Bad News Baha

I am not sure what or how it happened, but my left BAHA abutment – the bolt drilled into my skull that my hearing aid attaches to – is as loose as a politician’s grasp of the truth. It not only hurts like hell, it makes the hearing aid useless.

I knew that the coming week was going to be rough. September 4th is the second anniversary of Amy’s passing. I was not expecting it to be this rough.

I am honestly not sure what to do because getting to Johns Hopkins is complicated – and, as diabetics walking into Hopkins is taking a huge risk for me and my father.

So, for the time being, I am back in silence.

It’s funny in a way because I was just getting used to being able to hear again. Now it feels like the MyPillow guy has taped several pounds of his products to either side of my head. It is disorienting as watching 2001: A Space Odyssey now that I know that the monolith was a representation of the screen we, the audience, are watching as the movie plays. In many ways, it is like being pulled out of the world. Everything is back to normal and then suddenly even the clicking of my keyboard as I type this is gone.

It would be easy to wallow in self-pity and ask pointless questions like, “Why me?” That kind of victimized thinking implies that there is some kind of universal plot to make me miserable, and that is just not who I am.

The left abutment was probably not installed properly. When I had the surgery back in 2013, the doctor broke the drill in my skull. I know this because I had to be awake for the surgery. The operating room was a circus full of med students. They had a boom box blasting bluegrass for my entertainment.

Just in case you are wondering, even the dulcet strains of Dueling Banjos cannot take your mind away from the sound of a large drill throwing a bearing as it is boring into your head.

When I have a way to get to Baltimore and back safely, as well as navigating a hospital without getting Covid-19, I’ll get the abutment fixed. Until then, I’ll be back in the quiet.

I really can’t complain. I have Pooka and a pot of hot tea. My family is safe and healthy. I miss Amy like a grounded eagle misses the sky, and I was having a ball listening to music again, but overall life is good. I have managed to brush all the burrs out of Mephistopheles’ coat, and the feral beast bonds with me more every day.

I wish I had a way to get to Blackwater on Friday. My wife and I loved Assateauge, but Blackwater was our spot. Special. Being an epileptic in a rural town makes it impossible to have much independence. It sucks not being able to just get up and go. Not being able to walk far or drive makes the days sometimes feel like a prison sentence. The two keywords here are sometimes and feels. I know how good I have it.

I’ll keep the lessons scheduled for this week. I’ll need all of you to step up for the Wednesday Night Banjo and Donut Marching Society meeting this week and work with each other. I will be offline on Friday.

Fret not, folks. I’ll be okay. This sucks, but compared to some I am the luckiest man alive. The great thing about not being able to hear is that I can’t hear Trump, Biden or Carrot Top – so, it’s a blessing!

Next Meeting of the Wednesday Night Banjo and Donut marching Society: 9/2/2020

2:00 PM Eastern:

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7:00 PM Eastern:

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Old Companion

My beloved Dobro 33H needs a neck reset, fretwork and probably a new cone, biscuit and nut. The last work done on it was at Mandolin Brothers back in the late 90s. Stan Jay himself watched over the work because he remembered the day dad bought me this guitar.

When Stan saw the shape my Dobro was in that day he actually blanched. His repair guy said he never saw a modern Dobro with kind of wear and tear. Right now it is even more worn out. I am hard on my instruments!

As many of you know, I am not big on possessions. I have given away enough instruments to fill ten music stores, but this beast has been my constant companion. I am leery of just dropping it off anywhere. If anybody can recommend a good repair tech who works on resophonic instruments, text me @ 410-713-4044 or email dobrolibre@gmail.com.

Uke Got To Be Kidding

I have gotten a lot of requests for ukulele workshops. I just have to restring my resophonic uke – and that is a hellish process on these Recording King instruments. They seem to be designed by a tone-deaf sadistic psychopathic ass-clown who saved money by leaving out the tailpiece.

I literally have to disassemble the instrument to change the strings!

Craaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaap!

That said, I do like the way the instrument plays. We have had some wild adventures together. I was clutching this uke when I wandered into an airport runway (it’s a long story). I guess even badly designed instruments have good points.

