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Still Life....With Guitars. The ongoing long form piece for those of you who are interested.

I will not post all of this but bits and pieces. Hope you enjoy whatever shows up. It is not linear and will need to have it's table rearranged but what the hell.

The first guitar was a nylon string one that I did not learn how to play. I didn’t. I did not learn any of the basics to guitar playing that I wish I had learned. There is a problem in time traveling or time messaging in that neither exists. There are many things that are problematic because they don’t exist. I am aware of this. Believe me on that. It is just that for the sake of this paragraph and some other that may come after it the point is important.

So…it IS too bad that time messaging does not exist because I would certainly text out the message to myself that it would be a damn good idea if I learned how to read and write music and, while I’m at it, that I should spend some more time at practicing the guitar instead of what I am relatively sure I was doing back then when I was, what, sixteen or seventeen. What I was doing was thinking about young women of my age. I was not original in that singular line of thought. But as I was not a conversation starter in those days I don’t think I even spoke to anyone my age about these matters. We weren’t encouraged to do that. No…I wasn’t encouraged to do that. For all I know all my fellow fellas were having conversations about that topic every five minutes in between classes and at Bernie’s Diner…which I was never invited to hang out in anyway. I have grudges that are mild but are now resurfacing. Wait. They’re gone.

So even though that was arguably my first guitar I do not long for it. In the same way that I do not long for my first “official” girlfriend. Her name was Judi Etra I think. She was possessive back then. My hand was always being grabbed and held on to. I am sure there were qualities about her that my parents liked. One of them, I know, was that her family had a lot of money. I do not know how much they had. I was not judging people by those criteria back then. In the town that I lived in back then there were very few Jews were anything but middle class at some level of that middle. Some were way above the middle and you usually were able to tell by the size of the house and the size of the car. So my non judgemental leaning was actually very near-sighted and skewed. But, hell, write me a note on that one.

As I remember it now Judi’s sister Carol had a beautiful voice. Played guitar. Had that Joan Baez thing. She owned a Martin. Of course she owned a Martin. That was before I knew the ruling families of guitars. I didn’t look at the headstocks to see who made what. I didn’t understand or comprehends or, perhaps, give a shit about the legacies that intrigue me know. Of C. F. Martin learning his craft in Germany and of Orville Gibson constructing a guitar in a manner that was not, as I see it, earthly but otherworldly. I have looked at pictures of the early Gibson and ached to touch it and smell it. I do smell guitars. When I pick one up for the first time here is what I do. I feel it in my left hand. I feel the neck and its dimensions. I wrap my left hand around that neck and open my thumb and the rest of my fingers to let that neck sit in the web of my hand. Then I close my hand around it and ease my palm into the neck to see how it feels. I close my fingers without making a chord and then I make an E chord and move it up and down the neck to feel the dimensions of that neck. I do not like a thin neck. I do not like a narrow neck. I do not need a fast Fender feel on a guitar. I am not that good. I am not Mark Knopflerr. But I want that thickness in my palm. If the neck is too thin my fingers close in on one another. I want it to feel like a baseball feels when you are about to pitch. How the ball is made for your hand and your hand is made for that ball. I want the neck to feel perfect. It doesn’t matter how expensive the guitar is at that point. It doesn’t even matter what it’s made of or how its made. We ain’t down to tine yet. Not that far. Now it’s about the right feel. I have a guitar that feels so so good. I can feel it now sitting here at the typewriter. I cannot remember so much in my life but I can vividly recall that guitar neck in my hand. It was made in Holland. It was made by a company called Egmond. What that name is most associated with in guitar history is The Beatles. Mostly Paul and George. Paul’s earliest (I think) bass was an Egmond and George’s early early guitar (maybe his first) was an Egmond. What’s his name from Queen. Brian May. Him too. That’s because these Egmonds were cheap the way the bargain stuff is cheap over at Guitar Center. Fender Squier Cheap. First guitar cheap. This one I have isn’t small. Maybe the biggest dreadnought I have. A boomy thing with an actions I would love to correct and scratches and rub outs here and there that, also, I would love to make go away. The neck is a glory of a neck. The neck is multi-dimensional. The neck fits that webbish palm part of my hand as if someone said that they needed to measure me for a guitar neck and this is what came out the other end. I put steel and silk strings on it so keep the tension down. Muffles a bit but jingles a bit also. Beth loves the guitar. That makes it even more unique. Oh…I made this guitar a truss rod cover. The rod itself is twisted and bent a bit and I am not at any point where that is something I can correct. But it is a beautiful truss rod cover. Smooth and sunbursty. Not that making a truss rod cover is a huge achievement. It ain’t a guitar. But it is a beginning isn’t it? Also the guitar is heavy. Not Guild like a brick shithouse solid and heavy but weighty. You know you’re holding it. You know you got it. It has a boomy bass end and an inconclusive treble. But it is a pleasure. Made of what? Hell if I’m sure. Laminated probably. Maybe birch. I don’t know. It is certainly not carefully selected western red cedar with God’s own mahogany back and sides.

