How Do You Pronounce Andy Warhol
My guitar was in need of repair. Though I seldom played the instrument any longer, I felt I owed it the courtesy of letting it be what it wanted to be most: a guitar capable of making music. I searched for local luthiers on the internet and found someone who seemed suitable. His website, while lean on information, featured videos of the luthier playing classical guitar in an amphitheater. That was pedigree enough for me. I called him and set up an appointment for the following day.
I was expecting a shop of sorts, I suppose, but it seemed his business was located within his house. A note was taped on his front door: “DOORBELL DOESN’T WORK. KNOCK HARD. THEN KNOCK AGAIN.” I did as I was told. It felt strange to be bullied by a piece of paper. I stood around for what felt like a minute or so, fearing that I had not knocked hard enough. Just then, the luthier appeared. He was much older than what I had seen in his videos—at least three decades must have passed since their recording. He was bald on top, with thin wisps of white hair on the sides and back of his head. His fingernails were long and sallow. The luthier didn’t seem to know why I had materialized at this door, so I reminded him of our phone call. He asked me to come inside.
His house was a mess, overrun by possessions: guitars, yes, but also sheet music, small statues, tchotchkes, piles of clothes, empty take out containers, books, folders, instruments that were not guitars, three or four telescopes, a collection of ham radios, a life-size cut-out of Elvis Presley, and a living dog. He told me to not worry about the dog, who wasn’t interested in me anyway. I tried finding an empty place on the floor to put down my guitar case, but was unsuccessful. I placed it on top of a piano.
We discussed what needed repair, how much it would cost, and how long it would take. I agreed to all terms. I wanted to leave as soon as possible—I felt, somehow, that I would become another item in this hoarder’s life. In the corner of the room, I saw that his computer monitor was on, and that the cursor was moving of its own volition, clicking open and closing a variety of folders randomly and without purpose. I told the luthier I would see him in two weeks, and then left.
Without my guitar, I felt the need to play the guitar more than I had in years, as was expected. I did have an older guitar in some closet—this was my first, my childhood guitar. It was in need of repair, too, but it was so old and cheap that it wasn’t worth the effort. I didn’t know why I had kept it. I hoped dearly that it was not for reasons of sentiment, which I’m allergic to by nature, or at least I’ve told myself as much.
Two weeks passed, and I returned to the luthier’s house. I knocked hard two, then three times. When he opened the door, again, he didn’t recognize me. I said I was here ready to pick up my newly repaired guitar.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said.
“I dropped off my guitar, and you told me to come back two weeks later. So here I am.”
“It’s my guitar now. Sorry,” he said, and closed the door on me.
I went home. I was in disbelief. I knew, of course, that there was always an element of risk when one hands precious objects over to strangers. If I had gone to one of those big-box guitar retailers, this wouldn’t have happened, though they would have charged me significantly more, and perhaps for shoddier work. I bought this guitar several years ago as a present for myself when I turned 30—it cost me a thousand dollars. The thing was, I wanted to play the guitar. First I had decided to repair it out of a sense of duty, and now that duty had transformed into the dream of a future pleasure.
I returned to the luthier’s house with my old guitar in hand. I didn’t even put it in a case—I was holding it by the neck, like a weapon. I knocked; he appeared.
“Let’s make amends,” I said, “here’s another guitar for repair. You fix this one, I come back in two weeks, I pay you for both, I get both guitars back, and we’re even. I’ll tip.”
“Three weeks. I’m busy,” he said, and grabbed my guitar.
I returned in three weeks, and the luthier repeated our previous scene. He said that both guitars were his, and that there was nothing I could do about it. I could easily overpower this frail old man, though I would probably not escape without a scratch, given his long finger nails. My strategy would have to be one not of violence, but overwhelming pressure. I continued bringing him things to repair, items completely outside of his professional purview: an old CRT television, my grandfather’s Rolex, a scuffed bowling ball, a skateboard. Each time, the same scene. Eventually, his house would fill beyond capacity, spilling over onto his lawn and into his neighbor’s property, and he would have to say: Fine, here are your guitars and all of your precious, useless things. I would pay him for his time and services.
But this never happened. I gave him everything I owned, save a few articles of clothing and the very shoes on my feet. Finally, I returned to his house and said that he would have to repair me next. That I would not leave his house until I was fixed. He waved me inside, and here I’ve stayed.
A few centuries have passed since then. I’ve seen other customers fall into the same trap as I did. They would come with their guitars, their basses, their violins, and eventually their entire lives would find themselves here, in the luthier’s never-ending house. At this rate, one could fairly say entire civilizations have come and gone since the day I first arrived. While many of those people are now gone, the detritus of those past civilizations has remained. Some interesting, some not; most don’t care.
Yesterday, I saw a child and his father wandering around the shelves near where I camp in the luthier’s basement. The child marveled at the items on these shelves. They seemed to contain everything. And in their grandness, a full dot of nothing; a blank smudge where once a painting demonstrated its fluency of the world in full detail. The child discovered a framed poster covered in dust, which he cleaned with the underside of his shirt sleeve. The poster featured a sequence of tomato soup cans, all more or less the same. Its system was apparent, though its meaning was evidently queer to the child. His father approached from behind, holding an empty satchel.
“Father,” the child said, “how do you pronounce Andy Warhol?”
“Son,” the father said, “there is a time where every father must say this to his son. I don’t know.”