One of the most highly regarded guitarist camps was to begin tomorrow in earnest; the participants were meeting up tonight for cocktails and to catch up with each other. I putter around on a guitar, I am nowhere in these guys’ league. Even still, these guys were amateurs, albeit very talented ones. Lisa pushed me to go, to join in, and to push myself to be better.
I approached the organizer. He owned a guitar shop I had been in, so he knew me; possibly he tolerated me. The convention was held in his store, and he was busy cleaning it out to make room for all the guitarists. I asked if there was still room for one more person, and he said, “Sure, welcome aboard Dave,” as he grabbed me on the back and pushed me on the makeshift stage.
Most guitarists stepped up for a couple minutes– max– in the spotlight. They had a very short time to show off their stuff and make an impression. I played for a couple hours, sometimes alone, sometimes with other people. It was my Sally Field moment, “They like me, they really like me.” I was not playing anything special, anything exotic, groundbreaking or even hard. I had just hit a groove that everyone seemed to hone in on.
And it was a party; we were all there to enjoy ourselves, too. We all wanted to learn from each other, but we also needed to relax among friends. We needed the safety and the approval of or comrades.
We broke up after midnight, and I headed back to my room. I pulled out my most prized possession, my Eric Clapton guitar. I placed it reverently on my bed and stood back, admiringly. The man running the convention came into my room, and he instantly noticed the guitar lying on the bed.
“That’s Blackie,” he said in amazement, his eyes going wide. He walked over to the bed for a better view, too in awe to touch the iconic axe.
I leaned over, and I picked it up, and I started playing the guitar. I played a high E, well up the neck. I bend the note higher, and the string broke right off. I tried the same technique on the next string, and it broke off, too. I looked at the head, and saw they had sheared off, right at the tuning pegs. I noticed what the problem was– the tuners were falling out. No one had bothered to screw the machine heads in.
Summer was over, and it was back to school time. My brother Dan and I were headed back to college together. It was a warm, pleasant day. Dan and I discussed the inevitable. This mild, outdoorsy weather would only be with us a short while before the cold winter took over. We decided to enjoy it while we could, we would get out in it every day until the temperatures forced us back indoors.
We were driving around the campus in our golf cart. We pulled up to one building on our right that housed one of the seven pools on campus; swimming was very big here. This was one of the smaller pools, only two lanes wide. I mentioned out loud that it hardly seemed worth it to only have two lanes. Dan reminded me it was not the width that mattered, it was the length, and this pool was the requisite 25 meters long.
We headed toward the central area of the campus, the quad. The largest of the pools was there; today it was behind screening tarps. The students were going to have to use the smaller, satellite pools for a while as maintenance continued on the central pool.
Dan dropped me off at my dorm, which was also my home room. Other students were already there, as was the professor. He seemed a little surprised to see me back. I felt a bit like maybe I should not be. My grades were not all that good, and my study habits were non-existent. Even still, I was smart enough to pull a C average. I might have been on the low side, but I was still academically acceptable.
I found my way to my portion of the room. Having the lowest academic standing, I was given just a patch of floor to sleep on. I did not mind, I had a good, soft, warm sleeping bag. As we all sorted through our belongings, we began to talk about our excitement for the coming year.
A new student came in. The professor was very excited for his being there. “I have heard a lot about you, and I am expecting great things,” the professor said to the new man. I turned to meet him, and I knew instantly who he was.
The professor had him play guitar for us. “Not one of your famous songs,” he said. “Here, play one of these.” He handed the new guy a list of songs no one had ever heard of. Except the new guy. He ripped right into them. We all stood around in awe, we knew we were in the presence of greatness.
When he was done, he came over and sat next to me. I looked him in the eye, and I said, “Your name is Stevie, isn’t it?”
Bashfully, his head drooped, and his eyes fell to the floor. “Yeah, I am,” he drawled. He slowly reached for his hat, and took it off. He had short, black hair, except for a blonde spot above his right eye.
“You know,” I continued, “Some day, you are going to be compared to Eric Clapton and… and…” I had to search for another great guitarist. “Steve Howe” was all I could come up with. “Yeah, you will be compared favorably with Clapton and Howe,” I repeated.
“No way,” was all he could say.
“Yes,” I told him. I just wish he would live long enough to see himself reach the heights of fame I thought to myself.
I woke up.