Letter to Santa

As soon as the Thanksgiving dishes were washed, my mother used to start poking us to make out our letters to Santa, which actually were no more than small wish lists held to the fridge door with magnets. These were mostly silly, with things like "a Ferrari RX7" or "a house in England" scribbled along with "knee socks" and "a new coat". These days, we have Amazon wish lists, but I admit I miss reading the cute notes my own kids stuck to the fridge door when they were growing up. I've tried to bring this tradition back, but getting people to pick up a pen for any reason is pretty nearly impossible anymore.

This year, I'd decided that I really din't need or want anything, but now that it's Thanksgiving Eve (and regardless of yesterday's post) I'm beginning to feel the ever so tiny awakening of the holiday spirit. Here, then, is my Christmas wish list for 2014.

  1. Knee socks. Yes, I really, really need them. The crazier, the better.
  2. A new battery for my Toshiba laptop.
  3. A new laptop, for that matter!
  4. A big, cozy sweater. BIG. Actually, any man's sweater from Ross will do. Medium.
  5. Union Jack Hunter-Wellies. SERIOUSLY. Size US-7, please (need room for socks!).
  6. ANYthing Union Jack, actually.
  7. Cherry burst Les Paul and a Pignose.
  8. Pillar candles of any sort.
  9. Soaps of any kind. I especially like goat milk or linen/cotton. Nothing flowery.
  10. Teas, teas, teas! Loose or bags, I don't care.
  11. How about a 2014 Jeep Wrangler?
  12. A pair of basic Converse. Size 6.
  13. Any item on my Amazon Wish List.
  14. And yeah, that house, but now I want this one in Spain.


A Little Above the Madness

It's proving a bit difficult to get into the holiday spirit this year. What with the recent shit tsunami and my health's reactions to it, it's hard to remember all the things for which I should be thankful. I'm mostly thankful for bad things that didn't happen. We might have had one less plate on the table this year, possibly even two. Gratitude for the upcoming harvest feast, then, has been completely overshadowed by the fact that I'm just thankful no one's dead. It's no wonder Woody Allen movies hold a certain appeal just now. I totally get that pathos. If this sounds a bit obscure and disjointed, welcome to my "new normal". My perception of things around me has gotten as bad as my eyesight. Everything's a bit blurred and nebulous, kind of like looking through a glass shower door when the water's running down it.

Added to the obvious trauma was an unexpected onslaught of old issues and hurts from over a decade ago. When Nettl and I had our Holy Union ceremony in 2001, we were flung against the prejudices and judgments of religious family members who opposed our "lifestyle". Many of these people were pulled back into our life just a week after our actual wedding on October 24th, and they picked up right where they left off. This was cruel beyond belief and I don't mind saying so publicly. It has been a time of deep introspection and self-analysis and I've been able to keep a little above the madness by asking myself what I'm supposed to learn from it all, what lessons are in there, and  how can they bring me to a better understanding of not only myself, but also of the people I love. But continually pressing myself to take the higher road and to look beyond my own fears and frustrations so that I might respond through love and compassion has been much harder than coping with the actual situation. I've learned a lot, though, and I suppose that's something to be thankful for.

I've learned who I can rely on when things get tough, and who I cannot. I've learned that true friends are few and acquaintances are legion. (One friend, Jacey, although she's a brand new mother, came all the way up from Oklahoma City to bring us dinner one evening and let us dote on her baby, Archer, which was ever so healing.) These people, these examples of what friendship really is, are what I'm thankful for. I've learned that total strangers will step up and lend a hand more readily than will people who profess to be a friend, that Good Samaritans are just that. Kind and compassionate strangers, people who brought us meals, made unsolicited runs to the wine store, dropped by to see how we were doing, or left a voice mail just to say they were thinking of us. Most of them I'd never met, didn't even know their names, but they were there for us. They sustained us when we couldn't do it for ourselves. That's what I'm thankful for.

That, and the fact that nobody's dead.


It Doesn't Really Matter Anymore

"When it came time to do the occasional song of mine—although it was usually difficult to get to that point—Paul would always be really creative with what he'd contribute. For instance, that galloping piano part on While My Guitar Gently Weeps was Paul's and it's brilliant right through this day. And you just have to listen to that bass line in Something to know that, when he wanted to, Paul could give a lot. Look, the thing is, so much has been said about our disagreements. It's like, so much time has lapsed, it doesn't really matter anymore." George Harrison

I have a friend whom I wish felt this way. We're getting older now, and carrying a cross around gets heavier with each passing year. I tossed mine to the side of the road a long time ago. I wish she could, too.


WTF Unsettled

Until I feel less unsettled and a little more sure of WTF life is up to, I've decided to make this blog as uncomplicated as I can without it being completely boring to look at. I need an undemanding, uncluttered environment just now, and I found that I didn't want to blog due to the artistic demands of my last design. So this is what you get.

As you see, I've removed all posts pertaining to our recent tsunami here at the cottage. She was found. She left on her own. She's doing WTF she wants to do. That's the end of that, for now.

