Old Wood and Old Steel

Old cars and old guitars. Who used them? What were their lives? Their dance together - that’s where a lot of the magic is for me. I don’t see them as empty objects owned. We don’t really own anything in the bigger picture, we only have possession. Where legal possession defines ownership, well… that place is temporary too. These are all temporary arrangements by which we get to caretake cool things for a time, and much of them outlive us. They are possessed for a time and move on to new chapters, and some of them – well, they might just be possessed in that other way as well! And that’s not inherently bad unless you've watched too much TV. Hell, that Hawaii episode of the Brady Bunch did a number on a whole generation. But I digress.

What reminded me of this is I got a ride in a great little hot rod last weekend, based on a 1930 Ford Model A pickup. To this cool old cat who welded and wrenched its pieces together, it was parts and steel to cut & shape and paint and have fun with. To me? I put my hand on the door to get in and immediately clicked into “I wonder whose hands have been right here before?” mode. In a much different time, in a very different form, somebody put their hand on that very door in the same way to drive it home, fresh from the Ford plant, right off the dealer’s lot – it was someone’s dream. Its chrome reflected that new day’s sun on into its first chapter. That person is long gone. Most of the people who knew that person and many of those who knew of them are gone. Everyone who had a hand in making it is gone. And this is just the beginning of the lives that touched it and the lives it touched along the way... along its way. These old cars, these guitars, they have lives of their own. They pass through many lives as we pass through. They migrate through us. They meander. They mutate. They change hands, and - if they are very lucky in their service to be the right tool for the crucial task - they change lives. And they keep on going…

And their lives change. This was a truck for one or for many, then it might have been another kind of farm implement, a different dream or yard art, now it is a fun machine. Almost 90 years it’s been here and there as one thing or another doing this and that. This is amazing to me and I sense it even in things that have not changed... the fit of an old stone wall. The well worn spots on the handle of a hammer. The brush lines in a painting. These are our real fingerprints - aside from the intangible and indirect we leave, these things we have touched and used and worn and marked in our way, and our chapters, we are a part of their journeys too. And though an old toaster or stapler or railroad spike brings about similar thought, for me the deepest depth of it comes from old vehicles and old guitars. Over the years other people’s old wheels and wood have brought magic to me and me to it. I rode them like magic carpets and at times felt along for the ride. While we’re together I treat them like friends; we make memories and I let them know they are more than just a means to me.

Listening to: Jim White No Such Place; Sonic Youth Daydream Nation; a compilation CD of Brewer Phillips tracks, live stuff, and interviews – he was the rhythm guitar player in the Houserockers with Hound Dog Taylor (legendary off-the-rails bluesman of endless influence and even more wild stories); Fu Manchu Eatin’ Dust; Jimi Hendrix live at Royal Albert Hall 1969.