Just a Hick Town Guitar PlayerbyBazzza©
It'd been three months since my old guitar had been stolen from the back of car, and it took me weeks to get over my anger. While it was more than thirty years old, its rich tones seemed to better with age. I owned three guitars, but the one stolen had been my favourite by far. Sure, the insurance paid out on it after a bit of squabbling but I knew in my heart it was going to be hard to replace. Just to make myself feel a little better, I'd decided to invest a little more money than the insurance payout and get my something better. Flavell's Music & Instruments was far the best shop in town for guitars, and it wasn't long before I'd made a nuisance of myself.
Most people that know me would consider that I'm a pedantic perfectionist, and they're probably quite right. But anyone who knows anything about guitars would agree that no two are really identical in sound. Two guitars made one after another may have a different sound or feel about it, and I just wanted the best. I was looking for a nice semi-acoustic classical guitar with a cutaway body, its sound more important than its looks. So each time new batch of guitars arrived, the owner of Flavell's, better known to me as Benny these days, would ring and entice me to the shop to try them with the hope of a purchase. I reckon that if I found one I liked, Benny would give it to me for nothing just to get me out his hair.
That particular Saturday, I'd taken a few guitars to an out of the way place at the rear of the shop near the piano section to be out of the way of other customers, just as I'd done before. I was soon in my own little world quietly putting my potential purchases through their paces. It would be fair to say that I'm not a bad player of the guitar; I've played for more than twenty years and had been tutored in a classical in my early teens. Since then, I've developed my own little style; I suppose you'd call it a sort of rock played classically, sounds strange but those who hear it tend to like it as much as I like playing it. Like most guitarists, I like to improvise and have written a lot of my own stuff, some good and I suppose some not so good.
I'd been playing quietly for sometime when I sensed someone was close by but just out of my peripheral vision. I turned around to find a young woman casually leaning against a nearby piano watching me.
"Sorry, I didn't realise anyone was there." I mumbled apologetically. "Am I in your way?"
She smiled, "Not at all, I was drawn down here by your playing. What was it you were playing? I haven't heard it before."
"Just something I made up."
"It's good, how about you just keep playing and I'll listen?"
I smiled graciously and returned to my playing, but my thoughts now on my audience. She looked familiar, like someone I known but never met if you get my meaning. I snuck a few glances her way to where she was leaning on a baby grand with her arms folded watching me. She was pretty with short dark hair; a large pink beret was perched on her head, below were black top and blue faded jeans with black scuffed leather boots. For the next minute or so, my brain drifted as I trine to place her, and then it suddenly dawned on me who she was. I stopped playing and raised my eyes to hers.
"Are you who I think you are?"
She smiled, "Probably, but that doesn't mean you can stop playing."
I allowed the guitar to slip flat against my thighs and grinned stupidly at her, for I was in shock.
She chuckled at my response, "Don't go daft on me. How about you keep playing for a while, and then I'll buy you a coffee for your efforts. Play some other stuff you've written."
For the next few minutes, I played nervously as I came to grips with my situation. For before me stood Clara St Michaels, a rock singer and song writer of fame. She stood in front of tens of thousands of people and awed them with her voice, a voice so pure and powerful it could tear your heart out, and other times a voice so sad that could bring tears to ones eyes. Her songs were a mixture of hard pounding rock and slow ballads that seemed to draw her fans close me included; to me she was one of a kind.
I soon realised what was different about her, her trademark long hair had been tucked up under the beret, and without the bright makeup she wore on stage or on photo shoots, it would be kind of hard to recognise her. I played for a good ten minutes before I put the guitar down, and was most embarrassed to get a quiet clap from Clara.
"What a neat sound, I really liked it. Most unique I think."
"Thanks." I mumbled humbly.
"C'mon, that deserves a coffee."
Now I was kind of embarrassed, I mean why would someone like Clara St Michael want to give me the time of day? I'm just nobody who can play a guitar living in a small hick town.
"Its okay, you don't have to."
Clara's smile waned as she read my mind, "You've earned it, and anyway I hate drinking coffee alone."
