Sunday, November 30, 2008


Tis the season for the holidays.

Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years.

What makes these days so special other than they are recognized by organizations as a day off from work. Businesses close down for these days, but not as much as years ago. Some places stay open or even open early to get more sales.

So we call these "special" days as holidays. And for what?

Families travels to group together. To bring massive amounts of food and gather around the video tube. They laugh and share stories. They bond. This is what holidays are about.

But suppose you don't have a family?

How do you "celebrate" a holiday?

A single person cooking turkey for Thanksgiving? Wrapping presents for Christmas? Opening Champagne for New Years? All by themselves?

So are holidays only for families?

What will you do this "holiday season"?

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Now That's Funny

Stopped at ye ole hangout spot on the way home from a busy day of work to have a few laughs with a writer friend...and it was his treat!

The day had been prepared as a pre-flight/ commercial/ troubleshoot/ data/ fix/ download/ ftp/ tone/ create/ advise.... kind of a day. But it turned into more of a backward crawl. My favorite "interruptions" filled the day, even getting the soup cold.

So why not a stop for a brew or two and a few laughs.

The Rust man had already settled into a booth with menus, table setting, and an empty glass. But he had a smile, so I unpacked my travel gear and settled into the wooden booth. After picking up the knife I knocked on the floor and wiping the sweat from my brow I said, "Hi!"

Looking around impatiently he responded, "I can't find our waiter. I would have already had two beers by now, but I don't know where he's gone."

That started a conversation about bad restaurants and service. The first of the laughs. It moved to the video entertainment industry that wants your business but won't stock the films you request.

Finally a young lad with short hair and a fresh but confused face arrived. "Another...?" "And I'll have a Bass ale." As he turned to run back to the kitchen or bar or wherever he found a place to hide, "...and I think we are ready to order." I said opening the menu. Rusty gave me the first order. "Hamburger, medium rare, no cheese, lettuce, tomato, and fries." "We put mayonnaise on it, is that OK?" he said shyly. "Sure." "Steak and cheese and fries for me", the Rust man said. "You mean the steak sub?" even more shyly (if that was possible) the wait boy questioned. "Yes... sure, the steak and sub and ...." stammered on.

Then down to business. No business, just information swapping between sips of dark ales and laughter, catching glances of the cute ladies dressed in goth sitting at the bar who would glance back with a smile while the Rust man would catch glimpse of the TV hanging on the wall.

Stories of the Florida keys, crazy driving home, strange families, and a little work venting. The sandwiches were hot and fulfilling. And the suds kept being replenished, but the salad never arrived.

More laughs and eye contact with the girl behind the Rust man. Another smile. That's all it takes.

After many good tales the time had come to pack up and travel on. Ha! The people behind me got up and walked to the other half of the building. "I think we upset them with ferret stories." Rusty observed. Ha! Ha! "Let's follow them and set next to them over there." Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!

This dude and I should not be left alone... together. Maybe a road trip to Lauderdale might be good for both of us.

Thanks for a couple of hours of laughs and good eats, drinks and times.

Next time it's my treat.

Friday, November 21, 2008

What do you see?

The cool morning ride presented a crisp shock of fall in the air. At the first stop was a line of white clouds spreading feathers of light filled strains stretching upward into the crystal blue sky. A brillant morning light.

And the evening ride against the wind in the dark presented mounds of dry brown leaves losing traction to cracking natures marble acorns. All the while listening to the constant concert of dry rustling trees waving the way home.

What did you see?

Saturday, November 15, 2008


There are many names that cross your path.

Commonwealth, Woodlawn, Sauer, Antium, Malvern, Layfayette, Revelle, Hamilton.

Names you've known for years.

Thompson, Nansmond, Rosenealth, Tilden, Cleveland, Belmont, Sheppard, Colonial, Boulevard.

Some are speed bumps to life, some carry you to new adventures, some just cross your path and disappear in the distance.

Mulberry, Robinson, Davis, Stafford, Strawberry, Shields, Rowland, Meadow, Grandby, Allen, Vine, Lombardy.

Every day you pass over these names enshrined in blue and brown. While others may not recognize them or even notice, they are there every day.

Plum, Harvie, Brunswick, Harrison, Shafer, Laurel, Vine, Belvidere

Names who are forgotten from the local scene, but familiar in addresses.

Henry, Monroe, Madison, Jefferson, Adams, Foushee,....

and at the end of the day, the reverse list appears before you to travel. Names that are with you every day.

Friday, November 14, 2008

The 12-String Guitar

The strings are placed in courses of two strings each that are usually played together. The two strings in each bass course are normally tuned an octave apart, while each pair of strings in the treble courses is tuned in unison. The tuning of the second string in the third course (G) varies: some players use a unison string which is less prone to breakage, others prefer the distinctive high-pitched, bell-like quality an octave string makes in this position. Some players, either in search of distinctive tone or for ease of playing, will remove some of the doubled strings. For example, removing the higher octave from the three bass courses simplifies playing running bass lines, but keeps the extra treble strings for the full strums.

