My guitar was purchased for three hundred dollars in Seattle, WA, at a guitar shop that only opened after I had finished college. It is (or was? Couldn’t tell you if it’s still there or not) on the corner of Pike and Broadway, just next to Ballet, my favorite cheap Vietnamese restaurant in the entire world. I offered the man there three hundred in cash for a four hundred and twenty five dollar guitar, presaging my pazarlamak days here in Istanbul by a few years, and he frowned, and said “Deal. Ok.” I suspect that nobody else had shown interest.
It is a beautiful guitar. I can only pass down what I know from apocrypha. It was made in Colombia a hundred years ago in a local factory, purchased as a quinceanera present, but after an accidental snapping of the guitar’s neck it languished in someone’s basement for years upon years, accumulating a century’s dust, until it was uncovered. All the strings were no doubt snapped from age, and the mounting had worn away. It was retrofitted with new parts and new strings, the broken neck was repaired, it may have been varnished again. When I strummed it for the first time in the shop, I felt it resonate in a peculiar way. It was a lovely sound. I was about to travel to Turkey for the first time and I wanted a larger more adaptable instrument than my Ukulele to accompany me as a bardic tool and good luck token. Obviously I know nothing about guitars. Many have complained that the strings are too high, too hard to press down, it’s too small (it’s three-quarter size, but for the traveler in me that was a selling point). Whatever. Often the story in my head animates the real world, and I let it. Who wouldn’t?
While I was flying back to America this last November, the guitar head got snapped off again in the overhead compartment. A brute’s carry-on was shoved into it, or perhaps during a turbulent episode a heavy bookbag crushed it. Who knows. I opened it in the Toronto airport to show it off like a proud father and his four year old ballerina, and all the strings were curling up, free of tension. The problem was located soon after.
The luthier in Brooklyn quoted me $250 for its repair, because it required “special tools” and “a lot of specialized labor.” Power to her. She and her partner had rented some warehouse space in Gowanus and they were sharing the cavernous room with a seamstress. Guitars hung from racks like suits at a dry cleaner’s. I felt like I’d wandered into someone else’s novel, playing a cameo role. I told her I couldn’t afford it, said I’d check if there were other prices around, and she said that was just what it cost. I checked around, and she was right; lowest I found was about $150. I hesitated.
Were I a member of the Gowanus ‘hood I’m sure I could have cut a similar deal with the luthier. But my story is over here in yeldeğirmeni right now. And I can always drop down the carnival hole of Turkish social life and a chain-smoking old man would fix it for peanuts. So maybe I hesitated because I knew I was coming back.
But even better: Ayşegül offered to put it back together! She’s putting the finishing touches on it today; she talked to her luthier teacher, Uğur, and he offered some advice for gluing the head back on. (she also fixed my Ukulele two years ago when I stepped on it) I will trade her for this one bottle of Georgian chacha. That’s my kinda story.