Sunday, September 16, 2012

No New Story, But an Announcement

Hi.  I am currently working on a book, consisting of expanded versions of 20 of these stories.  Hopefully, I will also be illustrating it.  Needless to say, that will take a while.

In the meantime, if you have a favorite out of these, please let me know in the Comments section.  I don't have a carved-in-stone list, yet, of what will end up in the book.

Thanks for your support!

x

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Valentine's Day Love Story

It was fifteen years ago, today, that she came into my life.  The man she had been with found another, and he no longer had eyes for her.  For me, when she came into the coffee shop, it was love at first sight.  Full-bodied and curvy, she had just the right amount of belly to be sexy.

Frankly, I loved her body before I ever even got to know her.  I hope that doesn't make me shallow...

I remember the first time that she sat in my lap.  I put my arms around her, and stroked her neck as she made happy sounds.  I knew, then, that I wanted her in my life, forever.

I don't think the age difference is a problem.  She is 13 years older than I, but I find her maturity to be one her strong points.  Even the fact that I am a Southerner, from Tennessee, and she is a Michigan Yankee doesn't matter.  I hear that Kalamazoo can be lovely, in the springtime.

Other guitars have come and gone, in my life, but my 1948 Gibson ES-125 has been with me longer than my ex-wife, and I plan on growing old with her.

I hope your Valentine makes you as happy as mine makes me!

x

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Choo-choo

Back when I worked at Campus Bikes, I palled around with one of the part-time mechanics quite a bit.  He was a teacher, during the school year, and worked at the bike shop during the summer.

Just after I left Campus, he invited me to go to a New Year's Eve party at the house of the woman he was dating, at the time.  I found her to be a little pretentious, but free food and drink can make up for a lot of that.

After we had arrived and parked the motorcycles, we were being introduced around.  The girlfriend steered us toward a pompous-looking guy in  suit and tie.

"This is Andre.  He's a conductor!"

"Wow!"  I said with enthusiasm.  "I've always wanted to meet a conductor!"

Andre swelled a little, with pride.  He deflated a bit when I added, "I just love trains!  What railroad are you with?"

"I conduct an orchestra," he said, his face reddening, a bit.

"Gosh, I didn't know they had orchestras on trains,"  I replied.  "Do you have a special orchestra car?"

A vein was popping out on his forehead.

Andre said, through gritted teeth, "I don't work for a railroad!  I conduct an orchestra!"

"Do they play while you punch the tickets?"  I asked, pretending to not hear him.

By this time, people were snickering around us, and Andre was mad enough that he just walked off and left us standing there.

I'm not sure why I felt like I had to goof on Andre, like that.  I ended up talking to him, later, and he was actually a pretty decent guy.

Sometimes, I just get in those moods.

x

Friday, January 27, 2012

Perchance

He couldn't believe how well his life had turned out.  He had a terrific home, a sucessful business which gave him immense personal satisfaction and, most importantly, a wonderful group of close friends.  Life in Tucson was treating him very well, indeed.

The day was warm but not hot, and sun streamed in through the windows of his Mid-Century Modern office building.  His living quarters, on the top floor, were awash in a golden light as he looked over the edge of the balcony at his five closest friends, below.  Between them, they made up the most talented design group in the American Southwest, if not in all of America.

"Guys!" he called out, and they all looked up at him.  "Let's shut it down and go for a ride!"

A chorus of "Hell yeah"s greeted him from below.  Before he knew it, he and the whole group were out on the road, climbing Mount Lemmon in the bright sunshine.  It was the perfect day...

But, something hovered on the edge of his consciousness like a shadow on the edge of vision.  There was a ripple on the surface of the pond.

As he rode, he looked at the people around him.  His heart felt like it would burst with the love and admiration he had for those people.

"Why am I feeling so weird?" he thought to himself.

A flicker of light...a whiff of a foreign atmosphere.  He knew, suddenly.  He knew why he felt such a melancholy on such a wonderful day.  He only hoped that there was time!  He prayed to God that he would get to say what he needed to say.

