Yesterday I did something I had not done for perhaps…well, let's just say, a really, really long time. I walked down the street carrying my guitar.
I bought this little Martin with my babysitting money when I was 16. It was, and hopefully will be again, a beautiful instrument, small but with a rich sound. I remember playing it in California, in Tennessee, in the stairwell of an auditorium, where the sound engineer had placed me to record a Don McClean song. He said that recording in the stairs would create a natural reverberation. I sat on the stairs, closed my eyes, and sang The Circus Song. I remember carrying my little guitar with me on an 18 hour bus ride to Myrtle Beach, which I insisted on taking by myself to assert my independence in my first year of college. The case still has the remnants of an Impeach Nixon sticker on it. Over the years, the bridge has worn down and the action has gotten quite high. This means that the space between the neck and the strings has increased, making it more difficult to play. Since I hardly play at all, my now uncalloused fingers object to the amount of pressure needed to chord properly.
The little 018 has been collecting dust under the bed for years. One of the tuning pegs has popped off and it has a broken string. But I've been thinking that it might be nice to play again. I would like to remember how; I used to be fairly good at it. Now that my son has bought himself a guitar and taught himself to play, I want to get my own facility back. But the guitar needs fixing, and I had to jump through some hoops to get Martin to agree that I am indeed its original owner. My mother searched through dusty bins of newspaper clippings in an attempt to find a photo to prove it. Ultimately, one of my sisters found the right picture of me, at 17, playing my beautiful new guitar.
When the repair technician opened the case, he exhaled in admiration. Then he pointed out all the work it would need. The soundboard is cracked; the pick guard is warped. The neck has to be steamed off and reset and the bridge replaced, but he said it would be ready in one month. Most of the repairs are covered by the original owner's warranty, but it will still cost a bit to get it back in shape. I found myself stroking it gently, remembering how it used to sound.
Although I have little intention of singing in public, I am looking forward to playing my little Martin again sometime soon.