Northhampton, MA – “Buying my Guitar” -The Iron Horse – June 10, 1999

What can I say? I’m guilty of excess this day but how could I leave that J-45, 1945 behind?

She hit me over the head with her starburst mahogany face and her chipped nail polish varnish. There was a small brass plate riveted to her black, calloused, case that read “Smithy,” The name some previous owner gave her no doubt. She had a yellow tag woven between her strings, begging me to lean in; to read between her lines: “1945, J-45, Do Not Touch.” But Howard, the owner (after thoroughly vetting me, requesting my wallet as collateral, and checking me over for potentially scratch-causing zippers and buttons) said it’d be okay to take her on a test drive.

Hoisting Smithy onto my knee was a holy event; an introduction to a musical sage. I was humbled by the intimacy of holding her small body against mine and held my breath to slow my heart. I wrapped my left hand around her worn neck and shook hands with the tree she’d been born from. I caressed a D from her mouth and then an Em. She hummed the way hearts do when lovers touch after they’ve been away for a long time. In a trance, I played chords I thought she’d like.

Smithy was full of joyful ghosts; spirits of the trees and air and rain that made her. Spirits of musicians who once sang to her and co-wrote songs with her and took her out on troubadour-ing adventures. I imagined these old retired ghosts sitting together inside her sturdy sunburst mahogany body, playing poker, teaching one another favorite songs, and trading in tales from the road, sheltered in her dusty ribs. I could feel them change my mind about cords I’d had in my mind to play, silently calling out in smoky breath, from the belly of her shadows, between her strings: “Yeah yeah, that sounds great honey, but we’ve heard that already. Let’s try something more like this…” and my fingers would dance a new course I’d have never considered working. Over the course of my half-hour test drive, I could feel Smithy begging to get back on the road, pleading to co-write future albums with me and teach me her secrets.

So, how could I leave this guitar behind?

Reader interactions

6 Replies to “Northhampton, MA – “Buying my Guitar” -The Iron Horse – June 10, 1999”

  1. Very nice! Now your spirit is inside Smithy, too! I assume you still her!

    Note – that guitar is older than your dad! 🎸


  2. I didn’t even know the story of Smithy! Hitachi! Great story Great writing. I love you and thank you always for this and that and everything, you Goddess.


    1. Hahaha! I love you mama.


  3. Nice! I hope you still have it✌️


  4. Oh Sal I love this post. Happy to hear you still have Smithy. I had. A similar experience when I bought my Santa Cruz guitar as a divorce present to myself. Totally out of my budget but I fell madly in love and have never regretted it.
    Love you


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