Category Archives: Friends

My Life in Guitars (Part 3) – the Desert

I’d been quite happy with my Peavey Predator, so although I looked—and occasionally drooled, I didn’t seriously plan to buy another guitar. I became a geo-bachelor in Oakland, California, and had my Peavey, but no amplifier. In my teeny-tiny one room apartment, I could hear my playing well enough to keep my sanity.

Then I got the word that as a reservist, I was being recalled and would soon be in Southeast Asia. Obviously, the military pretty much dictated what would go on the plane, so the word was—mail yourself the survival gear you’d need in a plastic footlocker, with the fiberglass reinforced packing tape in every direction. Contents included books, electronic games, civilian clothes (sometimes referred to as “mufti”), and, in my case, a small ham radio station. If the footlocker was shattered, the tape would keep everything together.

What? No guitar?

No guitar. I did not want my Peavey damaged, and, besides, the military exchange system was there to take our money and send us whatever we desired. I’d just order a new guitar once I got there.

I did.

The order was cancelled.

I placed a second order with AAFES (Army and Air Force Exchange System)—the store for our men in women in uniform who are deployed.

Cancelled again.

I called the AAFES command—I mean, why be a senior officer if you can’t call the military’s retail headquarters? As a civilian I can call Radio Shack headquarters—never mind.

When military are deployed their mail is routed through a system to an FPO (fleet post office) or an APO (Army post office) so that mail to overseas bases is treated—and costs—like it’s within the continental United States. However, AAFES claimed they didn’t ship to APOs or FPOs.

Huh? Isn’t that why the Military Exchange System exists?

I suspect that items like musical instruments are “drop-shipped” from the manufacturer directly to the customer. If the manufacturer was not located in the USA, then it couldn’t be sent as US mail to a US APO/FPO address. (Damn bean counters!)

Fortunately, I realized that the horse was dead, so I should stop whipping it, and went over its head, straight to . . . . . .

eBay!

Peavey Acoustic

I found a nice used acoustic guitar in the “Buy it now” section. I even talked with the seller (if you could dial back to a US base via the military system, you could then use your prepaid WalMart 5 cents-per-minute account to make a prepaid call elsewhere within the US). The seller was a nice guy who told me that he had changed out the bridge from white to black for a customer who changed his mind. Did I want it changed back?

No—just send it to me.

The vendor was either Music 123 or Musicians’ Friend—it doesn’t matter, they’re all part of the Guitar World now. The neat part was that for deployed military (you know, those with the dreaded APO and FPO addresses), these vendors, replaced the shipping cost with “Thank you for your service.” (To this day, they’re still my primary source for anything and everything musical—thanks, folks!)

For my new guitar, oddly enough I had picked a Peavey acoustic (imagine that). It arrived in short order in perfect condition. When I was “home” I tried to practice regularly and I also played at church. St. Augustine said that “He who sings, prays twice.” If you sing at a service at which I’m playing guitar, your prayers are probably worth a hundred-fold. On the other hand, one could always count dealing with my playing as penance.

After Mass one evening, Rubin, a fellow officer, approached me and asked if I wanted to play in a Beatles band. I laughed and pointed out my general (if not total) lack of talent, but Rubin (and I’m spelling his name the way I THINK he spelled it) said, “No problem, it was just for fun.” I thought about it, and figured that at the very least I’d get free guitar lessons out of the deal, so I agreed.

We didn’t get a lot of USO activity at our location, and what little we did always happened when I was on the road. There was a fair amount of excitement when a women’s volleyball team stopped by (so I hear) and Charlie Daniels performed, after which he autographed the guitar of one of the other Beatle band members. He had a black guitar with a mother-of-pearl Statue of Liberty inlay on the fretboard that had been custom made when he was stationed in Korea. Charlie signed it with a bold silver marker of some kind. The final result couldn’t have been more awesome.

But I digress, although I’m digressing about guitars, so it’s okay.

Just before Christmas, after weeks of rehearsing in a warehouse, WE became the USO show and did about 30 minutes of Beatles music for a crowd of fifty or so (after all, there was not much else to do if you weren’t on duty). However, a good time was had by all, and I had my 30 minutes of fame.

Next—a different guitar for an encore presentation.

1,000

I had to give some extra thought to this blog, if my count is right, this will be my 1,000th post, so it’s kind of special.

I thought it might be interesting if I presumed that such productivity, tenacity, or whatever actually makes me wise, and offer some advice and suggestions for all of us. Feel free to join in, or not.

  • Sit down with a copy of the United States’ Constitution and seriously read it. As written, it was not perfect (slavery, being the most flagrant example), but most of the amendments have improved it over the years. It’s really an amazing set of ideas.
  • Put down the smartphone, tablet, PlayStation, or whatever and look at the real world; talk with real people—don’t text them, actually have a friendly interactive conversation. Engage in a real game or undertake a real adventure.
  • Listen to a viewpoint that is different from your own on a subject that you feel deeply about. Really listen—with an open mind. It may not change your belief, but don’t you wonder why some people have such different ideas?
  • Take some quiet time to examine yourself with regard to Faith. What do you believe? How important is it to you? How much does it impact your actions? Why?
  • Finally, go help someone, just a little. Volunteer an hour a month with the Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, the local food pantry or soup kitchen. The list of organizations that depend on volunteers is long, and your participation can make a difference.

