I’m sure by now everybody’s sick of reading this series. But I’m working on the Wildwood book right now and the blog is on autopilot since last year. Don’t worry readers, the best is yet to come in 2023 in this blog. I’m grateful to everyone that still reads and enjoys Phicklephilly.
More time went by and the winter dragged on. It’s been really cold this season but maybe I’m just getting older. I used to be like a big generator when I was young. I was always warm and actually ran a little hot. I was the one who would give his gloves to his friend because their hands were cold. I was always warm. Not sweaty… just a well-heated core.
But as I’ve gotten older I find I really can’t tolerate the cold weather. I guess that’s why old people move to Florida. They just can’t take the cold winters in the Northeast.
I was out on one of my usual epic walking tours around the city and decided to stop back into a few music stores. I went back to Bluebond Guitars on 4th Street.
This time there was no young lady, only a couple of guys my age working there. I’m assuming one of them was the owner. I looked up at the guitars hanging from the wall and the black Ibanez Gio was gone. Hopefully, some teenage kid got it and was learning to rock. I didn’t feel any remorse because I guess I just wasn’t that into that instrument.
The guy asked me what I was looking for and I told him I had a ’79 Ibanez Iceman and just wanted a cheap guitar I could bang around on and play on a regular basis. He ends up taking a black semi-hollow-bodied Guild guitar off the wall with an $800 price tag on it.
So in that instance, I realized this guy wasn’t listening to me and had no interest in selling me a budget guitar. If I was too cheap to even spend $70 on a long-lost guitar strap there’s no way I’m spending $800 on a guitar. I don’t even want that type! I don’t really know what I want but it’s not that. All I can think of is a solid body, good shape, and lightweight. That’s it. Just something simple that isn’t the Iceman and maybe gives me a different sound and tone.
So I leave and head over to the pawn shop again. I stuck my head inside the shambles of a store and said hello to Eric. Boxes and gear are everywhere and the guys behind the counter appear to be hustling products from the store out on eBay.
I told him I was still looking and hadn’t found the guitar that would light me up yet. He told me to keep looking and at some point, I would know.
I feel like I’ve been on this quest for years now. I’ve been missing the musical part of me now more than ever but have been very content creating my blog and books. I think as long as there’s some creative avenue I can travel down I’m fine. I feel best when I’m creating but I want to begin to split that off between writing and music. Since the blog only publishes once a week now, I should have more time to put my energy into some other creative subjects.
My next stop was back to South Street Sounds. I stopped in and spoke with the owner again. I looked around the store and again told him about my quest. I also asked him about his guitar lessons.
I’m self-taught. I learned how to play guitar by listening to my records and learning the songs by ear. I hear the notes and replicate them on the neck of the guitar. I can only imagine what a musician I could have been had I gotten proper lessons as a child. But that’s another story.
He said he could give me lessons but would want to see what my skill level was before we began. He also told me he would set up any lessons around my schedule. He would only charge me $25 per lesson which seemed like a good deal. I figured even the best ballerinas take a class every day. You can always learn something from a more experienced player. I figured since I never took any real guitar lessons, that maybe if I learned some new things from a teacher I could improve my technique and master the instrument.
It should come to me naturally because I already have all the basics in my head and hands. I can play. I’ve been in a few bands. I can write songs but I would just like to be a better musician. Maybe learn some new blues runs or some cool leads. Maybe some new songs I always liked but never learned how to play. Maybe the reason I haven’t been playing much in the last few years is that I haven’t learned anything new in decades. I just keep playing the same old songs and riffs. Maybe learning some new things would reinvigorate my interest in playing.
When I began my musical journey back in the 70s I was always learning. Every experience was a learning curve. There were always new songs to learn, and write and repertoires to build for the bands I was in. This could be what’s missing from my life now.
I love learning new things. Learning is fun. But for many people, learning is associated with school, which I hated as a kid. I felt that the whole experience was a waste of time. It was just some person regurgitating a bunch of facts about things that had already been created and written by others and we had to memorize them and be tested on them. Nonsense to me. There was almost no place for creativity in school. Just memory stuff and math. I get the math part to an extent but how many times have you needed algebra in your adult life?
I liked science, English, and music class because I felt like there were elements that I could learn. But other than that school was just a prison I had to do my time until I could be released.
