Information and Inspiration

*** The computer will be off all of Friday through Sunday, if you need me please call 512-395-5126. If you leave a message, kindly verbally leave your number and I’ll call you back ASAP. Emails and Facebook, I’ll access when the computer comes back on. Thanks! ***

Evidently the great Facebook scare of 2018 happened this past week. It was mostly a hoax, but just so you know - this is what I look like.

Go see if we’re friends – look in my pictures for this guy; if we are, I won’t be sending you another request. There WILL most likely be cars involved if you DO get one from me. If I get one from you, I look at your profile. If we’ve never spoken or never talked in a car or van group and there’s not a picture of you playing a guitar or bass, I probably won’t accept without a message. If you’re only showing a few pictures and no real content, I definitely won’t accept even if I know your name – that’s what fake profiles look like. If I see your name already IN my friends list or you’re the ubiquitous “hot single chick” in everybody’s friend request lists – also with few pictures and no content - you’re definitely a fake profile and I decline and report these as SPAM. And most of you know this, but whether on Facebook or YouTube, I’m the guitar guy – not the racecar driver, gamer, random family guys or the street preacher of the same name. If it’s a political post, it’s not me. I don’t make them, and I don’t comment on them publicly. All you get from me are inspirational Monday morning posts to help you get out there and kick its ass so the rest of the week falls in line (believe me, I’m helping me in the same way – I just figure I’ll share it with you too), guitar or bass related posts, or the occasional old car content. That’s it. That’s most of my life and that’s the part of the garden I share. And don’t take it personally if I don’t comment on your posts – there’s a bunch of you and only one me, I don’t actually see a lot of them, and – like any piece of post-1980s technology – despite how it may appear, I can barely work it.

So speaking of old cars and sharing inspiration, I get a lot of inspiration in life from the old machines around me. I don’t know what does it for you, but when I need to be something other than Scott The Music Guy, I get in one and go driving. Though I don’t drive every day, most machines here are daily driver worthy and the newest model year vehicle I have is a 1983. They’re what I drive. They’re what I love to look at. They’re what I understand and enjoy. Their hoods are what I love to look out over to view the highways and the back roads - my favorite view of the world. I’ve been a car guy even longer than a guitar guy – always having a Hot Wheels in my pocket as a kid. As a grown up, they just got a little bigger. Here’s “American Beauty” – a 1960 Pontiac Catalina. Newest to the fleet earlier this year, it has elements of boat & rocket in its curves and lines, with those sweeping wheel openings of this era I just love… this kind of curve is where my eyes became fascinated with curves and how they fit in with other elements, directly influencing the curves in the instruments I’d eventually design and build. Electric guitars & basses’ lines may be somewhat similar, but that’s because there are only so many places to put them so they functionally work – balance on a strap, sit on a leg, accommodate an arm, etc., then this goes out up here and in about this way and curves out over there. But the curves themselves? On a Birdsong, mostly inspired by the automotive world. Or the tops of grandfather clocks, maybe a detail here and there from the ends of fancy silverware… but a LOT of old car wheel opening sweep.

Beauty is resting for the moment, needing some little things I’m not going to get to for a bit. (Your stuff comes first – that’s part of our deal!) But there is nothing that rides or cruises like this car except another of the era – a hopeful era when thick steel was sculpted into things built to last, with style. I can’t believe someone could walk into a car dealership to buy a practical, conservative “4-door for the family” and drive off in THIS. This is what that looked like in 1960. Once Beauty’s ignition system is fully sorted (for you car folk, the 389 has been fitted with an HEI distributor) and the carburetor rebuilt, and a few other things tended to, this will be road trip ready. It’s one of my favorite cars I’ve ever driven and will see some highway time. It’s good to have hobbies on the side that – other than being inspiring – have nothing to do with “Who you are” most of the time. Being out of that context for a while, even for a cruise through the hills, is replenishing and lots of answers and perspectives come that don’t when you’re in the thick of playing your main character. On a long enough jaunt they even run out to where you simply “Be” by the moment and mile, a human being not a human doing. Thanks, as always, for letting me share my inspiration with you – whether it be in words & music, wheels & steel, or wood & wire. I hope it inspires YOU in ways YOU need – maybe go find something to do for YOU with what’s left after you serve and devote so much to others. If there’s nothing left? Maybe claim some. It’s healthy. You can’t carry everything and you won’t fix everything – part of doing your best is being your best and that might mean taking the time to fix yourself when needed. Have a great weekend!