A few minutes later, I sat nervously at a café table with a long black in my hand. Clara had taken a seat opposite but facing away from view as if to hide from being recognised, I suppose it would be second nature these days.
"So what's it like singing in front of thousands of people?" I asked.
She smiled and took a sip of her coffee before answering, "It's the best feeling in the world, once I get over my nerves."
"You still get nervous? I thought it'd be old hat after all the concerts you've done."
"Nope, can't shake the nerves. It takes me two or three songs before they disappear, then I'm usually okay."
"What are you doing down here?" I asked.
"Just wanted some time out before the concert next week. Sometimes all the people and fanfare gets too much, all hotel rooms get to look the same and everyone wants something from me. So every now and then, I hire a car and hit the road for a bit of solitude, and here I am."
"In the middle of nowhere." I added.
Clara looked around and shrugged her shoulders, "I dunno, looks fine to me. And how else do get to meet fine little guitar players like you. So tell me about yourself? "
I was kind of surprised at her request, "Why ever would you want to know about me?"
She sort of grinned, "Cause I'm usually surrounded with noters, people who have an agenda or just want to impress me. You're different; you're talented but downplay your ability, both in playing but also your own music. It'd be interested putting some lyrics to some of it. Beside, I like your shyness too, it's like you're too embarrassed to be near me."
I went red and said nothing.
"You're kinda easy on the eye, and I kinda like guys that, and guys that blush easily. So, tell me about myself."
So I told Clara St Michael of my boring life, which was kind of easier then being embarrassed. Where I was brought up, about my family and that I worked as an insurance investigator. I pointed out through the window across to distant hills and told I lived in a house that I'd inherited from my parents. It had actually been our holiday home, but when they passed away I took the house as my part of the deal and left my brother and sister to fight over the larger family home. To my surprise, Clara listened with interest to my boring story. I took in her pretty face as I spoke, her big hazel eyes and the splattering of freckles under her makeup. I liked the way she smiled, her lips widening and showing her perfect teeth.
When I finally rambled to the end of my story, Clara placed her head on her hands and looked over at me, "So, just a small town boy?"
"Yeah, big cities don't do much for me, once I'm there; I just can't wait till I get home again."
"Not at the moment, sometimes it just gets too hard." I replied. "So what about you?"
"Girlfriends?" she asked humorously.
She shrugged shoulders, "Not particularly interested. In my situation you have to be careful, anything and everything is of interest to the press. Seen holding hands or kissing someone, they'd be articles of my wedding plans in the next publication."
"Never thought of it like that. I always thought fame and fortune would be all good fun."
"Nope, it can be very lonely at times, but there's lots of good times too."
We talked music for the next hour or so, Clara told me more about her experiences on the road. Finally, she looked at her watch.
"I'd better hit the road; I've got a long drive back. You coming to my concert?"
"Nah, no tickets. By the time I got around to buying them, they'd sold out." I replied truthfully
"Well, we can't have that." Clara commented as she sorted through a large handbag and coming up with an envelope.
"Here's a couple of complementary tickets. It'll be good to see you again. And after the concert, we'll be having a bit of a party. We're staying at the Princeton, and you'll need to ask for Lenny. You can't miss him, huge ugly guy with a shaved head. Just tell him that Clara invited you and he'll let you in. I'll mention your name to him when I get back. Okay?"
I walked Clara back to her rental car, a nondescript Ford and watched her shapely buttocks slide into the driver's seat, no harm in dreaming I thought to myself.
It unfortunately, but my best mate Mathew couldn't make it on concert night, he had some kind of family reunion from which he couldn't escape. He was sure agitated when he saw the tickets; he would've given his right arm and leg to go. I had fully intended to give the spare ticket to someone else, but on the day of the concert it was still in my wallet as I started the long drive. Eventually I offered it to a cute little redhead who was milling outside the gates, she looked at me in pure disbelief when I gave her the ticket, and I got little peck on the cheek for my kindness. Even though the concert was outdoors, it certainly something else; and while I couldn't real get close to the stage, it was still one to remember. Clara sang all of the old songs that made her famous and then some newer ones, her strong voice wowing the forty thousand plus audience. It seemed hard to believe that I had been sitting having coffee with her just a few days back.
