I found myself on a ship again, waking to a sublime sunrise in the warm tropical air. Although it was a business trip, and a hectic one at that, I must say that sailing the open ocean never gets old and always lifts my spirits. Here's to the miraculous moments we find amid the chaos.
My mode of transport
"There isn't any question but that, being in Savannah, being a loafer here, seeing red rivers and red lands, starts something down inside me singing again."
So wrote Sherwood Anderson back in 1930, during a stay in Georgia's haunting old museum of a seaport. I recently enjoyed a one-day stopover in Savannah that included a break-of-dawn bike ride through the historic district, a perfect meal at the Boar's Head and an excursion to the ancient and eerie Bonaventure Cemetery just outside of town. The cemetery, by the way, has been a source of inspiration for countless visitors. The great naturalist John Muir spent a week there more than a century ago, sleeping under the moss-covered oaks and ruminating about the relationship between life and death. "You hear the song of birds, cross a small stream, and are with nature in the grand old forest graveyard, so beautiful that almost any sensible person would choose to dwell here with the dead rather than with the lazy, disorderly living." I'm not sure I agree with Muir's sentiment entirely, but Bonaventure certainly did deliver a moving, emotional experience for me on a quiet, breezy Sunday morning.
Below are a handful of the photos I snapped during my ride through town.
When I started this blog five years ago, I spent considerable time on it, hoping to attract readers and gain an audience of some respectable level. For a time, people would find the site and leave comments here and there. My stats showed some noteworthy page views now and then. But like countless other blogs, Guitar Dad failed to gain any real traction and became more of an outlet for me personally, just a place to post thoughts, photos and videos ... an online journal, really.
But there was one reader I could always count on: my dad. He loved to read and re-read the stuff I published on this site. He was my best – and most of the time only – reader. Whenever I started writing something for Guitar Dad, I always had my dad in mind. What would he think? What could I write that would make him proud and happy?
Today, my father is no longer of this world, having passed away last Friday, March 29, 2013, at 7:18 p.m., his family by his side. We have lost a truly wonderful, honest and kind man, a man of integrity and courage. And Guitar Dad has lost its most important audience ... my most cherished reader.
Thank you for taking such a great interest in this project of mine, dad. I love you and miss you and will think of all the wonderful moments we shared for as long as I live.
More about my extraordinary dad here.
I enjoyed running through a new tune today on my Taylor 615, a guitar I've owned for nearly 25 years and one I cherish more and more every time I pick it up. Taylors are perfect specimens of musical precision. They sound great, look great and feel great! More about my obsession with Taylors here.
"The guitar is a small orchestra. It is polyphonic. Every string is a different color, a different voice." -- Andres Segovia
"I went to my friend's house one day, and he had an electric guitar he had just bought with a tiny little amp. I turned up the volume to 10 and I hit one chord, and I said, I'm in love." -- Ace Frehley
"An uncle of mine emigrated to Canada and couldn't take his guitar with him. When I found it in the attic, I'd found a friend for life." -- Sting
"My guitars are my umbilical cord. They're directly wired into my head." -- Kirk Hammett
"Years from now, after I'm gone, someone will listen to what I've done and know I was here. They may not know or care who I was, but they'll hear my guitars speaking for me." -- Chet Atkins
"Shut up 'n play yer guitar!" -- Frank Zappa
Every so often, I feel the need to re-immerse myself in Southern culture. It soothes my soul and opens my heart. As a North Carolinian living the past 19 years in Florida (not the South, by the way), I reluctantly have allowed some of my down-home-ness to slip away. But I never, ever forget my roots.
Today I'm feeling especially invigorated after taking a three-day road trip (by myself!) from Louisville through Nashville, Atlanta, Macon and home to Orlando. This 858-mile journey was downright heavenly, an adventure of twists and turns I'll remember for as long as I live.
