I didn't do a lot of writing last week, and I'm a little upset with myself about that. It's not that the week didn't have interesting events worth writing about, quite the opposite. I just wasn't really in the mood to write. I haven't been in the best mood since I got back from California, really, and I think that the switching of time zones has some part in that. My sleep cycle is moderately important to my overall outlook on life, and when I jump time zones my sleep inevitably is left disrupted for quite some time. I'm reminded of a year ago when I was touring the campuses for our network design audits and evaluations. I felt like Jack from "Fight Club," because every time I woke up I was in a different hotel room, with a different time zone and the same boring routine to go through anyway.
Two big things happened this past week that I think are worth writing about. First, I've finally given in to the urges I've been experiencing for the last few weeks and purchased a musical instrument. Since I enjoyed playing the guitar in junior high (So many years ago... in a way, it really was a lifetime ago. It was a different time, a different place, I was a different person) it seemed logical to me that I should pick up a guitar again at some point if I wanted to get back into a musical hobby. roho was actively encouraging me to pick up a small Korg keyboard from Sam Ash music, but I remember even less about pianos and keyboards (I had lessons when I was somewhere around age four) than I did about guitars at this point, so I felt it wouldn't be a very sound purchase. It would be fun to buy something I could play around with for sure, but it seemed that's all that I would be doing, just playing around. Since high school I've had people telling me that I've got the fingers to play bass guitar, so I figured I'd try something new. On Tuesday the 13th I took an extended lunch break with my coworker, zipped over to the Kopper Kitchen, one our local haunts near the office. We had a quick meal, not really eating much and instead favoring talking since we were both feeling very upset and tired of the situations we are involved with at the office. My meal was steak and eggs since I'm back on Atkins after a week of near-total gluttony in California (which was something that I think amused urocyon during my stay at his place), and then we took the back roads on our drive over to the Guitar Center just down the road from another one of our usual lunch haunts. With Randy's help I cornered a salesman, sorted through some of the options available to me for electric bass guitars and then finally settled on an Ibanez as my instrument of choice. After holding a few of the other Fenders and Yamahas that were in my price range the Ibanez SR400 electric bass in Vintage Blue. The bass has dual pickups, a thin, fast Maple neck with a design and a sound that I just really felt at home with. I tried it with a few different amplifiers, found a sound I liked with the Crate BX25 bass amp and told the salesman I would take the combo. He added everything up and showed me the total, which seemed reasonable. The store was asking $219 for the amp and $449 for the guitar, along with all the other accessories I needed (strap, cable, soft-side case) the whole thing came together at somewhere around $750 out the door. Yes, Urocyon, I know you're peeved that I didn't follow your advice. That doesn't mean I appreciate your offering it any less! I did take it into consideration, but I needed to get my courage up and just do this thing. This is how it worked out, for better or worse.
I will say that I wasn't terribly thrilled with the price, but at the same time I also knew that it wasn't too outrageous for something brand-new with a warranty. I also knew that it was an set-up that would sound good enough to keep me engaged while I learned, grow with me for but wasn't top-end in terms of price by any means. I was mulling over the price when Randy jabbed me in the ribs with his elbow, motioning for me to try and cut a better deal. I don't usually attempt to negotiate prices in retail stores as it's usually an exercise in frustration. For one, almost nobody is willing to take the "risk" in doing such a thing. Two, I usually get some 16-year-old kid with a squeaky voice and a "Trainee" tag who wants to ask his manager for guidance every time I ask a question. I figured what the hell, though, and gave it a whirl. You know what? Oddly enough it worked -- I told the salesman that I liked the combo and that I had cash in my hand and that while it would be nice to put the cash down right now to seal the deal the price left a little to be desired. There was a momentary pause while the salesman considered that, then he told me to wait a minute and he'd see what he could do. When he came back he offered a $45 cut off the price total, bringing everything down to $705 after the state of Illinois had bilked me for their share of the sale. This was a little easier to swallow, so I went to the sales counter and paid out, asking them to put the whole shebang on layaway until I could stop by after work. What I found out later is that the salesman I had was also deparment manager. I wonder if that had something to do with the price being lowered?
After work I grabbed the truck and made my way to the store, loading everything into the cab next to me. Amazingly I found I can indeed fit the guitar, a bass amp in its shipping box and my laptop in the cab and still be able to drive. I made my way home, unloaded the gear and brought it inside. I was amused when enveri congratulated me on my purchase, since she'd heard from Roho that I was bringing home a new toy. It's set up now in my bedroom, taking up Yet More Valuable Floorspace in front of my chest of drawers. I've been practicing roughly 30 minutes a night, trying to get a good feel for what the hell I'm doing. With my Carpal Tunnel I can say it's not the most pleasant thing to get some of the fingering right on the frets, but I think that with time my fingers will get stronger and I'll be better able to stretch to get things right. If nothing else it's a different set of motions for my wrists and fingers to perform, which is certainly a good thing for me. The extra benefit of my purchase is that it's helping to involve me in a new hobby, one that's completely unrelated to computers in any way, shape or form. I think this will be a distraction that will prove ultimately very good for me. Do I think I'm going to be the next Billy Talbot or Sting? No, I don't. Hopefully with due dilligence and practice I'll be good enough to continue enjoying myself and maybe play now and then with the bands that some of my coworkers are involved with. Since one coworker plays drums, I'm learning the bass and another coworker plays guitar we've already started to kick around the idea of bringing our gear to the company picnic next summer (I'm not going to be ready for this year's picnic by any means) and play the sort of music we like to hear as an alternative to the company-provided "musical entertaininment."
