The music studio was the last place that still smelled like my dad. That, and the fact that it housed my dad’s vintage record player, collection of prime late-60s/early-70s classic rock and folk vinyl and an acoustic guitar collection resulted in me passing much of my final high school summer break in the little one-room studio tucked into the back corner of my parents’ suburban backyard.
We were in between the third and fourth lesson of my dad trying to teach me how to play guitar when he passed away. To be honest, we hadn’t made much progress on my lessons because I would usually get frustrated with my dad trying to teach me dull chords which strained my fingers and we would switch to just listening to his Rumours or Sweet Baby James LPs about 10 minutes in.
A fatal heart attack at 49 would prevent my dad from ever teaching his only daughter guitar. I’m still deep in the hard clutches of painful sadness from his passing, but trying to teach myself guitar and listening to my dad’s sad old vinyl in the studio during the summer after he died was my first semi-successful coping mechanism.
The studio was the perfect place to get high because of the silent “recording alarm” my dad setup in there. To ensure no one would barge in during him recording a song, he set up a system that silently flashed a red light on the wall whenever someone got within 10 feet of the studio door that auto locked to the outside until he turned it off. With the system on, I could always tell when my mom was coming.
My daily routine got started the day after my junior year of high school wrapped and about a month after my dad died. I woke up late in the morning, about two hours after my mom had already left for work. Ate an unhealthy breakfast. Headed out to the studio. Smoked. Tried to teach myself guitar. Smoked again. Listened to records. Smoked. Then went back to the house just after my mom got home. Picked at dinner. Retreated to my room and browsed around on the Internet until I fell asleep around 2 or 3 AM.
I felt the daily regimen helped me cope.
The night where everything changed started out just like any other that summer. I around 3 AM and heard music coming from the studio on my walk back to my bedroom from the hallway bathroom.
I knew the song. It was my dad’s favorite track from Rumours – “Never Going Back Again.” I could spot the fingerpicked slinky guitar melody my dad could never get just right with his own fingers.
I headed over to a window and looked out into the backyard and the studio. It was hard to tell if the light I saw came from inside the lone window of the studio or from the outside light on the side of the building. Either way, the song played on.
Maybe my mom was out there listening to Lindsey Buckingham at 3 AM? No. I could hear her snoring from her bedroom down the hall.
I threw on a sweater and headed out the back door.
The song was still playing when I followed the stone trail in the grass which led to the studio, but I noticed a distinct sound in the music. It did not sound like the music was coming from a record player. It sounded like a live acoustic guitar playing the song perfectly – avoiding all the little missteps which plagued my dad’s renditions.
The music stopped when I was halfway through the yard. The only light I could see was the little bulb which rested on the outside of the studio.
I went into the studio to investigate. The room was quiet and empty.