In the atrium of his office/home, he gathered his friends around.

"I am going to be leaving you," he said.

"What?  Why?" Angela asked, confused and visibly upset.  Her words and emotion were echoed by those around her.

"I can't stop it," he said.  "I know , now, why this life has seemed so good, so perfect...so dream-like.  I am waking up, and I will probably never see you again.  But I want you to know..." he choked up a little, at the flash of light which accompanied his words.

"I don't know if I will ever see you again,' he continued, "but I know I will never forget you!" 

The whole group was crying along with him, as the flashes of light increased in both intensity and cadence.

"I will always love you all!" he cried as the light overwhelmed the scene and, suddenly, he was awake in his bed.  Tears streamed down his cheeks as he felt the the sudden loss of separation from his friends and the life he had built with them.

"God!" he thought to himself.  "I can only hope that their world didn't cease to exist when I woke up!"

Dreams are sometimes more real than reality, making one wonder where the reality actually lies.  And, he felt the sadness at the loss of his alternate reality for the rest of his life...his waking life.

Or, was it...?

x

Friday, January 20, 2012

Oooo, Barracuda!

My ex-wife, Valerie, is a bit short of stature, and stands 4'11" tall.  ("Four-eleven and a half!" she would always correct me.)  Because of that, it was very nearly impossible to find her a mountain bike which actually fit.  The smallest frames available from the brands that we carried, in the early to mid-90s, were in the 15 to 16-inch range.

In 1994 or 1995, I forget, Barracuda bikes introduced a 12-inch frame into their line.  The stand-over height and top tube length looked good, on paper, for Val.  The only problem was, we didn't carry Barracuda at the shop, and I couldn't afford to pay retail for one of their bikes.

So, I put a call into the 'Cuda sales rep and described my predicament.  "What I want to know," I concluded, "is will you sell me a bike for my wife at the Emplyee Discount price, even though we don't sell them here."

"I'll have to ask the home office," he told me.  "That's not generally allowed, but I will give it a shot."

At that time, Barracuda sponsored a race team which was all female.  A couple of their riders were pretty short, and that was why the 12" frame had gone into production.  I was hoping that meant that someone at the management level would understand my position and okay the sale.

A few days later, I got a call from the rep.  "I can set you up," he told me.  I later found out that the bike had come through their racing department, so that I got the sponsorship deal on it.  That allowed the bike to go out with no red tape.

A week later, I had the bike in the shop, building it up.  I was under strict orders to not tell anyone that I had gotten it at the discount (I think it's been long enough, now) because Barracuda didn't want every shop employee in the U.S. to ask for the same deal.

Val was thrilled to have a bike that she could actually straddle and have some stand-over clearance.  And, I was tickled that the bike industry was close-knit enough to allow the deal to go through.  I don't know if that kind of rule-bending would go over, today.

x

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Maybe The Best $5.00 I Ever Spent

Back in 1980, I was starting my second year of college, gasoline was about a dollar a gallon, and neither eBay nor Craigslist yet existed.  In those days, if you wanted to buy and sell used items ("junk", we called it), you either had a yardsale, advertised in the paper, consigned stuff to an auction, or went to the junk store.

Everything was a little cheaper, back then, of course.  I already mentioned gasoline, for instance.  Prices go up, generally, as time goes by.  A twenty five cent Coke costs a dollar, now...it's a normal thing.

But, some things are abnormally more, or less, expensive now than they were 32 years ago.  Many vintage bikes and parts, for instance, have taken drastic hits in value, since that time.  But this is not about bikes.  It's about inexpensive, imported guitars from Japan.

Back in the 70s and 80s, Japanese guitars were considered cheap.  Used Teiscos and Deccas and all of the other weird-shaped, rocker-switch bedazzled brands were easy to find, for very little money, on the used market.  Sears, Montgomery Ward, Western Auto and many other chain stores had imported them with their own store brands for years, and music stores had stocked them as beginner instruments at the same time.

