Oh, there are those moments.
You know the ones I’m talking about.
Those moments where in the midst of them, your world has fallen apart, and you see virtually no glimmer of light. You’re stunned, speechless, and seemingly trapped.
However, they’re the moments that transform into a story you recount going forward, the ones you look back on with gratitude and a smirk.
This is one of those moments.
I’ve spent much of my recent adult life in a car with a guitar, driving around the country to play music for ears of all types. On this particular tour leg, I was passing through the town of Lima, Ohio.
Now, I’d been a touring musician for some time at this point. I was kind of a big deal. To the point where I’d developed a set of offices speckled about the world…decent coffee, free wifi, and a big yellow “M” that I could spot from a mile away (“M” standing for my first name, “Matt”, of course).
So it was in this town of Lima, Ohio where I stopped at one of these places to get some work done.
I’d often bring in my Martin acoustic guitar with me when I stopped somewhere. As a valuable instrument, I didn’t want to take any chances. So, per the usual, I took my guitar out of the car to bring inside. It was in this moment, amidst brewing stormy weather, that the wind took my guitar and bopped it against my car.
The next sound I heard was my heart thud.
I couldn’t see it, as the guitar was in a case, but a strong inkling told me that damage had been done. And, when I walked inside and took a look, my dread had been confirmed: a big gash stared back from the bottom of my Martin.
Now, sometimes I can really hold my own under pressure. I can remain focused, productive, and effective, and keep calm. This was not one of those times.
Panic met confusion met sadness in a swirl of “I don’t know what to do.” I had a gig that night, and I felt paralyzed with my prized instrument severely wounded. And, it’s not like Lima, Ohio is particularly known for its musical instrument expertise.
Amidst my nerves, I sprung into Google action. I called one guy, who told me to call another guy, who told me to call a third guy…who was a gentleman named Mike at a place called “Pappy’s Guitar Repair”, in a village called Waynesfield, Ohio, population 850. Mike told me to come on over for him to take a look. The only option I had, I hit the road.
Waynesfield, Ohio is tiny, but Pappy’s Guitar Repair is like a Willy Wonka/Wizard of Oz hidden treasure within it. I arrived, and Mike’s shop is full of musical gems and antiques. He has a guitar with pieces from a Ford Mustang. He has a machine that records vinyl records, actually cutting the grooves while you perform. He has classic and magnificent amps and PA systems. Suffice it to say, I stumbled into the oasis I needed.
He inspected my guitar and said, “Yeah, you busted it up pretty good…come see me in three hours.” This was typically a two day job, and I had a gig that evening.
I walked out of there and trusted the luthier with my pal.
And upon my return, I witnessed the magic Mike had performed.
This wizard patched up my guitar from the inside, took sawdust, melded it with some substance, and near seamlessly created wood to repair the gash. Not only does it look wonderful, but I’ve grown to like it better. Like a dog with a beautiful marking to distinguish it from the pack, or a scar that tells a story of growing up, my blend of wooden shades in this part of my Martin does it all: it provides character, holds a story, and reminds me of the lessons I learned that day.
What lessons? Well, for one thing, within days of that little adventure I was in Chicago and bought a much nicer guitar case, one that protects it from such attacks of the wind.
But a bigger lesson, one that I suppose in some manner I’ll be learning for a long time, is the fact that we just don’t know. In that moment of guitar damage, I thought I was in the worst possible scenario. But, things turned out a-okay. If I had kept a birds-eye view and seen things with a wiser perspective, I could have saved myself needless anguish. I’m sure this is the case for nearly all of what causes me stress and anxiety.
A broken guitar is mendable, and life goes on. Sooner or later you’ll get a story out of it, and you’ll have the opportunity to be grateful for it. Better to remember that in the midst of all, wouldn’t you say?
…oh, and the kicker of the story is that guy Mike, the artisan of Pappy’s Guitar Repair, happens to be the Mayor of that village called Waynesfield, Ohio. The American Dream still exists, folks!
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