Thoughts From Dear Old Dad: Life’s Hard Lessons

A long time ago, Dear Old Dad wrote many  posts ages ago to share his insights into the music making experience. I recently rediscovered a batch of these files. We will be sharing them from time to time
-Patrock

I learned to frail on an old Harmony banjo. You know, the one with a composite pot/resonator and a neck/dowel combo that looked like it was transplanted from a barn broom. Yeah, it was cheesy and crude but it was mine. I played it every chance I got while I was learning to play and sing. Like most novices I finally decided that I was ready to move up to a “real” banjo. I visited a local music store but they specialized in guitars and band instruments. These folks admitted that they could not be of any real help. I then asked my banjo friend if he could help me find and buy a really good banjo. He was more than happy to oblige.

He told me that he knew of a first rate banjo for sale by a dealer at the Gilbertsville Farmer’s Market. He was vague about the details but he assured me that this was “the banjo” for me and that he could personally vouch for the character of the dealer and the quality of the banjo. Well, what I knew about banjos at the time amounted to almost nothing. My friend had been playing for decades and he owned a lot of banjos so I put myself in his hands.

We arrived at the dealer’s stall on a Friday evening. The guy had lots of banjos, guitars and mandolins hanging from the ceiling and laying on tables. He saw my friend and reached for a banjo. He was expecting us. The dealer handed me a very old banjo. It had friction pegs and a spun-over rim. It was hard to tune and it did not have any real tone or volume. I didn’t think much of this banjo. My buddy got very uneasy. He told me that this was a great deal and that I would be sorry if I let it go. The dealer was just disgusted that I could not see the quality in this banjo. I walked right into the trap. I handed over $150.00 for a banjo based entirely on someone else’s endorsement. My $25.00 Harmony was a better instrument than this thing.

I now know that the endorsement was not real. My “friend” got a kickback from the dealer for delivering a pigeon. I later took the banjo to a shop that specialized in banjos to see if it could be made playable. The owner just laughed and said that there was nothing he could do. This banjo was junk when it was made and it was junk now. I asked to look at some real banjos. There was no pressure. The shopkeeper answered my questions and let the instruments do the talking. I bought a high quality modern instrument and I never regretted the investment.

There is a lesson here:

View all endorsements with some cynicism. Friends or acquaintances may mislead you by accident or by design. What is good for them may not be good for you. Be especially wary of anonymous endorsers on the Internet. One of the first tricks in guerrilla marketing is to create a flood of gushing reviews by unidentified “experts”. You have no way of knowing who they are or if they even exist. Remember that guerrilla marketers will do and say anything to get your money. Take your time. Think things over. Visit an acoustic music shop and look at several brands and models. Buy the best instrument that you can reasonably afford. Just be sure that when you open the case you feel the inner glow that emerges when you hug an old friend.

It’s a cold world. Bring a blanket.

More later. Till then, don’t step in anything soft.

Pat (Dear Old Dad) Costello

Chapter 9

Chapter 9 of my book in progress is ready for patrons to download!

Get the download link from Patreon!

As you probably know by now, I am writing this book entirely by hand.

I am writing in pencil on legal pads because a neurological problem has made it difficult for me to type.

This download is a first draft with a quick edit. Dear Old Dad will edit it two more times before transcribing it all into Word.

We are numbering the chapters as they are written. They will probably appear in a different order in the finished book.

Once the book is finished we will make the ebook edition available to all our Patreon sponsors.

In Chapter 9 we meet Paul. The Beatnik.

Patrick Rock

A package arrived yesterday from Don in Florida consisting of a poem wrapped around a pencil and a polished stone.

The stone had an inlaid banjo on on side and  the words “Patrick 7/18” carved on the other.

On the pencil was written, “You are awesome!

The poem wrapped around the pencil reads:

Like A Rock – Patrick And Dear Old Dad

Like an old rock should be weathered by time
But smoothed by it’s journey it still has a shine

Driven by passion to share what we love 
Teaching from the heart with help from the above

He takes us to places that we;d never dream
With Beautiful logic and magic it seems

Explore and discover have fun he would say
Not focused on fortune he gives it away

He says don’t worry if you play something wrong
Just keep on practicing and singing your song

I’ve met many teachers – and yes I was one
But few have impressed me like Patrick has done

He’s made this world a better place that I can tell
Dear Old Dad taught him and taught him quite well

Like a rock with a banjo he mellows with time
in spite of his journey he continues to shine . . .

What a cool keepsake! Thanks, Don!
God bless,
-Patrick

Turning Point

To follow up on yesterday’s demise of my favorite pencil sharpener, I took action and ordered a few supplies.

On Dear Old Dad’s advice I bought a good electric pencil sharpener to keep my wooden pencils nice and pointy. He pointed out that of sharpening 40 to 50 pencils twice a day was too much wear and tear on a simple hand-cranked sharpener

Dad is usually right about this stuff, so I took his advice.

Then I realized how many pencils I burn through while I am writing. I decided to look around to see if there was an alternative that would last longer. I never have had much luck with mechanical pencils, but the Kuru Toga caught my attention. The point turns to stay sharp! For $5.57 (I love jetpens.com!) it’s worth a try.

Chapters 9 and 10 are almost ready to hand over to Dear Old Dad, and then scan for posting on Patreon

It has taken me forever to type this. I wish I could write on the computer as easily as I do with paper and pencil, but I am thankful that I can still express myself with words and music in my own fashion. Working with my dad on this project has been an amazing adventure.

Shaving Grace

Now that typing is difficult I have embraced writing almost everything longhand. I was unsure of how it would go at first, but my paper and pencils have been a joy to work with.

Twice a day I grab several fistfuls of pencils and sharpen them for my writing session. When I am writing I work until my pencil is dull, drop the dull pencil and switch to a fresh pencil without skipping a beat. I got the idea from John Steinbeck and it works well for me.

That is, until today . . .

Just now I was sharpening a batch of pencils and my X-Acto pencil sharpener blew apart in my face! Pencil shavings and bits of sharpener all over my desk. I have pencil shavings up my nose. Scared the hell out of Pooka.

I guess it just got old and I was cranking it too hard.

Well, it’s time to shop for a new pencil sharpener.

Chapter 8!

Chapter 8 of my book in progress is ready for patrons to download!

https://www.patreon.com/posts/20629798

As you probably know by now, I am writing this book entirely by hand.

I am writing in pencil on legal pads because a neurological problem has made it difficult for me to type.

This download is a first draft with a quick edit. Dear Old Dad will edit it two more times before transcribing it all into Word.

We are numbering the chapters as they are written. They will probably appear in a different order in the finished book.

Once the book is finished we will make the ebook edition available to all our Patreon sponsors.

Chapter 8 tells of my early attempts to learn guitar and how I got my Dobro 33-H

Pooka Break

I woke up at 4:00 AM to put the finishing touches on the eighth chapter of my new book. I was intensely writing, thinking of nothing but my work and the dance between the words in my head and the point of my pencil scratching across the paper.

Then Pooka decided I needed a break. She wouldn’t take no for an answer!