Tag Archives: guitar

From Cheez-Its to Recliners, We’re Always Learning Who We Are


It’s been a while, right?  That was actually a rhetorical question.  You can just check the dates of the posts and you’ll know it has.

I want to write.  Honestly.  It’s just, well…as you know, I write for a living now and, well…it’s hard to write for 16 hours a day (yes, I’m routinely pulling crazy days like that!) and then write some more!

I have some book ideas I’m developing, as well as some other projects on my mind, so I’m getting back into the swing of things, but goodness gracious.

So, what’s been up?  Crazy storm in the East.  Chilly weather in the West.  In my reclusive state, I’ve actually discovered some interesting things about myself the last few weeks.  Want to hear about them?  No?  Good.  Here they are:

1.  I have a strong fondness for Cheez-Its.  You know.  Those tasty Kellogg/Sunshine crackers.  Oh, and if you put enough of them in your mouth at once and chew, it’s almost like you’re eating a big piece of cheese.  I know, gross.  But I love those little crackers.  I actually dream that a big Sunshine truck will deliver tons of boxes to my door and I’ll be on some Cheez-It commercial.  Won’t happen, but a man can dream.

2.  When I’m not writing, I actually do think about writing!  Yes!  I’ve been so insanely crazy busy lately and I’m just dying to get back to writing for pleasure again.  And that’s good.  I haven’t lost my desire to write for fun.  In fact, I can’t wait to get back in the writing saddle again!

3.  I absolutely know I hate the cold.  I mean, I already knew that, but I’m realizing that below…say…50, unless I have skis on, it’s better to be in where it’s warm.  Luckily, my life choices have me in a place that is mostly over 50, so…good stuff!

4.  I have a good sense of decor.   Now, I know you’re thinking, “Nobody, you’re just a nobody.  Leave designing to the professionals!”  Well, I say you’re wrong!  I actually just moved and put the place together myself, and I must say–it looks great.  I have my guitar out, and my rug from Peru up on the wall.  Oh, that rug.  Got it in an alley in Cuzco.  Memories, my friends.  But my favorite thing is my electric recliner.  Leather.  I’m actually in it now.

5.  I know that sometimes, it all just works itself out.  You know what I mean, right?  Of course you know!  I don’t have to elaborate on that one.

It’s still a scary world out there, folks.  Work, weather, craziness.  But take some time when you read this to count down 5 things you’ve learned in the last few weeks.  Anything can be on the list.  Your love of The Big Bang Theory.  Your hatred of snow.  Who knows?  We are who we are.  We learn what we learn.  We may disappear for a while, but you know what?

We’re always right where we are.




A Day at the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) Brings Musical Dreams of This Nobody’s Favorite Kind

I had the most interesting experience yesterday.

A visit with friends brought about an unexpected invitation to a place called the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM).  I had heard about MIM in my travels, but never had occasion to visit, so I jumped at the opportunity—for such opportunities don’t come around often, and we need to make the time.

We didn’t get there until about 2:30pm, which was unfortunate, because one could spend all day in just one of the many galleries.  I was especially looking forward to the try-it-yourself gallery where I could try out many of the instruments about which I was going to learn.  My regular readers know that what I really wanted to experience were the guitars and stringed instruments.

Our first stop was a series of guitars—some owned by famous people of this or that ilk.  It’s a small gallery on the first floor with all kinds of interesting guitars.  My favorite was the clear, Lucite guitar.  Something about see-through materials….

We poked around a little more on the first floor, experiencing the Tibetan horns, a giant bass (about the size of a giant squid), and the most interesting purplish-pinkish saxophone.

But then, we donned our electronic docents and headed upstairs…and that’s when this nobody’s heart was kicked up a beat.

The upstairs galleries at MIM are divided into continents and countries—each with a selection of the local instruments and a video screen.  When you stand in front of the screen, your headphones immediately tune into what’s playing on the screen.  You get to hear the instruments you’re looking at and see a bit of the local culture surrounding the instruments.

