playing the guitar again lately and yeah, I still suck, but whatever.
It still feels
so damn good, you know? It feels right and even honorable to hold something in
my hands, some guitar that someone loaned me, and slowly let the power of the
thing seep back into my world.
It's been a
long time; I stopped playing after I left the band.
The band was
called Marah and it was me and my brother, Dave, at the core of it all, and then
a whole lot of other people who came and went through the years. So when I
finally decided that 14 years of touring and making records was enough for me,
that it was time to step aside and find what else life could offer up, I pretty
much just walked away from everything like you'd walk away from emergency
pissing in some afternoon alley.
I ain't going back, I told myself. I've got to carve out a whole new life somehow.
And I guess
I thought that if I walked away from Marah, from something very much alive, from
an existence so magical and sublime, well, I guess I thought that maybe I
didn't even deserve to play the guitar anymore.
was so fucking dumb. But anyone who knows me would tell you that: Serge is kind of cool, but he's so fucking
I'm not sure
why I thought something so strange and unfair to myself. Like a lot of bizarre
and damaging notions I've conjured up in my day, I regret it so much now. But what can
Life is weird.
I've never been a guitar geek or anything even close. I never really cared that
much about what make or model or whatever I was playing. Hell, I only wanted to
have a guitar on so that I could get up there on the stage, night after night,
and have an actual excuse to be there. But across the years I think I fell in
love with playing all the guitars I played, even if I was just a rhythm
guitarist who played the damn thing like a drum.
But then my
kids came along. You might think that that might have spurred me on to break
out an acoustic and play a little for them, but I never did, really. The
guitars I had just sat in their cases, in their comas, in the dark beneath
the bed or wherever.
The night I
met the woman I married, I was playing guitar. At a one night stand in some Salt
Lake City club, we played for maybe thirty people in the middle of a long
west coast run and she happened to be there. She saw me play my guitar, watched
me thrash at it and pound away at it and make it scream and sing and all — and boom:
Six weeks later, we were married.
We rung ten
years out of that marriage (and we're dating each other again!). We made three
beautiful children, too, and in the back of my mind I knew that guitar really,
truly did have something to do with all that. Not many people can actually say
that without bullshitting you, but I can.
though, I backed away from playing much after we were married. She might have
dug it if I played her a song here and there but I never did. I only played
when I had to, I guess, and once I didn't have to anymore, I just didn't.
divorced earlier this year, just after I turned 43. My brother still keeps the
band going and they are still one of the best you could ever find anywhere. In the months that followed the end of my marriage, as I slowly came to terms
with how I had lost so much love and glory in my life by fading away from her
and fading away from the music I had once loved making, I began to feel some
kind of dead inside.
do that to you. So will
guitars in cases.
If you have
things that you are good at — or even if you aren't that good at them but you
really dig doing them — why would you not make sure that they are things that
you continue to do?
what psychobabble reason I could ever come with for me just laying my guitar
down and never picking it up again, none of it will ever make sense. But
luckily something dawned on me one afternoon a few weeks ago: Not playing the guitar at all was probably the same as me inviting
death to come and wrap her pretty little hands around my neck. To hell with
that the guitar was something I needed back in my life. Even if it was
only me and the acoustic my buddy up the street loaned me, I needed to sit down
at my kitchen table and pull that guitar out of its case and feel it in my
hands once again.
So I did. And I
sucked. So rusty,
I've gotten. But who
lightning up my arms, man: old songs I wrote with my bro, songs we once played
together, the two of us drenched in sweat, cigs dangling beautifully from the
crook of our lips; songs we played for living, breathing people who stood there
watching us up there on late-night stages in London and L.A. and Rome and Austin.
All that and more came rambling down out of the sky and piled on me in ways I
had begun to completely forget.
it is to be proud of things you once did in your life. I hate nostalgia and I'm
not nostalgic to a fault, but still. This is the goddamn guitar
we're talking about here, people.
I'm so glad
I killed off this one particular messed-up part of me that was keeping me away
from myself. I've got so many parts like that, but still. I busted through my
own walls and slit the throats of the kidnappers who had stolen my guitars from
me and kept my music hostage from me for the past 6 or 7 years. I've got
nothing to be ashamed of. I'm like the Rambo of resurrected guitar slingers and
I need to own that.
And listen, I
still play the guitar like the tragically over-caffeinated, magically
good-intentioned hack job that I am in music and in all of it. Which
basically means that I'm probably one of the greatest guitar players in the
world if you think about it. And so now at long last, I can finally say
something kind of cool about myself and the guitar. Ha! I never thought I'd say
this clichéd, overwrought bullshit thing about myself in my lifetime but what
the hell. Life is short. So here goes:
I don't play the guitar because I
want to.I play the guitar because I have to.
There. I said it! Cringe with
me. Laugh with me. Cringe and laugh at me. Either way,
I'm not going back on my word anymore.