South End Second String Band

Posted in pictures worth maybe not a thousand words on September 23rd, 2017 by skeeter


My Guitar Gently Weeps

Posted in rantings and ravings on September 23rd, 2017 by skeeter

Awhile back I took my little six string guitar into the shop up north to have some work done on it. My guitbox looks like it was on the losing side of the last War, missing perfling, broken neck up at the top fixed not by a luthier but by a medic with epoxy, odd bridge, ragged scar on the spruce top, break in the tuning head. When I came back a week later to pick her up, the entire backroom of repair luthiers came out with her. “What’s the story with the guitar,” they asked, not quite in unison.

As always, there’s a story….

I had an irascible buddy whose girlfriend had bought a few stained glass pieces from me and would ‘pay me later’. When I brought it up to them a year later, Bill went ballistic, called me a greedhead and drove away after Marge told him I was correct, they did owe me for those windows.

A few years later she came down with terminal cancer so I ended up on hospice duty. Which meant a small rapprochment with Bill. A couple months after Marge died, he stopped by my shack and handed me a moth eaten Persian rug and a guitar. “What’s this?” I asked and he told me it was payment for the glass. Not feeling like another knock-down drag-out fight, I simply accepted the ruined rug and the broken guitar. “What’s the story on the guitar?” I asked.

Turns out some guy had it up at the Pilchuck School of Glass, our little world-reknowned glass blowing headquarters just off island. They’re fairly infamous for their parties, wild bacchanalias of international instructors and rich kid students, and somehow this guitar had been leaning up against a wall, got knocked over by some drunken reveler who managed to step on its neck before falling directly on it, crushing the soundbox flat and breaking the neck in three places. Its owner next day brought it down to Bill to fix. Bill’s no luthier, but on the other hand, Bill was the kind of guy who could fix anything made of wood.

The owner, probably figuring no one could put that shattered jigsaw instrument back together, never came back. And since Bill didn’t play guitar, it sat in his shop for a decade or so. Until it got handed over to me. Inside its soundhole you can barely see the maker’s label, but when you do, it says Martin Guitar, Nazareth, PA. For you non-guitarists, Martin is the gold standard of early guitars in America. Mine, it turned out, was built in 1963 which means it was constructed of Brazilian rosewood before it got banned from import into this country. Brazilian rosewood is THE tonewood of tonewoods. And I have one of the last guitars made with Brazilian rosewood.

If you are of a certain age, you might remember a band from the 60’s called The Association. They wrote Along Comes Mary, Cherish, Windy, all kinds of hits back then. And when they recorded these or played them live, my little guitar was on stage or on the album. It says a great deal about Bill’s woodworking skills that this double ought-21 still plays, much less that it sounds beautiful, perfectly balanced from high string to low. You know, if someone other than me plays it, someone who knows his way around a guitar.

I think the boyz in the music shop knew that too. Too bad, they probably thought, that a certified luthier hadn’t done the repairs because now the little Martin might be worth a small fortune. Maybe so, but I’m not selling instruments and if I were, this would be the one I’d keep. Or like the song Cherish sez: I could say I need you but then you’d realize/ That I want you just like a thousand other guys.

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audio — lawnmowing the white house

Posted in audio versions ---- the talkies on September 22nd, 2017 by skeeter
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Lawnmowing the White House

Posted in rantings and ravings on September 21st, 2017 by skeeter

Talk about heartwarming stories! This kid, see, a white American boy, writes a letter to the White House how he mows lawns around his neighborhood and boy,howdy, would he ever love to mow the President’s grass. So the president’s staff seizes right on this as a photo op bonanza and invites the lad to come to D.C. and use the official pushmower while Donald walks alongside the 11 year old exclaiming how the entrepreneurial go-getter is the Future of America.

I listened yesterday to the Future of America explain how he was happy his letter would no doubt open up doors for his burgeoning enterprise. The future Warren Buffet wanted to charge his usual $8 but his folks talked him into doing it for free, no doubt a tax write-off. Call me cynical, I guess, because somehow I didn’t care for the idea of turning this into a publicity stunt. Give me a paper boy maybe delivering the dailies door to door. Give me a Kool-Aid stand on the sidewalk of my old neighborhood. But don’t tell me this kid is what I want for the Future of America, some pre-adolescent hustler who probably will, by the time he’s 14, be hiring illegal immigrants for his chain of landscaping services.

Don’t get me wrong. I give the kid some credit for mowing lawns at 11. I do wonder about his folks letting some tyke loose in the hood with a machine capable of chewing through his hundred dollar Nikes right into his barely formed feet. My dad wouldn’t let me near a mower until I was nearly out of high school. Said it was too dangerous for kids. I guess I think he had a point.

Donald, well, I doubt he cares about some kid’s toes. If I were a petty person, I’d ask if the White House filled out a W-2 for the kid, maybe a 1099. But I’m sure the Future of America probably works under the table.

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audio — an apple a day

Posted in audio versions ---- the talkies on September 20th, 2017 by skeeter
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An Apple A Day

Posted in rantings and ravings on September 19th, 2017 by skeeter

I don’t know about you, but I was sure glad that new Apple Phone finally hit the market and the hype can settle back down to normal settings. The CEO, Tim Cook, flattered himself that this was the Biggest Thing Since the Last Biggest Thing, a world changer, a revolutionary leap for mankind, a huge step toward personal insolvency for man. $1000 starting price. Well, actually, $999.99, keep a penny for a rainy day.

Tim sez the screen is border to border. Big! A game-changer. You plan to watch Gone with the Wind on it, Clark Gable will be about one inch tall. The Civil War will shrink to something slightly this side of monumental. Atlanta burning will look like a marshmallow roast for a couple of Girl Scouts. Tim mentioned how it will have facial recognition. Sweet! That’s gotta be worth a few hundred to feel like an actor in Star Trek. And apps, hoo-boy, it’s got room for some apps and plenty to spare.