Of particular interest was the Africa room.  At one exhibit (I can’t remember for sure—it might have been the Democratic Republic of the Congo), I stood in amazement in front of a selection of guitars made out of gas cans.  That’s right, gas cans.  These weren’t the fancy schmancies from downstairs, but a whole new assortment of wonder.  Before my eyes, the exhibit screen changed, and there was a man on the streets in a little shop playing one of the gas-can guitars.  His name wasn’t Elvis, Les Paul, or C.F. Martin.  It wasn’t even Justin Bieber or Joe Satriani.  Nope.  He was just a guy playing a gas-can guitar on the streets of a country on a continent far away.  He didn’t have, at least as far as I could tell, throngs of fans.  Just his stool and a little shop.

And the sound he produced was incredible.  Amazing.  I stood in front of the exhibit and waited for the screen to cycle a few times so I could listen again.  I called my friends over and they were stunned as well.  In fact, that fascination resonated throughout many of the exhibits.  Regular people like you and me, living regular lives, had a unique opportunity to showcase their talents, and now they are on display at MIM for all to marvel.

I could be wrong, but for them, just like you and me, I’m guessing these opportunities don’t come around that often….

The galleries started to close around 5 (yes, 5 on a Saturday), and I made my way to the instrument encounter area.  On the wall hung some Martin guitars.  My friend and I tried to tune them, in vain, and instead watched all the little kids banging on drums, xylophones, and other various instruments that have seen the hands of thousands of would-be performers.  These children were having the best time.  To the adults, it was a cacophony of noise.  But for the kids?  Well, their “noise” might as well have been a symphony to their own ears.

I smiled.  Was I witnessing the birth of the next Paul McCartney?  Paul Simon?  Would that boy and girl banging bongos be a new Fleetwood Mac?  Are these musical references pinning a date on me?

I went about my day after that.  Finished out the evening in a rainstorm on a cold, blustery night unlike any I’ve seen this year.  Watched some football.  Had some pizza.  Got back to the business of a life outside the Musical Instrument Museum.

But before I turned in, I opened up my own guitar case and pulled out my Simon & Patrick 6-string acoustic…a guitar that has brought me so much joy, wherein I have felt the chill of music rolling up and down my spine that the folks on the video screens at MIM likely felt in their own way in their own countries in their own rooms.  In the quiet of the night, I noted that it wasn’t the most expensive guitar in the shop, and I don’t play it with the greatest aplomb.  Nope.  I’m just nobody-in-particular plucking out nothing special to no one at all.

But then I remembered that we didn’t have time to look in one more gallery at MIM—a room of famous performers.  As I held my guitar on my lap I smiled, because when I peeked into that gallery on my way out, I remember seeing all these “famous” names of rock, pop, jazz, and soul.  People whose talents were just as good as the “anonymous” Cuban trio in the Cuba exhibit, the Inuit drummers in the U.S./Canada exhibit, and, yes, the gas-can guitarist from Congo.

I laid my guitar lovingly back in its case and shut the light. That night, my head was full of musical dreams of a different kind.  Far from YouTube fame and the desire for throngs of fans were simpler themes—not the least of which was the hope that one day, I would be able to find that guy in Africa, hear him play a private concert on the street, and buy one of his gas-can guitars.

A Quiet Evening With a Guitar and Ian Tyson’s “Circle Game” Comes ‘Round To Cremation…

So, I’m sitting at my computer with my guitar in my hands.  I’m learning a favorite Ian Tyson song called Circle Game and really feeling good about myself.  It’s a song about the cycles of life and the passing of time.  My hands hurt and I have that satisfying burn in my wrist from hitting the Bm chord.  (Okay, maybe not satisfying, but certainly burning).

And then, just as I’m reflecting on “burn” and this song of the moving of life, I see an old envelope on my desk that I have been ignoring.  I set my guitar back in the case and slit the thing open — it’s an offer for a pre-paid cremation.  That’s right.  A nice, cream-colored strip of paper with flowers all down the side, reminding me that now is the time to book my cremation.


Right now!

And here I thought I’d spend the evening watching a movie and picking at a sweet roll left over from some something or other.  But no.  Apparently, I’m supposed to be planning my demise.

