Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Crash Dummy's Guitar

Nowadays, I play a Hennig classical guitar. But I used to play a Gibson ES-335 TD sunburst hollow-body, nearly identical to the one pictured below. Bought it from a guy I worked with and played it, on and off, for many years.

Some think this model is second only to the Les Paul in its playability, and many well-known guitarists have had one. "There are few other guitars in the Gibson catalog that can match the ES-335 for sheer star power," gushed one enthusiast.


I do not care one whit about star power. But a lot of guitar afficianados do; such people are impressed that the ES-335 has "been seen in the hands of guitarists as diverse as Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, [and] B. B. King..."

So they are really good guitars.

But there came a day I had to sell mine. I had no choice. I had already maxxed out our budget to finance a new bicycle, a Bianchi Imola. And then I crashed it.

The crash happened as I neared the end of a long bike ride. I cranked along, head down, nearly home, preoccupied with some trivial matter. And then I happened to glance up and saw not ten feet in front of me the back end of a parked car no time to swerve or brake just cry out an expletive before wham! I smashed into it went over the handlebars whacked my helmeted head against its rear window bounced back and found myself, stunned but standing, in the road.

It was over that fast.

I did not seem to be seriously hurt. I picked up the bike and wheeled it around the car and sat down on the curb. But the bike would not steer properly. I looked closer and saw the impact had mashed in the headset – that assembly connecting the front fork to the frame. Because of this, the front wheel could not clear the down tube.

I had no choice but to carry the bike home. I hadn’t gone far when a car pulled over. My savior! I thought. But no, the driver just wanted directions. Did I know a certain road? I did. Providentially it was very near my home, and I had the presence of mind to barter this intelligence for a ride. The driver let me toss the bike into his trunk.

That evening I loaded the damaged Imola into my own car. Heading to the bike shop, I felt like I was driving an ambulance.

I talked to a bike mechanic. He became the doctor telling me my friend did not survive the crash. It's toast,  he said. The damage is just too severe.

Heading back home, I felt like I was driving a hearse.

I spent most of Friday close to tears. But by Saturday I needed to ride. So I pulled out my rickety old mountain bike, a rigid frame Specialized Stump Jumper, and pumped up its tires. Took the pedals off the Imola and put them onto the Specialized. Lubed the chain. Filled my water bottles.

I biked back to the scene of the crash in search of the car I’d hit. The impact had smashed out a taillight and left a few scratches. I learned there were two owners, but they weren't home. So I gave their landlord my phone number, and for the next few days, every time the phone rang I thought it was them, demanding a pound of flesh. But I never did hear from them.

Over the next few months two friends, both women, both tall, loaned me road bikes, and I kept rolling as I considered my options. I was determined to replace that Imola. So with great reluctance, I wound up selling the ES-335. My four year old daughter took it literally when I said selling it broke my heart. I had paid four hundred dollars for it, but the dealer who bought it paid me a lot more; he said he would have gone much higher if not for all of the scratches and dings.

I took the money from the music shop and ran to the bike shop. Ordered a new bike frame. And before too long, I had what I christened a Bianchi Mongrel – a mix of old and new components on a brand new, handmade, light weight Boron steel frame.

I really miss that Gibson electric. But I have grown to love the new bike, and talk to it even; we’ve logged countless miles together.
The Mongrel

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