Sunday, October 19, 2008

new gear...

I have an amp I bought on eBay and from the first time I turned it on, we were musical brothers. It's called a Divided by 13 (see the link on the right), a hand-made job out of LA in the vein of a vintage AC30 but with a lot more wallop and reliability, and it is an amp that sounds exactly like I always hoped an amp could sound. This particular model was designed and built for Paul McCartney's guitarist, Rusty Anderson. I bought mine from a guy named Brad Fernquist who plays for the Goo Goo Dolls. It's super cool, and incredibly loud, probably my favorite piece of gear I own.

Now before I continue, and I will keep this brief, there are three classic and basic types of amps in the world from which all others worth playing are derived - the 6L6/6V6-based Fender, EL84-based Vox, and the EL34-based Marshall. So you may be wondering, what's the difference? For the Fender, think of all the classic country, blues, and jazz guitar sounds you know. For the Vox, think jangly pop from George Harrison, to the Edge, to great chimey contemporary guitar work. As for the Marshall, we're talking rock and roll - Hendrix, AC/DC, and Led Zeppelin. Everything else stems from one of these traditions. The Vox-style is my favorite voice and probably the most versitile, hence the Divided by mentioned above, but a professional player should have all three to keep his bases covered.

For a while now I've been wanting something small with a nice tone that was quiet enough to play in my bedroom, maybe something with an old Fender-sort of vibe. It would be a step in rounding out the collection, but budget is short so I've been waiting. Gibson and Epiphone do a yard sale a couple times a year to get rid of seconds, overstock, and damaged product. Most of the stuff there is junk, but occasionally there are some gems that come through. It seemed a good time to find a practice amp and I convinced my boss to let me miss the first couple hours of work on Friday to stand in line. When I got there, I eye-balled this pallet of Gibson amps, probably the only pieces of actual Gibson product in the sale, and though I had never played one, I knew it was my best bet. The employees get in first, and they immediately went after the amps. I started worrying all the cheap Gibson's would be gone, but when they finally let the proletariat in, there were three left and I grabbed one.

I had no idea what I had bought, so I pulled it up online and checked it out. Turns out it's a hand-wired, 15-watt amp in the classic Fender vibe, just like what I've been wanting. I was blown away, and instantly worried that it wasn't going to work. Now, I'm not one to make a point of money, but this deal was too good not to share so here goes. The Gibson GA-20 RVT, which I purchased, sold new for between $1000-1200, and I bought it new with nothing more than a scuff on the vinyl and a bad but usable tube for $100. To top it off, this thing sounds great! As simple a thing as this is, I think God chose to bless me with this amp, giving me something I had been hoping for in a way I had never expected to find it. It's a nice addition to my collection.

Next up is the Marshall, some day. On another note, I really do want to blog more. Thank you for still checking in, and feel free to pressure me. Cheers!

Monday, October 13, 2008

An Affair to Remember...

When I was a child, I prayed with my father. In a quiet moment, he guided me through words canonized in our Baptist tradition, and said, “Son, you just made the most important decision you will ever make.” On another occasion, my dad informed me of what he said to be the second most important decision I would ever make - choosing the woman I would spend the rest of my life with. I tucked this away in my mind, and much time has passed since.

A girl passed me in a hallway some two and a half years ago. I knew who she was yet I did not expect to find her there, in that moment, and she caught me off guard. Her hair was the color of autumn straw yet rested on her shoulders like silk. She wore thin black frames over green eyes and little make-up; her posture was impeccable. It took 45 minutes for me to introduce myself, which was quite awkward, and for several more weeks I would pass her, speak to her, and once tried to hug her. It was a disaster. Yet somehow the heavens smiled upon me and after a couple of weeks, we went on a date.

Over cups of coffee and tea, we became acquainted. We shared stories of our families, schools, dreams, and work, then we shared a movie and eventually dinner on a red and white checked table cloth. On a hill above Nashville our relationship began, and the paths we walk have pushed closer and closer since. She is life, she is laughter, she is warm and bold. She is a part of me.

