diary of a mad
househusband

27 february 2000

 

 what would you save from a fire?

The question came up in the Canada & Friends Forum:

Fill in the blank: If my house was on fire, and all the PEOPLE were safe, and I could only bring out what I could carry in my arms in one trip, I would save my ___________________

My Martin O-18 guitar.

It was made in 1935, so it's ten years older than I am (and 33 years older than Willie Nelson's globally familiar Martin N-20). I paid US$75 for it in 1964 (you could buy a new one then for $225, if you had $225). It was badly cracked, brutally scratched and scarred, and had grooves in the frets down to the wood of the fingerboard. (I played it that way for 15 years before I had it refretted, thereby crippling myself as a guitarist; I developed the habit of pressing the strings down much harder than would be necessary with proper frets, to keep them from buzzing-- a habit which persists to this day. Live and learn...) The frets have now been replaced twice, and it has had major reconstructive surgery three times, but no cosmetic repairs: It shows its battle scars, as I do.

A couple of months after I bought it, I took it (without a case) on a bus from Houston to Los Angeles to visit my girlfriend; a week later (by then, she was my ex-girlfriend), we took another bus back.

It went on every road trip I made when I played music for money, except one (and I bought a 1959 Martin O-15 on that trip, in a vain attempt to fill the void). I've played it on stages from Los Angeles and San Francisco to Atlanta and Boston; Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Fort Smith, Little Rock, Nashville, Mobile, New Orleans, Reno, and Farmington, New Mexico (makes you think of a Hank Snow song, eh?).

It has been played by Guy Clark, by Lucinda Williams, by Ezra Idlet, and, back when she was still Linda Veselka, but already a Major Babe and one of the Best People On The Planet, by Linda Ellerbee.

It has been with me through marriage and divorce, marriage and widowerhood (that's a real word; I just looked it up), and relationships that didn't work out. It was the first guitar ever heard by each of my children, who are going to have to work out custody arrangements among themselves after I'm gone.

Music stores, pawn shops, and classified sections are full of guitars. For that matter, so is this room. Within eight feet of me are five guitars on stands (one of them the Heir's); in the room's three closets are two more acoustic guitars, six electric guitars, and four steel guitars. (We're not counting the bass, the banjo, the dulcimer, the ukulele, nor the three acoustic guitars in the garage I intend to sell.) There's no question that I could do any job I needed to do with another guitar. In fact, I replaced the O-18 on stage in 1987, with the first of a series of instruments that were more practical, more versatile-- and less precious.

But this is the one which, when I just strap it on, before I even play a note, makes me feel like coming home, and not being cold, or hungry, or thirsty, or angry, or horny, or alone.

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