“How much do you want for this old F-hole guitar?” The question comes out of thin air, with no body to attach the sound to, but I know it emanates from back in the guitar critical care area, the cubbyhole where guitars go to die a slow death or await resuscitation at some later date, some time more convenient and less frenzied. The man is one of my regulars, one of the many die-hard guitar lovers and collectors who habitually make their way to the shop, always asking the same question: “Do you mind if I wander around ‘back there’?” I know the guitar he means instantly and call out, “Not for sale!” He protests for a moment and then moves on to the next basket case. Perhaps, he’ll have better luck with something else back here. Some of these have to be for sale!
The old Silvertone guitar hangs on the wall rack, where it has made its home for the last ten years. It’s an old archtop guitar which, much like a violin, has F-shaped vents in the top instead of the round sound hole that we’ve come to identify with modern acoustic guitars. It’s safe to say that this instrument is a fifty-year old copy of the old Gibson family of guitars, which were the standard models back in the thirties and forties. Their edgy, anemic tone leaves something to be desired, but to this day they are the choice of blues and classic jazz players, simply because the tone is perfect for the genre. The huge “Louisville Slugger” necks have some meat to them, with a solid feel and a structural integrity that makes them attractive in a quirky sort of way.
What’s that you ask? Why is it still on the rack, ten years in the store? There’s a little bit to that story, but I’m not sure I can explain why I won’t sell it. I suppose you could say I won’t sell it because it’s not mine. The owners brought it in way back in 2000, asking for a specific repair. The repair done, we phoned them to pick it up. They made the trip back to get it, but felt like we should have addressed some other issues with the guitar and requested that we have them done. Oh, did I mention that we had paid our luthier (technician) one hundred dollars for his work and they refused to reimburse us until the other items were completed? I would have accommodated their request but our guitar technician passed away suddenly the next week and it would have been a little difficult to make the trip to where he was to get the work finished. So, the guitar hung on the rack, waiting for the right hands to complete the repair. I have never heard from the owners again. Their phone has been disconnected, with no way for me to contact them. Ten years later, the guitar still waits for them to return. We’ve had the other issues taken care of and the guitar is a sweet playing axe with a ton of personality. Just, not for sale.
That doesn’t answer the question, you say? Why do I keep it still? You’ve been in those shops that have the signs that scream, “All repairs left over 90 days will be sold for costs”? We don’t have those. I’ve never sold another man’s instrument unless he requested it. I know it seems odd, but most of the folks who love music and their instruments understand what I mean. I’ve had a few bargain hunters who grumbled a bit that the guitar couldn’t be bought, but every one of them has grudgingly admitted, “I don’t blame you at all.” I know that I would have been within my legal rights to sell the old beater years ago, but it’s another man’s guitar and I just don’t think I can do it. Perhaps we should just say that I’m not very practical about some things and leave it at that. The Lovely Lady will agree with that notion wholeheartedly!
There are times when I would like to be more consistently rational. In some respects, I’m a good businessman, making sensible decisions about product mix, negotiating prices, being accommodating with customers who need extra assistance and firm with those who would demand more than they are due. But for all the rationality, I have moments, more and more of them, when I succumb to sentimentality, to emotion. For a moment, as I’m writing this, in my mind’s eye I can see my Father-in-law, who started our music store, with a family member confronting him about one of his illogical purchases, asking him why he bought it. Knowing that there was no logical defense, he would retreat to that most childish of retorts, “Because I wanted to!” Back then, I was frustrated by that unassailable position. How can you argue with “Because I wanted to”? Nowadays, I want to be able to use the excuse myself. I think I will!
Ask me again! Why is it still on the rack? Because I want it to be there! Wow, that felt good! I almost want to add, “Nanny, Nanny, Boo Boo!”, but we’ll just leave it at that. I want it to be there and there it will stay.
Maybe another day, I’ll change my mind, but you probably don’t want to hold your breath until then…
“We can’t all and some just don’t. That’s all there is to it!”
(A.A. Milne~ British author 1882-1956)
“Logic is a systematic method of arriving at the wrong conclusion with confidence.”