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Pennsylvania's Most Interesting Blog

03 November 2006

Going com-mando...

Today I stooped to a new low, but not after teaching my class the phrase "etwas Dummes" (something stupid), as in "I did etwas Dummes this morning" (free code-switching for our readership). The etwas Dummes was that I drove to town today because I would have to head out of town after teaching. The funny thing is, it was only AFTER I parked my car in the garage that I realized I'd left my damn wallet in my other purse and so, and I can't believe I'm even telling you this because it was so..well, 'dumm': I had to borrow a damn DOLLAR from a STUDENT so I could pay to get my damn car out of the lot, in order to go home and get my wallet. Sure, I could've walked it home first but then, where's the self-depricating lesson in THAT? Special!

OK, but now for today's real story. It's long-ish for a blog post, but you can handle it.

Here's an email I received from an Unnamed Source (I won't reveal which sister it was) while drinking my AM coffee and listening to NPR's "Morning Edition":

"Nice work on the mando flipping. Now just don't blow all the cash on booze and man-whores."

Clearly my jig is up. Someone silence those man-whores, wouldja?

Today's Most Interesting update serves to highlight the new-found joys of 'mando flipping' and also to underscore my following assertion: I have never met a mandolin player I didn't like. Now, before you get all excited, any connection between 'man-dolin' and 'man-whore' is purely incidental and unsubstantiated. My second assertion is that "Mando Flip" is totally my new Japanese girl band name, but that's another post for another day ("Mahn-do Fadip-u").

Ah. But. I digress. A while back, I was on a day trip out to Big Valley, a beautiful farming area east of The Borough of State College, complete with your Mennonites, your Amish, and of course, your homemade (very sturdily, well made, I might add) road signs puttin' the fear 'o God into ya just in case you slacked off into impure thoughts whilst checking out the scenery and/or shoefly pies at the wrong time. Lots of 'repents' and 'good works' and 'thou' and 'Satans' and 'Jesuses' in there. But salt of the earth folk, to be sure. In this area, Wednesdays are market days, and when the weather's nice, the antique-ers come out in full force with a huge outdoor antique-a-thon, peddling everything from really nice old items crap they acquired at some other town's antique fair and are unloading it on new folks. You get the idea.

On this one particular market day, I noticed some old-timers (non-sectarian, by the way) having a bluegrass pickin'-party around a tented area near the back of a pickup truck. Naturally, I approached them, as experience has taught me that if you want to learn some new chords and enjoy the treat of feeling the VIBE that inevitably emerges from such a gathering, you gotta sit back and watch the OLD guys. THEY know. By and by, I joined them--I will not lie that I enjoy being the only female amateur picker in a heavily-male-dominated-and also-expert pickin' environment--and actually ended up agreeing to buy the entry-level mando one of the pickin' fellows was selling. In other words, I totally fell for their marketing ploy (just kiddin).

Here's where it gets good. Alas, I did not have enough cash or my checkbook with me, as I hadn't anticipated making such a purchase, so guess what? The fellow let me take it home and said, "Just mail me a check whenever you can." Gosh. I mean, I am a total deal-on-a-handshake kinda gal, so when this kind of thing happens, I am all up in there. If everyone were as trusting (of course I did send him a check promptly after getting home), we'd all be better off. He was good people.

Thus began the cycle: he flipped me that mando, and I ended up flipping it later to Waves, Frets 'n Discs, as it so happens (girl, are you practicing??).

Flash forward to today, to Mando Flipping Number Two. I have, or now I should say, 'had', a 1920 Gibson F-4 model mandolin (see Exhibit A above for partial illustration). In mando terms, Gibson is the shiznit, as they are the industry standard, popularized by the father of bluegrass, Mr. Bill Monroe (God rest his soul) and other fine pickers. And hell, when an instrument made in 1920 comes around, you go for it. I got this particular F-4 at a local music store a few years ago, even though I totally couldn't afford it at the time. 'Master' the possibilities!

My particular F-4 has proven to be a bit of a mystery, however: the finish has been redone, the tuning pegs are clearly not original, and it looks like the back had been removed and replaced to do repair work on the top. To boot, no one seems to have any clue why or when these modifications were made. Done way before I ever got her. It all reminds me of that faboo movie, "The Red Violin". Who KNOWS what sketchy stories lie beneath this instrument. I stick to my assertion that Johnny Cash got it from Elvis on their first road show tour together.

Anywhoo...finances being what they are, and since I'm primarily a guitar player, I decided to take the plunge and try to SELL her. Sometimes it's just time to let an instrument go. Fortunately, I hadn't NAMED her, or I'd be seeking attachment-issues therapy I'm sure, haha.

As an approach to selling, and at the suggestion of two lady musician/music store owners in another town, I put her up on the classifieds at this great site called I started getting bites right away. I had one offer and the guy turned out to be a deadbeat. Then another one came in, but I thought, you know, for that price, hell, I'll just keep her then. Then another player and I started exchanging emails and one call about the F-4 and I knew he had the interest and knowledge to really play and enjoy her. In other words, a worthy new owner. We agreed, though, that shipping a thing like this could be tricky: if it got trashed, it's not like you could go get another one.

Enter: the Mando Flip, set for today at a Starbucks parking lot about 2 hours outside of State College, to do a hand-over of the instrument, not to mention shorten the guys' long drive up from Virgina for the day to get it.

Why drive out of the way to meet a stranger at an outside location, you may ask? Well, besides avoiding any potential shipping/insurance debacles, the sale price we agreed to made it worth my while to be accommodating. I'm hoping the benefits of popping some of the money into...wait, what is that thing called again because I haven't done it in so long...'savings'? will outweigh the negatives of being mando-less, a petite issue that will have to be alleviated at some point...

So, here I was, at the Starbucks parking lot at said location, waiting in the very sunny albeit VERY cold afternoon for a guy to drive up in a green pickup like he said he would. Lo and behold, he showed up, gave me a CD with three songs he'd recorded himself of his band, took a few strums of the F-4 and said "I'll take it", then handed me $20 bucks cash for my gas, the money order with the agreed upon amount, and then invited me for coffee inside the Starbucks. We chatted for a good while about this an that and the other thing, parted ways and...thus begins the F-4's journey to her new home.

Super nice guy, retired, now has time to play music and do what he wants, and I learned a lot about mandolins and bluegrass just in our short meeting. We also talked about child versus adult langauge acquisition, which just goes to show you that Applied Linguistics Is Everywhere. Very down to earth and a great day when you think about all the freakish things that COULD occur when meeting someone via online classifieds for intrument sales. It all went swimingly.

And I say this AFTER having deposited the money into my bank account tonight, so it's all legit. Am I too naive and trusting? Perhaps. But that state lets me meet a hell of a lot of really interesting people. Everyone's got a story. And I do like hearing many of them (Truly Annoying Types excluded, natch).

On a side note: above-mentioned sister did include this short emergency form in her email: "If I am not home by ......... o'clock on ............... 2006, please report my last whereabouts to the po-po..." Safety first, girls!

And thus I maintain: I never met a mando player I didn't like. I look forward to the next Flip.