Recently this part of me departed town for several days. Usually I am the one who travels yet on this occasion Sarah and three of her closest friends flew to New York City for a vacation. It was to be the trip of all trips, the chance for Sarah to do everything she dreamed of in New York. From scouting favorite movie locations like the castle in Central Park or the Empire State Building, like in Sleepless in Seattle (her favorite!), to dropping in on The Today Show and Conan O’Brien, to visiting great museums and Broadway shows, the trip was something to be jealous of, and Sarah was ecstatic. Sarah is a woman who loves to dream, and this trip was a dream come true in every way, and to mark the occasion, I prepared a little surprise.

Sunday morning I departed the house long before the sun’s tidal glow washed over the darkness. My faithful Honda led me to the airport, which in turn led me to the Starbucks in terminal B, and then eventually onto a plane. I sat down next to a sweet couple from Kentucky who had a son name Whit, and they told me all about their plans in New York. For all the times I have played my guitar to a crowd, I still get nervous easily, and their stories and questions helped to pass the time and calm my nerves. The plane landed, and after a terrifying shuttle ride I boarded a train. The day before, I told Sarah I was going on a hike, and that my cell phone would probably not work for much of the day. During that hour and a half long trip down long island, my cell phone sat powered off and burning a hole in my pocket. I would imagine my heartbeat was audible even over the steady pulsing of the train, and the city could not come quickly enough.

Eventually, I arrived in mid-town Manhattan and stepped out of Penn Station into this overwhelming sea of people and traffic. I had three hours to travel three blocks, and I hadn’t eaten all day. I knew Sarah and the girls were shopping, and seeing the myriad of department and designer stores at every corner, I became paranoid my surprise would be ruined, and I took cover in a Starbucks. Not long after, the fact that I had not eaten caught up to me, and I left the Starbucks in search of food. Five feet down the sidewalk, I stopped for a burrito, ate three bites, felt like I might vomit, and threw it away. I then returned to Starbucks, bought a smoothie, and ducked into a corner for a while.

Checking my watch, I still had an unbearable amount of time, so I headed up 5th. I stopped in the Public Library, but turned around when they were about to coat check my bag. Since 5 o’clock in the morning, I had clutched my bag like it was my last possession in the world, the reason for which you will soon find out about, and I had no choice but to leave the library. Just around the back, however, I found Bryant Park, and for a brief time, this narrow oasis allowed my sweaty brow to rest and my nerves to relax. Then it was time.

I quickly headed back down 5th until I was met by a doorman at New York’s most enduring landmark. The Empire State Building loomed 102 floors above me and twenty minutes later, I stood on top and looked out over the city. After all the nerves and anxiety of this day, I felt like I had conquered the building somehow, like King Kong once did, yet I had no beauty in my hands. I could only imagine where Sarah was and all I could do was wait.

Now throughout the day I got the occasional update from Lindsay, Sarah’s roommate, and for two and a half hours I waited on the 102nd observation deck until the last message came through. “We’re on the elevator,” it said. I stood and watched the needle creep towards number 102, and finally the doors opened. The girls walked out, and finally Sarah stepped through the doors. For a moment she surveyed the skyline until our eyes met, and then she stopped. Walking forward, I took her hand, saying, “There’s something over here I want to show you!” Leading her away from everyone else, we hugged for a while as the reality of my being there sat in. I reached into my bag and removed a small blue box with a bow. “I got you a gift for your trip to New York that I didn’t get to give you before you left, and I wanted you have it while you were still here.” I then got down on my knee and asked her to marry me.

As you have probably guessed by now, she said yes. The rest of the night was a whirlwind. We celebrated, took some pictures, called family from the back of a cab, and had an unforgettable dinner (not because of the food) at Tavern on the Green. We found coffee at a Barnes and Noble, and bought some bridal magazines. I held my new fiancé's hand as she walked barefooted through the upper west side, and we enjoyed the last moments of our incredible night in New York.

The next morning I walked with Sarah and Lindsay to the taping of The Today Show, where I had to leave them for my train and subsequent plane back home. It is my honor to say that Sarah Beth Moseley will soon be my wife, and that the awkward advances of a bumbling boy some two and a half years ago have never been so well rewarded. To the green-eyed girl with hair the color of autumn straw, I say thank you! You have made me so very happy...