Thursday, April 4, 2013


I recently finished a conversation that was begun in 1969.  It wasn't an actual conversation with words but it has been a thought that has gone in and out of my head many times since then.

A little background:

I was playing music with some friends...Bid, Meg and Michele...back in 1969.  I was the guitarist, principal songwriter and one of three vocalists, Meg and Michele being the others.  Bid played bongos and then mandolin.  We were called "Charing Cross."

I had a Goya G-13, nylon string acoustic guitar at the time and everyone agreed that it wasn't loud enough for gigs.  I had never played a steel string nor could I use a pick worth a damn.

But one day some guy, who was somewhat peripheral to our crowd, let it be known that he wanted to sell his guitar, allegedly to buy some pot.  He wanted $125.00 for it and it came with a hard shell case.

I borrowed the money from my father (yes, I eventually paid him back...very eventually) and bought a 1967 Martin 00-18.

The tuning machines had been replaced with Grovers and it was missing the pick guard but I didn't care.  I had a loud guitar and I was cookin'!

I intended to replace the pick guard but had to wait to accumulate enough money.  In the mean time I carefully put masking tape over the pick guard's outline so as to give the bare wood some protection.  I painstakingly cut around the outline to make it neat and pretty.

Years went by.  10,20,30...40!  The guitar had been everywhere with me.  All over this country and to Europe as well.  It had played on the stage at Lincoln Center and New York City's Town Hall.  It had performed in the Paris Metro and recorded in Fred Hellerman's studio.  Fred Hellerman produced Arlo Guthrie's "Alice's Restaurant.  It had jammed with Jimmie Spheeris and the late Gus Hardin. 

It wrote a song that appeared in the film"Deterence", starring Kevin Pollack, the jingle for the Schlotzsky Sandwich Shops and it appeared on the stage at Joseph Papp's Public Theatre in Cryer and Ford's "I'm Getting My Act Together and Taking it On The Road."

In short it helped me write hundreds of songs, including a lullaby for my daughter and a love song for my wife.  This axe has been around!

But one thing had always nagged at me.  Where had she come from?  What was her provenance?  There was no way of knowing.

Then one day I was playing my guitar on my front stoop during a Saturday tag sale and a guy approached me and said, "I know that guitar.  That used to be mine!"  It was the guy from 1969 who had sold it to me.

Hurray!  Mystery solved.  I had traced my guitar's origins.  I could sleep.

Which I did and soundly at that.

And then, the other day the most remarkable thing happened.  I had gone into a local music store to buy a capo for my daughter who is a burgeoning singer/songwriter/guitarist.  I recently bought her her first guitar at a tag sale...a Takamine "Lawsuit" for $50 with hard case.  It's referred to as a "Lawsuit" guitar because Martin sued because the Takamine was an exact copy of the...00-18...right down to the font style of the logo.  In fact, from the street, I thought I was looking at a Martin in that
tag sale!

Any way...after buying the capo I asked the clerk if his luthier worked on Martins because mine needs a neck and bridge reset.

We started to chat and he asked me what Martin I had.  I told him and added that it was somewhat distinctive and recounted the tag sale story about the guy who recognized my guitar after seeing the Grovers and the, still, lack of pick guard (the masking tape long ago melted into the wood protecting it forever...)

The clerk's face went ashen.  He looked like he was going to faint.  I grew concerned.  Was this guy going to keel over in front of me right right on the spot?!

Then I found out why he had turned so pale.

He had been the original owner of my guitar having sold it to the tag sale guy all those years ago!

I was floored.  This was one of those "small world" things that happens and makes you feel like your life isn't that bad after all.  Unbelievable!

I told him I'd bring it by sometime and he said that if I ever wanted to sell it to tell him first.

He shouldn't hold his breath.  I will leave it to my daughter after I'm gone but if I had to I'd put it in the fireplace before I would part with it.

My 1967 Martin 00-18 is my prized possession.  Nothing else is as important to me as that guitar.  It has been with me through almost every important event of my life and has earned me money, love and a sense of inspiration and satisfaction like no other thing I've ever had.

So...full circle...

Life goes on.  But my guitar is no longer an adopted orphan.  She has a past and I know all of it.

From Nazareth to Madison...through New York and Paris and San Francisco and beyond...and behind me for almost every song I've ever written or ever sung.

End of story.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Thrill(er) is Gone

Now comes the news we've eagerly anticipated for a few years now.

There's going to be another Michael Jackson trial. Whoop-de-doo..