The tension placed on the instrument by the strings is great, and because of this, 12 string guitars have a reputation for warping after a few years of use. Some twelve-string guitars have non-traditional structural supports to prevent or postpone such a fate, at the expense of appearance and tone. Until recently, twelve-string guitars were nearly universally tuned lower than the traditional EADGBE, to reduce the stresses on the instrument. Lead Belly may have used a low C-tuning{See Julius Lester/Pete Seeger The 12-String Guitar as Played by Leadbelly, Oak Publications, New York, 1965, 6}}.

Some performers prefer the richness of an open tuning due to its near-orchestral sound. For a very complex plucked-string sound, the 12-string can be set to standard tuning (or possibly an octave lower), then the top one and low two string pairs can be tuned to whole-tone intervals. The usual gamut of guitar tunings are also available. Many performers who play the twelve-string guitar use an ordinary six-string guitar as their primary instrument, switching to the twelve-string guitar for certain songs that seem to call for a brighter sound.

Because it is substantially more difficult to pluck individual strings on the twelve-string guitar, and almost impossible to bend notes tunefully, the instrument is rarely used for lead musical parts. 12-string guitar is however primarily suited to a rhythm or accompaniment role and is often used in folk songs and some popular music. Some hard rock and progressive rock musicians use double-necked guitars, which have both six-string and twelve-string components, allowing the guitarist easy transition between different sounds.

The greater number of strings complicates playing, particularly for the plucking (or picking) hand. The gap between the dual-string courses is usually narrower than that between the single-string courses of a conventional six-string guitar, so more precision is required with pick or fingertip when not simply strumming chords. The pairing of thin, easily broken octave strings with larger, stiffer bass strings presents difficulties to the player also, and only a very skilled player can reliably pluck single strings from within a course at any speed (notably the very high octave G string, which is the highest-pitched string on the instrument). Nevertheless, with practice, the twelve-string guitar is not unduly difficult to play. It is, however, generally used in a fairly restricted role which emphasises its strengths: rich ringing, full-bodied chords, and fast, rippling single plucked notes on the twinned strings. Twelve-string guitars are made in both acoustic and electric form. However, it is the acoustic type that is most common.

The double ranks of strings of the 12-string guitar produce a shimmering chorus effect. To produce this effect individual sounds with roughly the same timbre and nearly (but never exactly) the same pitch converge and are perceived as one. When the effect is produced successfully, none of the constituent sounds is perceived as being out of tune. Rather, this amalgam of sounds has a rich, shimmering quality which would be absent if the sound came from a single source. The effect is more apparent when listening to sounds that sustain for longer periods of time, such as a long guitar chord.

I started the 12-string in 1966. Loved the huge sound and chorus. Unique instrument and adaptable to any type of music. Also very high sound, like a piano or harpsichord or dulcimer. Strange for an electric bass player noting the bottom.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The End of The Experience

Just read Mitch Mitchell died. The drummer for the Jimi Hendrix Experience. The powerful force in this trio of unlikely 60's musicians who changed the sound of music. The power that created heavy metal, grunge, and so on. The break-through sound of "controlled" feedback, wah-wah, and a black man not singing soul. Feather boas, bright colors, overpowering noise, with this thin sexy black man swirling and dipping and playing the heck out of an upside down Fender strat.

Saw Hendrix in '67 at the Richmond Mosque. No one knew who this guy was, he was just another band from England and it was rock and roll in Richmond, so we bought tickets.

Loved the front band, Soft Machine. Amazed by their single 15 minute song. Bass, drum, and keyboard played music intertwining, then a sudden stop. They just stood up and walked off the stage to complete silence. Another English trio of experimental music and sound.

Then this trio of two wild haired white guys and a kinda shy black dude quietly announcing themselves. The music began and the crowd was a gas. Amazed.

Imagine the conservative commonwealth of Virginia of the '60's watching a piece of music history taking place before their eyes. "You're a fag" someone in the crowd cried out. "Noel Redding on bass looked back and winked. All the while this amazing dude on guitar created sounds never heard before.

Now I play guitar, but I'd never heard or imagined anything like this. I watched his fingers and tried to figure out the chords. "Hey Joe"! I know that one, but it sure sounded different.

I looked over at my date and she was lost in this sexual atmosphere the experience created. I'd lost her to some guy from another Continent. She would have jumped on stage and had it with this guy if her conservative Virginia background and me had not held her back. I do think it changed her life or a least her opinion of what sexual excitement was. I lost her to this guy that night and forever more.

