A month or so later I was chatting with my coworker at my job, (The one who’s a musician and knows more about guitars and rock than I do) and he and one of the other guys, (Who’s the drummer in a local band called, Mesh) and they told me I should visit Dipinto Guitars up on Girard Avenue in Fishtown. I decided that on one of my epic walking tours around the city, I’d stop in there and check it out. They both said it was a great store and the owner was really cool.
A month or so went by and it was one of the rare warm days, and I was off and decided to make the journey up to the store. I went in and met the owner. I introduced myself and gave him a little of my history. This store was probably the best music store I had set foot inside in Philly. He had lots of great guitars, basses, and amps around the store. He had a nice collection of vintage instruments and effects pedals.
I had been out walking for a few hours and asked if I could use his bathroom. He obliged and took me to the back room that led to a flight of stairs to the basement.
Even this guy’s bathroom was cool.
Just the coolest bathroom in Philly by far. It was like stepping into my past 40 years ago when I owned a few of those posters and rock band mirrors that I had won on the boardwalk in Wildwood as a teenager!
We chatted about his history and it was quite impressive. He’s played in several bands throughout the years and still played locally when he could. He also made and customized his own line of instruments. Like Paul McCartney and Jimi Hendrix, Mr. DiPinto is a lefty. He’s supplied guitars to some other left-handed guitarists over the years. He’s also built and sold guitars for several other famous musicians, like David Bowie, Jack White, Elliot Easton, Rick Neilson, Dick Dale, Kurt Vile, and LA Guns.
Mr. DiPinto played in a band called Wastoid and opened for Judas Priest at The Electric Factory back in the early 2000s and I told him I saw his band because I was at that show!
I also noticed he had a nice collection of vintage effects pedals in a glass case under the counter. So overall this was a very cool store run by a really talented industrious guy. Most of us musicians at one time had the dream of making it big and being a famous rockstar but this man has definitely had a taste of that and now runs a successful business. So good for him!
We chatted a bit more trading stories and I wandered around the store looking for the next instrument that would maybe light me up. I really liked some of the guitars he had made himself because they all had a unique surf-rock vibe to them and had some interesting lines and aspects about them.
He has some regular stuff like these Squiers and Strats…
Some crazy heavy metal type guitars… (very cool and flashy but I already have a cool guitar. I want something that’s nothing like my Iceman.
Here are a few of his custom-made designs. Bright, fun colors with classic vintage 1960s retro lines. Those groups of 4 dots are little buttons/switches you can hit with your fingers to change the sound. They control which pickups are on or off at any time. Looks cool, but in my opinion, less is more on a guitar. Still… they’re really nice guitars. But the biggest point that would stop me from buying one would be the price. They’re custom-made. They’re going to be expensive. Most are over $1000, so I won’t be getting one of those.
But there was this one guitar that was hanging up on the wall that really caught my eye. Not so much by its red color, but the way it looked and its pedigree.
That one… second from the left with the black pickguard.
It was a Tokai which is one of several Japanese guitar makers. I don’t think they make that model anymore. It’s a used 38 Special from around 1984. I liked how it was in decent shape, had a cool body, and was from around the period when the Iceman was born.
He let me take it down from the wall and play it a bit. It played just like my Iceman but was different in appearance. It was vintage and a rare guitar. You don’t really see these models anymore. I don’t know anything about the guitar’s history but it had been taken care of. Good shape, some dings here and there, and almost no buckle rash on the back.
But here’s the thing… the guitar was over $300 and a 30-year-old instrument. Another thing that struck me was that the volume and tone knobs on it were gold in color. They looked out of place. They appeared to be the knobs from a gold top Gibson Les Paul. Why were they gold, and why were they on this guitar? What else isn’t original on this guitar?
I looked up the model later on the internet and all of the pictures I saw had black knobs that looked more appropriate for this type of guitar. I know this may seem like a small detail for an old used guitar, but I think if I purchased it I’d never be happy with it. They just looked out of place.
But it was still a cool guitar and out of all of the guitars I’d looked at and played over the last three years this one did speak to me for several reasons. The shape, the color, the vintage and it played like my own guitar. So this guitar became the frontrunner in my musical quest. But I still had a slight problem with the knobs, the age, and the condition of the guitar. Oh, and $300+ for an old guitar that wasn’t one of the famous brands, sort of left me a bit cold. But, I’m sure if I had really shown interest in buying it, Mr. DiPinto would have replaced the knobs for me.
I told him I liked the axe but I’d have to sleep on it. Years ago I was a bit reckless with my money. I was compulsive in many aspects of my life and my youth. But as I’ve aged I’ve gone the other way. I’m super thrifty now. I don’t make impulsive decisions about anything anymore. Although I’m the same man I’ve always been in spirit and heart, I’ve literally gone in the opposite direction in my personal life. My core traits and talents remain but I’m different now. I rarely drink alcohol, no longer smoke cigarettes, eat nutritious food every day, and keep myself in healthy shape through proper diet and exercise. I’m no longer a young guy anymore. I’ve finally matured and take care of myself rather than feed my compulsive needs with frivolous things.
But I’m still a bit shallow when it comes to beautiful things. I love beauty. If the guitar doesn’t please me visually I’m not interested in it. I think the same thing goes for my romantic life. I’m 60 years old. I’m out of the game. I don’t have a girlfriend, and I no longer date or even want to date anyone. I like being alone. I want to come and go as I please and not answer to anyone. I don’t want to be responsible for anyone else’s happiness but my own. It just wouldn’t be fair.
The type of woman I like and am attracted to all want to get married and have kids. I’m way past that. It wouldn’t be fair for me to get involved with a beautiful younger woman because she’ll eventually want those things. Don’t get me wrong, I totally understand it, but it wouldn’t be fair to her to be involved with me. So although I’ve enjoyed all the love and romance that has filled my past, I’m just done with it now.
I know it may sound a little shallow or picky, but if the old Tokai is a little worn and doesn’t have the right knobs on it, I just don’t really want to blow $300 plus tax on something that doesn’t please me every day. I need to feel that thing that Eric at the pawn shop told me about.
I was about to leave the store after having a lovely hour with Mr. DiPinto and his wonderful store when something caught my eye.
Over on the back wall were several guitar straps hanging together. But there was one in particular that I had never seen in real life.
Yes… the long-lost black guitar strap with the lightning bolt on it!
I maybe saw one once in Gilday’s music up in Northfield NJ back in 1980, or maybe in a rock magazine somewhere but I haven’t seen one in real life for a very long time. I always thought it would be the perfect strap for the Iceman to complete my look but I never could get my hands on one.
But here it was hanging on the wall among a variety of different types of straps. I walked over and touched it feeling a connection to the item. I could smell the leather as I checked the price tag.
$70! What? $70? for a strap? That seems outrageous. I told Mr. DiPinto the story about how I always wanted one and he told me I should get it. He makes his living selling things in his store and I really want to support local businesses but $70 seems like way too much for me to spend on a guitar strap. As much as that item means to me from a teenage fantasy perspective I can’t fathom spending that much on something like that.
So I left the store and thanked him for his time and told him I’d seriously think about the Tokai .38 Special.
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