Guild guitars and back in the highlife again…

I play guitar, and I don’t play it too badly. I used to play an old Martin grand auditorium, which I had for a good 20 years. I loved that guitar. Of course Billy took it back as easily as he once gave it to me all that time ago. He had just purchased it, back in the early 90s, It had a lush green velvet case and when I picked it up I never wanted to touch my beat up old Ibanez again. It had a low sweet action that didn’t shred fingers and a deeply resonant sound that almost rang to the point of echo, I guess it was that Indian rosewood back and side that did it. Adirondack spruce top. It was my baby. My darling. When I got into the car and made off for San Francisco I mourned it. I tried guitar after guitar, trying to find a cheap guitar that a good friend wanted to buy me for Christmas. I tried Yamahas and Blueridges, Gibsons and Recording Kings. Everything felt clunky and sounded worse than I remembered was possible. I decided I just was not going to play anymore. That I’d relegate it to the past, like I relegated being a mother of a daughter, and the partner of a man who loved me. I’d throw it away, trinket, I didn’t need anymore. Who needed a guitar to play?

Turns out I did. I found the Guild sitting unloved on a shelf in a local guitar shop. Someone had dinged it, lost the case, it was missing a pick guard, and so deeply discounted. I had never tried a Guild. I was trying on plastic sided Martins for size, which I hated, ditto any Taylor, plastic or otherwise that I put into my hands. This guitar was different. A deep brown matte to black burst, real mother of pearl inlay, a nice ebony fretboard, not a scrap of plastic on it, apart from the binding, which I presume to be plastic. Open backed tuners, which actually are not bad at all. It has an odd cutaway, which I was not sure about, but I played a G chord, and fell in love. More of a mid range boldness than the Martin. I left, fretting for my old lost guitar, but returned the next day, and rushed her home in the cheapest gig bag I could find which they threw in for free, I changed the strings to some Ernie Ball earthwood lights, and I have myself a guitar.

I’m having a tough night, calling round hospitals to see if Billy has been brought in, and having no luck reaching him. I’ve felt sad all day. In fact past sad into devastated.

My son turned round and hugged me. He told me he knew how hard it must be for me, losing his sibling, and now Billy. Even if Billy is alive still, he is lost. That brain tumor plus the drinking won’t hold on forever. I noticed he was crying too, not wanting me to see. We hugged each other. It is hard for us both. I don’t think either of us have dared to even admit this before. We skirt around it. We don’t talk about it. It is the thing that must not be mentioned, for fear I’ll fall to pieces again.

I pulled out the guitar, and asked him what he wanted me to play. It comforted him as a small child when I would just pick out quiet songs on the old Martin. I swear the children thought it might be part of me at one point.

He looked at me, and said “Don’t tell anyone, Ma…but I’d like to hear little Stevie Winwood’s Back in the Highlife Again.” I had to smile, his stepdad, Billy always called him Little Stevie Winwood, and I was never quite sure why.

So I pulled the stiff new leather strap around my neck and started playing and singing softly with him….”back in the highlife again, all the eyes that watched me once will smile and take me in”…or something like that.

I threw away religion a while ago. I figure God doesn’t much care if I suffer or not, but I can’t help hoping we will all be together one day, back in the high life again.


The kiddo just pointed out to me that the early 90s are now 30 years ago, not twenty. I am Displeased. How the heck did that happen!


      1. Ron Pavellas

        I’m not inside your perceptions, so I can only infer that “the reunited thing” is achieving one-ness with God (however one perceives this abstraction). I suggest we are one with all living things, perhaps even the rocks. I particularly like octopuses (currently). I am not a nihilist, no kind of -ist at all. The music for which I sent you a link is based on Mary grieving and mourning for her son on the cross. I am not a professed Christian, but I can relate to the event, the feeling, and marvel at the music which can so wonderfully express these.

      2. The Paltry Sum

        Octopuses have a certain grace. I like giraffes. They are so improbable. The whole shinto buddhist achieving nothingness so in order to return like a lost shard to a pot is appealing. Ill settle for a we do not know. I was Messianic at one point, now Im just convinced we are not all there is, but what is more than us, I don’t have a clue. The right wing Christian Conservatives don’t either. I’ve no idea. I just want people back that I’ve lost, and I need to believe that will happen. Sorry Ron, Im not great company this evening! I invariably bounce back. I hope your day went well?

      3. Ron Pavellas

        I have just have arisen, but not aroused. (“I am risen”?) with my first cuppa. Nothing to be sorry about. Eva and I are–we certainly feel–cooped-up, even if we can take walks in the neighborhood. Last evening I was cranky and she was weepy, communicating electronically with family and friends. I’ve been to hell and back a number of times, so “I can take it!” Bring it on, sister.

      4. The Paltry Sum

        I never made it to Sweden, it looks …civilized. Say hello to Eva from me, it is so hard being separated from people by this pandemic. Im contemplating a last evening cup of tea. The shelter is not too bad, but its time for me to put away the guitar and quieten down now. It can be very difficult.

      5. Ron Pavellas

        Yes, Sweden has been ‘civilized’, a bit too much for my American tastes, but the inevitable decay is apparent. Our English language book discussion group (we now meet by Skype, invented by a Finn. We Swedes like the Finns, even if we look down on them a little bit. Personally I think I like the Finns more)…where was I… Oh yeah, the book: The Radetzky March, If you wanna get depressed by the inevitable decay and collapse of all human megasocieties, read this one, from the Austrian perception of the run-up to the First World War.

      6. The Paltry Sum

        That sounds like something I would greatly enjoy, Ron. I think, in fact I might just withdraw from blogging and writing. I don’t have the stomach for it. If I do, I hope you and your wife would continue to correspond with me?

      7. Ron Pavellas

        Sure, send me your email address. I enjoy corresponding, as well. It’s rare to (online) meet a compatible and interesting mind/person. rpavellas(at)pm(dot)me

      8. The Paltry Sum

        I took a break from other women who have no lived experience of being a battered wife in Japan, just shit they read online and their own racial prejudices, and decided Ill just keep on speaking my own truth and not waste my time. Women who talk down to other women they see as inferior to them really upset me. It is so hurtful to be told off like a child, put in my place as if I am stupid or incapable and told to basically be quieter, be more amenable, be more FEMININE so people will listen to me. Quite infuriating. I will, of course write privately, I greatly enjoy our correspondence! Have a great day Ron.

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