The Guitar that Started the Telecaster Devotion

Fender American Telecaster w/ Custom Humbucking Pickups

Fender American Telecaster w/ Custom Humbucking Pickups

It started when I sold my Gibson Les Paul. I found it a little heavy, just not quite right in my lap (I usually play sitting down, I’m a jazz player). The Gibson ES-345 was my cherished guitar for years, but I refurbished and sold it too, in the name of change. I never cared much for the line frequency hum associated with single coil pickups, so I had not ever seriously considered Strats or Teles. But I went to the store with an open mind, so ended up trying this guitar. It was love. The balance of the body on my lap is just perfect, and I like the extra width of the string spacing at the nut. Tempted by a modest discount, I bought it and began the humbucking conversion. Lifting the pick guard, I found cavities pre-routed for a humbucking at the neck, and a Strat single coil in the middle. So I outfitted it with a DiMarzio DP-384 Chopper at the bridge, a DiMarzio DP-411B Virtual T (neck) in the middle, and a Seymour Duncan SH-2 Jazz at the neck position. The three way selector switch has a trick, of my own invention. I found the neck only position sound too dull. So I arranged some wiring to switch in the bridge pickup when the neck is selected (position 1). A side effect is that all three pickups are selected in position 2. The cream coloured replacement pick guard is a Warmoth custom part.

Bacchus Telecaster Re-worked

Bacchus Telecaster Clone with Humbucking Pickup

Bacchus Telecaster Clone with Humbucking Pickup

This guitar was for sale at a great price at a Chengdu guitar store. I sold the single coil pickups to the store owner, who wanted them. I routed the body to accept a middle humbucker, and expanded the neck pickup rout to accept a future Strat pickup. This would almost make a “Nashville Tele”. It’s staying in China for now. The dimensions are not quite the same as Telecaster, so I couldn’t mix and match much. It’s a great neck, someone previously had carefully dressed the frets (not me). The new pickup is a Seymour Duncan JB SH-4. The old pickup holes have been filled with black electrical tape. No, not duct tape!

Essence of Kangaroo

I believe that I eat a good diet. However, I have bowed to pressure from various family members to supplement it with multi-vitamins. Expecting high prices, I set off to buy some in Harbin. I entered the drug store, and acted as nonchalant as possible. I always try to find my items before someone comes to attempt help, as that doesn’t always go well. To be unhelpful is unthinkable to a Chinese, and especially in a store. But my Chinese is extremely sketchy. I’m fine with most foods, and handle purchasing with no small measure of pride. Even when I can’t comprehend the price when I am blasted with it at supersonic velocity. I try to negotiate another attempt, but it is usually accomplished by turning the cash display towards me, or by punching into a calculator.

This store offered me no refuge. Within seconds, a kind lady was at my side at the vitamin shelf, which I had already located. Her speech was native, full bore. Hemming and hawing in broken Chinese, I waved at the bottles and attempted to communicate the concept of “multi”, with a word I think means “together”. She appeared mystified, I suppose she thought I was going to buy out the store, or something like that.

Aha! I found multi-vitamins! Oh, but what’s this? It’s for women. In retrospect,  I suppose that eating them wouldn’t raise my voice to a higher octave or anything like that, but I have years of proud Western male pride to overcome. So I waved it in front of here and said, “nan” (chinese for man). She nodded knowingly, and with great satisfaction, offered me a box from a lower shelf. It was none other than, “Essence of Kangaroo”.

Now, I consider myself both gifted and cursed, with a mind that can think, as we say, “out of the box”. Sometimes it is so quickly ambushed, or overwhelmed with dissonant concepts that it cannot really function. So please excuse me, that my first thought was simply, “What is the nutrient composition of kangaroos”? Such is the strength of my faith in older sales ladies in drug stores.

I quickly regained my composure (although I doubt that it appeared so on the outside), and said no, not that. At that moment, I found the men’s vitamins to the left of the women’s, and thanked the woman. She pointed me to the cash register. I paid the outrageous 95 yuan price, but was drawn back irresistably to the kangaroo medicine shelf. I confirmed the label. I hadn’t been dreaming.

Leaving the scene of this encounter, a series of questions formed in my mind. Foremost being, what does essence of kangaroo do to a person? Linking this to my request for a male gendered product, I supposed that the lady thought I needed an aphrodisiac or such “male performance enhancer”. I do have some gray hair. If it would add some bounce to my step, it couldn’t be bad.

Secondly, how is essence of kangaroo obtained? From which part, or from all parts? Are kangaroos likely to become an endangered species as a result of this prescription? It occurred to me that I might not even want to know the answer.

Third, and this is more philosophical. Are they entitled to use “essence” in this manner? The animal has such grace, at least as it is famously painted by the Australian aborigines. I have one such decoration, and noticed immediately the life force in it that was so well depicted. Wouldn’t it be false advertising to claim that a kangaroo’s “essence” is actually some fluid in its nostril, or somewhere? More believable with an ignoble animal such as a pig, whose essence must necessarily be laboriously located and refined to be believable.

The question must now be asked, how many kangaroos were consumed in the production of this medicine? It was a disturbingly large bottle.

Lastly, what other delightful essences are in stock there? I am going back soon to feast on my new found gallery of epic pharmaceutical wonders.

Harbin from above

Passenger train approaching West Railroad Station. Notice the coal piles

Passenger train approaching West Railroad Station. Notice the coal piles

From the 10th floor of Harbin University of Science and Technology

From the 10th floor of Harbin University of Science and Technology

Rail yard near Central Railway Station, downtown

Rail yard near Central Railway Station, downtown

Street vendors and restaurants at LeSong Plaza in Dong Li area of town

Street vendors and restaurants at LeSong Plaza in Dong Li area of town

Looking along Jiao Hua Jie towards the river near XidaZhi Jie

Looking along Jiao Hua Jie towards the river near XidaZhi Jie

Guitars

DSCN0065I had to leave my Fender Telecaster in Canada, so I went down to the music area of Harbin to look for a guitar to play. I came home with a used Jay Turser semi-acoustic. It doesn’t seem much like the companies current offerings. This one charmed me with a smaller size body than a typical semi (such as Gibson ES-335). After a thorough cleaning and truss rod adjustment, it was ready to go. The neck needs the loving touch of a fine luthier, to really get the action down without a bit of buzzing. I think that’s why my first finger is now swollen, from trying to do heavy metal bar chords with the higher action. I’m taking a day or two off playing until that improves.

China

I am in Harbin, Heilongjiang province of China. I recently started working here, teaching English in a private school. I’ve been ridiculously busy taking training and getting used to the job. So I haven’t really had a chance to photograph. In fact, the good camera hasn’t even been out of the bag yet. I didn’t have room to bring my guitar, so I haven’t had any fun playing either. Just work and eat, sleep and do laundry.

Of course, I’ve been around the town a bit since I got here, and there is a lot to take in. It’s lucky that I’ve arrived in summer time, so I can explore more freely on foot. I’m sort of on the edge of downtown, so I haven’t spent much time in the core. I hope to be able to get some pictures up here soon.