“I was using my WHOLE ass…” – Homer Simpson

Been a couple weeks. Let’s get a Simpsons quote in the title and do a random post!

  1. I’ve been writing some new music. I don’t think I’m releasing anything in 2017, but I’m digging into the process and the goal is to make something DIFFERENT from my other records.  Maybe TWO things that are different.  There are some old songs I’d like to have on a record and some new stuff I’m looking forward to working out…  If I do two projects, one will be more Americana-meets-Punk and the other will be more experimental, maybe even proggy.  But this is all in the future.  I don’t even have titles for the projects, just a list of “spare songs” that has like 25 titles on it.  As a window into my process, no album is ready to go until I have a “opening track” in mind…and I don’t have one.  So I’m not looking to do anything in the immediate future. It’s just fin to talk about.
  2. Went to a new church on Sunday. It’s a place called Renew out in Maryland Heights.  Small crowd; they’re a fairly recent start-up.  I liked the service a lot and had lots of nice people come up and say hello.  I’ll probably go back.  On the other side, I’ve officially bowed out of Pursuit.  I’m not even keeping up the pretense of being on a “small group” Facebook page.  I’ve attended so few group meetings in the last year that I can count it on one hand…so it’s just time.  Pursuit moved into a direction I can’t follow, so it’s time to admit that to myself.  Here’s to new beginnings I guess.  And maybe to Renewal…
  3. Been building myself an office at the house in the room my old roommate vacated when he moved out.  (I think I’ve mentioned it before.)  I’ve got my grandpa’s old desk in there and a couple of bookcases.  Going to be setting up some music stuff, maybe putting some art on the walls, etc…  Only real problem I’ve run into is that the office chair I have isn’t adjustable and it’s slightly too short for the desk!
  4. Watched the Oscars.  The false-finish and gimmie-gimmie-gotcha they pulled on La La Land was a shame.  I didn’t see any of the movies nominated.  I don’t doubt that Moonlight deserved the win or anything…but that kind of mistake is just inexcusable.
  5. I’ve got a lot of concerts to attend soon!  Deep Purple with Alice Cooper…  Iron Maiden (with Ghost)…  The DESCENDENTS (which I’m just incredibly excited about!)…  It’s gotten to the point that I’ve had to decide NOT to go to a few!  Looking forward to each show, but the DESCENDENTS is just a dream come true.  Never thought I’d get to see them.
  6. I picked up a book I’m really enjoying.  Paul Auster’s “4321” came out in hardback recently and came with the endorsement of a couple of people I trust.  So I grabbed it.  It’s about a boy who’s born and then his life takes a multiple-choice of paths.  You get to simultaneously read four different versions of the same guy’s life pan out…just one little change here or there and the kid’s life goes on a different course.  It’s really good.  Problem is that it’s also LONG…  I’m 230 pages in and that’s maybe a quarter of the book!  But it’s worth the read, if you’re looking for something.
  7. Picked up the new Ryan Adams album, “Prisoner.”  It’s really good.  Felt like an old friend after the first listen and I highly recommend it as “probably going in my top ten” already.
  8. I was sad last week to hear that George “The Animal” Steele passed away.  Steele was a WWF-era wrestler in the days when Hogan and Savage ran the earth (and lines of cocaine).  Steele was known for “eating” the turnbuckle pads during his matches, rarely being knocked down, and being either the fiercest villain or gentlest big-man in the squared-circle, depending on the angle.  And by all accounts, the latter was closer to the truth.  I don’t know of anyone in the industry that didn’t have good things to say about Steele–and this is an industry where talking shit is as common as discussing the weather.  Steele being “in love” with Miss Elizabeth is one of my very first memories of caring about a wrestling angle, and I even had the George Steele wrestling figure that they sold back in the 80s.  He was a big part of my wrestling heritage and he will be missed.  As I said while I was watching the WWE’s tribute to him last week on Raw, “I’m not crying…I’ve just got some turnbuckle stuffing in my eye.”
  9. I’ve been playing the new guitar a lot, but also one of the older ones…  The new one’s so nice, it’s motivated me to fix up the old one and make it into the guitar I always meant to make it.  So I’m making some upgrades to my 2009 Martin that I’ve had a while.  It’s been used on some of my past records, I’m sure…  Think I bought it after the “Out from the Light” record, so probably “New Year’s Eve” onward has featured it here and there.  The action has always been too high on it and I’m trying to fix that.  The 1973 Martin (“Helen”) is inspiring a lot of what I’m doing to the other one…got some good ideas of what to do to fix up the 09 guitar by looking to the 1973.  Funny how the old ways are often better.  Only thing I’m nervous about is that I’m going to have to sand-down the bridge saddle, and I’ve never done that before!   Fortunately, replacing it will only cost $12 if I fuck it up.  🙂