Now, I’m certainly not afraid of death.  I mean, I’m not actively searching for it or anything, but it’s not something I lay awake at night fearing.  Nevertheless, there’s something unsettling about receiving an offer in the mail to plan my cremation.  And, yes, I understand that the good people of this company say that I am under NO obligation (they emphasized the “NO”), but still…

Anyway, I have my ideas about what happens when I leave here.  Heck, I have my ideas about what to do while I’m still here.  But as for right now?  Well, right now, I’m not sure I have a whole heckuva lotta ideas about how to plan for the exit.  I always figured it would be a conversation for my future wife and me.  We’d sit together at the table, mugs of green tea and a plate of stale cookies between us, and sort of pour over the documents and options.  Maybe we’d even have some input from some spiritual-type folks.

I don’t know.  I just never thought I would make such an important decision based on a mailer.

Do you have your plans set?  What are you going to do?  Did you have a healthy conversation with family and friends, or did you just cast your lot in with the U.S. Postal Service?

I think I’m going to go get that sweet roll and watch a good comedy.  It’s Thursday, it was a good day, and I want sweet dreams.

As for death?  Well, hopefully I’ll master that Ian Tyson’s Circle Game first.

Changing My Simon & Patrick Guitar Strings Changed My Perspective

So, today I decided to try something new.

Uh oh.

No, but it really was something new and (to me) interesting.

Ready?  Here it comes: I changed my guitar strings all by my lonesome.


I jumped in the car and made the rounds through the city, picking up some woodwind bore oil and a stringer-thingy and came home to settle down in front of my Simon & Patrick steel-string acoustic.

First, I loosened the…no, wait…first, I got on YouTube and found a great video on how to change guitar strings.  THEN, I loosed the strings and plucked ’em off.  Once that was completed, I took some steel wool and buffed the frets (it’s not as sexy as it sounds).  Next, I oiled the fret board with the bore oil and got it looking all shiny.  And then, it was time.

I took out the strings and sorted them by size.  One by one I strung the Simon & Patrick until I got to the “D” string and…*SNAP!*

That’s a sinking feeling, by the way.  Not the end of the world by any means, but a sinking feeling nonetheless.

I jumped in the car (again) and made the rounds (again) through the city.  I had to find a replacement “D” string so that I could play today.   I was on a quest.  A QUEST, I say!  I actually ended up buying a whole new set of strings that weren’t exactly like the new ones I was stringing with.  I didn’t want to, but I didn’t really have a choice.  I headed home with that new pack of strings and settled back down in front of the ol’ guitar.

I tore open the new pack and pulled out the fresh “D” string.  As I progressed through the other strings, I painfully realized that this was, indeed, my first time stringing a guitar.  I actually broke two more strings on this odyssey and thank goodness I had that new fresh pack.  I had reserves!  I hadn’t planned on a new pack, but…

After some twisting, tweaking, and testing, I got it right.  These new strings are much richer and deeper, as opposed to the brighter tone I had before, but y’know?  It’s nice to have variety.

So now the day is done.  I have a guitar with six new strings and a good sound.  I played some of my personal standards and really put the ol’ Simon & Patrick through its paces.

All in all, it took me around four hours to do a task that the guy on YouTube did in 13 minutes.

Okay, so I don’t have a future in guitar stringing.  But I do have some things from this experience — I have a sense of personal satisfaction as I play the strings I personally strung.  I have the satisfaction of a job well done.  And, I have yet more proof that sometimes we make an unplanned purchase that fits neatly into plans we never expected (thank goodness for those extra strings!).

A hobby is a diversion, yes.  But it’s also a time to focus and invest.  Sometimes there’s work involved, but if it’s a labor of love, then all the snapped strings in the world won’t dampen the spirit.

Next time you want to change your guitar strings, do yourself a favor — don’t compare yourself to the guy on YouTube.  Just follow his advice and take as long as you need.  Enjoy the experience.  Be in the moment and look forward to the reward.  In fact, next time you do anything important, remember that.

I’m gonna go play a little.