As I gather stories for my column each week, I’m reminded that the goal isn’t just writing an article. It’s making a collage of the human effort and will of each person’s life that hopefully leads to the bigger picture.
Hunter S. Thompson documented the condition of the American dream in his era. George Carlin summarized diverse areas of the human experience. For now, my job is to document humanity in a stereotypically inhuman environment. Our Valley isn’t inhuman because of an atrocity or disaster. It’s the way people talk about it. Historically speaking, the only good thing any city has is the merit of its citizens. A city without heart and soul has ugatz.
I’ve known Andrew Gonzales and his lovely family since our middle school days. As we grew up together, our lives followed a similar path. Around the eighth grade, going into high school, both of us dove head first into the deep end of heavy metal. The hair length in our group doubled by the end of the school year. We wore all black in the middle of July. We all piled into my ’97 Honda Civic and had unofficial reenactments of “Wayne’s World.” As high school ended, the pressures of life began to take hold. Everyone went their separate ways and we lost touch with most people. Thankfully, Andrew and I didn’t end up that way.
We never lost touch with our love for music. He attended AVC before transferring to the Musician’s Institute Guitar Craft program. I stayed at AVC and began doing stagehand work while taking classes. Today, we are both getting the chance to do what we love for a living. For the past five-and-a-half years, Andrew has worked for ESP Guitars as a CNC machine operator. For a brief job description, Andrew tells me, “I use the CNC machine to produce guitars for the shop to complete orders for dealers and customers. I also edit and design various models of guitars on the computer using 3D and 2D blueprints.”
Andrew’s fascination with mixing building and creativity began when he was about eight.
“Eventually, I wanted to know how guitars were made,” he said. “I wanted to know the inner workings of guitars and what made them become a musical instrument. To this day, I am always making models, cosplay costumes or tinkering with something to keep my hands busy.”
Even though Andrew is pursuing his dream everyday, a major reward is the joy he can help create.
“The most rewarding part of my career is going to a job that doesn’t feel like a job,” he said. “I love what I do and every now and then, I have to tell myself that this is a job. Also, seeing the faces of the musicians who pick up a guitar that I helped make and watching them play their heart out on it. That is a reward of it’s own.”
The genesis of this article came about after bumping into Andrew after a couple years. He was getting coffee and I was heading to a gig. It took me back to our younger days hanging out in our high school quad.
He’s helped build guitars for some of his musical heroes and I’ve worked with some of mine. It was a wonderful moment. It’s the kind of moment that fuels you through the trying times. When asked what advice he would give to a young high school kid, this is what Andrew had to say.
“Find what you love doing the most in your life and make it a career. It sounds a lot harder then it is but, that’s the amazing thing about it. Sometimes the answer is right in front of you. If that’s not the answer you are looking for, keep searching for that passion that drives you every day. Never let anyone tell you otherwise. Life is too short having a career that you don’t like, to make others happy. Make your passion a career and live a lifetime of happiness.”
The Antelope Valley needs people of Andrew’s spirit and drive. Whether they are into music or can’t even carry a tune is irrelevant. Rome wasn’t built in a day and our problems won’t fix themselves.
Even if it’s only to provide an example to others, that’s what you sometimes need in your teens to help pull you back from the edge. In order to know, you have to see someone else go forth.