April 02, 2015

Me and My Les Paul, Lilburn Living Room, 1980

I got my first electric guitar in 1979, when I was twelve years old. It was a black Les Paul copy made by a cheap-guitar manufacturer called Memphis, and my parents bought it for me at the now long-defunct (but I suspect sorely missed by a lot of guys from my generation) Joe’s Music in Norcross. I also had a twenty-watt Crate combo amp; it was solid state, but if you turned it up all the way to 10 it produced a decent sounding distortion. Not quite what Pete Townshend got out of his Hiwatt amps, but not bad.

But when I look at this picture, me awkwardly fingering a D chord on a guitar I barely knew how to play is only a small part of what I see, and maybe not even the most important part, now.

Behind me, I see my mother’s Sears typewriter, on which Mom typed my grandmother’s poems and stories from Granny’s longhand drafts on lined notebook paper.

And look on the corner of the desk. There’s a baby portrait and a pair of bronzed baby shoes; my brother’s, I think. Do people still do that? I hope so.

Just above the desk, there are pastel or crayon drawings of my brother and me, which I almost remember sitting for when I was eight or ten.

Farther behind me, on the built-in bookshelves that my Uncle Wayne put in for us sometime in the mid-seventies, there’s a set of 1977 World Book Encyclopedias, and below that, a set of Childcraft encyclopedias. I spent hours poring over those volumes when I was young; perhaps I’m just romanticizing, but I swear they were better than Wikipedia or anything else the Internet has to offer.

And see those top shelves? A couple of bowling trophies that my Dad won in the Ingleside Presbyterian Church bowling league, back when such things existed. On the shelf below the trophies, there are a few books between a pair of sword-through-the-books bookends. I used to think those bookends were the coolest thing. On the shelf below that, there’s a painted clay vase that I made in (I believe) my sixth-grade art class. It's unidentifiable in this picture, but I can see it clearly in my mind.

Beside the bookshelves there’s the fireplace, with a scattering of framed photographs on the mantle. The one on the right--you’d never be able to tell this unless you already knew it--is me in my Cub Scout uniform, circa 1977. On the left edge of the picture, right on the middle of the mantle, is an Olan Mills portrait of me and Jeff. I can’t tell from this picture, but I think in that picture we are wearing matching shirts that my mother made for us.

Every old picture is a treasure trove of sorts.

Addendum: My father posted this comment to the Facebook version of this post:

"The drawings of you and Jeff were done in 1978 by an artist in Silver Springs, which is in Ocala, FL. I remember because we were on our way to Daytona Beach, and I wanted to stop at Silver Springs to see where some of the underwater scenes from 'The Creature from the Black Lagoon' were filmed. That is my all time favorite horror movie I remember the year because I had just bought a brand new 1978 Chevrolet Monte Carlo and this was our first trip in that car. I remember the sticker shock I had when I had to pay over $7.000 for a new car! You're right about the matching shirts; Cherry made one for all four of us."