So, for the last few days I've been putting down 30 minutes of my time every evening in my bedroom with the door closed and the amp at a reasonable leve, practicing C-major scales on the bass in an attempt to get my fingers up to spead. I'm also learning to read tabulature (easy) and re-learning to read musical notes on the staff (not nearly as easy since it's been over 12 years since I've picked up a sheet of music) so that I can get a feel for the music. I've got a book titled "The Absolute Beginner's Bass Guitar" which has a DVD that I haven't watched yet, but it has some sound advice so I don't think it was a total waste of money.
The other thing of note is that I received an e-mail from my father around 2059 on Friday the 16th. To say the least the subject line was interesting! It read, "I see a 1998 Ford Expedition in your future." I had discussed a potential car deal my father had found about a month ago, but figured that it would never amount to something. My dad is a real bargain hunter, and sometimes he tries to drive too mean of a deal. It seems that in this case the owner decided she wasn't getting any offers that could beat the one she'd received from my father, so is selling him the vehicle. He'll be picking it up sometime this week, once he's arranged to borrow a flatbed truck. The Expedition will be a serious upgrade for me. I'll be going from a 1992 Ford F-150 XLT 4x4 pickup to a 1998 Ford Expedition, with 4x4, XLT options and an extra-heavy trailer package. It also has an automatic transmission where my current pickup has a five-speed manual, and a V-8 engine where I currently have an I-6. Well, that's sort of a misnomer... when everything is said and done the Expedition will have a V8. Part of the reason my dad is able to get it so cheap (and why he needs a flatbed truck to pick it up) is because the current engine in it seems to have met some horrible fate, and no longer turns. We think that it may be something simple and easy to repair, in which case my dad got a real bargain on it. If we're wrong and the engine did in fact seize (bearing failure or a busted connecting rod) then it'll have to be torn out and replaced. Dad's got a line on a brand-new Ford longblock with a 45,000 mile warranty for $3,000 so the engine isn't a real concern. The question is once he brings it home, how much work will it take to get it fixed? Another question is: once it's fixed and I go to pick it up, what will become of my old truck? Neither my dad nor I am very certain. Depending on how things go with the engine I may be getting this new vehicle for free (which would rock) or, if it needs the new engine, nearly-free. The vote isn't in yet on the cost that will be passed on to me, and it all depends on what's wrong with the current engine anyway. We've pretty much agreed that the cost won't be more than $3,000 no matter what, so I'm going to walk away from this as quite a winner. I mean, $3,000 for the truck? With a brand-new engine in it and the perfect body condition it has it's worth $12,000 easy! There's no way I can go wrong with this.
I have a picture of it, too, so I even know what color it is and what it looks like.
Okay, so I lied a bit. The Expedition isn't a truck, it's a goddamn SUV. At least it's not a huge one like the land yacht Ford makes and sells under the "Excursion" nametag. The good news is that this SUV can and will go off-road, has a heavy trailer package so I can still haul my snowmobiles, and has seen actual utility duty in its past. It also more accurately fits my current needs, so that's also a good thing. Since my new truck has four doors and comfortably seats four human beings, Roho won't have to be the only person who drives when the three of us in the apartment decide to do dinner or go grocery shopping. Furthermore with the enclosed "bed" I can feel a little better about moving things that are fragile (computer monitors and equipment), nor will I have to worry about light things blowing out of the back of my truck bed! Another thing I won't have to worry about as much with the new truck is the weather. It used to suck when I threw my duffel bag in the bed on my drive up to Minnesota and then got rained or snowed on. Nothing like having soaking wet, freezing underwear! This should eliminate that problem quite handily. So there you have it. In one way I'm disgusted to be joining the ranks of SUV owners, but I guess I was already an honorary member since I drove a pickup truck (at least I was driving one before it became the cool thing to do!). On the other hand I'm excited because it means a new truck, a new start, and a lot less worries than I used to have with my current pickup. That doesn't mean I want to give up the F-150 by any means, but I think if I have to trade up to something this will be as good an option as any. I just pray that the V-8 doesn't get worse gas mileage than the I-6 engine I currently have. I can afford a larger gasoline bill, but I don't want it to be too outrageous.
My goals for this week are simple: I want to keep on routine for practicing on the bass, I want to avoid talking to my boss as much as possible (AC, what is the fewest number of words I have to say to make you go away?), I want to get some laundry done and I want to get the 429 pictures from my trip to California uploaded onto my gallery. Anyone care to take any bets on if I accomplish all, or even some of my goals?
In the name of love