Feast Your Eyes (and Guard Your Wallet)

I went to the mall today with my wife, Renee and our younger son, Caleb. Our primary purpose was to pick up a ring my wife had to have repaired. Caleb and I were fine with that because it allowed us to look at some beautiful men’s watches. I gave Caleb tips about fashion and function as it pertained to picking out such a fine watch. I wanted to make Caleb’s eyes bug out by showing him how much these watches cost on average. Unfortunately, I was unable to do so. Apparently, all of these watches were on hold for someone. I know this because right where they usually put the price, they had apparently put someone’s phone number (including the area code and country code). My wife picked up her ring then helped Caleb and me recover from our agape astonishment. This took a couple of minutes as Caleb and I kept pointing to the price tags on the watches and asking each other in unison: ARE YOU SERIOUS?
As we proceeded to go from store to store looking at this, that, and the other; we passed by numerous kiosks. This is roughly equivalent to having a county fair barker in the middle of the mall. There were people offering to give me piercings (no thanks), sell me a cell phone (no thanks), or sell me tickets to a Chinese acrobatic performance (that actually sounded pretty cool but maybe next time). I even got to witness something I had never seen before. There was a kiosk that demonstrated a woman getting an eyebrow threading. I saw the sign for this and got the image in my head of a woman (somehow) willingly getting her eyebrows sutured. However, it is apparently a grooming technique for women. I can only describe it by saying it’s kind of like mowing your lawn with dental floss but only slightly less time consuming.
It was at this point that I needed to go to the men’s room. This required me to pass through the food court. This made me glad that I had already eaten before I got to the mall. My eyes and nose were taunted by aromas and advertisements of tacos, cookies, Chinese dishes, burgers, and enormous slices of pizza. Any of these selections come with a beverage in a container so large, you could flush a camel’s kidney’s in less than two minutes. I find the offering of a beverage that size to be downright cruel because they offer this to a person then make them walk nearly a quarter mile to the nearest restroom.
I met up with my wife and son then we continued browsing.  We ogled overpriced sneakers, eyeballed expensive books, and peeked at t-shirts pushing a premium price. Again, it was a nice way to spend an afternoon. If I wasn’t already broke before I got to the mall, I surely would have been by the time I left.

Harmonic Happiness

I have always enjoyed music from as far back as I can remember. I enjoy many different styles of music: rock, southern gospel, country (especially the older stuff), classical, blues. With very few exceptions, the one thing that ties my love of the genres together is the role of the guitar. The guitar is not just a beautiful, expressive, and versatile instrument. For me, the guitar is the primary element that makes a musician look cool and makes a song sound cool. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Marty Robbins falling in love with a Mexican girl, Stevie Ray Vaughan walking a tightrope, or the Everly Brothers trying to wake a girl at 4 AM (some 25 or 6 minutes after Chicago was searching for something to say), there would be a serious void without those strummed strings in the mix.

I have had a guitar around the house since I was about 13. My Dad would hang with his friends and sing old country and western songs. My Dad has even written a few songs over the years. It amazed me to watch my Dad strum those chords and sing songs like “Long Black Veil” or “Because He Lives”. I, on the other hand, would sit in my room and struggle with that open C chord. One day, I finally got that chord to ring clear with no thudded notes. I then learned G, F (that was a toughie), D, E, A, and even a couple of minor chords. Some time after, I was not only playing along with my Dad, I was learning songs by Paul Simon, Bob Seger, and the Everly Brothers. I would even, on occasion, plug in, crank my amplifier, and bang out some power chords. In my mind, I was the next Paul Stanley. In reality, it only resulted in the windows vibrating and the neighbor’s dog contemplating suicide.

I am now into my forties. My 70 watt amp is gone as well as the Les Paul I got at 17 (it was stolen 2 years later). I still have a very beat up late 1930’s Gibson L-00 acoustic that my father gave me. Unfortunately, due to a nasty case of tendinitis (especially in my left hand) and the guitar’s very wide neck, it is very difficult to play for more than 10 minutes at a time before the pain gets too bad to play. As a result, I am very out of practice and my older son is a better player than I was at his age. Nonetheless, I still pick up that old guitar and I start playing the chords to “Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground”. I never get tired of that song or playing those chords. Still, it does get heartbreaking sometimes that I can’t play it for hours as I did when I was younger. I am sure, at some point, I will invest in another guitar that is a bit friendlier to my wrists. In the meantime, I just grin and bear it as I struggle with that nasty B7 chord.

This past Christmas, I got some really nice gifts. I got some rubber ducks to add to my collection. I got some DVDs of “30 Rock” (I love that show). In addition to these, I got a really cool gift from my older daughter. She got me a set of harmonicas in 7 keys. She told me that this would allow me to play something that would not be so hard on my wrists. As a result, I have been scouring the Internet for online lessons and tabs. So far, I have been practicing songs like “Love Me Do” and “Amazing Grace”. Maybe over time, I can learn the harmonica part for “Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground”. At this point, however, I could have sworn I saw one of my cats updating his will.