So good-bye to another one-in-a-life-time-experience.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Veterans Day

Tomorrow.... is the day we give respect to men and women who volunteer to go anywhere in the world at the governments orders to kill other people.

So is God on our side?

and I wear the ID bracelet from Clifford Davis McIver. He is MIA from World War II. I was named after him but never knew him. I also wear his distinguish flying cross to discuss what he might have done to deserve this award of killing other people.

America. Where are you now?

...and the day after my birthday.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Saturday Fall Ride

9:00 A.M. Sun is up and a light rain falls. It's time to go to the store. Stand up and slip on the slippers. Cover up the puppy. Move the sheet rock door to the dressing room. Slid on the jeans and sweater and sweatshirt hoodie. Lace up the old soft shoes and find your eyes. Slap on the VCU hat and off you go. No coffee, no water, just go.

Turn the blue bike with the saddle bags out to the gate over the moist walkway, past the birch tree. Open the gate and walk up the graveled alley.

Climb on the 29" bike and pause. Look at the cloudy sky. Turn right and off you go. Adjust the mirror and coast to the stop light. The misty rain still falls but it is clearing.

Coast down the hill pass the Westmoreland Lake and shift into 6th gear. Peddle up to the stop light at Monument. Pause for the runners iPods in hand.

Up pass the witches house and turn left to the newly paved streets. Pass the house sold on auction from the long haired strange sick person who lived there. Pass the VT gate that held the barking dogs. Pass the house that was sold at auction and is now for rent. Pass the house that half burnt down but is still there. Pass the cannon in the yard.

Mail the bills in the post box. Still use checks as a security issue. Up pass the traffic school for bad drivers just letting out. Turn right then left pass the gym just letting out. Blond girl talking on the phone has no idea I am there and keeps walking while talking on her cell. No tits, so she better keep working on that booty.

Drift down the hill and drift left to the back of the store.

Lock up the bike with the vinyl covered black lock. Take a breath. Attack the grocery store.

Avoid the old carts and the passengers who are lost in the maze of corn and shampoo. On to the animal isle. Pick up the 14 pound litter container and move as fast as possible to the 20 or less items isle. $5.24 the check out person says. I swipe the card and he slaps a sticker on the container and hands me a printout from the register.

Load up the bike, unlock, and wait for the traffic to go by. A guy in a Harley head rag smiles and give me a signal to go on. "I'm going this way" I say, as I turn the bike to the opposite direction. "It's OK" he says, "I watched how you waited for the other people to go by." "Patience" I said. "Yea, I ride a bike... a motorcycle to work every day and I understand." he said.

As I climbed on the bike he said, "And you look just like Jerry." I gave him the peace sign. "No more flashbacks for me" he said. "Stay cool" I said smiling and riding out.

The clouds lifted on my third trip and the day became warm by my forth trip.

Then on to football, 60 birthday cards? , a cake, and Beatles covers. Not yet!

And so it goes for another Saturday.

The best part? Stand out in the yard. Listen to the breeze. Listen to the tree monkeys jumping and running. Listen to the dogs barking in the distance.

Then go inside and put on the headphones and listen to music. Maybe make a couple of CDs.

And so it goes in another life.

Budget Cuts

With the down economy, the city budget cuts of millions of dollars are taking notice.

The first notice to it's citizens is a reduction in leaf removal. The trucks and rakes and brooms won't come out except once in December to remove leaves from the streets.

So the city residents are requested to bag the leaves themselves or preferred to compost.

While this cut might save time and money, it affects me in another way.

Leaves clutter the street. They blow into piles. The bright yellow and reds turn brown. Then it rains. And the leaves that so brightened the fall, turn to mush in the winter darkness.

Riding a bicycle is an act of balance and momentum. Part of the balance is getting traction on a wet pavement covered in mush leaves. And braking!! Slide.

So this new budget cut, while saving money, may be life threatening. Time to put my headlight on my helmet.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Riding In The Dark

After the fall back of time, the trip home now is dark. 

Night has fallen. 
You ride the roads you ride every day, but it is night. 
Street lights covered by the fall leaves. 
Shadows dodging back and forth. 
Is it a dip or a bump or a shadow? 
The strobe lights flicker the reflection of the soft wet yellow fall leaves. 
Then the mobile machines lights blind  the darkness. 
Again riding blind.... in the dark or in blinding light. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


