I was a lonely kid. I had good friends but I was an only child – when I went to nursery school, my first best friend died in a fire. I went into my own head some, the way kids do. When I was ten, my grandmother offered to give me her piano. I wanted it, but my father said no. So I got a crappy guitar instead, took a few lessons from some folkie and quit.
Then, around fifth grade, my friend Allan and I started listening to his dad’s old Beatle records. It was, to paraphrase Keith Richards, like the world went from black and white to color. For the next ten years, guitars were the center of my life. I loved the power of them, the beauty of the bodies, the variety and the imperfection of them (when you think about it, an Em11 tuning makes absolutely no sense).
I played an average of three hours a day, became a composer, started an indie label, was a musician for a decade and a half, till I left for this weird new thing called “digital” in 1993… in retrospect, all on the initial thrust of that love of guitars. Then I got caught into digital video, coding, birth of the web, games, interactive TV, the new world I grew to love.
By 2003, I had been working in digital full-time for 10 years, been at DIRECTV for three. I was getting bored. In the wake of 9/11, I missed New York – for some reason that got me playing again. The only difference was that now I could afford the good stuff. So I went on a tear, collecting guitars and gear, playing a lot, picking up where I’d left off.
If you’ve never lived with a guitar geek, you’re not missing much. We’re like golf geeks but we sleep late. Like fly fisherman without the exercise. Guitar geeks debate what year companies moved out of their Kalamazoo factory. They sneer at those who use .008 strings instead of the manly .013. They argue whether it’s shrewd or retarded to put fiberglass in F holes. That’s the world I rejoined.
In the process, I found a patron saint of lunatics, a man whose rants on the stupidity of big guitar makers and other companies – how to do things right, which only a handful of Earthlings did, apparently– left me speechless. I read everything he wrote. He was insane. He was a genius. His name was Ed Roman. I called him. He owned a guitar in Fairfield CT but was sick of it. Lots of headaches, traffic, various idiots. He was shutting the place down and re-opening in Vegas. It was not going to be another McShitburger Guitar Center, he told me: it was going to be a guitar palace. Only the very best, handpicked Paul Reed Smiths – not the post-95 ones with the absurd neck heel. Whole rooms of Rickenbacker 12 strings. The best arch tops. Custom made solid bodies from exotic woods. Holy shit, I remember thinking. This guy is building Heaven.
He did. I watched the pictures go up on his new site. I drove to Vegas, played twenty guitars for six hours and spent $9,000. Life went on, as it does. My guitar room became my daughter’s bedroom. I missed my old friends, in their cases, but I’d been through it before. When I had lunch with my friend Fred Goldring (another guitar guy) and talked about it, he said ” You have to play. You need to.” He found the time, and he was a busy guy.
I knew he was right, but I didn’t do it.
When we decided to get a second place in Vegas, I had a secret joy: I would be down the road from Ed Roman Guitars. I thought about that as we packed in the heat and looked at houses. It kept me sane. I’m in Vegas this week. I’ve been missing playing a lot. So yesterday, in a burst of energy, I got in the car and called the store.
Turns out Ed Roman passed away two weeks ago. The store shut down a ways back. In seven years of trips to CES and NAB, every time I’d come to Vegas, I always meant to stop off and play. I never did.
I never knew Ed Roman. I spoke to him maybe five times, met him maybe four. But I miss him.
All of this is essentially meaningless except to say: if you love something, do it.