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Replies to This Discussion

Sorry for the few incorrect words. By tine I meant tone and you can see how close the i and o are on the keyboard. I also wrote typewriter. Goodness Gracious Thomas Alva Edison. I wouldn't have minded if it were one. I also have rekindled my love of newspapers. NYT size news papers. Not just the feel but the sound. The crunkle of the paper and snap clack of the typewriter.

A fun read, Ted. Keep it comin'!

 

Quote of the month (perhaps year): "I do smell guitars." Love it!

 

Christopher

Hey Ted, this is good writing. A story that i can see feel and smell as i read. Keep em coming. Thanks

 

Damn, Ted! You wrote a sort of short tale... and I enjoy the reading. Bravo! ...Anyway... be careful about nostalgia... memories are often chained with youth... at least in my case! I remember my first guitar too... and my second one... but I didn't remain in love with them... as I didn't with my first sweetheart and the countless that followed up...Ahahah...Obviously I'm joking.. I had almost the same amount of guitars and fiancées... and I'm not going to tell how many guitars I've had 'till now!!...Nor under torture!

Thanks for the good time

 

On Saturday nights we would get together at somebody's parent's house and sing songs. No. It wasn't really that simple or straightforward. It was Saturday night. We did get together. There were a lot of guitars. If there was a banjo I don't remember although I had one. I knew three chords on it. Maybe four. I had people sign the skin on it. Of course I did. Pete Seegar had people sign his banjo. He had people who were dedicated to things, I suppose, sign his banjo. I had my friends sign it.

It was on one of these nights that I learned how good a song could be or how much a song could say and how much I might never say in a song. I remember the basement. Finished basement. It was paneled and large and we had a Webcor record player. An automatic changer. That meant you could pile your albums one on top of the other and let them fall, plop, on the one that had just finished. In retrospect that could not have been good for the records. Who knew. Nothing had time attached to it. Nothing aged or broke. Things just sort of only got better or more intense but not older
Leonard Cohen. Screw him. Screw that thin brooding broody intense THIN tallish intense Hebrew. Not that I am not a Hebrew. I am a Hebrew. He was from Canada. Probably still from Canada. He got laid a great deal. You know that they were the type that were the most intense and desirable women. (I did not join SDS for political reasons...capiche?) It was the songs. Suzanne. Suzanne! Sisters of Mercy. How do you write that? How. And a Cohen. Listen. Do you know what that means. The Cohanim were the High Priests back then. Back in the Temple times. Back in the times when God was a lot moire accessible. So there are rules that separate us from them. The Cohanim. I'll look them up and insert them when I do a re-write. So he was a descendant of high priests writing songs that were such painful works of art and beauty that I was unable to write for days after listening to his stuff. I still have the same problem. If you cant be that good why try? He is my high priest. My High Priest of song. Not that Dylan doesn't put me in my place. Paul Simon also. Warren Zevon. All Hebrews. Although Zevon might have been half a Hebrew. What the hell is that all about? Wait. What about Phil Ochs. Ochs!!!! Caren Bobroff's cousin. Caren was in my car pool. Her parents got a drop off and a pick up once a week. Her cousin. She didn't play guitar or sing. I don't think she did. I am not crystal 3D clear on it. Sorry.

So we sat around and sang songs. Old songs. New songs. Once in while someone would have written one and he or she would sing it. Let me say some names. There was Joel Wasserstein. He was hulking in a shortish way. Dark hair and glasses and a sort of neandrethalian shuffle to him. He played a Martin. (We've been there...Martins, martins, martins). He sang deep and had a vibrato that could signal the onset of an earthquake.I remember being intermittently sincere. Follow The Drinking Gourd. Had no idea initially what I was singing. What old man was taking you to what freedom? He died about twenty years ago I think and as I write this I want to sing with him. I want to go for a ride to Nates for Hoots and take out guitars out to the park or the beach and sing together and try to harmonize with Parkoff and Potters. Michael Charles Potters. How did we stay friends? How do you do that?
Edited out inappropriate words for this site. The real piece will retain them. Sorry.

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