After the concert, I headed towards the Princeton Hotel, I half expected to be refused entry, but after getting past the fans in the foyer, I soon made out Lenny. He was indeed just as Clara described; big, brutish and ugly with his shaved head. I nervously approached him and muttered my invitation, and without a word, he stepped aside and pointed up the stairs. The party was already in full swing, must have been a couple of hundred people laughing, drinking and cavorting to loud music. I was almost tempted to turn and run, for I'm not good in large crowds, but here was a chance of a life time. I forced myself into the throng of people and made my way to the bar. With a cold beer in my hand, I leaned on the bar and watched the beginning of mayhem unfold. My eyes roamed the room looking for Clara but it was to no avail, for she was no where to be seen. I chatted to a few people as they waited to be served, pretty girls and a mixture of rough neck males, but luckily all friendly. I guess I'd been there for a good half an hour when Clara caught my eye as she weaved through the crowd. My heart lifted as she smiled and made her way over to me.
"Hi, I was hoping you'd turn up." she yelled in my ear over the noise. "Come and meet some friends."
Clara led me through the crowd to where a group of people stood, some like the guitarist Jeff Mills and the drummer Franko I recognised from her band.
"Hey you guys, this is guy I told you about in the music shop. He sure plays a mean guitar, you wanna hear him play. He's something else."
So for the next few minutes, I stood in awe talking to what I consider to be some of the best musicians in the world, well in my book anyway. They seemed good guys and took some interest in the story of my stolen guitar, admittedly the only story of mine worth telling. Jeff nodded in sympathy, he replied by telling us all that losing your favourite guitar was akin to losing ones mother. I was soon accepted into the little group, and with Clara standing at my side soon felt very comfortable. Even though everyone wanted to talk to her, she remained pleasant and polite. As the hours disappeared the crowd began to thin and Clara left my side for some reason.
It was a while later when a guy standing close to me leaned close, "Want to have some fun?"
"Sure." I replied.
It's not the sort of question to say no to, even when not knowing what the fun was to be. I followed a few others upstairs and into a room, the door was locked behind us and a few knowing winks were exchanged between those already in the room and us newcomers. We then entered a bedroom, and the fun thing soon became clear. On a table sat a large mirror with several lines of white powder, people were taking turns to snort what was obviously cocaine through rolled up bank notes.
I should make it perfectly clear right here and now that I have no time for drugs, never used them, never associate with people who do. This goes back to a time when someone I knew overdosed and died, an elder brother of a friend of mine and I will never forget how it ripped the family apart.
I was about to take my leave when my eyes found Clara leaning on the wall. She smiled at me as she approached the mirror, and to my absolute disgust filled one nostril with cocaine. Now it wasn't probably my place to stop her, but without thinking I stupidly lunged across the table and grabbed her by the arm.
"Jeezus Clara, what are you doing?" I yelled.
Her eyes swung angrily towards me, "Get your fucking hands off me. Who the fuck do you think you are, my mother?"
Next thing I know was that someone grabbed me from behind pinning my arms, I didn't see the punch coming but it caught me on the side of the face, it was hard and brutal and just as hard as the one that followed. I then found myself on the carpet protecting myself from some well delivered kicks. When they stopped, I staggered without help from the floor, when I finally found my bearings I stumbled towards the door. I saw Clara lower her face to the mirror and fill her other nostril, her large expressionless eyes then peered up at me as I made my exit.
I spent a very painful few hours in the backseat of my car before eventually driving myself to hospital, the results, two cracked ribs, one black eye, a chipped eye tooth and some severe bruising. It would also be fair to say that my ego had taken a fair battering as well. To this day, I don't know what my expectations were that night, but it certainly wasn't getting the shit kicked out me.