I think that’s it for now.  Kinda sleepy.  Blog ya’ later…

Her Name is Helen

I walked into Guitar Center tonight after a long, hard day of work with it in mind to buy some strings and maybe a pedal or something.  At the most, I thought maybe I’d walk out with a small practice-amp or some gadget to help me bring my big-old Fender amp down to bedroom volume so I can practice through it more readily…  But then I wandered into the acoustic guitar room and there was a guitar just hanging there, waiting for me…

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I saw her on my way out.  I had played a newer Martin and thought, “Cool guitar, but I’m not ready to pay that much for it–plays about like the Parkwood I already own anyway…”  Then I turned and saw the vintage, 1973 Martin D18 of my dreams.  I’ve bumped into D18s before, but the price has always said, “Not in your wildest dreams, kid” to me…but out of curiosity, I looked at the tag.  I won’t disclose what it was here, but the price was so low my first thought was, “What’s WRONG with it, then?”  (It was the kind of price that was comparable to finding a ’73 Camaro at an Enterprise lot and they said you could keep it if you just rented it for a couple weeks.)  So I wandered out and saw the same guy who’d sold me my Rickenbacker bass milling about.  He asked if he could help me and I said, “I’ve got a couple of questions I kinda hope I don’t like the answers to…” and I asked him to tell me more about the ’73 Martin hanging on the wall.

Zack pulled the guitar down for me and I strummed a few chords.  I saw some age-wear on it, but it was stuff comparable to your 1973 Camaro having scuffed paint on the rear fenders, a non-original tail-light, and one of the hub caps is there, but dented.  I asked foremost, if they were solid on the asking price and he said that it’d just come in on January 2, the previous owner trading it in to buy a Taylor guitar, and on the vintage stuff they don’t haggle in the first 90 days.  I nodded my way through that answer and said, “Well, it’s beat up.  There’s scuffs and the pick-guard’s peeling up, and that’s an aftermarket pickup in there…but honestly that stuff makes it look cool…  What can you tell me about the previous owner?”

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Considered making you wait to the end to see the whole thing, but why leave you hanging?

Zack told me that the previous owner was an older lady who gigged regularly.  She was the ORIGINAL owner, having and maintaining the guitar for all 43 years of its life.  (That’s good news.  Like if the Enterprise lot said that your 73 Camaro had a clean title and all of the service records in the glove box.)  At that point I said, “And she only drove it to church on Sunday, right?”  He laughed and said, “No, you can see it was used a lot, but if it’d been me, I’d have kept this instead of getting the Taylor.”  Out of curiosity, I asked if he remembered her name and he didn’t off the top of his head…  At that point, I played a little more, realized it plays as well if not better than any other acoustic I own, and said, “Well…let me walk around the store a little and think about it…” and put it back on the wall.

So I walked, and I texted my brother about it a little.  (I often consult Dave on guitar purchases…or sometimes he consults me into one I wasn’t even looking at…whatever…)  I did a few laps and knew it was a “once in a lifetime” price I’d have kicked myself over.  It’s a MARTIN D18.  It’s a classic, it’s around my price-range, and it sounds great.  I found Zack again and said, “Let me plug it in…”  So we plugged it in.  And Zack got paged over the intercom, so he left to deal with whatever was going on and I was alone with the guitar a while.  And I played and played, and knew what I was going to do.

Zack came back in and I asked if he could throw in a guitar strap and some new strings.  He said yes, and that it came with a case.  We talked about financing and all that…  (I’ve got 0% interest for long enough that I’ll have it paid off before I pay even a dime extra…and if that sentence read as anything other than fart noises to you, then you’re probably still too invested in the Camaro metaphor from earlier…)  Then he went to get the case.  And LOOK at this bad-ass, ugly-ass vintage, blue case!

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If I hadn’t already been sold, this would’ve done it.

It took a while to get the sale completed.  I hadn’t used my Guitar Center card in so long I forgot that I hadn’t activated the new card, so we had to work around that, and the place was under-staffed so Zack was also still answering phones while working with me.  (I was actually pretty impressed with his multi-tasking.)  We made some small talk in the interim and my brother texted me again saying he’d put the kids to bed so, “Where are we on this thing?” At which point I texted him the very first picture I ever took of her…

 

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I like how the warm lights in Guitar Center bring out the gold in the tuners.

As I was closing up the case, I said, “Hey, if you happen to remember the name of the lady that sold this to you, please shoot me an e-mail.  I’m just looking for her first name.  Don’t want to track her down or anything–I was just thinking I’d name the guitar after her…”  I think Zack could tell that was a big deal to me and he said he could look it up real quick.  He tapped a few keys, did a little reading, and told me…

“Her name is Helen.”

