Friday, December 25, 2009


Worldwide domination is within my reach! I have studied with the little master, Stewie Griffin. Batman, try to stop me!!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Mostly Sideways

If, in a moment of frustration, you ask yourself what else can go'll find out soon enough. Now I'm not railing at life in a larger sense; you have to keep your perspective and be aware of how great we have it compared to millions of others living now or before on planet Earth. As the Buddhists observed long ago, unhappiness occurs when your expectations and reality don't meet. And reality isn't going to do any adjusting. But you expect to experience forward progress if you're diligent, paying attention, and doing what you think are the right things and it's a nasty surprise when that doesn't make a whole lot of difference. What happens seems random, undeserved and maddeningly wasteful...for no reason you can discern except it's always One Damn Thing After Another.
Just recently, three new appliances failed (and not having a coffeemaker on Sunday morning is just not right), a snowblower took a nice chunk out of the garage, the replacements for the broken hinges on the brand new turntable are never going to arrive, the computer printer died (just like its many predecessors), two appointments in two days stood me up (so I wait around by the door and the phone for nothing), I can't empty the rabbit's litter pan because the composter's lid is frozen on, and to top it off the beautiful handmade martini glasses I ordered as a Christmas surprise for Nancy arrived with one smashed (and I can't make an insurance claim because the password is "invalid")!
Not major problems that knock people for a loop, but the sheer quantity of irritations is what got me cranked up. Think about good stuff: going to Richmond in a few weeks, really looking forward to that; local schools and government buildings are jumping into solar projects, including an 18-acre solar field near Carlisle (due to stimulus funds); Nancy's getting over her terrible cold and will be her old self soon; our ancient heat pump is working fine; the pets are healthy; far-flung family members are doing very well, especially the newly married twenty-somethings; the State wine specialty store is just bursting with excellent selections at ridiculously low prices (we filled the new wine rack); we're not living in Afghanistan...
Okay, things are back in perspective. Like the old Master on Kung Fu said, "Patience, Grasshopper!"

Monday, December 14, 2009

Should You Stay or Should You Go?

It's said happiness consists of having someone to love, something worthwhile to do, and something to look forward to. I can't say I do much worthwhile, but I sure look forward to going places with the someone I love. Nancy must have been bitten early by the travel bug (along with a few mosquitoes, in humid Memphis). She showed me how to get moving to visit the familiar (family and friends) or the new. She had worn out two VWs when I met her, and we've worn out several more cars and trucks since then and been on some wacky flights and in some obscure airports. I just don't know about the future, though: the highways are about threading your way through canyons of thousands of trucks just to be stuck in a standstill down the road, and we don't need to get into what a cluster---- air travel is now. The point of an adventure is NOT to feel helpless; it's reveling in that heady feeling of freedom and power.
The places some friends have been to are astounding: the Balkans, Greece and Turkey, Russia, China, Japan, Vietnam and Cambodia, Australia, even Africa... We actually stepped foot on the African continent, in Tunisia, for a day, and I'm still thrilled to have spent my 60th birthday on Malta. We've got a world map on the wall in Nancy's Worldwide Headquarters (the back bedroom) with map pins in the places we have been to together. The furthest north: Iceland (just the airport); south: Aruba; east: Malta; west: San Francisco. There is hardly an end to the list of far-flung islands I would like to get to: the Dodecanese, Scilly, the Aeolians, Rhodes, the Cook Islands, the Seychelles, Bali, Sardinia, Gotland. And great cities...I'd be happy just to get to my top two on that list, Buenos Aires and Paris.
Our kitchen remodel took the place of any grand trip this year, but Nancy has been away from the Caribbean too long already -- I have the feeling a brochure with palm trees on the cover will show up on this desk sometime soon. You've never seen anyone happier than that well-tanned rascal on a tropical island beach.
So after our short jaunt to Richmond in mid-January to see the Robbin Thompson Band show at the National, and of course the Nimrod, Cliff, we'll have to scan the horizon to see what looks irresistible along with the least painful way of getting there. All that stuff you acquire through the years you just have to store, but the memories of your great escapes -- that's where the treasure is.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Say Hello to my Little Friend

Thanks to the magic carpet known as Craigslist, this old Harmony H802 short-scale "Student Electric Model" has moved from a local 15-year-old's home to ours. When I saw the picture that just screamed 60's retro, I warmed up immediately to this quirky rascal. The large "Woody Woodpecker" headstock has those lovely vintage ivory-colored tuning keys, but seems pretty large in relation to what looks like a 3/4 scale body. The pickguard is so huge it looks like it ate Cleveland, but it's got a lot of character. The orange sunburst finish (what's left of it, anyway) says, "I'm ready to rumble!" The tone control doesn't do anything, and I think you just keep the volume at 10. Simple. Two tiny slide switches turn the single-coil "Gifmen" pickups on. The bridge pickup or its switch doesn't work, but one is enough. No information found on those pickups; the original Harmonys used DeArmond/Rowe p'ups that were supposed to be very good.
There is good Internet information on the Harmonys, Stellas, Silvertones, and a dozen other brands produced at the two huge factories in Chicago until its closure in 1975, but not much on these produced after 1979 when the Harmony name was highjacked for Asian-made models (this one was produced 1985 - 1987). The original Harmony never copied the Gibson and Fender style leaders exactly (the H19 was REAL close to the Jaguar -- what a honey), and you gotta love their crazy designs like the H14 Bobkat and the far-out Stratotone. How many scrawny teenagers pored over the Sears and Penneys catalogs filled with gaudy color photos of Harmonys that could be theirs for the unattainable sum of $160? Paper routes were manned, and grass was cut, to make it happen: they manufactured 1,000 a day.
I'm itching to take it apart, especially to clean up those pots and look for loose or broken wires, but I've never taken strings off or put them on, and if you don't know what you're doing, harm is what you'll end up doing. Music-shop service/repair costs between what local electricians and plumbers charge, so that's not the way to go.
Until I figure something out, I'll just keep on wasting away in Retroville!


December 2012 update:  I've decided to go full mod, despite the fact that I like its original look so much.  The plan is to create an homage to surf music:   refinish the body in a pearly silver-grey and screen print a splash of hibiscus flowers on it in black, and sand off the headstock to remove the logo and have "Silver Surfer" printed on it.  Then, the local expert shop in Lemoyne will replace the electronics (as soon as they find suitable single-coil pickups) and install flat-wound strings.  Then, of course, I've got to get a reverb unit; I'm thinking the Danelectro Spring King.  A smaller black pickguard, still to be found, will finish the transformation.  Surf City, here I come!