Chapter 30 2008 - Teardrops on my Guitar

With two grandchildren growing like weeds, and entering their terrible twos, I had his hands full as an active grandfather. Whenever the twins came to visit, everything else dropped and their full attention was devoted to the well-being and entertainment of the children. The house was not exactly baby-proofed, and often I and Angela found themselves scrambling to keep one or the other from getting into a dangerous situation.

When the twins were born, there was some mention of it in the local press, and references that the great I Mall was now grandfather, but the publicity died down after a few weeks, and life returned to normal for the couple. I took the time between grandchild visits to hone up his musical skills, which he had found a bit lacking and evident when he had tried to revive his rockstar days in the previous year.

His first order of business was to get his bass guitar refurbished. In addition to new strings, the finish of the body needed a bit of touching up as well. “Look at these sweat marks, one might think there were teardrops on my guitar,” he complained to Angela. “They have ruined the finish. I suppose I could consider them battle scars, but I’d rather see this unique instrument restored to its former glory.”

He took it into a local music shop, and requested that it be restored. The best new strings, adjustments to the bridge, some correction to a slight warp in the neck, and of course the finish.

“For a job like that, we’ll have to send it out,” the guitar tech told him. “This one deserves special treatment, and we can’t do it locally. We’ll have to keep it a few days.”

“That’s fine,” I told him. “I’m not in a hurry.” He left the guitar.

Two weeks later, he called and checked on the repair, and it still had not been completed.

“These things take awhile,” he was told.

Another two weeks, and still no guitar.

“It’s almost done,” he was told again.

Finally, he made a personal visit to the store, and was shocked to discover the guitar, still in the condition he left it, on display in the window with a large sign that said “Win this guitar, originally owned by I Mall!”

He stormed into the shop, and demanded to the manager the return of his guitar. “I trusted you to repair it, and instead, you are trying to give it away!”

“Mr. Mall, you are mistaken, your guitar is in the back, getting its finishing touches. We just got it back yesterday, and are putting on the new strings as we speak.”

“Then how do you explain my guitar on display in the window?”

“That’s not your guitar.”

“The sign says ‘Win this guitar, originally owned by I Mall!’ I’d say that pretty much identifies it as mine.”

“The sign says ‘just like the one originally owned by I Mall.’ It’s a copy, lovingly copied to exact detail, including the teardrop shaped stains. We couldn’t bear to see your original disappear completely, so we had this one made. We’re raffling it off, with the proceeds going to the charity of your choice. I must admit that the words ‘just like the one’ are a bit small. That’s to generate more interest.”

”And you didn’t think to consult me first?” I accused. “What makes you think that I would approve this?”

“You’re well known for your continuing philanthropy,” the manager indicated. “We thought you’d be honored. It’s a bit devious, perhaps, but our heart was in the right place, wouldn’t you agree?”

I did have to agree, and gave his consent to continue with the raffle. However, when the final results came in, the take was only a thousand dollars, and the guitar had cost five hundreds dollars to reproduce, so the proceeds netted a measly five hundred.

The raffle had one unexpected consequence, and that was raising the awareness of a man named Cory Heart, the same one that I had befriended in 1982 and vowed to make a star. Cory had been playing in a small bar in Green Bay, Wisconsin, when I had “discovered” him. Efforts to contact him had been unsuccessful, and Cory’s career never materialized. Now, more than 25 years later, Cory set his mind upon I again.

It wasn’t the fist time that Cory had tried to get I’s attention. He could never understand why I had never tried to fulfill his promise. He had expected a quick contact after their encounter, but months passed, and no word. Cory thought about giving up his dream of making it big, but decided instead that he need to pursue it. He sold everything, and relocated to California, hoping to be discovered by someone else that would follow through and make him a star.