 

“Just like my dad used to say, ‘Sooner or later, everybody gets shot.'” – Moe Sizlak

Haven’t written anything in a couple weeks, so thought I should.  Random post…Simpsons quote in the title…you know the drill…

  1. Medically, I’m feeling a lot better physically.  I need to make an appointment with an actual primary care person.  I wanted to wait until the new pay-period at work, and we’re in it now.  So I should schedule something soon.  Although, I do still have some pills I’m taking from the Urgent Care and I think they’re helping, so maybe I’ll wait those out.  I dunno…I’m sure whatever I do, I’ll write about it.
  2. So the SuperbOwl happened.  When it became obvious that the Patriots were scripted to win it (I’m convinced it’s scripted every time they prosper) people at our particular party started looking pretty pissed off and bummed out.  To which I pointed out, “Whatever, I watched Florida turn red–this is nothing!”  Either way…  All told, I believe it was six plates of shrimp and like 8 brownies.  So I won.
  3. Since we last talked, I saw the Drive-By Truckers play in St. Louis.  It was a good show.  It was rewarding to be (more or less) in the city where Michael Brown got shot and where Black Lives Matter took off and hear them play “What it Means” which is all about those events.  Plus…y’know…big dumb rock show.  Always a good time. They played really well and put on a great show.  Might be the best I’ve seen them as a group since Jason Isbell was in the band.
  4. Looking for a church to play guitar at on Sunday mornings.  As I’ve noted, my church moved to Sunday night services and I can’t do that…so I’m looking to play where I can.  Posted about it on Facebook and I’m chatting with an old friend about it.  We’ll see what happens…  Loyalty is important to me, so if Pursuit ever went back to a morning service, I’d probably go back to that…but they took a road I couldn’t follow on Sundays, so we are where we are.  (And most of the time, I can’t make Wednesday nights either. 6:00 and “bring something to contribute to dinner!” don’t really go with having a 9:30 to 6:00 shift and eating for one 99% of your week.)  Anyhoo…I’m sure I’ll say more about that at some point too.  I just realized I’ve got a couple dozen guitars I’m not really playing in a band, I’m getting older, and it’d be nice to have somewhere to play as I get less marketable.  May as well be in a place that’s doing something I believe in, y’know?
  5. Went to Vintage Vinyl while on my lunch break and picked up a FIRST RELEASE copy of Lou Reed’s “Berlin.”  Very happy with that.  They also had a first-release of his first solo album, which is a great record, but today it was “Berlin” for me.  It felt weird not having it on vinyl to begin with, and when I found out it was an original, that sold me.  Very lucky to live in a city with so many cool record stores…  Only question is, does it go on my shelf, or in a frame on my wall?
  6. I have a gig with the Michael Feldman Group on Saturday.  Playing at a place called the Boschertown Bar & Grill.  I’ve played there before.  It’s about the size of my living-room, I think…but if memory serves, it draws a pretty good crowd.
  7. We’re experiencing something of a heat wave in St. Louis.  Been in the 60s today and should be tomorrow as well.  Climate change is very real and we’re definitely experiencing it.  I’ve worn a light jacket more times since Thanksgiving than I have in the previous three years combined.  This is ridiculous–and not just because I like Winter…it’s a serious, scary concern that we don’t get a real Winter in FEBRUARY IN THE FUCKING MIDWEST anymore.
  8. I’ve stayed up too late doing things at the last minute.  I’ve been making an effort to be in bed by midnight at the latest recently.  I’m not sure why…it started as a reaction to my health issues, but they’ve continued, so what’s the difference?  But tonight, I got motivated to fix a loose shower-knob, work a couple bugs out of an old amp I recently bought, and arrange some of my music downloads into proper folders.  (And then, of course, I wrote this…)  I get weird bursts of momentum like that and then suddenly it’s 1 or 2 and I’ve got work in the morning.
  9. Work’s been heavy lately.  I’ve got a good team working with me, which allows me to handle some of the more problematic stuff with more attention…but that means that the vast MAJORITY of what I do is the problematic stuff now.  It’s my own doing–I kind of set it up that way…but sometimes I wonder if I need to rethink it when I find myself getting tired and making mistakes.  Or walking face-first right into the door like I did on my way out on Friday!  (Someone had opened it behind me and I didn’t know. I’m not a complete idiot. Just like 85%.)  One of my team-members will be out of the office on Thursday and Friday, too…so I’m thinking it’s going to be a particularly long week this week!  Fortunately, it’s a supportive environment.  It’s just also a busy one at times.  (This might be the most I’ve written in one stretch about my job in the almost 8 years I’ve been there!)
  10. I made a playlist on my phone of “That Song Songs.”  A list of just the songs that stir something up in me–a specific memory or a deep emotion, etc…  There are 325 songs on the list.  I put it on shuffle earlier and it went from a Stone Sour song (the lead singer from Slipknot’s other band) directly to a Rich Mullins song.  It’s complicated living in my head.  Or MP3 player, I guess…

It feels like I’m missing something important that I meant to write about…but I think I’m too tired to remember it.  Well, maybe it’ll be a different post, later.  Until then!

————

Current Listening:

The last five songs on my “That Song Songs” list were (in this order) – “Skin Deep” by ALL, “Lazarus” by David Bowie, “Skyway” by the Replacements, “Love Boat Captain” by Pearl Jam, and “God Give Me Strength” by Elvis Costello.