I don't know about you but I can't not watch it on television.

Jeeeezuz, Mary and Joseph...Joseph Jackson that is.  By all accounts, Michael Jackson's childhood was dysfunctional at best.  There have been accusations that his father was abusive.  We know he didn't grow up in a particularly normal way because his childhood unfolded before our adoring and then prying eyes.

The kid couldn't catch a break.  First he was a black teenager and then, miraculously, he was somewhat white.

He had a stereotypical African-American nose and then he had a stereotypical White Anglo Saxon Protestant nose.  A few of them actually.

Then his best friend was a monkey, then Elizabeth Taylor, then the little boy next door.

Michael Jackson was one of the most talented performers the world has ever seen...and one of the weirdest.

Fine, we know all of that.  But he's dead now so why can't we just let him rest in peace?

Because, as we learned from the late great Elvis Presley, celebrity can live on forever and reap millions and millions of dollars for those interested in capitalizing on their relationship with the dearly departed.

Yoko Ono, Priscilla and Lisa-Marie Presley, countless Kennedys, they all trade on the name of their dead family member.

The Jackson family seems to be no different.  They are bringing a wrongful death suit against Michael's promoter  and hope to win in the millions, if not billions.  Quincy Jones may even testify as to what he thinks Michael Jackson would have earned had he lived and performed longer.

The naked greed of these people is astonishing.  They claim to have a love for, and to miss, whomsoever but what they really want is money.  They suggest that the money will go to the children but you have to ask yourself "how much money does a person need?"

Michael Jackson, the same guy who bought the Beatles catalogue...yeah, yeah, yeah, those Beatles and that catalogue...was worth a fortune when he died and he left that fortune to his kids and, presumably, the rest of his family.

So once again the airwaves will be full of quotes and analyses and conjecture and courtroom drama.

OJ, Casey Anthony and yes, even Michael Jackson, were the subject of these big trials.  There will be gavel to gavel 24/7 coverage and careers will be made.

For my part, I expect to tune it out, kick back with a brewsky and listen to one of my favorite songs, so aptly named, it's scary...

"Beat it...!"

Monday, April 1, 2013

A Pound of Flesh

There's a fat chance that I won't weigh in on such a heavy subject as obesity.

So here goes...

I am, like about a gazillion other people, struggling with my weight. I am older now and I'm not as active, nor do I eat properly.  I'm not fat.  I've got "a few extra pounds..."

My favorite foods include every single thing you're not supposed to eat with the exception of bananas, all fish, excluding calamari, brussel sprouts (Is it Brussels Prouts which begs the question... is it a misspelling of Proust, who I thought was French, but could have, ancestrally, been Belgian and loved miniature cabbage, so they named the vegetable after him?  But then it would have been cabbage instead of Madeleines and the history of literature would have been irrevocably changed forever. I have no idea. Comment if you do...I'd love to now the truth...)

I love all cheese, chocolate, bread, pasta, ice cream, M&Ms.  You get the idea.  I'm a junkie.

I try to eat responsibly, I really do.  Tea instead of coffee.  Honey instead of white sugar.  Greek yogurt instead of ice cream.  An apple instead of a cookie. Tuna instead of ham.

But I fall hard off the dietary wagon with regularity.

I'll go weeks, if not months, eating the stuff that's good for me and rejecting the stuff that isn't.

And then I'll be somewhere and there will be a doughnut or a dish of jelly beans or potato chips and onion dip...and I'm finished. Finished I tell ya..!

I justify the indulgence by telling myself that I've been religious over the recent past and I can have one whatever and the world won't come to an end.  What's one GD doughnut within the context of weeks and months of almond milk, Quinoa pasta and carob?

Nothing.  A mere speck of reckless abandon on an, otherwise, unblemished canvas of nutritional purity.

Yeah...right!  If you believe that one I'd like to talk to you about some credit default swaps that I recently heard about.

Can you say crash!

That's what really happened in 1929 and 2007.  We were doing the fiscally responsible thing and then we had one lapse.  Just one little foray into the Wall Street Pastry Emporium.

Poof! Years of weight loss and good behavior gone in the blink of a Boston Crème doughnut.

So...sit back, relax, open another jar of Pringles and weight (sic) for the losing (sic) bell.

And the vocal stylings of Lower Manhattan's singing sensation, Fannie Mae, known the world over as "The Fat Lady."

Oh...and that's the sound of the Treasury's ambulance you hear.  And they're packin' a defib...