One of my favorite guitars I have is a limited edition 2016 Fender American Standard offset Telecaster in Lake Placid Blue with a maple neck.
All of my instruments I have are favorites or else I wouldn’t have them. I don’t have the budget to own anything like that aren’t favorites. But I have reasons to acquire the instruments I do, and the reasons are pretty concrete and sound. This one fits them all, and it’s an amazing guitar to play and hear.
The first thing about it is that it’s American-made. I don’t necessarily have anything against foreign made-instruments – I own a few. But the market itself treasures American-made. Go figure. Secondly, It’s perfect for getting a certain sound for the persuasive ways I’ve gone about learning music, and the people whose style and technique and sound I like to emulate most on guitar. Those people are Jerry Garcia, Dickey Betts, Jack White, and of course Johnny Marr. And a few others like John Mayer, Dave Matthews, Jack Johnson, Bob Weir, and so on, depending if I’m trying to play rhythm or lead or whatnot. Each has a distinctive style and is a master of the instrument with discernable techniques that they employ either physically or with electronics or gear or with the actual instrument itself. But this guitar is a tool to pay tribute to Johnny Marr.
Garcia has played Stratocasters, Telecasters, and ended up mostly playing custom instruments that allowed him to do what he wanted optimally. Bob Weir owns over 100 guitars, but sticks to several that give him a certain sound, and Dave Matthews likes Taylors and Jack Black has a truckload of different impressive guitars as well. They all do, but they usually grab just a couple when they head out onto the road.
Johnny Marr uses Rickenbackers a lot, and I’m in the process of having one built for me, and it will be my crown jewel and hopefully in my possession in May 2019. A black Jetglo 360 12-string with maple neck, of course. But he also plays telecasters and acoustics to get that signature Smiths sound, along with some masterful tweaking of pedals and effects, as seen in the above link. I could watch that video for days.
When I was looking for that Rickenbacker I also decided I wanted a couple of other electrics as well. I’m not much of an electric player, but this is a fun road I’m heading down. I’ve owned a bunch of electrics before but nothing to speak of at length – just pawn shop quality beaters to learn on. These guitars are for serious playing so they’re the best these manufacturers offer, and they’re either new or in mint condition. I’m not even a huge Fender fan, although I’ve owned both acoustic and electric versions before. I don’t intend to get a Stratocaster and I even still own a klunky Fender acoustic. But I did want to get a Telecaster, which I did, and I wanted a very specific one, which I found, and will write about in due time. But during the search for that, I came across this guitar, which is a mashup of a Jazzmaster, which is argubly one of the best electrics you can have, and a Telecaster, which have a long list of reasons of being great that are discussed in Facebook groups and on Guitar forums to the Earth’s end. I also have a Les Paul, which is required for any Allman Brothers song, and it’s just unbeatable to play. It feels so much more refined to me than any Stratocaster.
The deep arctic/Lake Placid blue is an awesome color for this guitar with the maple neck, and the depth of the paint job reminds me of that of a Ferrari or Porsche, with 10+ coats. Photos don’t do it justice. But with the simple singing voice of a Custom Shop Twisted single-coil neck pickup and a vintage-style Custom Shop single-coil Telecaster pickup and chrome hardware, it’s gorgeous looking and sounding. These were made in 2016 as a limited edition too, which shouldn’t hurt the resale if I ever am forced to go that route. And every guitar has to have a name, right? You’d better believe the name of this one is Stella Blue.
I run it through a Yamaha THR10C Boutique Amplifier, which is perfect for getting the Smiths sound I want without a bunch of pedals and crazy gear (even though I have a bunch of pedals and gear I do run through it when needed). I love this amp. I’ll do a write-up on it sometime too because I spent a lot of time researching gear before finding and settling on it.
Here are some things I’m thinking about as we enter into a new futuristic year, where I couldn’t have imagined what it would be like back in the 1980’s. Some things have moved faster than expected, some more slowly, some have failed to emerge and some have shifted into the still unfathomable.
