'd I write this? Because I can. And initially it was going to be a long facebook post. I figured--why not just use the blog. Apologies to any academics who may actually follow my academic posting and apologies to those who actually produce nonfiction stories worth reading. But I said it. I tried to entertain you and myself. Maybe I succeeded, maybe I didn't.


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  2. Thanks I really enjoyed that a lot actually, so much so that when it ended I hoped it would keep going. Since the whole odyssey seemed to revolve around the strings, when the lady took them, I thought for some reason you were not going to get them back, so it created this great tension for me, as it seemed like you were distracted and I kept wondering about the strings. It's really great, such a lovely piece, thanks!