How it all began

Tenor Banjo - Plastic strings and short neck. 4 strings with a drum body. No idea of how to play. Buy a book of guitar chords, but it didn’t have the sound I was looking for. Threw it away.
Baritone Ukulele - Nylon strings and longer neck and body. Like a small guitar (today called a travel guitar). Learned how to play on this thing. But it was a junior guitar. I needed a “real” guitar. Gave it away.
Stella Tenor Guitar - 4 strings. Sunburst finish. A Harmony guitar, but like a junior guitar. Only four strings. Didn’t have the bass notes.
Red Archtop - Steel strings and terrible action. Got this guitar from a friend of my fathers. A real guitar. Learned every song on this guitar, but then need to go electric. Gave it away.
Linda Solid Body Electric - Purchased at a pawn shop with a little 10 watt amp. Red sunburst with bad action. Two pickups and no whammy bar. Not very loud, but it was electric so I could play in a band. Played 6-string bass. Gave it away.
Goya - A Swedish nylon string classical guitar purchased with coins. Went to a music shop every weekend and played with their instruments. Could not afford the expensive Rickenbacker and Gibson, so I settled for the $300.00 classical guitar. Great for folk music. Sold it to beat a tax rap.
Goya 12-string - First 12-string. Big sound blond guitar. Put a pickup on the sound hole and made it electric. Gave it away.
Vox - English guitar. Bill Wyman teardrop bass. Wrapped strings. thin neck. Corduroy snapped to the back of a red sunburst body with silver pick plate.
Fender bassman amp - A little detour from the guitar but it made a big impression on the sound. 4- 10” speakers. Tweed cover with bright, bass, and three jacks. Tube and solid wood to weigh a ton. Made the 6-sting Linda electric sound like a bass. Plugged our microphones and guitar into it. Purchased by my dad from an old Carolina friend Paul T. , a small town grocer and music promoter. Borrowed by a person who played congas at a party. He never returned it. Even went to his apartment looking to dump on him. Scared his roommate to death.
Hagstrom 12-string - Swedish Acoustic. Had to have another 12-string. Sunburst but not a big sound. Gave it away.
Ovation - Mid 70's U.S.A. Balladeer. Brown sunburst and that incredible projection sound from the arched plastic back. Thin neck and steel strings. Hard shell case to take care of this baby. Constant companion for years. Sold to a manager at work who trashed it.
Framis Electric - German early 60's. Blond thin hollow body with triple pickups, a whammy bar, and a ton of switches, but bad electronics. A mute strip that could be folded on and off and a volume knob with a hook that could be controlled by the pinkie finger. Refinished it in the basement. Trashed it one night - The Who style.
Fender bandmaster - Purchased from Steve ( I think? ) with dual speaker cabinets. Tube amp that didn’t have the power I really wanted, but it replaced the bassman. Used a echo machine and a wah-wah with it, but it never gave the great sound I was looking for. Gave it to the Salvation Army.
Farfisa Organ - Italian keyboard from Ann Lee, Steve’s girl friend from the 70’s. She was moving to Colorado with a NEW boyfriend and need the cash. Black keys for the bass. Learned keyboard from a organ in the living room, but this one was a cool organ with a few switches. Traded it to Wild Bill for a ’67 Fender strat.

Fender Stratocaster - Red with smooth sound. Again, with bad electronics. Thought about replacing the pickups until a guitar dealer offered me a bunch of money to keep it the way it was. Sold it to get out of debt, but for a really good price. Neat guitar.
Rickenbacker 12-string - Blond electric from the Beatles and Byrds fame made in the U.S.A. Wonderful sound, but only for that sound. Took 6 strings off, but never could get the big sound I was looking for. Traded it to Pete for some other solid body electric which I gave away.
Rickenbacker bass - Stereo bass with the longest neck and flat wound strings. Hard to play because it was so big. But a great big sound. Sold it to get out of debt.
Yamaha - PSR-16. Mid 80's sound. Drum sounds and various selections of pre-set sounds. Smooth reaction. No midi, but sounds great through an amp.
Yamaha - DD-7 & DD-55. Real drum beat and 100's various songs to play along with. Good snare sound and adjustable tom-toms.
Casio - Digital guitar. Bought at Best Products in the mid 80’s. Midi output and loose plastic strings. Little drum pads and rhythm patterns built in. Ton of settings, but didn’t realize what it could really do until plugged into an amp. Great organ sound. Hard to play but amazing results.
Washburn - 6-string acoustic electric. Single cutaway to reach the high strings. Thin body and neck. Wonderful feel. Smooth as silk. My mainstay.
Roland amplifier - Small 10” speaker with a ton of effects. Great echo. Transistor.
Fender sidekick bass - Little bass amp with a big full sound.
Washburn 12-string - acoustic electric with a jumbo body. Big sound and easy to play. Got to have a 12-string

Fender Squire guitar - Blue strat with the same feel of the more expensive model and modern pickups and electronics. Fun guitar to play.

Fender Squire bass guitar - White. Simple play. Nylon wrapped black strings. Smooth and fun to play.
Guitar Works travel guitar and soft case. Bought it with thoughts of walking in marathons and playing to pass the time. Maybe play it while walking around the school. Regular neck on a small body, like the first uke.