I drive to Fredericksburg, VA to spend time with my cousin Mike. I get into town early to play at Picker's Supply, the most entertaining musical instrument store I've ever encountered. They have a vast selection of guitar slide tubes, a kit to clean flutes, and special picks designed for ukelele. They have a gently used hawaiian guitar painted with original hula girl racist imagery. Picker's Supply is a cinematic experience.
I've played the bass guitar since 1985, but I just bought my first electric guitar six months ago. Since then I've bought all kinds of guitar pedals, and I line them in a row and love each one of them like a girl with a bookshelf of Barbies.
My typical guitar store experience is walking in, searching for a staffer who will give me permission to use a guitar, then tune it, only to struggle with banks of guitar pedals that don't work and no one on staff has the skill or time to make them work.
This is not Picker's Supply. Everything works, it's all connected properly, and every guitar in the store is in tune, thanks to a guy on staff who likes to be helpful and stays out of the way. This is how the candy store is supposed to work.
I play with the DigiTech Vx400 Vocal-Modeling Floor Processor and the DigiTech JamMan Looper Pedal. The Digitech Vocal Processor has an Alvin setting.
Mike showed up and let me noodle some more while he checked the posters outside for bands playing downtown that night. I played the digital modeling pedals designed to reproduce the sounds of specific guitarists. There were pedals dedicated to Brian May (Queen), Jimi Hendrix, Scott Ian (Anthrax) and Eric Clapton. Brian May was fun. No one sounds like him, well, at least, not until the pedal, but I liked the Scott Ian pedal the best. Go figure.
Mike took me across the street to eat at Basil's Bistro. I've never been to a place named after my first name before. Nothing for sale, no t-shirt, no hat. I thought about stealing their rock with "Basil" etched into it, but that would have felt petty. We sat at the bar for faster service and more fellowship. I think I talked one of the waitresses into going to the John C. Campbell Folk School. I strongly recommend the John C. Campbell Folk School for all your grown-up summer camp needs.
Mike tried to leave Basil's Bistro with their bathroom key. Good thing they tied it to a foot-long plastic cooking spoon or it never would have fallen out of his jacket.
We go to a corner coffee shop and sit on benches outside. Mike goes in for cream and he talks to a stranger at the counter for ten minutes. Mike can't pour milk into a cup of coffee without making a friend. This is my own bad karma biting me in the ass. My wife accuses me of whoring my friendship to random strangers when we're out in public. Now I have insight to how it feels when I'm the one out of sight and out of mind. Fortunately, my wife has great breasts, which give me a visual anchor to focus my attention.
Mike then took me to a club called "Recreation Center." Recreation Center has hot dogs and beer and a live bluegrass band that allows people from the audience to play the band's instruments during the breaks. Parents leave their children in the pool hall in the back of the club to play eight-ball in a safe, well-lit environment. Looking back, I reflect on how there are hundreds of Chuck E. Cheese franchises and only one Recreation Center, and I wonder what we did to offend God.
Mike walks me up the street to the old train station to hear one of the Picker's Supply guitar teachers and his band. This band was great too, several times better than a bar band should be. Then we returned to Recreation Center. I was weak and ate a hot dog. Mike and I talk to everyone. When you have Attention Deficit Disorder, everyone is a friend you haven't met yet. Even the friends you have met are friends you haven't met yet.
The bluegrass band closed with Viva Las Vegas. Red-hot music three hours after they started. Then Mike and I leave with two of Mike's new friends for the reggae show next door.
I want to mention here that Mike is sixty years old with Type 2 Diabetes. He also woke up at 4:45 this morning, went to work, and is still in his tweed blazer and button-down dress shirt nineteen hours later at a reggae show. Mike enjoys life, loves everyone, and has no concern for blending into his surroundings. Mike is the punkest punk at the reggae show.
The reggae band is one African-American guy who also looks a little Asian or Samoan, backed up by four scruffy young white men. Even this band is good. I can't find a crappy live band in Fredericksburg, Virginia. This place is a secret Camelot for nightclub musicians. Mike is three times older than the drunk guitarist he's talking to.
I finally run out of energy and tell Mike I'm ready to go home. I am ashamed.