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When a Windfall Isn't One
Today I have re-learned an old lesson, namely that finding out you only thought you had something is worse than just not having it, even though the net effect is the same. To wit:

When I was little, I remember my mother had an acoustic guitar. She never really learned to play it, for whatever reason, but she had one, and it would get pulled out occasionally and fiddled around with. It was in one of those classic El Mariachi cases and everything.

Well, lately I've been going through one of my periodic things where I'll think I ought to learn to play the guitar. I've already got a number of the electric variety, none of which I'm much good at playing, and it randomly occurred to me to ask Mom if she still had her acoustic. And she did! So she dug it out of the closet and brought it, dusty old case and all, over here yesterday.

It looked to be in pretty good shape - hadn't been played in many years, but the case had done its job and apart from some greening on the frets and the strings looking pretty cruddy, it looked promising. I did a little research and discovered that it's a Giannini AWN70 "Cadiz" classical guitar, made in Brazil, vintage 1973 (same as me - I think she bought it as a postnatal hobby thing). The case bears the label of the Viner Music Company, which was a big music store in Bangor when I was a kid (now long defunct).

Today, before class, I took it to a non-defunct music store in Bangor to get it cleaned up and re-strung (both because the strings were pretty manky and because I'm left-handed, so they'd've had to come off anyway)... and the man at the store looked physically pained when he opened the case and took it out.

Rather than relate the rest of the information as unsequentially as I learned it, I'll just tell you the story as I heard it when I called Mom to investigate after receiving his report. You see, one of Mom's second husband's sons was in a band when he was in college, which was... I dunno, 15 or so years ago, he's a bit younger than me. Unbeknownst to me, he borrowed the guitar for a while back in those days.

The thing about this guy is that he basically destroys everything he touches through a unique admixture of carelessness and cluelessness, and this time is no different from any of the others. The Giannini AWN70 is, you see, not an "acoustic guitar" in the technical sense of the term. It is a guitar, yes, and it is acoustic, but in terms of its construction and intended usage, it's a classical guitar. It doesn't have a truss rod in its neck and its body construction is very lightweight, so that it can give the best and most responsive performance fitted with traditional gut strings or the modern nylon equivalents one is almost infinitely more likely to find.

Serious Musician Boy evidently didn't know that, or - just as likely - didn't give a fuck. He put steel strings on it and cranked on the tension until it was good and loud. And then returned it without comment, so that Mom, not knowing the difference, put it away in the closet so that it could sit, unmolested, with hideously overtensioned steel strings for 10-15 years.

Hence the look of pained dismay on the guitar tech's face as he saw that the bridge had started to peel away from the top of the guitar, but not before bowing the wood where it's attached into a permanent belly. And that at the other end, the strings had crushed the brittle plastic spindles of the tuning machines to splinters. And that in between, though the guitar's vastly overstressed truss-rod-less neck had miraculously not broken, it had warped, so that the instrument's intonation will be permanently fucked up.

He's doing what he can, but he told me right up front that the guitar is probably scrap, and even if it can be returned to a nominally playable condition (which may well cost more than the instrument is worth), it'll never really be right. I think it broke his heart a little - it's a beautiful piece of work, all handmade from exotic South American woods with intricate little hand inlays around the sound hole and on the (damaged) bridge. This was a relatively inexpensive instrument in its day, but nothing like it can be had new for the equivalent of what it cost in 1973. Not even close. Times have changed.

And it's ruined.

I'm furious, but beyond that I am mightily disappointed, not simply because it turns out I don't have a classical guitar, but also because that's a bit of my childhood someone else has destroyed. So much more disappointed than if she simply hadn't had it any more - because in point of fact she didn't have it any more, but we didn't know that.

Current Mood: wrathful

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cmdr_zoom From: cmdr_zoom Date: September 30th, 2014 07:53 am (UTC) (Link)
Aw man. I'm sorry, that sucks.
mindways From: mindways Date: September 30th, 2014 08:50 pm (UTC) (Link)

Sorry to hear.

And yeah - the difference between expectations and reality is one prime source of unhappiness in the human mind.
ladymondegreen From: ladymondegreen Date: October 1st, 2014 03:03 am (UTC) (Link)
There is a special hell for people who do that to guitars. And if there isn't, you ought to write one and create it.
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