For the next few weeks; I was an angry man. Angry at Clara's involvement in drugs, for I thought she would've been above all that, and angry at myself for getting involved in other people's problems. It took me a while to calm down and realise it was none of my business what she did. I still reckon my beating was uncalled for, I wouldn't have been too sad if I'd got thrown out for my outburst, but to get assaulted was a little over the top. But as the bruises and the pain disappeared, so did my anger, really it was just another harsh lesson in life. And for some unfathomable reason, Clara St Michael wasn't on my top play list anymore. Her three CD's and one live DVD were used as target practice, and disintegrated under the aim of my shotgun along with any respect that I once had for her.
It's funny how things turn out, for six months later Clara got herself into a spot of bother. At another one of her after concert parties, one of the young guests fell off a balcony at a fancy hotel and died. It was probably a bit of bad luck that the swift arrival of the cops found a number of obviously high guests milling around which caught their interest. To cut a long story short, the cops found evidence of cocaine usage, and the autopsy found that the unlucky guest had substantial amounts of alcohol and cocaine in his system. Once the press got hold of it, Clara became a hot item, and over the next month took an increasing amount of flack as she came under growing scrutiny for drug taking. Seems everyone had a story to tell, and it wasn't long before she went to ground, unfortunately so did her record sales. Clara then disappeared off the face of the earth and everyone seemed to forget she ever existed. Well everyone but me, for my mind sometimes drifted back to her, and my curiosity never really died.
It was many months later and late on a Friday afternoon when I guided my ten year old Chrysler up the long driveway to my house. Work wise, it had been a hard week and I was looking forward to taking it easy for the weekend. Next to the house was a black Porsche Cayenne, it was a bit of a surprise as no one I know has wheels like that. I parked next to it and gave it a once over before walking around to the front entrance to the house. There sitting on a swing chair sat a female figure taking in the panoramic view in front of her. Her head swung towards me as I turned the corner, and it took me a second or two recognise Clara with her hair tied back in a ponytail.
She smiled nervously as I slowly approached where she was sitting, "Hi, long time no see."
"Bit of a surprise seeing you here."
"I'm doing the apology visits at the moment; you were on the top of my list."
"How'd you find this place?" I asked.
She shrugged her shoulders, "Easy really. Went to that music shop in town and asked who's the worst guitar player around here. Told me your name and pointed me up here into the hills."
I grinned, "Well I suppose they got that right. Been in the wars I hear."
"Yep, fucked up big time. Now I know what its like to be public enemy number one."
"Been sitting out here long?"
"Dunno, couple of hours maybe. Been okay though, it's real beautiful out here. But now you're home, any chance of a coffee while I prepare my apology?"
While making coffee, I watched Clara wander around my lounge taking in my wall picture, old family photos and other things of interest like my CD and DVD collection. I then carried two steaming cups into the lounge and handed one to her. She then folded herself into a chair and looked over at me.
"You don't have to do this you know." I said. "What happened; happened."
Her big sorrowful eyes bored into mine, "I've been in rehab for the two months, sort of gave me time to look back at the mess I've made and how I've hurt people, you included. I was never like that before the drugs." She smiled, "I often thought about you and what you might be up to."
"Cause I enjoyed those few hours we had together. No agenda's or expectations or anything, just someone who loves music as much as me. When you got knocked around after the concert, I didn't think much of it at the time. Not because I didn't care, but snorting coke seemed more important at the time, but that's what drugs do to you."
"So you're off them now?"
"Absolutely, never again. The only good side was that I lost weight in rehab. Seriously, though, I'm really, really sorry what happened to you."
I shrugged my shoulders, "It's okay; I'm over it now."
"You must have been pissed off at me at the time."
"Well, I used your CD's and DVD as target practice when I got home."
Clara chuckled, "I can understand that."
"But you're forgiven; I can't stay angry for long. Anyway, it was really stupid of me to try and stop you doing the coke. I didn't really know you and it wasn't any of my business."
Her eyes met mine, "But you were the only one who tried to stop me. In all the time that I was taking that shit, you were the only one who cared enough to stop me. And what did it get you."
"Two cracked ribs, one black eye, a chipped eye tooth and bruising." I answered.
Clara frowned, "I'm so sorry."