Believe it or not, I had never stepped foot in Nashville before, and I absolutely adored the place. It's true I'm not keen on country music, but I enjoyed tooling around this comfortable city, strolling Vanderbilt University, Centennial Park, Music Row and downtown Nashville. The highlight most certainly was visiting the holy grail of vintage guitar shops, Gruhn Guitars, where the staff was kind enough to show me the upstairs room, off limits to the public and protecting the shop's most prized possessions. For a few moments I strummed on a lovely, sweet-sounding Martin acoustic from the 1940s, priced at a mere $185,000. Seriously? That's just insane.
Below are a few of my photos from Music City ...
Then I was off to Atlanta, that big, bold city of the South, which looks and feels more like Chicago every time I visit. One of my first stops was the Sundial Restaurant high atop the Westin hotel downtown. It delivers quite an exhilarating vantage point, 73 stories above the city. I also dropped by Piedmont Park, The Varsity (for chili slaw dogs and a Frosted Orange), Ebenezer Baptist Church, the Margaret Mitchell House and the Coca-Cola headquarters.
Check out my shots from Atlanta ...
The most fortuitous moments of my trip unfolded about an hour south of Atlanta. I stopped to pee at the visitor's center in Macon, Georgia. After taking care of business, I asked one of the nice ladies behind the information desk if they knew the whereabouts of guitarist Duane Allman's grave site in Macon. The most animated of them, Opal, proceeded to tell me about The Big House, a museum devoted to the Allman Brothers Band located just a few blocks off I-75, in the house where the band lived from 1970 to 1973. Holy crap! I had no idea this place existed! What a rush it was walking through the rooms of this massive tudor home teeming with guitars, clothes, records and other mementos associated with this extraordinary rock group.
After the total buzz of that experience, I must admit it was a bit of a downer strapping back into my car seat and steering toward home. The fun was over and all that lay ahead was highway, another 364 miles of it in fact. I could hear Gregg Allman growl, "and the road goes on forever ..."
For just a moment, as a few scattered joggers clomped away from my vicinity, I found myself alone in the darkened midsection of the Mall, the sun having dropped and a still chill in the air. In one direction loomed the majestic Capitol, in the other the soaring Washington Monument, both bathed in bright light. I had the entire city to myself.
No matter how many times I visit our nation's capital I am always intoxicated by its blend of youthful energy and iconic oldness. Grand symbols of life and liberty stand at every corner, big and bold and beautiful, reminders of a hard-fought past and the promise of generations to come.
Nearly just as fun to behold, at least to me, are the city's countless bars and bookstores. You see, I have this thing about drinking and reading. Not that I always engage in these activities at the same time, though they can complement each other nicely.
This past week I was too busy to spend quality time imbibing but did manage to squeeze in stopovers at two absolutely wonderful book shops. One was Capitol Hill Books, a cramped two-story hive of used volumes overseen by a crusty old-timer, Jim Toole, who barks to everyone who pops in, "Fiction upstairs, non-fiction down." He's quite a character, this guy, and makes no bones about used bookstores being a dying breed. "I know it's just a matter of time before they push me out and make this another Starbucks, so that we can have more crap on every corner of this city," Toole said in an interview with a local publication.
And then it was on to my favorite bookstore in D.C., Kramerbooks and Afterwords Cafe. This place may in fact be my favorite seller of new books
anywhere. It's as if I selected each and every title, at least the ones shelved in my favorite sections (essays, travel narrative and writing reference). I love this place, even though I bump up the median age the moment I step in. Everyone looks 25 and lacks the wear and tear of the weary.
As it happens, I didn't have nearly enough time to enjoy the city, as I flew in late in the afternoon, attended an all-day speechwriting seminar the next day (with the brilliant Mike Long) and immediately flew home. It seems like every time I travel here it's a quick visit in a town where nobody ever really takes root. As author Allen Drury once observed, "It is a city of temporaries, a city of just-arriveds and only-visitings, built on the shifting sands of politics, filled with people passing through." It was a pleasure catching up again, D.C. Till next time ...
Took these photos with my BlackBerry this morning during my bike ride through downtown. Thanks to Instagram for the cool filters and treatments!