I just finished cleaning the house, mopping the floors, steam cleaning the rugs and sterilizing everything in anticipation of my little girl’s next visit. She still pops things off the floor into her mouth, although she’s starting to grasp the concept of germs and get the connection between them and sickness. Thanks to my lecturing, some gross cartoons she’s found and setting examples for her, of course. She’s three, so I don’t blame her for doing it whatsoever. But knowing she will do that, I take the responsible step of always cleaning my house prior to her visits, otherwise, I’m to blame for her getting sick if she drops her pacifier and pops it back in her mouth while here. I realize not every parent does this and I’m not trying to disparage others who prefer to be lazy, let their children get sick, risk others getting sick from them, and then take their children to the doctor after they get sick and send half the bill to the other parent to pay. But those types of people do exist. And they will naturally attract other unrefined slobs who, for example, see nothing wrong with blowing their noses in towels and making other people sick that way.
While cleaning I was listening to a webcast of Bob Weir’s New Year Eve’s show in Kauai’s North Shore, Hawaii at the Crazy Rooster Ranch, which I bought the HD version of online, and it sounds unbelievable on my sound system. As good as if I were there, and a front-row view as well. I bought it because I saw the set list on Twitter, which was short, but impressive. My favorites were all on there. I’m going to try and download/upload it here or somewhere.
What a way to ring in the new year! Thanks to all who joined us for the inaugural Rising Up To Paradise concert in Hawaii.
I saw Bob play here in Louisville a couple of months ago and it was a good show. He was with the Wolf Bros, and a three-piece band at the Lousiville Theater was a nice way to spend a night and go home “early.” But this show was pretty alarming. It was bad. I wanted to give them the benefit of a doubt, but it sounded like an unrehearsed bunch of middle-aged guys trying to get a Dead cover band together for the first time. No one was leading, Bob played like he was on valium, which at his age and his schedule I don’t fault him for, but it was an acoustic mess to me. nothing jelled, nothing surged, nothing really made it special. That’s a hard thing for me to say/write, because I listen to the Dead’s play nearly every waking minute of every day in some fashion, whether it be bluegrass covers, different ensembles of the members of the Grateful Dead like Jerry and some of his friends, NRPS, or straight-up bootlegs or recordings of which there are thousands. Sure, I listen to other stuff, but I would guess it’s 80/20.
I wonder if Bob will just keep playing until he croaks on stage. I’m sure he would like to. He’s not doing it for the money, but he is charging people to hear/see him play, and at some point, it’s going to start selling a false bill of goods. People go to his shows for different reasons, but does he really want to keep doing what he’s doing until the value runs out for the audience? I would hope not. I hope he’s not that self-centered. He can still play when and wherever he wants, and he does have a young wife and family after all. I wonder what they think about it all. Personally, I wouldn’t put the music before my family but it’s hard to know what he thinks about of course. I think entertainers should go out on top, and he’s gone over the top, in other words. In any case, I still think he’s inspirational and I’m glad I got to see him play in an intimate setting like I did as well as with the Grateful Dead so many times, both with and without Jerry and with and without Brent and with and without Bruce Hornsby. All unforgettable experiences.
I also realized lately, like an octopus, I collect things. Over time I’ve gathered some weird collections of items which I’m going to start galleries of on this website. Some mundane, like baseball hats, of which I have a gazillion dating back decades. And others more interesting like watches and guitars, if you are the pawn shop type. Fountain pens, old coins, and just piles of collections of old stuff I’ve been lugging around for no reason at all. So if for no other reason than insurance purposes I’m going to spotlight some of them. And for would-be robbers, I also have started a nice collection of guns, so think twice if you’re interested in misappropriating them. A new hobby of mine.
One of the things I’m beginning to do is take a deep dive into music. Making it, to be specific. I’m interested in teaching my daughter about music and she shows an interest, thankfully. From birth, she’s been surrounded by and exposed to me and my amateur efforts on guitar and my non-stop soundtrack of my life. I always have music playing it seems.
I don’t care if Cecelia hates guitar, but surely there’s an instrument that will interest her (although I think it’s guitar) and to that end, I have all sorts of instruments lying around the house. Ukelele, banjo, mandolin, xylophone, mouth harp, slide whistle, tambourine, castanets, and quite a few others. Cecelia has already wanted to jam with me on guitar, which of course was one of the best moments of my life.
My guitar collection has grown to be ridiculous, impressive and one reason I can’t turn back now. I’ve been playing guitar for decades, and at times been much better than I am now. I’m very out of practice. While I was married, I sort of dropped all my hobbies and interests, but I’m slowly picking them back up now that I’m only taking care of 1 child and not three, which consumed my time I previously dedicated to personal pursuits.