Thanks, Bob, for Everything

When I was in high school, Robert Alan Gable, our assistant band director was fresh out of college and ready to rock and roll. After he finished teaching during the day, he played jazz at a night club until the wee hours. He taught saxophone, bassoon, oboe, flute, and percussion, but at the club it was sax and flute. The year I graduated, he joined Wayne Cochran and the CC Riders and we lost touch.

High school was not a particularly happy time for me, which is probably true for more teenagers than not. How did Alice Cooper put it in the song I’m Eighteen?

Don’t always know what I’m talkin’ about.
Feels like I’m livin’ in the middle of doubt.”

Bob taught me how to play tenor saxophone and bassoon, but more importantly, how to truly love music. He was a teacher and a mentor who provided encouragement that eventually grew into confidence.

Last year he was inducted into my high school’s Music Hall of Fame, and I had a chance to see him for the first time since high school; we picked up as though the hiatus had been days instead of decades. Bob’s health had failed him, which tied him to an oxygen tank and a wheelchair, and he had retired. Tom Batiuk the cartoonist graciously did a drawing of Harry Dinkle (the World’s Greatest Band Director) for the occasion. (If you don’t follow his comic strip “Funky Winkerbean,” you should.) After that Bob and I chatted on the phone every so often. We never had anything significant to talk about, but it was time shared.

The last time I called I got a recording that his number was no longer accepting calls. I expected the worst. Today I received an email with his obituary.

The journey through life is short, but we all leave footprints that mark our journey. Many of us who walked with him for part of his journey are better for it. Thanks, Bob.

The Virtual World

In real life, I’ve met and worked with people who have headed off in different directions. They were so close, but now are gone.

In the virtual world, I’ve been taking a series of on-line courses with people I never expect to meet face-to-face. Nevertheless, I feel I’ve gotten to know them fairly well.

In the giant scheme of things, maybe this is a foreshadowing. Soon, in the next life we may know people on a similar basis—”I never actually met you before, but I know you and will spend eternity with you.”

Kind of hard to wrap your mind around, isn’t it?

St. Paddy’s Day

shamrock

St. Patrick’s Day is special.

Most days of the year, people point out how “I’m this and you’re that.”

However, today everyone is Irish.

We should have more reasons to find our commonality—real or imagined.

“Oh, don’t you know, ’tis a fine, fine thing!”

So You Say You Want a Resolution?

Great calendar! and apparently you can print it for yourself. www.trendymaal.com photo: elsoar.com

Great calendar! and apparently you can print it for yourself.
http://www.trendymaal.com
photo: elsoar.com

Personally I don’t subscribe to the idea of New Year’s Resolutions.

Every day is an opportunity to do at least one thing better, and we should seize every one of those opportunities as it comes along. Most areas of improvement are like fruit; they ripen at a certain point, and if you wait until the first of January they get squishy and smell bad. You need to grab them at their prime.

Big decisions, in my humble opinion, cannot be accomplished between 31 December and the next morning. Major changes like quitting smoking take time, and may require assistance from medications, nicotine patches or whatever. Most people stumble—the question is, “Do I pick myself up and try again from where I fell, or do I chalk it up to another resolution I couldn’t keep?” Picking one’s self up is hard, but the results—well they speak for themselves.

The closest thing to a New Year’s Resolution I’m going to make is to pick something each day and then try to be a little better husband, father, daddy, lover, friend, worker, or whatever. Not all at once—just one little tiny improvement per day.

When the day comes that I can shave without turning on the bathroom light because of the halo glowing around my head, I’ll stop.

In the meantime, my wish for you is that 2015 (or however you number your years) be blessed; that it brings you closer to God; that it helps you count your blessings, starting with those around you—family, neighbors, friends, and even the people in your neighborhood that you know by sight but have never met; and most importantly, that it helps you overlook the foibles of others that drive you crazy while being of no importance whatsoever. After you remind yourself how blessed you are, share your blessings with others.

And you can start, or restart on any (or every) day from today on.

Almost Christmas

It’s almost Christmas.

How does one express in words what this time of year means?

Christmas marks the promise of God fulfilled by Himself – in person.

A promise He made to his chosen people, the Jews.

A time when His chosen people, even today, celebrate Hanukkah, the Feast of Lights. Celebrating the re-consecration of the Temple, when the lamp stayed lit for eight days on one day’s supply of oil, giving the Jews enough time to make more kosher oil for the lamp.

It’s the winter solstice, when we have the longest night. Starting tomorrow each day the lighted portion of the day will be longer.

Making cookies or other special dishes we never make at any other time of the year.

Even the mercenary portions of the holidays has its own blessing; it’s the time of year when we worry about what other people like and want; what would someone we love find special?

It’s almost Christmas.