For more than fifteen years he toiled and worked small gigs to get attention. He recorded demo tapes and shopped them around to industry insiders, but couldn’t get a chance to hit the big time. He had to support himself with odd jobs, ones that kept him from ever finding any type of stable income. Finally, he decided to target I Mall a second time, but this time was not for a career, it was for revenge. He studied I’s moves, he followed what little there was to be said in the music press. He frequented the web sites that pined for new music, for reunions, for any news that could be found about the former rock star.

Every opportunity to know the location of I was noted, and he became a mysterious stalker, never quite revealing himself, inserting himself into innocuous situations, ones where he wouldn’t be recognized.

His first real successful effort was to initiate a lawsuit, hoping to defame I and possible to gain some financial compensation in return. He discovered the law firm of Martin and Martin, the lead partner even had the same name as the woman married to one of Golden Fingers’ members. He created a phony letterhead, and concocted an elaborate “cease and desist” case, suing for damages, hoping that I’s reaction would be to attempt to settle. However, I took it upon himself to uncover the deception and no followup action was ever realized.

His effort failed, he tried to insinuate himself into a more personal arena. When word came that the Malls were sponsoring a major gathering at their home, under the guise of a “Sweet Sixteen” party, he was one of the gate crashers. But the crowds were so overwhelming that he couldn’t get close to I and the family.

He befriended a high school student from Chrissy’s Mall’s school hoping to cause him to seduce her, possibly impregnate her and cause a scandal that would not only shame her family, but lead directly to the shame of I Mall. He didn’t count on Chrissy seeing through the ruse, and falling into the arms of another man she would end up marrying.

He even came face to face with I Mall when I was shopping for dinner items. Cory was working behind the butcher counter, and sold him a five pound prime rib, supposedly for some special occasion. He even engaged him in conversation, but I did not recognize him, nor did he find an opportunity to lash out. He briefly considered providing him a bad cut of meat, but was unable to arrange for it on this chance meeting.

He encountered him once again while working a stint at the local animal shelter, and directed him to one of the unwanted older dogs, figuring that it would be nothing but trouble to someone who was more interested in a new puppy.

He watched closely Chrissy’s scandalous pregnancy, waiting for the opportunity to expose the entire family for the corrupted excesses it was now expelling. When her pregnancy was unsubstantiated, his plan went unconceived.

He encountered I again while working at a baby furniture store, and switched incorrect instructions into the boxes, hoping to frustrate him. He never knew if it had made any difference. He was desperately running out of ideas.

He schemed and evaluated and developed and withdrew and concocted and assembled and mulled over plans for two years, finally coming up with something that would achieve the ends he so desperately sought: the complete ruin of I Mall.

His final attempt to ruin I was his most elaborate. He would go under deep cover, get I Mall into a compromising situation, make sure the media was there to capture the whole incident, and watch his former mentor go up in eternal flames. He first set out on a personal transformation. He shaved his entire body, from head to toe, and took it upon himself to establish himself as the “it” party girl, Cory Heart, he didn’t even have to change his name, which would even make it more perfect when he took I down.

He bought a wig, makeup, and a complete wardrobe. He inserted himself into the night life of the town, making a name for himself, or herself, as he needed to be fully convincing. He adopted the new personality so thoroughly that he even started to create his own following. She was the popular girl to be seen with, despite her early forties appearance, she exuded a youthful vigor that made her the talk of the town. The final scene of the takedown was to be one of the biggest social events of the year, and she arranged for Angela and I to be on the guest list, to help in the charity fundraiser that would ensure that media and crowds were present. Her plan was to publicly encounter I, make every attempt to seduce him, then reveal herself for whom she really was, scandalizing I and his family and generations to follow.

The night of the social event arrived, and the crowd started to gather. Or what should have been a crowd started to gather. The event had hardly made a blip on anyone’s social calendar, and though Angela and I were attending, and I made a personal $25,000 donation to the cause, the event was deemed a dismal failure. Cory’s plan to embarrass I fell flat, and he left, tears in his eyes, teardrops falling on the bass guitar that he had won earlier in the year, now being used as a publicity gimmick.