Immersing myself in musical influences is one way I think keeps me focused and gives me goals to strive for. I also can see how certain things are played. One of the guys that keep popping up in my quest to shred is John Mayer.
I’ve written about him on this website before. He’s been on my radar for a long time, and I used to go see him gigging in Atlanta before he hopped on a rocket to explode out of the guitar stratosphere. I really think he’ll go down as one of the all-time best guitarists ever. His songs may not be for everyone, but he can play anything, with anyone, in any style, and has become a serious master of the instrument. And he’s young enough so that he has a lot of open road before him. He’s filled in for Jerry Garcia which is one of the biggest tributes to his playing abilities there is, I think. But he keeps reaching higher and he’s serious about the music and instrument. He’s let go of his ego and filled with creativity and ability.
When I juxtapose him with, say, Dave Matthews, I see Dave as kind of out of fresh ideas, middle-aged, burned out and ready to kick back and enjoy the fruits of his labor. John Mayer, like Bob Weir, has too much music left in his soul to do that. He’s a font of artistry that is far from running dry like other musicians that came on the scene around the same time he did. The way he’s learned was to lock himself in a room and play for hours on end. He got some loopers and just started playing and making jams. That’s the way to do it. And I’m doing the same thing with my limitations kept in check and ever-present. But like John Mayer, I’ve got a lot of miles yet to cover, and this isn’t a race. It’s a journey on which I collect things along the way to make each leg of the route even more fun and better.
This is a cut from an intimate gig he did as Bill Buchanan trying out some stuff from the Continuum album and showcases his awesome style:
I haven’t subscribed to a cable service in a very, very long time, and I don’t watch TV like I did growing up. Everything’s changed. The way I consume media, and the way it’s offered, both for the better.
People I grew up around used to get their news from one of the 3 or4 stations they picked up on tv: ABC, NBC, CBS and PBS. from around 5:30-8pm each weekday night, households across America had one of the old-school, much revered, talking heads telling them what was going on in the world. Walter Cronkite, Dan Rather, etc… They also had a subscription to a local newspaper, the State newspaper and possibly a few other periodicals like the WSJ or NYT. They also subscribed to magazines like Newsweek and Time and that was how we stayed on top of the current events. Usually, a few days or even weeks after things had taken place. If at all, and carefully (and responsibly) presented by journalists.
Flash forward to today when it’s clickbait headlines, noise, absolute bias, ulterior motives, activist journalism, and a firehose of information given by people who have no idea what they’re talking about to the actual source and SMEs themselves.
Additionally, no one much gets “cable tv” anymore like in the ’80s or even ’90s. Maybe satellite for rural areas. And subscriptions to newspapers has fallen off the chart. Social media has replaced a lot of the time we used to spend absorbing the current events and thinking and learning about where we along the timeline of global history, politically, economically, politically, culturally, etc…
The way I’ve learned to best manage it and stay sane and unbiased and well-informed is to curate the information that’s out there. A co-worker asked me how I get my news. She listens to NPR on the way to work, gets it from social media, and maybe a couple of other sources.
The way I’ve chosen to get my information isn’t from the sources, but the topics. I know who provides the material, and I’m aware of their certain leanings, whether politically, or how in-depth and insightful I on their on their reporting. As useless as USA Today and CNN are, they still have a lot of resources dedicated to acquiring and distributing information. I feel I should take advantage of that. I’m fairly smart enough to filter out the bias and read it from the author’s perspective, even if it differs from my own. That helps give me a more balanced idea of what’s really going on, and how our society is really reacting to it.
One of the most frequent, easiest and best tools I use for this is Refind. It’s awesome. And it is well-integrated and has simple ways to save and view articles. And there’s a social aspect to it, but not too much. I’d highly recommend trying it out. An extension I find handy, if not slightly distracting in a good way, is that every time I open a new tab in my browser, I’m given the latest and newest stories that might be of interest to me. I can quickly scan the articles and see if there’s something to bookmark for later, share, or save to a collection to little libraries I’m building on certain topics, or about certain events or people. In this way, I can filter out all the things I’m not interested in, and only get the relevant stuff. And it learns my preferences and makes suggestions on who and what to follow as well, which just makes it more and finely-tuned and dialed in.