Seriously, Recording King, a tailpiece is an easily stamped pit of metal. Why cut corners and make an otherwise great instrument as awful as Trump’s hair in a strong wind?

Writing Tools

With two books in the works, I need fortifications. For me, that means tea.

Not that grocery store swill. I mean real tea. Strong stuff. Really good tea.

So, I got enough lapsang souchong to get me through the next couple of months, with additional reserves of Bai Mudan, decent sencha (great sencha can get too pricey for my budget), and a good cherry tisane for evenings, so I don’t stay up all night wired on caffeine.

I wanted to get a good Nepali Darjeeling, but this will have to do for now.

While I agree with George Orwell on how to make a nice pot of tea, every type of tea I ordered needs specific temperatures and brewing times. It’s not hard, but with dyscalculia anything involving numbers or time is complicated for me. So, I got a teapot that heats and steeps automatically for the various types of tea. It looks like Darth Vader’s bidet, but I hear it makes a good pot of tea.

Before you run out to buy some lapsang souchong for yourself, be forewarned that it is distinctly acquired taste: a black tea roasted over pine smoke that produces a taste and smell that my mother equates to a tire fire. Paul the Beatnik had a dirty plastic sack of lapsang souchong in his filthy kitchen that, in addition to the wood smoke taste was also just basted in cigarette smoke. I drank endless cups of the stuff every Wednesday night because it was less grotesque than his coffee pot.

Seriously, his coffee pot looked like something from Attack of the Mushroom People.

So, if you decide to try lapsang souchong, be aware that it ain’t Tetley! Like theremins and cheesy movies, this stuff ain’t for everybody. I have a collection of angry letters from people who, after reading my praises for this concoction, tried it and were completely grossed out in ways that led them to angrily compose epic beat poetry pieces on the sheer awfulness of the stuff.

I don’t know what they were complaining about. I like it.

Ooooooh! I opened the bag of lapsang souchong and now the room smells like Ron Sawnson. Wood smoke and dark wild places. This tea could make a baby grow a beard and start whittling. The smell from the open bag actually drove the cat out of the room.

Now to organize my writing corner so that the tea supplies are with easy reach.

Before anybody starts writing me, I know Adagio Teas is far from perfect, but they do have some good stuff that is priced in my range. If you want to get deep into high-quality tea, try Yunan Sourcing or other small operations that go to great lengths to source the good stuff.

Silent Running

Over the years I have learned that one of the hallmarks of a teacher who is growing in their chosen discipline is change.

The tricky bit is deciphering if the change is real or just an affectation in a sweaty-palmed attempt at staying relevant.

Recently, I had most of what was left of my lower teeth pulled. It hurt (I’m still sore) and I look like a jack-o’-lantern auditioning for a job singing in The Pouges. Because of this, I knocked out a quick workshop without saying a word.

I was not trying something new or looking for a gimmick. This was not me trying to be cool. I was just doing what I always do: using my intellect, training and experience to adapt to my current reality.

I am a huge fan of the Taoist ideal of the happy accident, and this turned out to be a classic case of unintentionally stumbling across something new. After thousands of live or recorded workshops where I talk my head off, keeping my mouth shut for a change created an environment where the attention was shifted from Patrick Costello to the music.

Roughly concurrently with my wordless workshops, another instructor posted a workshop acting like holding a power chord and strumming the banjo like a dysfunctional ukulele was a new approach to the banjo. This is a classic example of forced or even faked innovation versus stumbling across something new.

You can’t fake inspiration. There is no formula or recipe. The process changes us as we roll along, and as we grow our perspectives change. If you want an example of changing perspectives over time in everyday life, go back and visit a place you knew well as a child. The last time I visited Havertown, PA, I was horrified at how different the place looked. The streets that I remembered as wide enough for a baseball game now seem too narrow for traffic.

I am going to keep the wordless workshops going until the concept grows stale, I come up with a better idea or the plagiarism squad sets in the way they did with Sing the Banjo! or The Folk Song of the Day. Whatever I do, it will be an honest expression of who I am and where I am in terms of the craft at that moment – and that changes every time I pick up my banjo.