Enjoy the scenery,

Listening to: Cream box set; Yabby You Dub It To The Top; tenor Mario Lanza; bluesman Jack Owens.

Music For The Mouth

Love is the most powerful force in this world, followed by music. And then? Then comes food. Food is the most powerful force for the body – so eat gratitude, eat what has been offered in thanks for it. Eat good clean food. Here at the nest, I’ll tell you what, we have been on a Thai food kick for a little bit now and it’s amazing how going deep with something can bring new experiences. I’ve eaten a lot of stuff… though the decisions made in this long mid chapter about what I will and won’t consume as food definitely narrow the options in the typical American restaurant (and honestly, though wonderful, how many Chili Rellenos can one eat either?), Asian & Indian food has amazing options. Growing up around Boston 40 years ago, “Mexican food” to me was Ortega tacos! Asian food I saw a little more of with Chinatown a subway ride away and a good Asian presence in the area, but I was still only getting the tiniest tip of its Americanized truth. To compare those dishes to what’s been on my plate recently… not even close.

Cooking is a passion you can learn a lot about how an instrument generates its overall tone by participating in the experience of how a recipe ends up with its final flavor. King Trumpet mushrooms. Jackfruit. Kafir lime leaves. Lemongrass. Fry up a handful of Shishito peppers; cook your rice with coconut cream and thank me later. Even the dried red pepper flakes direct from a Thai grocery are different – the red looks a shade lighter than the stuff we’ve found on pizza tables, and is less harsh and forward – yes it’s hot, just use a light sprinkle, but there’s a floral warmth that just builds as a background. Similar, yet different. You might be doing yourself a favor walking right on past the durian and bitter melon – I probably would have. But any quest has its missteps and hey - that may be just the flavor YOU are looking for, and yours is the tongue that matters! Favorite side oils / sauces / seasonings to use in during or on after cooking? Mae Ploy, sesame oil, sambal oelek (an absolute taste overload) and something we call “Asian Lady” because there’s (no big shocker here) a picture of an Asian lady on the front and we can’t read a word on it except “Hot chili crisp.” Simply the best, richest tasting basic crunchy hot pepper oil you can spoon into your world.

Some we discovered in our continuing cuisinal quest for the new and exciting, leading us to an ingredient here or there after some great Thai restaurant experience, but there have been three main contributors that skyrocketed the understanding, enjoyment & level of what we’re now cooking. The first is Mark Wiens – probably the most gracious and respectful travel/food blogger on YouTube. He’s not looking to shock, just to enjoy food and share that. He knows about where he goes, shows some of the actual cooking and talks about the ingredients so we know why it tastes like it does. I’ve learned literally cooking classes worth about food from him, used a bunch of that directly or adapted into what I DO eat, and watching him enjoy it all and be among other people in their worlds makes ME excited about food and what it brings to the home and carries to others we share it with. He’s based in Thailand but travels the world with his family.

The second was the first trip to an Asian grocery store. There is a fine but small Thai grocery in San Marcos, Prik Nam Pla - which also cooks fantastic food. That was a mind blower itself, having access to such ingredients… it set us on the path. The #3 real mind blower was MT Supermarket in Austin. For me it was like walking into E.U. Wurlitzer music shop in Boston that first time. EUW was a huge place FULL of guitars & gear, and at that time most of what I was seeing I had no idea what I was looking at - but I knew my world had just gotten MUCH bigger. This was the food version of that. Some sections were not for me, again given deliberate food decisions I make for myself, so I just walked past those. But the produce? Seasonings? Canned goods? Noodle selection? Sauces? Un-freaking-believable. Literally a whole culture of food I had only merely pinky-toed into. It was like discovering jazz existed, or hearing what comes out of your instrument early on, the notes and sounds when it’s all new. Onward a ways into life it can be difficult to really feel like anything is all new again – that excitement at everything, that purity of the moment. I feel it in food and the many roads and mysteries it will show me as a seeker, and I find it in music and the roads of IT yet to walk and what new flavors wait there for me.