I’m sitting here after just getting back from a Christmas party, reflecting on this year’s Christmas versus last year’s. And I’m feeling very grateful and counting my many thanks. Although last year I still had my sweet dog Annie by my side, right now I have another dog I’m watching laying beside me. And a fire in the fireplace. And the house is completely decorated and ready for Christmas. This is going to be a very good Christmas.
My daughter will be rejoining me in a few days and I cannot wait. I’m as excited about Christmas as she is, because she’s so excited. It’s just a great time of year. She’ll be with me for a long stretch of time and I cannot wait. She’s so much fun at this age.
I have a long gratitude list to write. My cup overfloweth. I’ve managed to dial everything in just right so that I went from last year being in the most miserable place ever to today, where every facet of my life is perfect. Totally amazing. I guess they’re right: you have to hit rock bottom to appreciate all that life has to offer. I’m ready to embrace life with Cecelia by my side and we couldn’t be in a better position to explore this amazing world we live in.
Time to start setting some goals for 2019! And beyond!
I know one goal I’m thinking about involves something along the lines of the following:
I think Ronnie Van Zandt said it best in his musical masterpiece: “I’m as free as a bird now and this bird you cannot change.”
I went to see a Grateful Dead cover band play tonight at a bar/”concert hall,” which I’d been to before but decided to venture out to alone tonight. My daughter is away for Thanksgiving holidays, for TEN days, which is absolute insanity for a parent to legally be away from their child, but that’s the reality of life these days. So having a long holiday weekend has resulted in a days-long overindulgent production of hedonism which has been long overdue.
I’ve been doing different things as a new divorcee for a while but they’re a little more understated than what I went to tonight. I’m a little more protected, or in a place where I don’t need protection. And I don’t mean from other guys looking for fights or trouble. I mean women looking for trouble, which is far worse.
I don’t drink so my plan was to lurk in the shadows of the bar/concert hall and just enjoy the music for a few hours. And I’m a little down on most females at the moment so I haven’t been looking for any attention from women.
The first set went by no problem and was pretty good. I saw some familiar faces, in fact, which are the same old deadheads that go to these shows when this particular band plays here every time. I’ve been going to see them for 8-years now, amazingly. And the same old people are still showing up to these things. But the second set was when everyone seemed to loosen up a lot.
I guess everyone was pretty buzzed or had an eventful break between sets, or I was emitting a pheromone that smelled like patchouli oil because every snaggle-toothed spinster and over-40 barfly was pulling me out to dance and putting their arms around me. It was like a prank-based television show. People were even noticing how absurd it was and pointing and laughing, rightfully. I’d been in this situation before, so it’s not unfamiliar to me, and I try not to be an utter wallflower in any case.
So I went out and danced some because I was having fun and I’m not a total prude, but they kept wanting to talk and were all obviously kind of drunk. I guess they couldn’t figure out I was there to listen to the band and not socialize since I was, you know, ALONE. But I ended up leaving early just to escape. I now feel like joining the #metoo movement. Here’s some video of me last night:
So, I’m going to need to restrategize my social callings it seems. Next time at least bring a wingman along or even better: a chick to serve as a decoy.
Imagine Jan Hooks here as a Deadhead. Those are the ladies that go to the shows I go to.
This video made me think of this one, which has nothing to do with anything but is still hilarious. Phil Hartman was the best.
It will be Thanksgiving in one hour, Eastern time, and although I’m sitting here by myself, it would be hard to recall the last time I was this much at peace and feeling grateful. I make an attempt to remind myself regularly during the day of all the things I should be grateful for, but tomorrow’s the official day most people in America do it. Usually while gorging themselves on plenty of carbohydrates, starch, and butter and before too long whatever’s in the bar or the wine people brought over.
