(Yes! A completely new Daron post at last!)
Let me tell you what it’s like to pick up a Fender Stratocaster for the first time in seven (or was it eight?) months. On stage I had pretty much always split my time between the Ovation and the Strat. Switching between them had become second nature to me. But then I had spent most of the year in Spain where I played the Ovation every day.
I couldn’t believe how heavy the Strat felt. I had criss-crossed North America with it strapped to my body; how had I never noticed how heavy it was? A Stratocaster is solid wood. They say Les Paul made the very first electric guitar from a railroad tie. I believe it. Ovations have carbon fiber shells, as light and tough as scarab beetle wings.
(It always comes back to The Beatles.)
I had found the Strat’s case sticking out from under the futon frame in my bedroom. I still wasn’t used to the frame, which lifted the futon off the floor by about ten inches, and which Courtney had bought for me. But I hadn’t slept on it yet. Had I? No, wait, I did when I was here at Thanksgiving. Nine months ago. The frame wasn’t new anymore, but it was new to me.
Court had also cleaned the room within an inch of its life, the CDs all on the actual shelf, the books likewise, the knickknacks lined up like a small army. Cat Elvis was hanging from a shade pull. I wasn’t sure, but I think she had repainted the walls, too. I honestly didn’t own that much stuff, and previously there had been hardly any real furniture either.
Ziggy’s notebook was in a niche in the shelving unit at the head of the bed, the one that had replaced the pile of milk crates. I didn’t open it. I wondered if he wanted it back… then quickly slammed the door on that train of thought, which would lead to me obsessing over everything about what Ziggy might or might not want. That took real will power.
I almost weakened again when I opened the closet and sitting there was Ziggy’s shoulder bag of clothes, the one that had ended up in my hands after the tour had been cut short. But then I slammed the door literally. I picked up the Strat’s case and headed directly to the basement.
The basement rehearsal room hadn’t changed much. The evil, lumpy shag carpet was gone, replaced with a utilitarian gray. So, this was where all the milk crates had ended up, holding rolled up cords, microphones, random audio equipment, and a pair of Chris’s ratty sneakers.
I sat down in a metal folding chair and put the Strat in my lap thinking jeez this fucker weighs a ton. The strings felt sharp, like something from the guts of an infernal machine. I ran my fingertips over the paint job. It felt slick and smooth, then satiny under where my sleeve had rubbed it a million times.
I plugged in, tuned, and warmed up. It took me a couple of minutes to rediscover my internal settings for the spacing of the strings, but then I was off and running. Letting my mind and fingers wander across songs I knew, or half-knew, or half-remembered.
After a while, that half-awake state that can only be jet lag took over. I decided I should unpack. I left the Strat in a stand, intending to come back to it relatively soon.
Upstairs, Courtney was lying in wait. She pounced with a simultaneous hug and expression of annoyance as soon as I emerged into the living room. “God! Finally!”
I hugged her back and did my best impression of our father. “Hey, kiddo, how’s it hangin’?”
“Ugh! Don’t tell me everyone in Spain talks like that.” She hit me on the arm, which I deserved for yanking her chain like that. “Seriously. How was it?”
“Fantastic. I kind of ended up in a flamenco troupe.”
“I saw the postcard. Carynne showed me.” Court led me into the kitchen where she popped the top off a Rolling Rock from the fridge. She handed it to me before I could ask her for it and opened a second one for herself. “So, what’d you bring me?”
“Help me unpack and you can see,” I said, taking a pull. The clock said it was four-thirty in the afternoon. It felt later. Well, of course it did. My body was still five or six hours ahead. I focused on her clearly for the first time. She had cut her hair and colored it subtly, with deep auburn highlights. I realized then that she was wearing makeup, too. All in all, the effect was that she’d aged a couple of years since I last saw her. Ridiculous. “Um, nice hair.”
Her eyebrow quirked. “You disapprove.”
“Did I say that?”
“No, but you’re thinking it.”
“It looks good on you.”
“But? I hear a ‘but.'”
She could read my mind. Or my face, anyway. “But you gotta admit it’s a little on the conservative side, don’t you think? I mean, so far as my taste is concerned.”
She swigged her beer, then belched loudly. “Yeah, I’ve become such a conformist to traditional womanhood.”
“Don’t worry, big brother. I’m not going to turn out like mom and our sisters. I had a meeting with my academic advisor today, though, and it’s better not to freak them out.” She smirked and ran a hand through her hair, fashion-model style, and I could see underneath she had shaved the sides.
“That’s the name of my next band,” she joked. “Come on. Unpack.”
We went up to my room, where I praised the redecorating job and sorted my clothes, most of which were technically clean, but Court declared they smelled too much like cigarette smoke and consigned them all to the laundry. I gave her some souvenirs I’d picked up in the airport: a folding fan and a tall hair comb she put on right away, exposing her stealth mohawk. I also had castanets for Christian, olive oil and saffron for Bart, and a leather-tooled purse for Carynne.
“What did you get for Ziggy?” she asked, looking through the assortment.
“Nothing. I was trying really hard not to think about him.”
“Is that why you went there?” My sister: the direct one. I had forgotten she was like that.
“No. Well, maybe.” I sat on the edge of the bed. “Have you seen him?”
“Only on television,” she said, giving me a sad, appraising look.
(Kickstarter update! Today is the halfway point! But we’ve got a ways to go to reach the minimum goal… and still a long way to reach the stretch goal that will allow me to do all the individual paperback books as well as the omnibus! If we get to $5,000, it’s all possible! Check the progress or donate through this link: http://kck.st/R31kCx)