How many guitars does one person need? No it’s not the start of a joke, although I could think of many funny punch lines. The correct answer really depends on who we’re talking about. For many people the correct answer is zero. If you don’t play guitar you most likely think, “why do I need a guitar?” Even if you do play guitar you might decide that you only need one guitar. However, I know many guitar players who fall in the category of needing just one more guitar. It seems that lately I’ve been in that mode. Please hear me out before you judge too quickly.
My first guitar was a twelve-string that was previously owned by my maternal grandfather. When he passed away my mother decided that she wanted to keep the guitar as a reminder of her father. With it sitting around our house I decided that I would learn to play guitar. A friend showed me a few chords and I was off! That was thirty-five years ago.
Cathy brought a Sakura six-string and her classical guitar into our marriage. I started playing the Sakura and eventually decided that the twelve-string no longer fit my style playing so it was sold. My dad bought Cathy a nice Taylor guitar so now we had two six-strings. The Taylor lived at home and I had the Sakura in my church office.
That Sakura went with me on numerous youth outings, to Mexico eight times, Haiti three times, to the beach on the Servant Event about twenty-one times, plus who knows how many other mission trips. But leading up to our most recent mission trip to Haiti the guitar situation got shaken up a bit. Two different church members gave me three different guitars for the mission down in Haiti. The only “problem” with those donations was that they were all electric guitars, which are not of much use down in Haiti where the villages don’t have electricity. My desire was to sell those guitars and use the money to buy an acoustic guitar.
I’m a little bit of a schemer so I thought that maybe we could buy a nicer guitar and leave the Sakura in Haiti. It was my wife’s guitar and she would have to sign off on that idea, and I would have to figure out how to win her over to this idea.
Fast-forward to a month before the Haiti mission trip when Cathy and I were out in California visiting Ben and for some vacation. One afternoon we were finishing lunch and walking back to the car when Cathy decided that she wanted to get a pedicure. What was I going to do with myself? She offered that I could get a pedicure with her…”ah, no thanks, I’ll just meet you in the car.” Instead of waiting in the car, I spotted a pawnshop in the strip mall and decided that I would just knock around in there for a bit. I looked at all of the tools but nothing was that interesting. But then they had a wall of guitars so I thought I would spend some time playing guitar. I took down the name brand guitars like the Taylors and Martins but didn’t find anything that really sounded that great, especially for the prices they had on the guitars. I’m kind of a big-body guitar kind of player so I just started playing through all of the big-body guitars. That’s when I pulled down a Mitchell guitar (not a brand I was familiar with) which sounded good to me. I looked at the price tag and it was cheaper than the other guitars and very reasonable. I also knew I had the money from selling one of those electric guitars on craigslist. When Cathy finished with her pedicure she called me and said, “where are you at?” I told her and she met me at the pawnshop, played the guitar and said, “I think we should buy it.” She even consented to me leaving the Sakura in Haiti.
The only problem is that we were in California and the guitar didn’t come with a case. I didn’t want to spend a lot of money on a case that I would probably be replacing when we got back to Michigan. I asked them if they had any old, beat-up case that would get us home but not cost a lot of money. After checking in the back the guy came out with a beat-up case allright. It was covered with bumper stickers, had webstrapping bolted on for a handle, and one of the clasps was bolted on the side as well. Cathy laughed out loud, but the truth of the matter was that it was perfect! It fits my personality (except for maybe the “Slow Down-This Aint the Mainland” bumpersticker). We asked if they had a bumpersticker from their pawnshop. They said, “no, we don’t have any bumperstickers, but let me see if we’ve got something in the office.” She came out and said, “I found this!” holding a return address label. Perfect! I slapped that on the case and it was a done deal.
In December I travelled to Haiti with the Sakura for the last time. During the trip I found out that the one and only guitar in the village of Sejourne (a guitar that I had repaired on my previous trip to Haiti) did not survive Hurricane Matthew. Upon hearing that news I knew in my heart that the Sakura needed to go to Sejourne. I still needed to use the guitar through the week of our mission trip, but in the end I left it behind to be delivered by Pastor Touloute to Delong Marcel. Delong is the youth director in Sejourne and he and I shared a lot of time playing music back and forth, even literally passing the Sakura back and forth between songs.
The last night before we were to leave Haiti I pulled out the guitar, found a private corner, and sang one last song with the Sakura. When I finished, I told the Touloutes that I was saying “goodbye” to an old friend. I told them that I had played this guitar for thirty years but that I wanted to give it to Delong so that Sejourne could once again have a guitar.
How many guitars do I need? One less… (at least until next week’s blog post…)