Go cook something up, my friends! Be reverent toward the ingredients, honor their sources, wish well on all who took a part in what makes it to your table, and share it with good people. It’s just another form for your song to take. As always, be inspired!

Listening to: Augustus Pablo East Of The River Nile. (On repeat. I love it.)

Reflections in a fallish mood

The temperatures have dropped and there has been morning Delta blues picked on the porch – a sure sign the worst of the weather is behind us for a while. Not really “Fall” as we just have “A little less of a summer, what might be summer somewhere else”… and then our version of winter. And really I use worst in tiny little lowercase letters because there are places that get hit with storms the likes we just don’t see here in the south-central Texas hills, and the winters where I come from were brutal compared to the little occasional freeze ‘n flurries here for sure! Sure we get some “All the way on or all the way off” rain and sometimes it can be an issue, but most of the time ours is not a hardship, just uncomfortable. And it’s uncomfortable with the summer sun. The sun! Too much warmth. I just have to laugh. I’ll take it – it’s a blessing to anyone who knows cold. And it is in ways; and I do like to sweat when I work. But I’m glad for a little less intensity right now and a touch of gray, thank you.

This week many years ago there are many of us who remember exactly where we were when the news came of bassist Cliff Burton’s tragic passing. In the context of the day in 1986 Metallica were shaking things up but it was a slower build and you have to remember most of us on the east coast maybe knew somebody with a third gen cassette copy of an album by one of these “Speed metal bands from LA” as we lumped everything in as. We didn’t know. We bought Hit Parader but there was no real airplay of anything harder than Ratt and maybe the occasional more commercial Iron Maiden or Judas Priest tune. We traded horrible sounding bootlegs, drew band logos on our paper bag book covers, painted goofy stuff on our denim jackets and went to concerts. That was it. I was 17.

I had seen Metallica the year earlier opening for Ozzy and had barely known who they were – my buddies were WAY more metal than I ever got despite the hair and denim and pointy-ass guitars. But after the concert, as raw as they were – maybe a bit sloppy, perhaps a bit drunk – I left a fan and bought the first three Metallica albums. And that was it. I’d listen to them walking home at night after washing dishes at a restaurant. At the time nothing had the production of the then-new Master of Puppets – it was light years ahead of the heavy stuff around it. The album before it, Ride The Lightning, was a game changer. Their first? Kill ‘em All? Meh, I know it’s hallowed ground to some but kind of a novelty to me, jumping in when I did with the huge crunch of Master. Honestly I was way more into late ‘70s Cars and Eddie Money’s first few albums, some Neil Young, and grooving pretty hard to Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force and the whole neo-classical shredding thing. Andreas Vollensweider. The Ramones. Journey.

And yeah, Ratt and that whole scene Metallica and their peers were reacting against. The ‘80s was an amazing time to be young. As cheesy as a lot of that LA stuff seems now it blew our minds when it was easy to be over the top and got us excited about playing our instruments and starting bands. But for me, Cliff was just the craziest thing I had ever seen fingering a bass guitar. And when he died at 24, I was very sad. I remembered guitarist Randy Rhoads who died young in ‘82 but I had been younger and started playing just after that. 13 and 17 are totally different existences… very different levels of consciousness and awareness of your being and context. The news broke on MTV and I was at home, realizing for the first time that my heroes were men and they could die horribly… that life was changing and sometimes things happen so fast… but that ultimately it’s more about the mark you leave than how long you last. Whatever the tool of your trade, whatever the song you sing, it’s about the work you did and the inspiration you spread while you were here.

