Tuesday, January 14, 2014

My Garage Sale Treasure

I'm a pretty simple guy. I don't need a lot of stuff. A car that is reliable, a home that keeps me sheltered and warm, clothes that fit well and are comfortable (though my daughters and wife often chuckle at the lack of hipness in my clothing choices). There is, however, one area in which I unapologetically splurge: guitars.

At current count, I own 14 guitars, not including a couple of electrics that are non-functioning that I still keep around for some reason. I have a couple that are absolute gems, including a Gibson Les Paul 25/50 Anniversary model that I've had since 1979. It was a graduation present and has always been my "show off" guitar when I want to impress my musician friends.
Me, my hair, and my Les Paul, circa 1981

Musical instruments are, for the most part, meant to be played. Some, of course, are meant to be collector's items and should be kept safe, but to justify owning a guitar, it should be played at least occasionally. I do have to admit, however, that I have a couple of guitars that have been stuck in their cases for at least a couple of years. They are the ones that I keep for those "just in case" times where I may need to pull them out to play or record with. But the general rule is that if you own a guitar, it should be played.

As any guitar enthusiasts know, everyone has their favorites. Looking at my collection, one may conclude that my favorites are the ones that are the most valuable, like my Gibson Les Paul or my Martin acoustic. Yes, I do love those guitars, but I must admit that my favorite guitar to play is the one for which I paid the least amount of money. It cost me $40. I found it at a garage sale 14 years ago. Since then I've spent a little bit on upgrades, but nothing extravagant. It has been a fun guitar to play the whole time I've had it, but recently it underwent a transformation which took it to the top of my favorite list.

The guitar I'm referring to is a 80's Squier II Stratocaster. When I bought it, it was off white with a maple neck. I have changed the pickguard a couple of times, but I decided it was time to change the color. Being a cheap guitar, I didn't care about making a super-professional finish, so I just used regular spray paint. It took me a few tries to find a color I liked, but I ended up with a mint green color that looks a lot like the Fender color seafoam green. So, after sanding, spraying, sanding again, spraying again, etc., etc., I put the final coat of lacquer on and called it good. I also decided to sand the neck, which was originally a high gloss finish, giving it a nice satin finish (also sanding off the Squier logo so that it looks more like a high-end custom Stratocaster). Then I put it back together with the new pearl pickguard pre-loaded with single-coil, vintage style pickups, and she was like a brand new guitar.
My transformed Stratocaster

The thing about this "new" guitar is that it now plays so well that it has been transformed from a cheap, garage-sale find to my favorite player. It's now like butter in my hands. This Korean-made, 25 year old, cheap guitar has been transformed into my favorite player with just a little paint and sandpaper. I can't help but see this as a metaphor for life. This is what transformation is all about. With a little work, anyone--the broken, the used, the poor, the failures, the unimportant and the unloved--can be transformed into a beautiful, loved and valued person. It reminds me that I have what it takes to help transform a life from unloved into loved, from worthless to valuable. It just takes a little effort and a vision. A vision not of what a person is, but what they can become. I hope I can strive to be this kind of person the rest of my days.

Now I think I hear my favorite guitar calling me. . .

Grace and peace.

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