I think that’s why in the last couple of years I’ve stopped everything I once did in Philly over the last decade. I don’t go to bars anymore. I don’t go to happy hour anymore. I don’t have a girlfriend or hang out with a gaggle of hot young women at events. That all seems boring and a waste of time now. What can I possibly learn from an attractive 28-year-old beauty? Nothing. She has nothing to offer me but her youth and beauty. I’ve always loved those things but have no interest in pursuing them anymore. Some of it may be due to my age, (which is a relief!) but I just don’t see the sense in it anymore. I’d rather write, work, and watch my shows on Netflix. Just focus on my exercise, health, and creativity.
But I know I still hold certain traits that have been held over from my former self. I still love beautiful things and have an eye for lovely women. But now I love them from afar. I can’t be bothered getting involved with anyone now because I enjoy the simplicity of my life. I suppose because I’ve faced so much drama in my personal life over the years I’m just done with it all.
But I still feel for the beauty of life. I just don’t want any of that in a person. Maybe it’s still alive in me but in another form. Not for a young pretty woman, but for something I can possess that will bring me a similar dopamine joy. Something that won’t hurt or betray me. An instrument I can create something fun and beautiful through without involving another person’s wants or needs. Maybe an inanimate object that I can bring to life that I don’t have to text every day to reassure it I love it. Perhaps something I can develop along with. Maybe that thing has been with me all along and I’ve just been too busy working and dating pretty women to bother with.
Maybe a new, pretty guitar will be my paragon. Maybe that’s what I need. Not a girl, but a guitar. It’s so much simpler. I can be whoever I want around a guitar. I can bring my own joy forth through the instrument without the nonsense. Only good will spring forth from my heart and into my fingers on her strings.
I’m not cheating on the Iceman. I’m just spreading the genes around the musical community.
I run it over in my head again… just to reassure myself. (This is a combat mechanism I’ve installed in my brain to combat anxiety and depression.)
This makes sense why I need to do this now. Maybe I’ll replace all the women and drama in my life with a guitar. I’ve cut loose all of the crazy, toxic people from my life. I barely drink anymore. I eat right and exercise. I think I’m happier than I’ve ever been in my whole life. I’ve beaten all of my vices, crazies, and booze are gone. I’ve conquered my anxiety and depression. It took me most of my life to do it, but it’s nice to finally be free of all of that pain. It’s been an arduous journey but I’ve been able to spank all of my demons and make them pay. I’ve forgiven everyone, and I no longer worry about all of the nonsense most people do. I enjoy living a simple and uncluttered life. This is now an elegant balance I’ve finally been able to accomplish after a lifetime of struggle and anguish.
But despite the ups and downs, I’ve had a good time. It’s been an exciting and colorful life.
How many people do you know who’ve had the blessing to be able to fall in love multiple times?
The rush of new love balanced with the pain and suffering of loss makes you a more complete person.
I’m sure it’s great to meet that one person, get married, and stay with them forever. But that never made sense to me. It’s just not something that was ever right for me. Good for the people that can do it, but I like being free and alone. The next love or adventure is just up around the next bend. It’s been an action-packed trip. I don’t know how most people stay in the same marriage and job their whole lives. Maybe it’s the fear of the alternative. Most people don’t like change or being alone. I dig both. I suppose if you’ve lived in a body that’s constantly wracked with anxiety and depression, any outer changes are just hills you climb to get out from under it on a daily basis.
There’s a certain joy you learn from being free and alone to do what you want, when you want, and not answer to anyone.
Love and attraction occur automatically in homo sapiens. Marriage and monogamy are RULES. There are no rules in the way the heart. The heart wants what it wants. Once you put a price tag on anything beautiful, it’s ruined.
I walked around the store and looked at their latest batch of instruments that hung from the walls.
My eyes suddenly stopped on one particular guitar hanging there among the others.
It was like walking through Spruce Street Harbor Park on a summer evening. The place is full of people. It’s dusk and not quite dark yet. Lanterns hang from the trees and people are sitting on the grass, and lying in hammocks. Music and laughter fill the air as people eat and drink as they celebrate the warm weather of the evening. I walk along the path with a friend sipping a beverage when I encounter a group of women. They’re all standing together looking lovely.
But there’s that one in the group who stands out from the others. The best one. The obvious queen of the group. There’s something about her that makes her shine a bit brighter than the rest. That’s when I saw Sarala for the first time.
I said to my friend… “I have to meet her.”
That was what I saw on the wall at the music store that day.
I think I found the guitar I want.
To be continued next Tuesday…
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JUST WHEN YOU THOUGHT IT WAS SAFE TO GO BACK IN THE WATER…
COMING THIS SUMMER
The long-awaited book about what it was like spending every summer in Wildwood, New Jersey in the 70s!