Listening to: The My Favorite Album Podcast on Jeff Buckley’s Grace ( ); Norman Greenbaum Spirit In The Sky (really a cool whole album); a Modern Jazz Quartet 10”; Nirvana Bleach; Dr. John The Sun The Moon & Herbs and In The Right Place; Andres Segovia My Favorite Works (a perpetual workshop favorite, been in rotation in here for ten years plus.)

Names Of Things...

Well hello! For this week’s news page update, here are the stories behind 5 names you’ll see in the world of Wingfeather, the name of the workshop and (for paperwork/biz purposes) the name of “The Company” that builds Birdsongs, SD Curlees, D’Aquilas, and anything else we have going on at any moment.

Cortobass. “Corto” is Italian for short, and was the name I was planning to use from the beginning of my tinkering with short scales in the ‘90s. I saw a gap in the market for a really nice but “General business” (not $10K with 20 woods and 15 knobs, something for the wedding gig or the blues jam) short scale bass, so I knew I was going to make one and “Cortobass” just rolled off the tongue… since the recipe was refined and the first one flew in 2004, they’ve been rolling out of the workshop since! A little trivia for you, once the Cortobass established itself I wanted to expand on it with other models similar but just leaned in different directions visually & tonally. What became the Fusion, with its warm & woody voice, was originally going to be called the Caldobass… Caldo being Italian for hot!

Sadhana. This is one of our fanciest designs – it has been its own model at times, but never really had its own specific pickup arrangement. It shared the single/hum Cortobass setup mostly, and I referred to it as “…a Cortobass with a ground effects kit”, like as if the Cortobass was a really good Camaro and the Sadhana was that car dressed up with Ferrari spoilers and fancy wheels. With an oval Delano and a carved scroll horn it was the Bliss. It’s in our lineup of body shapes you can order a custom with. The word itself is Sanskrit, with no accent on any syllable (I usually pronounce it sa-DHA-na, but it’s actually SA-DHA-NA), and translates roughly into “Spiritual practice”, the rituals of offerings & meditations one might do first thing in the morning, centering before sunrise in service. If music is my path, the creation of the tools for it is about as deep as one can go. It was originally (and I think the first 3 made as) the “Shanti” model, which means “Peace”… but that was being used already, however obscurely, and we had to change it.

Fusion. This is easy – it was a fusion of the structure of the Cortobass with the tonal influence of a jazzy upright bass, as if the essences (essi?) of these were combined. Sometimes when two different things are combined it becomes what I call an “El Camino compromise” where, though cool and fun, it results in the worst of each and a definitely compromised whole. Part car, part truck… you now have a car with no covered trunk or back seat, and a truck that is basically on a car chassis and won’t carry half a truck’s load without wallowing around. Stylin’ ride but not a great compromise if you’re looking for the BEST of both. The Fusion is the opposite – it worked great, and visually I wanted it to look like it sounded, woody but electric. So that was the “fusion” that ultimately became called the Fusion, and it became my personal favorite! A what-if that worked.

Hy5. “High five.” “Hybrid 5.” Yes. And yes. Hybrid 5 because it’s a crossing of a little short scale with the whole big 5-string thing which are mostly full 34” scale basses and larger. I wanted a mix of that response & the big notes WITH the ergonomic package you get in a short scale, especially in a Birdsong. “High five” because – we did it!

And the big one…

Birdsong. Many would guess we are named after the beautiful Grateful Dead song. Nope. Now there WAS a guitar model I prototyped in the ‘90s with that as a model name, but - though I do love some good Dead - I’ve had a thing for birds much longer than I’ve had a thing for them. So the word was around in my head, but why and how it became the name of this little bass guitar company that changed my life goes like this. My life of following music’s path has been one of chapters. At the end of one (which is always the beginning of another), truly going back to the land felt like the most right thing to do, to begin again from somewhere true to what I was feeling inside. So I ended up in-between with some things behind me I had to heal from, a tomorrow of uncertain opportunities, and a “now” of transformation with some raw rural Texas land to plant myself in like a seed to regerminate. It was difficult but I knew as I built it that it would build me into who I was to become – into who I HAD to become to be any measure of independent and self-sufficient, to get anything done, to get on with a life of DOING in a world full of talk. I needed the inner tools - AND the outer tools - I didn’t have, and this is where I would find them and learn to use them to make things happen in my own life. It’s a build it or buy it world, and I knew I was going to have to build the whole thing if I was going to stay on this path. So the land was where I made my promises and took my stand. And at its lowest moments of greatest tests, my most basic faith and trust was this - I knew if the birds were still singing it was all going to work out… that there was hope and a new day and this is what free creatures do - so get up and get on with it if you want to be one. The first day of that was the first day of the rest of my life.

