I met Nicholas Tijerina the same place most people would have met him. Nick T., as he was known, was basically ever-present behind the accessories counter at Guitar Center’s Hulen location for more than a decade. As the salesperson heading the department responsible for keeping guitar players well-stocked in essential products such as strings, picks, effects pedals, and the like, he undoubtedly sold something to everyone in town with an axe at some point. Few of GC’s black-clad sales staff might make much of an impression on your average shopper, but I doubt this applies to Nick T. It seemed like everyone knew him.
He was friendly, knowledgeable, helpful, and, most importantly, funny as hell. If you ever made a purchase through him, chances were the experience stuck with you and you asked for him the next time you went in and every time thereafter.
Heartbreakingly, I received the news last Saturday that he had died just four days after his 37th birthday. It’s a crushing blow to Fort Worth’s music community.
Though he maybe never really got much traction with any of his own musical projects, he could often be found at local shows, attending as a supporter and a fan. Those residing on the stages get all the glory, and probably rightly so, but scenes just don’t exist without people like Nick T. Like the near mythological record store clerk dispensing his musical knowledge like a Gen-X hipster version of Buddha, the photographer braving sweat and flying elbows to document local shows from the floor, or the club owner willing to give nameless acts a stage to develop their stuff, guitar shop keepers also have their place in the structural undergirding of a music community.
As are his friends and family, many local musicians are mourning the loss as well. He’s received condolences on social media by singer-songwriter Ansley Dougherty, Mañana Cowboy’s Houston Holtman, Yokyo’s Samuel Culp and Hannah Witkowski, Kris Williams of Danni & Kris and Prizm, and many more.
To me, much like most anyone who ever met him, Nick T. was a friend. All the usual things that grieving people say about their lost loved ones certainly apply to him. He was kind, selfless, and a source of joy for all fortunate enough to know him. He was a doting father and a loving husband and was unwaveringly faithful to his friends and family. All these things are undoubtedly true. He was also maybe the sweetly weirdest person I’ve ever known.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve tried to explain the enigma that he was to other people — all the while knowing no words I could employ would be sufficient to paint an accurate picture. He was a character with countless eccentricities, which only added to the depth by which you appreciated him. His nails were always painted (toes, too), his wrists jangled with multiple bracelets, and he had an affinity for pink guitars. Not that these characteristics in and of themselves are particularly strange, but he would obsessively always wear his left sock inside out (“to keep them even”) and always maintain a pocketful of foreign coins (“just in case I’m in a pinch and can’t get an exchange on the dollar”). The messenger bag he carried contained nothing but “important papers.” When pressed for more detail, he was always aloof. His very respectable golf game was made more curious by the fact he played barefoot. He was prone to incredibly long, ever-winding, multilayered stories — often broken up into little bits over the course of hours — that would eventually lead to some profound point that was surprisingly worth the windup. He almost never said a word that began with a vowel without placing an “m” in front of it, as in “mimpossible.” (Don’t ask.)
He was also an inexhaustible fountain of unique catch phrases, (far too) inside jokes, endless memes sent to friends and family via Facebook Messenger, and other generally convoluted “Nick T.-isms.” To know him was to love him and to love these idiosyncrasies as much as you did his kindness and his authenticity. These are the things that those who loved him will remember him for. He was as colorful as he was sincere. Our scene is far less bright, less rich, and certainly less interesting because his strange loveliness is no longer in it.
He leaves behind a wife of five years, Brittany Ortega; a son, Herbert Orange Ortega-Tijerina; his mother, Teresa Lopez; siblings Lena and Nate; and many other much-loved family members and friends.
Rest easy, Nick.