Bridging The 6-String Divide
by Cullen James
I learned to play guitar in Mountain Home, Idaho. I doubt it had anything to do with Idaho – other than the fact that there was not much else to do there – and had more to do with the fact that everyone in my age group at that time was trying to pick up a guitar and start the next Metallica.
I am self taught, which is code speak for, “I suck.” But at the time, I wasn’t too bad. I spent hours a day just playing my guitar and have never really played like that since then.
We moved to Mountain Home at the beginning of my sophomore year of high school. We moved there from Biloxi, Mississippi. So, I was moving from an emerging urban area to the middle of nowhere.
My style didn’t really fit in there. This was 1988. I was moving to a place where half of the population came from farms or ranches. So, the cowboy look was big. There was, of course, the standard high school prep. And there were those into heavy metal and hard rock – long hair, blue jean or leather jackets and T shirts were the uniform. I didn’t fit in with any of them. My clothes were all black. I wore old military fatigues with hand-painted band logos on them. I had a recently cut mohawk. Everyone was into Guns and Roses and Poison. I was into the Misfits and Suicidal Tendencies.
One of the worst issues I had occurred in the first week of my English class. I was wearing a green fatigue top that had a Samhain logo with “I get what I want, and I want you to bleed” written under the logo. There was this guy there, Kip (doesn’t that just sound like the kind name that you’d have a problem with?) and he’s sitting behind me, a couple of rows over. He looks over at me and says, “You think you could make me bleed?”
With a bravado borne out of inexperience, I said something to the effect, “Of course I could.”
He looks at me with a stare of death and says, “No. I really don’t think you could.”
I’d love to say that I wound up kicking Kip’s ass, or stood up to him in some way. Hell, I wish I could say I at least fucked his sister. But none of it happened. He was a wrestler, with wrestler friends and I really didn’t look forward to getting my ass handed to me.
Because there were so few people I identified with, I spent a lot of time in my room, smoking, watching movies and eventually, learning to play guitar. I grew my hair out long and adopted a look more like the metal bands I was beginning to listen to more and more.
In my junior year, in our junior English class, we had an assignment where we had to write about a hobby. We had to bring an example in to class and talk about it. I brought my guitar. I played a couple of Metallica riffs and then a couple of Misfits riffs.
At the end of class, Kip walks over to me and said, “That was cool, man” and went off to his next class.
Politicians can say all they want about being great communicators and uniters, I’ll stick with the guitar.
Cullen eventually showed Kip his bowhunting skills.