And now you know… the rest of the story!

Listening to: Lightning Hopkins and old RL Burnside.

Don't Worry, It's Not Friday Yet!

Well it feels like the Texas summer has lost its fire a bit and what to most of you is early fall (we have no such thing) has brought the rains. Glorious rain! Living out rurally under very dry southern conditions, rain brings us a peace it’s hard for city & suburb dwellers to know. Like many ways, living close to the land puts you very close to nature and this incredible setup of circles & cycles that all works to its own rhythm and has its own rhyme; you fall in with it at least somewhat or you fail out here, it’s as simple as that. You give the terrain and time of year and temperature your respect or it takes you out. It brings its own challenges, but September rains ease a bit of that for sure.

This is the time of year when I look back over my shoulder at the year so far and ahead to what can realistically be finished in what remains of it, make a game plan and throw myself and the workshop at it “balls out” as they say. Thankfully for all involved that is not to be taken literally – folks might get a little testy, heh heh. But we’re rolling strong, though I do want to thank you all for your patience as things have rolled a little differently this year after so many at almost 24/7. A bit slower than I thought but I’m not going to be of much use to anyone if I try to run the road like it’s still 1995 and I’m still that guy who has to move the mountain. That mountain moved. Now starting to look forward at needing to maintain at a pace more sane, I took what I could of weekends and started really trying to… well, SLEEP – both firsts in my life of keeping things rolling. I punched my last time clock in my 20s, and though I understand that grind well, when you go your own way it requires YOU to be consumed as fuel.

Even decades in it still does if you’re the quarterback, if you’re the Stephen Stills of the band, if you’re the Captain Manyhands. There IS no clocking out. So while I’m actually getting good stretches of sleep and working into that, and there haven’t been ANY night shifts in 2018, there have still been reeeeeally early mornings – as any seeker on a path knows, that is when the deepest work is done. It sets you up to be up at that time getting yourself together and then hitting the day with the inertia of steadiness in your who and why; then you bring & APPLY that to what needs to be done. It sets up a very productive day when the sun has to rise to greet you and you’re already into your list for the day. The hours are still long, because I still love what I do and there’s this glorious pile of build sheets I have the privilege to be working through bringing to life and looking forward to… all of this blessing and I am very, very grateful.

And I’m very grateful for you and for all of the everyday heroes mixed in past, passed and present – those who walk among us in times of relative calm but when big things happen fast they throw themselves at the situation to help, running the other direction, often risking their own very lives to help others they don’t even know… who might not look or talk like they do, might even (gasp) vote differently. Imagine that. It’s a heavy week in the history of our nation, one in which so much was lost, but so many awakened. It was difficult NOT to have shifts in priorities, importance of dreams, and things personally that needed to change all bubble up inside of us with the emotion of the moment. Many life paths were altered by what happened but many more by its ripples. I’ve known some who completely changed life paths in the weeks and months that followed, or were moved to do things that THEN changed their whole lives, and affected the lives of others, and of those yet to fill the chairs of tomorrow’s dreams… the people, heroes, and seekers yet to come. Spread far on the winds like seeds to bloom and beautify… by tragedy. Amazing how that happens. I will forever remember where I was, and so will they. Wherever any of you are today, I wish you wellness – wholeness – and beauty in your gardens.

