First the backstory:
I lent my car to an emotionally unbalanced friend of mine. This friend came back from a meeting where this friend essentially got fired. My car was left with a door unlocked and my guitar was still inside. I know, I know, it was my fault for leaving my guitar in the car – something I never do anymore – but it was also said friend’s fault for leaving the car open. Distracted by the emotional breakdown from getting fired I forgot about my guitar until it was gone. Someone opened the car and took a few things.
Now this guitar was a late-fifties Silvertone Hollow-body acoustic that someone decades ago had installed a wonderfull sounding P-90 pickup. This model did not have a truss rod and had frets as flat as pancakes but boy did this guitar have mojo. Mojo for days. It was just playable enough and the sound was phenomenal. I played about a dozen gigs with it in the months that I had this gem. I bonded with it and would rave about the sound to anyone that listened. So it was a rough night emotionally that time it got stolen.
Fast foreword two years:
I now play a similar guitar (Hollowbody with a P-90) but not vintage. So you can tell I like this sound and style.
One day, while checking out the musicians’ section on Craigslist I see an ad for a ‘Dirty Gypsy Blues’ band and I think that it sounds interesting. I click on the link. D.on Darox and the Melody Joy Bakers. They are a band based in Ventura (about a 2.5 hour drive south from me) and are looking at making connections up in my area. They seem cool and in fact would work well as a double bill with my band. I see that they have posted a brand new video, only one week old. So I click on it.
I sit watching and thinking about the cool imagery, old-time classy scenery and outfits. I’m digging the overall vibe. Then, just about at the :52 second mark, the lead singer Deon turns to the camera and approaches the mic. My heart stops and I freeze. I’m looking at my stolen guitar! I pause the video, I rewind, I look again and again and again. That’s her, that’s my fucking guitar!
Heart still racing I decide it would be a good idea to double-triple check before I email this guy and his band. I do some research, look up the model of that guitar and sure enough – it was never made with a pickup. Which means that the odds of that particular guitar with a white P-90 custom pickup being a different guitar are very slim.
I then look up any pictures I can find of me playing that guitar. I know that I have a few on my computer and I find a few more on Facebook as well – the one time that Facebook ‘Timeline’ has come in handy!
I compose a very nice and lengthy note with details and pictures. After a little pokin’ around I find the singer’s personal facebook. It looks like he doesn’t check it very often, so I send this note to him and all his bandmates with the hope of it getting through. Then I wait.
Meanwhile, my girlfriend Sharaya and I are celebrating our one-year anniversary of dating and decide to go to Santa Barbara to visit the museum and hang out for the day in our never ending quest to satisfy our combined thirst for art. During the drive I see that Deon has responded to my message on my phone and I get understandably excited.
We get to S.B., pull over and read the message. He explains that he bought it at a pawn shop in Ventura and he wants to meet! I call him and we decide to meet the next day in Ventura. I’m excited about confirming the identity of this guitar and finding out what the next step will be.
Sharaya and I sit at a coffee shop in Ventura, awaiting the arrival of Deon. He is late and I am nervous. “Musicians are always late” she points out. I hastily agree with her. Musicians re-enforce our own stereotypes as usual. An hour passes quickly before we hear the romantic notes of an accordion down the street carried by the breeze.
Our man Deon approaches. He goofily walks up the block playing accordion with a guitar case strapped on his back. He is a tall and lanky man with a scruffy beard, dressed sharply with a fedora atop his head. His singing has been likened strongly to Tom Waits and it looks like his day-to-day persona matches the video I watched earlier.
He arrives and we exchange pleasantries. Now in close proximity I notice something I didn’t see earlier. He has a dirtiness that is overshadowed by his style and personality. But up close you can see the ring around the collar, scuffed shoes, grungy hat and dirty slacks. It matters not, and in fact it makes sense. He explains, “Right now I live in my van and this guitar and accordion are my only instruments. They are how I make my living.”
He brings out the guitar and I see her for the first time in almost two years. She is beat up. The finish is checked and peeling off in many places, the raw wood showing underneath. More dings and scratches than I remembered. The knobs are falling off, the action is higher, the neck is bowed more than before. She is a wreck. “It looks like someone left this guitar outside for a month!” I say as a play a few notes on her. I start the Django Reinhardt composition ‘Tears’ and it is too much. I feel a strange emotional rush and fight back a tear. I give her back.
Conversation is awkward at this point. I don’t know what to say, he doesn’t know what to say. He looked at my band and like our style so we talk about doing shows together in the future. But it is tense. I decide to cut it short and wrap it up. We send him on his way and we walk the other direction, in immediate pursuit of a beer.
After a few days of deliberation, I decide that I don’t want the guitar back. She is in bad shape and to get her back up to where she was would be expensive, especially because that model of guitar doesn’t have a truss rod to adjust the neck. When I had this guitar I was lucky and the neck was nice but now it is jacked. Plus, this guy fell in love with that guitar at the Pawn Shop and sold his other guitar to buy this vintage beauty. My friend Vassar pointed out that “At least I know she’s being played and used in a good way.”
I send him a message conveying my feelings and give him my best. It will still be weird watching him play that guitar but I think this will be for the best.
What a small and strange world we live in.