There are few things in life that can bring you instant pleasure between your fingertips. One of those absolutes is writing, the other is playing music. After a two decade wait, I am now the proud owner of a 2008 Gibson Les Paul Standard guitar with the sweet “Iced Tea” finish.
My love of playing music began twenty years ago in New York City’s Greenwich Village. We were renting a tiny studio apartment that had the bathtub in the kitchen and Matt Umanov Guitars right around the corner. When you strolled the neighborhood you were always tempted to step into Matt’s and, one day, I did.
I was late coming to music — as a youngster I played the piano poorly but sang okay — but when I saw a Martin HD-28 acoustic guitar hanging on the Umanov wall, I knew I had to get back into the sight and sound of making music with my fingers.
It was a joy learning how to play that Martin HD-28 and I was lucky enough to play it well.
However, as time and tide crushed the standard of living the young artist’s life in NYC, years later I ended up having to sell my beloved Martin HD-28 to make the rent. It was such a heart-rasping experience giving up that HD-28 that I refused allow the joy of a guitar back into my life for 20 years.
The lesson in selling a beloved to make rent is that there is no faster compression of time into space than the moments of the first of the month arriving twelve times a year. You will run out of beloveds faster than you can delay the inevitable. Confess defeat. Preserve your joy. Move on in your humiliation. Your saved beloved will later heal your broken pride. Unless, of course, you sold it — then you’re just left broken and empty and joyless.
As life progressed, and maturity aged the mind and gilded the heart, I decided it was time to honor my nomadic, polymathic, lifestyle and dip back into the music scene.
I refused to buy another acoustic because I didn’t want to risk the jinxing of my previous Martin HD-28 joy, so I found a good deal on a Fender Nashville Power Telecaster electric guitar.
That NaPo Tele was, and is, a fine instrument — but when my 2008 Gibson Les Paul Standard electric arrived this week — there was absolutely no comparison between the two guitars.
The Les Paul is a magical, cosmic, beauty that is easier to play, and more pleasureful to pick, than any other string instrument I’ve had the pleasure to pluck and strum.
The 2008 Les Paul Standard has a tremendous voice and history and while guitar purists will argue today’s guitars aren’t as good as the originals made in the 1950’s, I would counter with the notion that you take what you can get and getting a 2008 Les Paul Standard is a convenient and fine way to experience the history of Gibson guitar music making.
As I move forward with my reinvested learning in music, I wonder what might’ve happened if I’d found a way to salvage my Martin HD-28 way back when.
We must not live in regret — but re-modeling the immature past against the rough-hewn wisdom of distance and perspective — we can begin to see new paths for re-discovery and salvation in the future.
If I’d kept the HD-28, I would have 20 years of practice under my thumb and fingertips and I
would likely not be as frustrated having to relearn what was forgotten
in the loss — older always equals harder — but perhaps there’s an unquantifiable joy of rediscovering
who I was and what I wanted to be and the elder in me can hearken back to
the manchild of yesterday and smile in knowing now that everything worked out in the end; even if it took two decades to get back to zero