This is up a day early on Thursday this week as the computer is going to be shut down for 3 or 4 days, so if you need to get a hold of me call me on the phone like the old days – (512) 395-5126. It might shock you, but I don’t text. So call. And if you don’t leave a message, I won’t know who you are or that you called! So please leave one and I’ll get right back with you post haste, forth with, and ipso facto. If you follow on Facebook, I’ll give y’all Monday’s sunrise inspirational post to get you started on kicking Monday’s ass so the rest of the week falls in line for you and you feel good about that here now, so you can start working on it over the weekend. After all, why wait ‘til the last minute? And I’ll leave you with this until we talk again next week.

“Be strong along your path but malleable enough to be shaped and sharpened by it into who will be needed when you get where it goes.”

Listening to: Lots of Delta Blues – Mississippi Fred McDowell, early RL Burnside, Jack Owens, Bukka White.

A Part Of The Wood's Journey

Having just run a batch of 8 bass bodies across the benches, that’s what’s fresh on my mind. Here’s some of what goes on between the plank and the finishing oil.

Wood selection – there are a few woods I use more than others (mahogany, walnut, and Spanish cedar) but sometimes others are offered or requested, and sometimes combinations of woods are spec’d out. These could be in the form of tops (different wood on the face than the main body), stringers (Bernie Rico’s term for strips included as stripes), or maybe a center block with the outers of the body (“wings”) of a different wood. All of these woods need to be sourced and selected. I keep a stock on hand of some woods I select by the long plank at a specialty lumber warehouse up in the big city and truck back to the nest in my old Dodge truck; others like the Texas woods like mesquite or pecan I locate at various spots a bit more rural, and the exotics I get from all over the country. A number of times a build has begun with a chainsaw in my hands – though, like engine swaps, I try not to subject the hands to that kind of abuse these days. 

Layout & blank prep – in different orders according to the wood sizes and condition and how it will be used, it – now looked at with an eye toward the pieces it will be - is measured and marked, rough cut, planed to thickness, trimmed to dimension, and then edge prepped & joined as one piece. Done correctly, the glue joints will be stronger than the wood around them. Though claimed to be good for much longer, I buy the wood glue in small quantities so it’s used up or rotated out to less structural uses every few months. Now we’ll have, with maybe a final trim and shave, a rectangle that’s really a guitar or bass body – just with everything that’s not the shape we want still attached! Our usual body is 2-piece, with a center join. 99% of what we do gets a natural finish and that just looks best, to have the two halves’ grain and color flow together and come together dead center. Under paint and a thick plastic coating you can get away with anything – when it’s all there to be seen, what is to be seen matters! 

Cut & edge – Once the absolute center is marked with a sharp pencil and a mm ruler (I always do the fine work in millimeters, working in complete numbers eliminates a whole lot of potential for errors in figuring out what half of 3 and 13/64ths is, etc.), out come the old plywood templates of body shapes. Line ‘em up, trace ‘em round, cut ‘em out on the bandsaw and get the body edge smooth and right all the way ‘round. Sometimes when cutting the blank from the plank a chunk is put aside to slice a thin piece for a headstock veneer from or to make a piece of woodcraft out of. Sometimes what might look good as stringers in another build are made from the cutoffs. What won’t be used is burned in late night campfires or as the workshop area equivalent of incense, with the smell of burning wood smoke wafting in through the open workshop doors. 

Rout & round – This is where the body crosses over from being “Wood from a tree becoming something” to “A guitar body that just isn’t done yet.” Using a small hand held plunge router, some chisels, a few bits, and some templates – some made here in the shop too – the pockets for the neck, the pickups, and the controls are routed away and the body’s edge gets rounded over… this move is the real moment it starts looking like an instrument to me, when the edges all go away and turn to curves. At this time I also mark the neck pocket for its holes, and drill long holes connecting the pickup cavities (and for the under-bridge ground wire) to the control cavity. This is done with a long bit, a shallow angle and a good eye. 

Drillout – The body then gets put over by Uncle Johnny Kirtland’s old drill press and there the neck mounting holes are drilled & countersunk, and on some the string-through-body holes are drilled through with a follow up drilling on the back for the ball-end eyelets that get hammered in during assembly.