I walked into the junk store on Main Street, in Martin, Tennessee, a day or two after school had started and saw exactly what I was looking for.  I had spent the previous year playing a Yamaha acoustic guitar, learning chords and building up my callouses.  Now, I was ready to make some noise.  I was looking for  cheap electric guitar.

There, in the dusty little shop on Main, was the perfect ax.  It was a Teisco-made Kingston, with a straight neck and good string action.  Someone had sawed the upper point of the solid body off, and then painted it white with a brush dipped in house paint, but it played nicely.  It came with a case and a small solid-state amp. 

The price?  Five dollars.

I took the guitar back to the dorm and disassembled it.  I scraped and scrubbed the white paint off, and exposed the original red and black sunburst.  But, unfortunately, I couldn't get the finish back to what I wanted it to look like.

So, I cut photos and blocks of text out of CREEM Magazine back issues, and glued them all over the body.  This was back when Lester Bangs was Editor in Chief of the magazine which proclaimed itself "America's Only Rock and Roll Magazine", so some of the text blocks and photo captions were pretty funny.  Once the glue had dried, I sprayed clear poly-coat over the pictures and reassembled the guitar.

It was the perfect Punk guitar, and I loved it.  I eventually bought a Vox Box, which was a fuzz box that plugged directly into the guitar, and started making some real noise at that point.

Nowadays, that same set-up of beater guitar, case and amp would probably cost you $200.  Why?  Because of eBay and Craigslist and blogs which talk up the "vintage tone" of those old crappy guitars.  I wish I could have seen that coming.  Maybe I wouldn't have sold 15 guitars for a total of $200 at a yard sale before moving out of Memphis, if I had realized I could get ten or fifteen times that much if I just held onto them for 20 years.

That guitar is gone, now.  I used the neck to bring a gold-flake Norma electric guitar back to life (it is one of the guitars I sold in Memphis), and the body disappeared during all of the moving around during and after my divorce.  The pickups and controls went onto another guitar which I sold.

Maybe that's another reason that the cheapie old Japanese guitars are selling for a premium:  Lots of guys have fond memories of that first electric guitar, and I suppose they will pay big to get the same model.  Whatever the reason, the prices on those old axes far outran the general inflation of prices over the last three deades.

x

Monday, January 9, 2012

What a Coinkidink

Since I am no longer riding my bike to work every day, I decided that I needed to do a little bit of "training" in order to get ready for the rides I am planning on doing, this year.  That means spending some time on the rollers, a few times a week.  But, there was a problem with that plan.

I didn't have my rollers.

A couple of years ago, I loaned them to Tim, who was a customer of mine when I was building fixed gears.  He is a good guy, and I trust him with stuff, so I loaned him the rollers to use, with no time limit.  I was riding every day, at that time, and didn't need them.  Now, however, I needed them back.

But, in the meantime, I had gotten a new phone, and Tim's number didn't transfer over, for some reason.  So, I figured the rollers were pretty much gone, since I hadn't talked to Tim since my dad died, in 2010.

Last Monday, I went over to Performance and bought a new set of folding rollers.  They were on sale, but they still cost $169.00, which is a chunk of change to me.  But, I had no choice, so I just ponied up the dough and brought them home.

I set the rollers in the shop building, without even opening the box.  I figured I would break them out within a couple of days.  But, the next day, I had a little bit of a sore throat.  By Wednesday, I was fully into a chest cold, complete with cough and fever.

No roller riding was in the cards, for a few days.  So, the rollers sat in the box.

On Sunday, I was knocking around the house when the phone rang.  The number looked familiar, so I answered it.  It was Tim!  He wanted to know if I was home, because he was on the way over to my house to drop off my rollers and a set of wheels I had loaned him.

After we caught up a bit, Tim headed home and I headed to Performance.  It was nice to get the $169.00 (plus tax) credit on my card...

x