I went to Seattle. I did not look at the news. Not once.
Well, kinda not once. They deliver USA Today in nice neat little piles to a table right outside the elevator. I did glance at the pile of sadness to make sure we hadn’t nuked anybody. I saw something about the Government being opened back up for another 3 weeks and that’s it. No news.google.com. No Washington Post app. I was damn proud of myself.
I’ve been to Seattle many many times, and this was actually the first time I got “Seattle” weather. Every other time I’ve been convinced that Seattle’s reputation as a rainy, cold, and dreary land of sadness is just a myth perpetuated by Evergreen State residents in an attempt to keep people vacationing in season-proof Los Angeles. Every other time I’ve been it’s been absolutely gorgeous, except for the fact that the sun sets at 3:30 in December. But crap weather or not, I just absolutely love Seattle. Where else can you eat dinner in a restaurant that used to be a funeral home? There may be more places out there, but only one restaurant where Bruce Lee was laid to rest.
I knew the weather was going to be bad for exploring, so I brought my guitar with my nearly unused guitar case with my bright yellow Re-Elect President Carter 2004 sticker blazoned across the front. I felt a little silly walking through the airport with my giant guitar case. I mean, normal things in the airport are a luggage-shaped carry-on, a day bag, a grocery bag, a stroller, a car seat, and maybe an expensive puppy in an even more expensive bag. But guitars? I walked into the airport convinced that all eyes would be on me and my peculiar luggage going through Hartsfield-Jackson, as if I were wearing finger-toed shoes. But as I ventured through Atlanta and Seattle with 50,000 of my closest friends, literally nobody cared. I had one eagle-eyed TSA agent ask me if that was a guitar, and one other dude carrying his guitar gave me the nod. Not the enthusiastic two-guys-driving-Corvettes nod, but the brother-in-arms-driving-Honda-Elements nod. We know we’re out of our element. Feeling irrelevant. We also both know we’ll be out of the airport soon. And we made it. I clearly built it up in my head.
I played. A lot. Not as much as I would have hoped, honestly. I did a lot of Guitar Stuff – I checked out the Tone Report. I went to a music shop looking for a Vox Amplug, didn’t find one, but decided I might need the new Fender Mustang GT40 amp in my life at some point. I watched some videos. I bought some tabs on Guitar Pro. But I was actually struggling to play the guitar. It went something like this: I played a bit, it sounded terrible, so I put it down. Then, I’d remind myself that I lugged this thing 2600 miles and the weather is too crappy for exploring, so I’d pick it back up and practice some chord transitions. That would remind me that I sounded terrible. Rinse. Repeat. I told myself that I couldn’t stop until my fingers hurt, so that’s what I did, and now I have a guitar-string-shaped bruise on my middle finger. Success!
The sub-par guitar playing was mostly my fault, but not entirely my fault. Jeremy’s Stratocaster plays a lot better. My Strat’s action was way high, it buzzed all over the place, and fretting even a D chord would bring the guitar out of tune. That, and I’ve wanted to upgrade the original plastic nut with a bone nut since I found out such things could be changed. I came home and picked up Jeremy’s guitar and man. Night and day, and proof it wasn’t all in my head.
I fired up the Googler and found a shop I liked and made the pilgrimage up to Southeast Guitar Repair. They took a look at it, sighted it, played it for a minute or two, and came back with their report. The nut is cut too high from the factory causing the action to be high to start. They can lower it, but the string spacing is slightly off anyway, so I’m getting that bone nut that I’ve wanted. The neck has too much relief and the frets all need to be leveled and polished. Intonation is off and the saddles are kinda rust-pitted causing a buzz. They’ll fix that, and all the moving bits and string contact points will get some lube. They’ll wind up a new set of Ernie Ball Super Slinky’s and it should be good to go! Surgery should be complete in a week, and I’ll grab a scotch and a camera and post my findings.