Changing Guitars Strings Is My Therapy
Why Such A Repetitive Task Gives Me Comfort
Few know this, but for over a decade I’ve played guitar. I bought my first, a beat-to-shit third-hand Spanish acoustic guitar whose brand I never knew, but whose touched always felt familiar. I picked it up at a small resale shop on the west side of Chicago that doesn’t exist anymore called “Out of the Past.” Seeing that acoustic in the window, laying down, dusty and dirty, with a couple tuning knobs bent in the wrong direction, was magical for reasons that seem difficult to describe now. Mostly because, though I’m fan of Oasis, Radiohead, Bob Dylan, I had never really thought about playing guitar until that moment.
I walked into the shop where an elderly man who was as old and frail as the items he sold was sitting at a desk. I asked if I could try out the guitar (which I’m pretty sure surprised him: Why would I be interested in that piece of junk?). There were only three, rusted nickel strings on that acoustic. To any trained ear it had the melody of a car wreck. And yet, in that moment, to my mind, nothing had ever sounded better, more clear, or more relaxing. The price was $20.
I didn’t have it and I knew my parents wouldn’t give me the money. That summer, however, I was lucky: My grandfather came to stay with us, and he was home. He would certainly give me the money (he was a bit of a pushover). So I walked two miles back home, walking through the door sweaty, with my clothes sticking to me like molasses. Got the $20 and walked two miles back; bought the guitar, and walked with it back for two more miles. During my entire stroll home I worried that someone would jack this guitar from me. Which was an odd thought because it truly was a piece of junk (an observation my bemused grandfather made when he finally saw what folly his money was sunk into) but in that moment, it meant a fortune to me.