Thursday, February 25, 2010

Anniversary Adventures (Part 4)

Beyond all the changes to Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, we already knew this trip was going to be different for us in another major respect: cash.

During our actual honeymoon, in February of 2000, I was only doing weekend work in radio in Charlotte (not precisely lucrative) while my wife was in transition as a retail clothing store assistant manager and was only then about to start in a new position in Charlotte, though not at the good store she'd been promised when she agreed to stay on as manager for a store that had closed in Shelby, but instead the assy store, where the customers regularly let their kids shit in the dressing rooms. We didn't have a lot of dough going into our marriage. (In fact, we didn't have a lot of food for that trip, either, because while our family had quite thoughtfully assembled for us an enormous sampler pack of the grub from our wedding reception--none of which we'd been able to get more than a bite of during the actual reception because we kept getting shuffled around to cut cakes and open presents and pose for pictures--they'd also quite thoughtfully put it in the wrong car. I still have a craving for Lil' Smokies to this day.) So while we had splurged a bit on our honeymoon cabin (or so it seemed at the time), we were still trying to keep to a budget for the rest of the trip were very careful when it came to actually buying anything while we were there. Within a year and a half after our marriage, the wife was accepted into med school here in WV and we were soon living even poorer than before, in a depressed job market in an already financially depressed state and my job at the "liberry" was, again, not exactly lucrative. However, for the past year and a half, the wife has been a practicing physician. And while that's certainly not as lucrative a job as most people think it is, (one word of advice to future docs whose goal it is to make a buttload of money: specialize) vacation impulse purchases are not so much of a problem.

Probably the best example of this, for me, was when we came to a shop in the mall selling cigar box guitars. I'd seen the tiny shop earlier during my solo run and thought it was interesting, but it was closed. And it had remained closed even when the wife and I passed by again. Then, while browsing a different store two shop spaces down, I heard the most wonderful music and followed it back to the shop where the proprietor was playing away on one of the cigar box guitars. The method he was using was to rest the guitar on the table in front of him, its neck nestled in a cloth-lined notch cut into a block of wood, then strum the strings with his right hand while his left hand held a three-inch section of copper pipe, which he used as a slide, moving up and down the strings to change the notes in the chord. For a three stringed instrument, there was a lot of complex sound pouring out of this one, cigar-box or not. He also clearly had a lot of skill at it.

I stood and listened for a bit, then went and fetched the wife. After he'd finished playing, we struck up a conversation with the man and soon learned that the shop was kind of a side project to another job he and his wife had running a candy store in the mall itself. He made all the guitars himself, buying his cigar boxes from a lady in another state whose house was apparently filled floor to ceiling with boxes. I suggested that this seemed to be a case of a positive hoarder, though this is just my theory.

Now, I'd seen cigar box guitars before, but had never given them much thought. But the shop owner explained their significance in early blues in the Mississippi delta, as well as in Appalachia. Suddenly, owning such a historic and beautiful instrument (despite the fact that I can't yet play it) seemed a no-brainer.

"Which one do you want?" the wife asked. I picked out a guitar with a glossy red neck, made from a gorgeous wooden Manolete cigar box. He pulled it from the wall and played it for me to show me how great it sounded. It certainly did.

"Happy anniversary," the wife said.

I still haven't learned to play it, of course, but thing it's all around awesome all the same.


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