I get that we’re a mobile society now. I watch folks in the grocery store checking their phone. I see people standing at the bus stop scrolling their e-mail. I hear guys in the stall next to me talking to clients who never imagine their caller is sitting pants down doing you know what. I know the kids would rather go naked into school than go without their smarty-phones. And I know I’m the last Luddite hold-out for not carrying a cellphone with me everywhere I go.

I gotta admit, when I buried my truck in the sand two days ago launching my rowboat down at the beach and began the long trek home, it would’ve been nice to just call up a neighbor to come and pick me up. But the walk did me good and believe me, the next day when I launched my boat I was a wee more cautious about driving onto the beach, learning — as usual — from the School of Hard Knocks. And yeah, I understand totally that the world wants to be hardwired together now , social media rules, privacy is dead, the virtual world is dominant and nobody gives a damn about some curmudgeon who walks the beach with his trousers rolled up and doesn’t carry a phone.

But Tim, ask yourself if this brave new phone, the revolutionary thousand buck computer-on-a-string, is going to make life better for us mere mortals. Or is it just another bump on your stock market valuation? And yeah, Tim, I know, you can’t call me to tell me which it is. My bad….

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audio — I’ve been Hacked!

Posted in audio versions ---- the talkies on September 18th, 2017 by skeeter
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I’ve Been Hacked!

Posted in rantings and ravings on September 17th, 2017 by skeeter

Well, okay, about a third of us in this country have been hacked. Social Security numbers, driver’s license, date of birth, all the necessary ingredients some crimninal in Belarus can sell to identity fraud specialists. I didn’t realize there were 3 or 4 companies that kept credit databases, much less 3 or 4 companies who were wide open to hackers. Silly me.

And here I was worried about Big Brother. The Damn Government, I mean, not Mark Zuckerberg. Turns out all of us are just one big happy data family, smooshed together in some internet Cloud that knows everything important about us. Now we’re sharing that information with hacker hoodlums. Swell. Just swell.

Back in the dark days of the 1970’s I lived with a bunch of freewheeling yahoos in Seattle and Gomorrah who majored in various studies at the University of Washington, but spent most of their time experimenting with drug abuse of various sorts ranging from hash oil production to laughing gas theft. They grew pot and they raised psilocybin mushrooms. They scored opiated hashish and they drank legal whisky. The place we lived in was a veritable criminal operation. ‘Honest, Officer, I only rent a room here.’

On our bulletin board we had a Social Security card pinned up. Ralph Speidel. The kidz had gone down to the local cemetery and searched for a deceased child, then gotten a card in Ralph’s name, they told me when I asked who Ralph Speidel was. ‘Just in case,’ they said. Just in case of what, I asked. ‘You never know,’ they replied. ‘We might need to go underground. Set up a new identity.’

Jeez, I thought at the time, these are drug addled paranoiacs. But they were playing with fire, stealing canisters of nitrous oxide from hospitals, selling various illegal drugs. Nixon was gone by then, the VietNam War was lost and the draft was over. These weren’t SDS roommates or Weathermen, they were college students doing a little research, nothing the FBI would find particularly interesting. Yet.

When I moved out a few months later to my ghetto home and some fresh roommates, I considered taking Ralph’s card with me but I left it on the bulletin board, just glad to be shed of these goofballs finally. Now, of course, in light of current events, I wish I’d snatched it. You just never know when a new identity might come in handy.

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audio — health care in the land of the free

Posted in Uncategorized on September 16th, 2017 by skeeter
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Health Care in the Land of the Free

Posted in rantings and ravings on September 15th, 2017 by skeeter

I keep hearing how what us South Enders want fom our health care is more choices. Me and the mizzus, both past Medicare age now, started shopping for supplemental insurance. If we wanted choices, whoo-ee, we got em!! Well , not so much in different companies offering competitive prices so much as the two companies offering plans with plenty of their choices.

Maybe you want Plan X, pays 80% of Medicare A’s deductible, 100% of Med B’s. For $50 more a month you can get 100% pay on A & B. Want to save $$$’s, go for Plan D, you pay $3200 out of pocket before D kicks in, maxes out at $50K or Death, why they call it Plan D, you will opt for death before bankruptcy. Plan Z you can get some nursing home care, but not on Plan Y. Out of country coverage? Some yes, some no. Want co-pay or Medicare D, check out plan C? Need dental or glasses, Plans X and G and maybe N, but see if it covers contacts, bifocals or Lasix.

The list goes on. And on. And on some more. If you got a month or so, download the prosepectus of 43 pages or so per plan. Price per month is pretty prominent, you won’t need bifocals, but try to compare those prices with the juggling options, you’ll need something for your vertigo, check if it’s covered on your Medicare D, the pharmaceutical part. And if you’re not like ma and me, you’re searching for the equivalent of Medicares A and B in those health plans, god help you.

Call me cynical but if I didn’t know better with all this accumulated Wisdom old age is supposed to accrue along with arthritis and prostate problems, I’d say the health care industry makes this purposely obfuscated, a labyrinth of impossible to calculate connections between the fees and options, throw the dice, pay the price, take two aspirin, hope you make it til morning….

So … do I want more options? I don’t know. It seems like that stupid beer ad for the most popular beer in America: More Taste, Less Filling. It doesn’t have any taste whatsoever and it’s less filling because it’s mostly water. Still costs plenty, that’s for sure. Health care: more options, less expensive? We’re all being sold a bottle of snake oil, just 25 different labels on the same bottle. Glad we got those choices, though! Well, maybe if you’re wealthy….

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