To say that all of this hasn't taken its toll on me (it's taken its toll on all of us, especially Nettl, but this is my space where I get to talk about myself—no disrespect or minimizing intended) would be dishonest as well as out-and-out stupid. People know better. Given my health issues and my age, I would have to be made of stone for it not to flatten me, but I'm doing better than I might have predicted. I've discovered I have an iron will where survival and not falling prey to other people's bullshit is concerned. Throughout the ordeal I felt a little out of the loop, though. A step-parent is a step-parent, after all, but I think it was a good thing. If I'd been given the hundreds of well-wishes and comments that Nettl got in Facebook, I might have absorbed the whole mess a lot more and would be in bed right now nursing a thyroid burnout like never before. I also would not have been able to be strong for her when she needed me most, so I've decided that being overlooked was a good thing and exactly what had to be. No hard feelings where that's concerned, but I admit I'm experiencing a lot of resentment where the short-lived euphoria of our wedding week is concerned. That joy, simply put, was hijacked and held hostage. After waiting and working for 15 years to be granted the freedom to marry, having that joy so cruelly stolen from us is something that will take me a long time to forgive. If I speak too plainly, I'm sorry, but the truth needs to be said and after this post I won't mention any of it ever again.

There's also the Wicked Witch of the West issue that always arises when a crisis hits us. She peers into her magic ball and sends out her flying monkeys to kick me when I'm down. Every. Frickin'. Time. This blog ands the page I'd set up to find our missing daughter were crawled by her IP about every 30 seconds of every day. Site crawler extensions are easy to install via Firefox (which is the browser she uses) and she racked up literally hundreds of hits on my Statcounter reports. Pathetic, especially since she's been creepy-crawly me for 12 years now. What a waste of the short time she's been given on this planet. But you know, I quit being intimidated by her a long time ago. Bite my ass. I just installed a redirect script and until she learns how to change her IP, she can't get in here. And if she does learn how to do that, I'll just add that IP to the code. Hell, I can block the whole of Germany if I want to. Meantime, thanks for increasing my hit counts.

WTF ever.

Now, it's time for me to get back to what life was, although I know that's not realistic. But I can do my Alla Breve work, I can go back to writing my memoirs and I can get back to my album. I can stand with Nettl to make the upcoming holidays as happy as possible with or without a houseful of grown kids regardless of their reasons for not being here. We'll have three—my two sons and Nettl's eldest daughter. Her son will be busy at his job as a chef at Aria in the Fairmont Hotel in Chicago. Don't ask me about the youngest daughter because I don't know. Hey, three out of five isn't bad!
UPDATE: Things got much better very quickly after receiving a phone call from our girl. This alone healed so many places in me and the anger and resentment are much diminished. In fact, I think they're morphing into a kind of "Glad that's over" exhalation.


Guitars, Biscuit Cans, and Champagne

Restringing my guitars has always been my least favorite thing about being a guitarist, especially when the guitar is a 12-string. It's not only time-consuming, it's stressful. It can even be dangerous. On my personal anxietyometer it scores even higher than opening a biscuit can or a bottle of champagne.

You know. Those biscuit cans by Pilsbury. The ones that require you to peel the paper label off and you never know when the cardboard can is going to pop open. Sometimes they do, if the pressure is higher than usual, and sometimes they don't and you have to press the edge of a spoon into the seam to force it open. Used to be, they never opened until you banged the can on the edge of the kitchen counter, but these days nothing's consistent.

Champagne bottles are the same. Most corks won't pop out until you twist the bottle a bit. (I learned the trick to perfect bottle openage from a pro years ago: tilt the bottle 45 degrees, cover the top with a cotton dish towel and twist the bottle, not the cork, slowly, and gently ease it out, allowing the pressure to escape a little at a time, thus, no spewing, no waste, no mess.) But sometimes, the cork will go flying the second you loosen the bale. I've seen this happen any number of times—the ceiling of our house on James Place probably still bears the mark of one cork and on another occasion I saw a friend receive a black eye from one. And on her birthday no less.

Life is dangerous, people. Shit happens.

Yesterday, I got a new set of Martin Silk & Steels for my Luna 12-string. It being my first time to restring this beauty, I had no idea what to expect. The scariest string is the 6th string—the octave G, which is actually just an E tuned up to either F, or, in my case, G. That's a lot of pressure to put on the most delicate string of the 12. I can't count how many times in the past, on other guitars, this string has snapped while I tuned it up. I used to buy an extra just in case, but this being a high-quality, custom instrument, I exercised a little faith. The only real mishap was when I removed the old 10th string (octave A) and the curly bit that came off of the tuner lunged into my thumb like a fish hook. No matter what I did, it wouldn't dislodge and my thumb is still bruised. After putting a Band-Aid on it, I got back to work and everything went really well.

My usual method of restringing a 12-string is to remove and replace one string at a time so as not to  release too much pressure on the neck; a 12-string bears up to 200 lbs. of tension and if a string snaps, it can do a lot of damage if it connects with a sensitive body an eye. I start with the bottom strings—the heavier ones, E, A and D of which there are two each, one high and one low—then go to the top E and B (also two each, but the same gauge), saving the Gs in the middle of the neck until last. I don't know if this is the right way or not, but it's always worked for me when the time came to confront that tiny little 6th string.

They all went on great and they all tuned up smoothly with little to no slipping beneath the pegs, but to be safe I decided to tune it to D and let it sit overnight before taking it on up to E. Because of the superior truss rod in the neck of this guitar and the fact that the strings I bought are light gauge, I don't foresee any problems. Luna makes excellent instruments. Pilsbury, as well as a couple of champagne labels, could take a few lessons.