A descent into the inferno
Culture Vulture finds it an odd characteristic of reality that groups of humans who are pursuing potentiality enhancement en masse can take on aspects of a scene out of Dante’s Divine Comedy, and I don’t mean the funny parts (there aren’t any), I mean The Inferno.
That being the case, I wonder how old Dante would have reacted if Culture Vulture could have towed his consciousness like a balloon on a string into the Guitar Center of Sacramento last Saturday at about 3 in the afternoon. The lovely I. Daphne St. Brie and self were there shopping for a particular bass guitar to add to the ever expanding arsenal growing in the Culture Vulture World Headquarters musical annex, the fabled Car Hole Studio. The fact that my beloved’s birthday is rapidly approaching and the bass is a major component of her present lent a sense of bemused urgency to our expedition. But we were in no way prepared for the scene, or the cacophony, that awaited us.
Sure, we’ve been into Herreid Music and had our ears assaulted by some solitary wanker with the distortion cranked to the max churning out dreadful disembodied heavy-metal leads for the entire time we were purchasing a pair of drum sticks. But let me tell you, friends and neighbors, you ain’t seen (or heard) nothin’ until you’ve walked into a few thousand square feet of space crammed literally to the rafters with guitars and amps and drums, with a solitary wanker placed about every two feet, each intently pursuing some sound within their skulls with absolutely no reference to any of the other solitary wankers that surround them.
Visiting London’s fabled Bedlam asylum for the insane is a kindergarten Sunday school picnic by comparison. The farther one walks into the labyrinth of instruments the more deeply embroiled in the aural chaos one becomes. Our brains are designed to interpret the sensory world so we can negotiate our path with the least anxiety and most enjoyment possible, but confronted by utter chaos the power of reason disintegrates and the world takes on a nightmare hue.
Daphne, that delicate but resolute flower, forged ahead past the hunchbacked, clubfooted dwarf wringing dying baby dragon noises from the neck of a guitar shaped like a headsman’s axe. She barely glanced at the lank-haired clod being dragged by a guitar strap tentacle into the slavering jaws of a 10 x 12, aluminum-coned bass cabinet. She even braved the depths of the drum room, where some creature resembling Jabba the Hutt was flailing around in a multi-limbed polyrhythmic agony that would have made John Bonham himself beg for mercy. But when confronted by a middle-aged balding clerk with a security badge and a friendly smile who despite his offer to help grinningly admitted he was totally unfamiliar with the product we were after and could suggest no alternatives, Daphne and I looked at each other with agonized and loving smiles and beelined for the nearest exit, outside of which we nearly collapsed with hysterical laughter.
God bless all musicians everywhere. Theirs is not an easy fate.