cerebellum blues

"Life changes and throws you curves, asks you to live for better or for worse"

The song in the guitar.

Maple, redwood, mahogany, ebony and purple heart. These are the woods of my new acoustic guitar. But they are not just any woods. The maple is figured, but not overly so, and book-matched in the back for symmetry, tone and strength.The redwood has the straight, tight grain of trees born long ago and possibly never to be born again, and its color is something that can only be created by time. The ebony is deeply black, not marred by uneven shades or a stray tan grain, and the purple heart creates an accent to this interplay that is subtle and graceful, bordering the redwood soundboard and the maple sides and back -- dark against the maple's light -- with quiet artistry.

I chose these woods with one goal in mind: I wanted my acoustic to have an articulated treble, hence the maple, yet still have a tone that was warm and not overly bright, hence the mellowing influence of the redwood top. The neck is made of mahogany in honor of my Les Paul, a lost wine red treasure that was be-stickered with "Electric Warrior" to hide the holes in the headstock after I had replaced the tuners; paid for in part by moving a fair bit of dirt in my parents' backyard; and marred on the back by my predilection for wearing large belt buckles (it was the 70s). I sold my Les Paul to buy a computer monitor. My friend Toby, a man who NEVER sells his guitars, advised me against my decision, but I needed -- no, make that wanted -- the money. What a fool. What a total fool. My Les Paul is gone. The monitor I bought with the money is gone. The chance to ever own that guitar again is gone, too (I think, I'm working on this).

But all of these carefully -- lovingly even -- chosen woods, they are not the most important element of my new guitar. No, the most important element is the spirit of its maker, a friend of mine named John Tuttle (pictured at right). I first met John back in college, and he is one of three brothers, all of whom I've come to know quite well over the years and all imbued with qualities I think are too rare in people today: humanity, intelligence, honesty, kindness and loyalty (but never blind).

John is an optimist and a family man and his oldest son, Mason, helped John with my guitar in whatever way he could -- cutting the frets, setting clamps, bringing his dad a snack. The guitar was built in the basement of John's house, a large, old midwestern manor, situated on a treellined street in Saint Paul, Minnesota. The guitar making area of the basement is small, low-ceilinged and outfitted with a simple workbench and well-used tools and a shelf area for holding various wood samples. John taught himself how to make guitars. In college, he bought a book on he craft and he's been a luthier ever since. His instruments reflect his self-taught skills and have a rustic, slightly imperfect quality that remind the player that these are not mass-produced products, but one-of-a-kind odes to substance over style and to quality over quantity. John's guitars are imbued with the intangible of joy.

Which brings me to the title of this post: I believe that every guitar has at least one song in it, and all you need to do is let the guitar tell you its song and it will. Oddly, though, this beautiful instrument made with so much care told me a sad song. Or maybe it was a song of joy, and somehow my flawed spirit misinterpreted it, I don't know. But the song that came out of this guitar is called "Here Comes the Weather" and it's a song about how arguments, no matter what they seek to "solve", can lay waste to  otherwise beautiful moments.

John, if you're reading this, I know that there is a song of joy and peace in this guitar and I am listening for it. Till then, thank you for a beautiful instrument, one that will be a daily reminder for me of what's truly important in life.

**************** DAMN, I WISH THIS WERE A HAPPIER SONG ****************

Here Comes the Weather

We stare at each other
Across the table
Our plates are full
We want to talk while we're still able

But the wine in the glass
Is sinking fast
And words right now
Would not be for the best
And outside a wind
Hits from the west
And here comes the weather

We say we're in love
Almost every day
We laugh aloud
When we talk this way

But the clock on the wall
Is ticking hard
And just above the wind
We hear the sound of passing cars
Driving like the rain
About to fall from afar
And here comes the weather


And the sky goes from empty to full
The clouds come in like curtains being pulled
Covering everything in a blanket of cold
From blue, to silver, to gray
It's the end to more than just a day

The first drops of rain
Hit the window
We clear off the table
And outside there is no rainbow

And the clock on the wall
Is ticking hard
And just above the wind
We hear the sound of passing cars
Driving like the rain
About to fall from afar
And here comes the weather