This is my 49th Thanksgiving. That’s a lot of them. Looking back at what I was doing over the years on Thanksgiving is a wild roller coaster ride involving people, places, ups and downs and usually a turkey. I’ve spent Thanksgiving in all sorts of places around SC, where I’m from, as well as Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Virginia, Alabama, North Carolina, New Jersey, and probably a few locations I’m forgetting. I’ve spent it with Koreans who had no family in the US. I’ve spent it with a pair of lesbians and their adopted children who had no one else to spend it with. I’ve spent it doing charity work, and spent it with huge groups of people and, like I will this year, spent it alone. More often than not during my adult life, I’ve been the chef for Thanksgiving. It’s a job people happily give away, with lots of praise and high expectations to make each dish just like they like it. I’ve reached a point where I can manage a kitchen and cook things for everyone without problems; the trick is in the planning. You have to do a LOT of preparation, but it makes the day much less stressful if you’ve also been tasked with feeding a small army of picky eaters.
I miss my daughter terribly, and I still miss my old dog Annie, but other than that, this Thanksgiving is a perfect day to reflect and give humble thanks for all that has been bestowed upon me. This year is a stark contrast to last year’s Thanksgiving. And I suspect each year’s Thanksgiving will become incrementally greater from this point onward. I have optimism, and I’m grateful for that, and I give thanks for the reasons I can be optimistic.
The reasons I’m thankful are many. Mostly because I now know how dark someone’s life can become, and I’m thankful I have the health, both mental and physical, and wherewithal to take care of myself. Not everyone can do that, as we see each and every day. And I’m thankful not only that I can take care of myself, but that I can take care of my daughter in a way that she deserves. I’m thankful for all the decisions I’ve made over the years that have culminated in where I am now and where I’m headed. I’m thankful for a family that still supports my goals and dreams and cares about me, even though they themselves may not be as healthy and have their own struggles. I’m thankful for the people I work with because a lot of them are rare men and women who are kind, humble and genuine. And they enable me to work at a job I love that makes a difference and is rewarding. I have everything a man could ask for and more and don’t have any wants. Anything that matters, anyway. I have a beautiful, healthy, smart daughter. I thank God every second of the day for her because she’s so special to me. My adoration for her is unequaled by anything else and everything else combined. She’s just amazing to me, which I’m thankful for. I’m very thankful for the opportunities I have in life which have enabled me to work and take care of her.
I’m thankful that tomorrow is going to be better than today and today is pretty great.
I had the opportunity to go see Bob Weir and the Wolf Brothers perform at the Louisville Palace Theater last night, and it was a memorable experience. I was able to sit in while they did their soundcheck, and had a front-row seat. Doesn’t get much better than that, other than just hanging out with the band, which I don’t know what I’d do, even if I had the chance. What do you say to the guy whose guitar playing you’ve emulated for 35 years that doesn’t come across as absurd?
The soundcheck was fun. He taught the bass player “Passenger” which I found funny. How could he not know that song and be playing with Bob? Even if you don’t know how to play it, he acted as he’d never heard it. May not have, for all I know. I don’t know anything about the Wolf Brothers, and still don’t other than they’re pretty hairy and play a drum set and an upright bass barefooted.
The show lasted 3 hours. That’s a long time for a guy Bob’s age to stand up there and play and sing as he did. He once said he knew he was put on this Earth to make music, and he’s living up to that statement. He carried the whole show, playing both acoustic and electric. All the Grateful Dead songs he played I noticed were played on a stratocaster that had a skull and roses guitar strap. He switched between 2 strats and an acoustic whose make I couldn’t see because of a device on all the headstocks of his guitars, which I think holds picks, even though he grabbed spare picks from the mike stand. So I don’t know what they were. Traditionally, he plays Alvarez acoustics, but you never know. He says he has over 100 guitars.
I know Radiohead has a huge following, and I’m not the first to point out any of what I’m about to point out. But I simply am always amazed at how wonderful they are as a band, and commercially they have done “OK” but their best work, by far, is the stuff you’ll never hear on the radio. Of course. It’s for that reason I pretty much ignored them for so long until I stumbled upon their “In the Basement” recordings. Which I advise anyone to give a watch/listen to.
Even though a lot of their sound is attributable to electronica, it still stands on its own when stripped down to the minimum, as with this video of Thom Yorke and a guitar:
I will never tire of hearing the song Reckoner. Since it’s hard to interpret the lyrics in falsetto here they are:
Can’t take it with you
Dancing for pleasure
You are not to blame for
Dare not speak its name
Dedicated to all human beings
Because we separate
Like ripples on a blank shore
Because we separate
Like ripples on a blank shore
Take it with you
Dedicated to all human beings