Carving & shaping – After this with grinder, rasps, spokeshaves, and whatever is the best tool for the wood and curve at hand in the moment, the forearm contour, belly cut and any other special contours are dressed away. This is where I hand the body off for…

Sanding… to one of the expert, focused, total detail-oriented pairs of hands in the Birdsong circle that gets this grueling and tedious task done so I can jump on any of a hundred other things I need to be doing and actually enjoy. Truly if not for wife Jamie, mystery retired furniture maker man, or any of the others who have helped over the years – most who’ve done their time with the paper and the hand-held random orbital - I may be the nutty professor and Captain Manyhands but left to me to sand everything, this would have only been a hobby.

The body now has changed from slabs of tree into a shaped and sanded form, a “chassis” of a guitar or bass-to-be. It is ready for finishing, then assembly, and onward out into the beginning of its new life and journey. It entered the workshop in a state of in-between, uncertain, unpurposed, unfocused in its potential. It will leave the workshop a honed and polished part of something bigger, to serve the music to come. I relate to its journey very much and serve IT.

Listening tosome you’re probably not! : Fleetwood Mac Future Games; RL Burnside My Black Name A-Ringin’; some Howlin’ Wolf; and Stephen Stills’ 1st album… which has been a favorite for a long time.

Comin' Home

After more than a decade, the old guitar of a friend long gone has made it home to the nest. 

As with any tool that comes with fingerprints of the loved and departed on it, the first were replaced in a special way. Being conscious of the gravity of a moment makes it its own little ceremony. In this case sweet memories of good times, some cheap grapey merlot, and 12 year old strings bent once more for some good blues... a music he liked and a proper handing off in physical absentia for it to be continued. If a man could be cloned from crusty finger cheese off an old customized Kay guitar I would not – his time was his time and believe you me a time was HAD. 

You hang around and among the sunrises and quests and laughter, people go… what is left of any of us really comes down to ripples and fingerprints. The ripples, tangible only in results in and motion forward through lives like so many seeds in gardens casually tossed as we go… and fingerprints. What did they touch? To put my fingers there in the continuing life of the tool or the task, even waves reshape as they claim the footprints from the shore. This is a moment of great respect, a last and a first, an end and a beginning. I absorb your dust into my livity. I will finish burning that candle. I will use that tool. I will play this guitar with the strings still on it from the last notes he played – a continuation of his song. A hand off like in jazz when the trumpet is lowered and backed away from the spotlight and the sax player steps forward, takes a deep breath, and begins.  

Out from under the bed it came – more closure for all involved. Besides it being the guitar I most associated with him because of his modifications to the headstock (it got its feathers in wood on its headstock about the same time I got mine in ink on my arm), and it being a quirky and fragile old piece that will be fun to play with, the magic for me really is what’s all over it and crusted up and down those rusty strings. What a gift those fingerprints are, to have more after so long. We have the honor to touch their traces one more time. In the Jewish tradition when you visit someone’s grave, you put your little pebble on the headstone. This says “I am here – I visited. You mean something and you are not forgotten.” 

Though more talisman than tool, I will replace the broken high E string and start playing this old guitar back to life after its long rest – picking it up, holding it, chording and soloing where he chorded and soloed. I will – after what to the universe may have been a blink or a quick fill and the crash of a cymbal - step up, take a deep breath... and begin. 

Listening to: Lots of vinyl, in addition to a pretty steady diet. Spirit Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus; Stanley y su Guitarra Spanish & English Instrumentals; Guy Clark Old No. 1; Gordon Lightfoot If You Could Read My Mind; Neil Young On The Beach; War Why Can’t We Be Friends; and Charlie Daniels Band Nightrider, which turned out to be a SMOKIN’ Allman-esque blaze of dual guitar southern rockin’ excellence from 1975. And also helping me through this very hot, very productive week has been the old Heart Greatest Hits and – of course – Aerosmith Rocks... a wonderful album to build things to.