I told you
a bit about her before, here, Miss Thunder 1-3-0, a Guild B30 flat-top acoustic bass made in 1988, serial number 130. I haven't told you that during spring break, on Sunday, March 16, I headed out of town, to pick her up from her curator in Alexandria, Virginia. I would become Miss Thunder's new curator, an awesome responsibility.
Because I had been getting pretty tired of our unrepentant winter by that point, I was hoping the trip would also be a trip into springtime for me, as I headed east and somewhat south. No such luck. It is an awfully grey travelogue I would have to put up. The matted lawns all along the way were still of uniform drabness. All the trees were still bare naked. And, surprising to me, I still saw evidence of snow in a lot of shaded areas between here and Washington, DC.
On the first day's drive, I got almost to Wheeling, West Virginia, before I stopped for a night's rest. I was scheduled to pick up Miss Thunder in Alexandria at 4:30 p.m. local time on Monday, an easy drive. Indeed, I had time to get myself a late lunch in the cafeteria at Mount Vernon (yes, that Mount Vernon), and to sit for an hour in the parking lot making notes in my journal. And to notice that, here at last, there was some greenness of grass in the lawn, and in the trees some urgent leafing. And some sun on everything, as if a blessing on my enterprise.
Near the appointed time, I headed the mile north, located the house where Miss Thunder resided, and parked my carcass in a school parking lot to await the resident musician's arrival at home after his day's work.
He did arrive, right on schedule.
He let the dogs out, then led me upstairs to a roomful of his basses - from a bright and lovely upright to a well-worn and well-loved vintage Fender, a six-string this and a fretless that, a four-string this, a five-string that, and the other. The room was like a shrine to the god that bass players worship, let me put it that way; and I was awed into reverence.
He took Miss Thunder out of her case and handed her to me, offering me a place to sit and try her out.
"If you don't mind," he said when I was done, and he took the bass from me.
He played her for three or five or seven minutes, I don't know. I felt almost as if I were intruding on some act of intimacy, his moment of telling Miss Thunder good-bye.
"Keep me up to date about what you do with her," he said as he packed her in the case for me.
"I will," I said.
I will spare you the l-o-n-g version of getting onto I-395 instead of I-495, seeing the Pentagon off to my left as I approached the Potomac, shortly before I-395 dumped us onto 14th Street in downtown Washington, DC, during afternoon rush hour. Suffice it to say that Miss Thunder was riding shotgun in the passenger seat, and I had no place I had to be.
This is the short version. I got to drive past the Treasury Department and the Holocaust Museum; I got to see the Washington Monument, and did I get a glimpse of the White House there off to my left, or did I just imagine it?
What a mess of traffic. You people are insane! I might have said at one point.
Yet I was having fun driving with the locals, watching their curious way of blocking intersections when the light was against them, so they could get through at the next light change, oblivious to the gridlock they were creating. Suddenly it was starkly obvious why I like Fairwater and rural Wisconsin. For us, a traffic jam is when three vehicles get to Five Corners all at the same time.
At some point, I moved over to 16th Street from 14th, and took 16th the rest of the way out to I-495 on the north side of the city, to I-270, to I-70, to Hagerstown, where I got something to eat and found a place to sleep.
On Tuesday, March 19, I drove from Hagerstown to Fairwater.
On Wednesday, as I headed to Ripon to get some groceries, I took Miss Thunder along, to introduce her to my guitar-pickin' friend, Doug Burk. Doug works second shift, and we had time to pick one before I went off to the store and he got ready for work. For the record, with me as her curator, the first song Miss Thunder played was "Bully of the Town."
Doug and I have played a few more songs since then, and Miss Thunder makes some terrific music with Doug's Mr. Martin. This winter and spring we have been working on eighteen instrumentals, trying to get them sweet and clean and smooth and pretty enough that we could even consider recording them. Well, we do record what we call the "practice tapes," even though the files are digital and get put onto a CD, which I bring home and practice to during the week. With our practice tapes, it is as if I'm playing music with Doug every day. And, with my diligent practice, I think I am getting better.
We get together most weekends and work at refining our songs, as we did yesterday, to which these photos of Doug and the Grumble Bear will attest.
Right now we're content to work at perfecting our versions of eighteen songs (guitar and bass), and we're having an awful lot of fun. Doug says we have a ways to go. "Never say Whoa in a horse race" is what I say.
Miss Thunder may also appear in a few songs on the next CD that Doc Abbick, Dean Schechinger, and I record. We'll be getting together for a long weekend in May to start refining (and eliminating some of) the 17-18 original train songs Dean and I have created since our Fairy Tales & Nonsense album came out last October. As many of you already know, I mostly write the lyrics and play bass; Dean does most of the music for our songs, and sings harmony; and Doc mostly sings the songs, plays the front guitar, and serves as "producer." On the weekend of May 9th, 10th, and 11th, if you hear a ruckus coming from somewhere in the middle of the country, that'll be me and Doc and Dean, and we'll be working out the kinks.
Afterwards, likely, I won't be able to keep myself from telling you about our progress. You know how I am.