Winter has been particularly hard on folks in North America this year. It’s also been hard on hard on stringed instruments. If you play a violin, cello, mandolin, or ukulele, then you know how changing house temperatures and humidity levels during winter can cause some real damage to those axes! Yes, there are much bigger problems and disasters in the world than instrument-warp, but when you start seeing cracks and fissures in the wood of those buddies, argghhh!
Of course, unexpected setbacks are a wonderful part of Lent. Recently I was showing (showing off?) the house guitar I purchased (for a song) a few years ago at a San Francisco pawn shop to a friend. We immediately noticed a decent-sized crack in the spruce top, right behind the bridge. I decided I would try to fix it on my own (always a risk, and as yet the jury is still out on the repair). Glue and time will tell, but it looks pretty successful, though now clearly scarred. I decided this to be the moment to put something silly on the guitar to remind me of the damage and basic repair job. I settled on some plastic adhesive lettering, spelling out the word “CUSTOM” along the crack. This word reminds me of the fragility of the material world and my own defects, yet also reminds me of the hope of fixing my faults and cracks along the way. St. Josemaria liked very much the idea of a valuable piece of pottery getting broken, but once repaired, its taking on a new attractive character. This thought led me to put “CUSTOM” across the soundboard of the damaged guitar. During these last weeks of Lent let us continue, with God’s grace, to repair our faults, taking on the attractive character of Christ!
I also decided on the “CUSTOM” label in honor of late guitar great Stevie Ray Vaughan. His beat up 1962 Fender Stratocaster (dubbed “Number 1”) was damaged when SRV decided to “repair” it. He covered the damaged part with a cheap, shiny “CUSTOM” sticker behind the bridge. That sticker, and the guitar, became an extension of Vaughan’s persona, and are now legendary, priceless, and immediately recognizable by all blues fans. Here’s a short clip with SRV playing “Number 1” (look for the sticker). Amazingly, he breaks a string, calls a roadie, changes guitars, and keeps playing without losing beat nor note.