The Bass

This is my second bass; the first was a very cheap, kid-sized one that I bought while on a business trip to San Francisco in 1994 (back before I called SF home). I bought the one you see here in a combined music/retail therapy session after a particularly rough time at work. My friend Alex, an accomplished musician, UNIX guru, and all-around good guy, took me to the Music District in New York City (similar to the Garment District -- tons of music stores crowded into about two blocks) to begin the quest. We tried out several new basses, mostly Fenders of both the Jazz and Precision varieties, before visiting a store with some vintage stock.

Note: New York City is possibly the worst place to buy a vintage guitar or bass; such instruments are so highly prized there that they tend to be very expensive. But as I lived in Connecticut at the time, New York was really my only option. Texas and California, where vintage instruments are cheaper, seemed too far to go for an afternoon.

Said stock was in a back room in which a Jaco video played on a 13" TV in the corner. Alex took a bass down from the wall and handed it to me. As soon as I held it and plucked a string, I knew. This was the one. It felt so different from all the new basses we'd tried..."smooth" is the word that comes to mind. No rough edges. The store clerk told us it was a 1971 Fender P-bass, but at that point I wasn't really listening to him. I was listening to this bass say, "take me, I'm yours." Of course, I hadn't seen the price tag yet, and I nearly had a heart attack when I did. It was almost four times as expensive as a new Fender bass. I just couldn't swing it.

Alex and I spent the next couple hours poking around in other stores and eating lunch. I was agonizing over that beautiful bass that was so out of my price range, but I soon found something else to worry about: somewhere along the line, I'd lost my keys. All of them—apartment keys, car keys, bike lock key. That bit of bad luck was the final straw. I needed something good in my life, and that bass was going to be it. Alex & I made a beeline back to the Jaco shop, and I pulled out my Visa. Alex negotiated for a free hardcase for me, since I was dropping such a large amount of money on the bass. (I wouldn't have thought to do that; thanks, Alex!) With the bass-filled hardcase in hand, I retraced my steps in search of my keys. I never did find them, but luckily the building super made an extra set for my apartment, and I had spare car and bike keys in my room.

Less than six months later, before I could pay off the bass debt, I moved to California to take a job at a software company. I put bass lessons on my mental list of things to do, but between dealing with a new job, a new home, and a new city where I didn't know anyone, I'm afraid the bass spent most of the time in the corner gathering dust.

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