It was a snowy Thursday when I decided to brave the slippery roads and visit a music store to shop for an electric guitar. The electric that I had in mind was a cheap one–a no name knockoff that I intended to modify with better add-ons later.
My budget was $100.
But before I drove off, I called my friend, a local music legend named El Rocker, for any suggestions that he thought would be best suited for the project I had in mind.
However, as soon as I told him that I was in the hunt for bargain guitars, he immediately cut me off in mid-sentence: “Why get garbage when you can get gold,” he said with utter force that my iPhone almost rebooted.
“Well, I am not really searching for gold, El Rocker,” I replied politely. “I fancy myself as an alchemist that can transform garbage into gold.”
“That’s not good,” El Rocker snapped back.” “You don’t settle for less if you can have the best. Get a Les Paul 57 Goldtop instead.”
“But I don’t have $3,000,” I protested.
“But you do have a credit card so let’s go,” the indestructible loud voice from the other end of the line commanded.
So I picked El Rocker up and drove to the nearest music store. On our way he gave a lecture about his view of the American way of life.
“We are a very lucky nation. We can have anything we want here,” he said.
“In America, we should always have the best.”
He then said a litany of the best things that that America made available for him: a BMW X3, a 2007 Mercedes Coupe, a Harley Davidson motorcycle, an apartment in the Upper West Side, all the best electronic gadgets from internet-ready LED TVs to robot vacuum cleaners.
He also has a fine taste in clothes and gets them either in Soho, on Carnaby Street, or in Paris. He wears real leather and has enough bling to make 50 Cent look like a penny.
“Living large is living well,” he declared. “You are what you buy.”
He also had a few unkind words for my 1995 Jeep truck: “Get rid of this clunker and get yourself a Jaguar.”
To tell you the truth, it was an exhausting drive with El Rocker, but at last we reached our destination: a small mom and pop’s guitar shop. When El Rocker saw that we weren’t in those big corporate music stores but in a tiny shop that could be mistaken for a pharmacy selling illegal drugs, he went medieval.
“What the hell are we doing in this shit hole? This place ain’t got no shine. This hole is for losers! Let’s go to a real store,” he demanded.
And so we went.
In the music superstore, I saw one of those cheap electrics that I had in mind. And despite his almost violent protests, I purchased the axe for $125.
“That guitar is so cheap, your fingers will get splinters from that god-forsaken fret board,” he said. “For me, great guitars start over a grand. I have an Esquire relic, a 57 Goldtop, a 57 Telecaster, a signed Blackie, a Hofner bass, and a George Harrison 1964 Rickenbacker 360 12 string. I am planning to get a PRS soon.”
Without a doubt, the value of his guitar collection could easily be the GNP of a small island country.
At the end of the day, I felt stressed. I shouldn’t have called El Rocker, I thought to myself. Worse, I was hungry. And the thought of having supper with this guy bothered me, but I had no choice. So I offered.
“Hey, El Rocker, I recently had a delivery of pasture-raised beef and some winter squash fresh from the farm. I’ll whip something up at home and you should join me for supper. These are all organic and even beyond organic foods. Only the best for you, of course.”
Surprisingly, he shook his head.
“Nah, save yourself some time. Let’s go to Burger King,” he said. “They have a Buy– One–Whopper–Take–Three–Cheeseburgers deal there.”
“ Oh yeah? I suppose, since you want the best, you prefer the order bumped up to extra large size for an additional seventy-five cents?” I asked.
“You’re learning fast, my friend,” he quipped. “You’re learning fast.”