Column
July 26, 2017

Music to my ears

By Dom Cioffi

This past Saturday I announced to my wife that I was headed out to do some errands. I then took a quick shower, gathered some snacks for the ride, and jumped into my truck to leave. But while it was true that I had a few errands to knock out, I also had an ulterior motive that I wasn’t admitting to.

Almost exactly one year ago, I walked into the doctor’s office to have a sore throat looked at and walked out with a cancer diagnosis. Subsequently, over the last twelve months I have lived with cancer and everything that goes along with the battle to beat it.

During that journey, I told myself many times that at the one-year anniversary of finding out, I was going to do something special just for me. I wasn’t exactly sure what I would do, but I knew it would be big.

Normally, I’m not the type of person who splurges on material things. It’s not that I don’t want them, I just always seem to convince myself that I really don’t need them. Don’t get me wrong, I have a nice truck and a quality set of golf clubs, and I make sure I’ve got good clothes to wear, but outside of that, I’m fairly spartan in my possessions.

At different stages throughout the year, that “something special” idea fluctuated. In the beginning, before things got intense, I figured I would take a solo trip to an exotic location. When things got really bad and I was in intense pain, all I cared about was walking upright in the sunshine. But as I started getting better, I began considering something on the material side again.

So, over the last month, as the year anniversary of my diagnosis started looming, I thought much more intensely about what I would do. I considered a new truck (“Naw, I like the one I have”). I considered some special piece of memorabilia like a framed and signed autograph of one of my heroes (“Naw, you never know if that stuff is legit”). I even considered buying a pet (“Naw, my son is allergic to everything”).

In the end, I settled on a new electric guitar.

I’ve been playing guitar since college and over the course of thirty-odd years, I’ve collected a variety of instruments, most of them unremarkable. I do have a nice Fender Stratocaster and an absolutely beautiful Gibson ES-335, but I’ve been playing those for years. It really felt like it was time for something new.

So, on Saturday morning I traveled to a massive music store where they just happened to be having a big sale on guitars (timing is everything).

I wandered into the store and spent the first half hour just looking at the selection on the wall. Every imaginable brand was featured from Gibson’s to Fender’s to Gretsch’s to Rickenbacker’s to PRS’s. You name it, they had it.

After perusing for awhile, I finally set my sites on a few select models. One by one, I carefully pulled them off the wall and then took a knee on the floor to give the instrument a proper test. I would strum and pick and play various scales to get a sense of how the guitar felt in my hands.

After an hour of playing, I was stumped. Some of the instruments I tried were easy to discount given how they played, but many more felt perfect. I decided to take a break to wander around the rest of the store, which I did for a good half hour before returning. I then revisited several of the models I was most impressed with.

By the two-and-a-half-hour mark I was tired and confused. I simply could not make up my mind. Would it be a Fender Telecaster? Or maybe a Gibson Les Paul? Or perhaps a G&L Classic Bluesboy?

I was about to cancel the whole idea out of frustration, partially convincing myself that I didn’t really need a reward for beating cancer. But then I happened to glance at a television screen up on the wall that was playing old concert footage. And there was Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin smiling broadly while ripping through a solo on his black Les Paul. I then glanced at the wall of guitars and saw the same model with the same color staring back at me.

Needless to say, that’s the guitar that rode home with me.

This week’s film, “The Hero,” features another man facing the grips of cancer. His life and particular scenario was much different than mine, which made for a beautiful motion picture.

Starring Sam Elliot, “The Hero” is a wonderfully poignant film about life, love and regret. It’s full of riveting performances and a subtly profound story arc. And with its multi-layered metaphors and great attention to detail, any lover of cinema will be instantly caught up in the drama.

A melodic “A-” for “The Hero.”

Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at moviediary@att.net.

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