By Marvin Payne
Matt Chipman is my quorum instructor, also my home teaching companion. In a recent lesson he asserted quite boldly that there is no room in God’s character for procrastination. This is because if you were a procrastinator and had eternity to work with, you’d be in trouble.
(This being pretty funny, I’m reminded that I heard a funny joke from my nine-year-old daughter today. It cracked everybody up. Even the baby laughed, and she doesn’t even speak English.
“Viola.” ((Caitlin pronounced it “Vy-ola.”))
“Viola sudden you don’t remember me?”)
I usually procrastinate the writing of this column until the eleventh hour, figuratively. (The procrastination is not a bit figurative – the hour is what is figurative.) This month I have repented to the degree that I have only procrastinated until the ten-and-a-halfth hour. It’s not where you are on the path that matters, but in which direction you are travelling. (<– Doctrine)
Quite suddenly in the path of my backstage (and, one would project, at least I do, onstage) life I want a guitar that the good folks at C. F. Martin & Co. build in Nazareth, Pennsylvania (and very good things come out of Nazareth) called a “D-18 Golden Era.” I have procrastinated wanting this guitar for far too long – in fact, for my whole life (the duration of which would be regarded by many as being the very definition of “far too long”). I think the most appropriate way for me to repent of this procrastination in wanting it is not to procrastinate getting it.
The D-18 Golden Era is a big fat guitar. No, a big muscular guitar. But not afraid to be tender. Sort of the Atticus Finch of guitars. Or Ben Cartwright, if television is your medium of choice.
The “D” is for “Dreadnaught” which is a shape invented by Martin that serves as the pattern for most of the guitars currently made on the planet (mostly by Chinese people who, as is very little known, anciently invented a music they called “brueglass” to play at fireworks displays and spaghetti festivals. They subsequently taught a few licks to Marco Polo and eventually these were handed down to mandolinist Bill Monroe in the first half of the last century. He, along with Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, guitarist and banjoist, respectively, ((these are real names – they played the theme to “The Beverly Hillbillies”)) corrupted the name into “bluegrass” and the rest, unlike the previous, is, as they say, history).
The “18” in the model designation of this guitar is for “spruce top and mahogany back and sides,” because … well, it just is.
The “Golden Era” is because this guitar is built to the same specs and of the same materials that went into a Martin D-18 in 1934 (How’s that for procrastination?), which was before “bluegrass,” but somewhat after Confucius (real name), who was a much hotter front porch picker than people generally give him credit for.
One of the aforementioned specs is that the aforementioned spruce is of a kind called “Adirondack.” Several weeks ago, I had one of those National Public Radio “driveway moments,” except it was in a parking lot in front of the place where we buy water.
(We’re water snobs. Only steam distilled. No carbs, no chems, no cachet. ((Did I ever write here the story of when we lived in ancient days on a farm out near Utah Lake (((the farmer lived in town))) where the tap water smelled kind of funny? The couple who lived on the Church Farm a half-mile down the dirt road from us invited us to dinner one night and we noticed that their water, too, smelled kind of funny – only a different funny. We puzzled over it a good deal during dinner, and finally guessed that it was really the difference between Holstein and Charolais.)) Everybody else in our town drinks melted Rocky Mountain snow, except the many stylish folks who buy water in plastic bottles that they carry with them in the car, and out biking, and to Relief Society – water that now tastes to me like what the forty-seventh batch of french fries was cooked in. I will admit that this distilled water taste ((if, in fact, it were a taste)) would be, for some, an “acquired” taste. My eldest daughter ((twenty-five years eld)), for example, was recently visiting us from England and drank some of our snob water and said that it tasted to her like “half and half water.”)
In the parking lot, the NPR lady was interviewing this Luthier who repairs and restores old Martins, which immediately caught my ear, even though I couldn’t imagine what his religion might have to do with guitars, it not being one of those craftsmanlike and acoustic religions like Amish or Mennonite. This devout Luthier was a “top tapper.” What he did was take guitar tops (not yet attached to guitars) and tap them with his finger, and from the resonance he would prophesy what the finished guitar would sound like. As a demo right there on the radio, he tapped a top made of Sitka spruce (the most common kind of spruce for guitar tops, abundant and sweet). The resonance sounded kind of, oh, abundant, and sweet. Then he tapped a top of Alpine (Italian) spruce. Then Engleman spruce. Each had a different sound – can’t remember their characteristics exactly, they’re probably best captured in the word “different.” Then he tapped a top of Adirondack (red) spruce. Wow! There sprang forth this rich resonance as though the Tabernacle Choir and the Chicago Symphony together were made entirely of spruce!
The funny thing is that Adirondack spruce doesn’t even look good! In fact, this whole guitar, very plain in its mahogany backage and sideage and neckage and ebony fingerboardage and bridgeage, suffers from a severe paucity of bling. The top is often wide-grained, no “silking” (the iridescent waving you often see across the grain in Sitka), and has very little color in its first twenty years on a guitar. But it makes the D-18 Golden Era into a sound cannon.
When Alma wished “Oh, that I were an angel!” I think what he may have meant was “Oh, that when I showed up everybody would drop what they were doing and be scared out of their socks and though I never intended to alarm them they would always be alarmed but I would tell them to fear not (or, in guitar and shipbuilding argot, “dread naught”) and then deliver my message with a force as though I were holding a D-18GE sound cannon.” Yes, I think that’s pretty much it. And that’s what I would mean, too, were I to say it, as I am sometimes wont to do.
(On the subject of angels, my son Sam went to Japan a few years ago for a couple of days ((something he’d procrastinated his whole life)) and one night found himself in some dive where some very hot jazz was going down. His friends egged him into asking, through sign language ((not knowing that the trumpeter spoke English)), if he could join them for a few songs. With reluctance, but with typical Japanese courtesy and deference to international goodwill, they consented. Then they all sort of rocked the house together. Afterwards the trumpeter, discovering that Sam was a Mormon from Utah, said something like, “I like any church that has on top of their temple a yellow guy playing trumpet.”)
But do I, as did Alma, sin in my wish? Hmmm …
Naw, if I get this guitar it will be because the Lord gave it to me, just like all the other stuff. And in the matter of blessing us with tools with which to praise Him and lift His children and exercise our godly creative muscles, procrastination has no place in the Divine Character.
“…come unto Christ, and lay hold upon every good gift…” (from the last page of the Book of Mormon)
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