Not too long ago, pretty much all guitars looked pretty much alike (certainly the steel string ones) except for some that were a bit smaller or larger than others. Classical guitars didn’t vary much at all except for their woods and the colors in their rosettes, and the ornamental design at the top of the peghead. The steel string guitars came in a few standard shapes, and their rosettes, bridges, bindings, pegheads, and tuners were pretty much the same.
Over time, those things changed. In part this was because the market had expanded (with the popularization of the acoustic guitar during the American Folk Movement, and the expansion of different styles of guitar playing), and companies were looking for ways in which to make their guitars look different from their competitors’. People like me came along too; we wanted to enhance the look of our instruments in artistic ways. And the field was wide open: no one had done very much of such useless ornamental work.
There was good reason to not add such ornamental touches, too. The public tends to stay away from anything new (I think there’s a gene for that), and such artistic work was accepted slowly, to the point that there are now a good handful of woodworkers who specialize in inlays – and a lot of the new inlays are tasteful, imaginative, and spectacular. And the inventiveness of inlay work is increasing; look some examples up on Google and Pinterest. But I remember having exhibited my work in a lot of guitar shows earlier on and having people stop by my table and say things like “Oh, that’s nice! . . . it’s wonderful! . . . that must have taken you some time to do! . . . splendid work! . . . well, thanks; goodbye!”
ABOUT MY ARTWORK IN PARTICULAR
I’ve been thinking. (Pause for applause to die down.) Life is . . . strange. I’ve been doing a lot of retrospection, introspection, re-evaluating, re-living, re-examining, etc. about the path I’ve traveled in the past 7-1/2 decades. There’s some interesting stuff there and I think you might enjoy reading about some of it. Well, you’ve probably noticed that whatever can be said about ANYTHING AT ALL . . . is NEVER the whole story. There’s always something else to it. And this is true of the part of my life that has to do with both my wood-art and my “artistic guitar” work. If you don’t know about these, do please visit my website at www.esomogyi.com and take a look.
Artwork has been a big part of my life for thirty-some years . . . even though there’s been zero money in for me as far as just producing artwork goes. However, this impulse to be artistically creative is strong in me, and it has made a difference in my guitar-making work.
I didn’t start out making guitars like that, of course; I segued into it in a rather unusual way. The following account of my creative work is true; I’ve only changed the names to protect myself from a lawsuit 🙂
But, first things first. My particular story goes back to the late 1980s; I was in the process of a divorce. The word “bummer” hardly does justice to how demoralized I felt. It was bad. I looked for professional help so that I could put back together the parts of me that felt as though they were coming apart. In due time, I found a good therapist [NOTE: We were a good match, fortunately; some matches are not so good].
As you may know, therapy (when it’s working properly) is private, and even intimate. A level of trust is created. The client bonds with the therapist . . . and – certainly for the first long while — projects all kinds of old and buried parent/child feelings and qualities onto him or her. Those old feelings get acted out, and the client becomes very protective, possessive, and jealous of that relationship – to the point that if anyone else enters into it the client will feel anxious and threatened. That’s HIS therapist, after all! . . . and for that reason the therapist does not share information about his/her own life; the time is dedicated to focusing on the client’s life. It’s been observed, for instance, that if a therapist gets pregnant — and shows it — it can trigger a crisis for the client. THERE’S SOMEONE ELSE BESIDES HIM IN HIS THERAPIST’S LIFE, AND NOT ONLY IS THERE SOMEONE ELSE BUT THE THERAPIST IS HAVING SEX WITH HIM AND NOT WITH YOU!!!! Silly, really, but it feels real. And it’s intense. It MUST be dealt with, talked, out, resolved, or whatever . . . or the therapy itself stops happening. There are no longer only two people in the room.
[NOTE: I had a conversation with a therapist once, who had a pretty dramatic version of such an experience. Years before, when she was starting a family, she got pregnant. She told her current clients about that, to let them know what was going on. One fellow seemed to feel intolerably threatened when he was told this. He stood up, grabbed a nearby book or clipboard or Kleenex box (or something like that), and angrily threw it at a wall, and walked out. He never came back. Wow.]
So . . . my therapist got pregnant. Eek. Shudder. She doesn’t love me any more! . . . and all that. But seriously: it’s a turning point. Something needs to be done about that kind of thing. Normally, the people involved talk it out. That’s what talk therapy is about.
But in my case, no. I did something else. I woke up one morning knowing how to resolve the conflict. I hadn’t made lists or compared options; I just knew. And in my next session with her I announced that since she was going to give birth to something, I wanted to give birth to something too! Hmmmm. Rather than to back away, I had somehow decided to join her in the pregnancy. That is, Metaphorically. And even though that idea hit me with great clarity, I didn’t know what it meant at the time. It took two days for me to realize what I’d meant.
I’m told that this is an unusual way to come to have come terms with this kind of situation but, what the heck, who am I to do something normal? In any event, two days after my announcement I was producing art . . . and I haven’t stopped since. It’s been a huge part of my creative life. And even though I’ve lost money on it, it was not really about money. It’s always been about self-expression. And, as I said, I was doing artwork 48 hours after I made my announcement. I wouldn’t be making art or anything like it if my therapist hadn’t gotten knocked up. Isn’t that something?
Well, there’s more to the story, of course, and it’s sort delicious in its own way. I don’t know exactly how my unconscious decided that I wanted to produce art. I mean, it did send me a strongly worded memo to that effect. But it frequently sends me obscure encoded messages that I have to decipher, and I can’t say that the decision was mine in any cognitive or intentional sense. As I said, I woke up one morning knowing the answer to this problem. However, the sheer clarity and suddenness with which that hit me suggested that I was already primed for such a move. It felt right! I mean, otherwise I’d have pondered and ruminated until way after the kid was born, right? So: I was ready for . . . something. It only needed a trigger, or a precipitator.
(I wonder if I can get a good precipitator through Amazon.com? There’ve been lots of them in use lately so they might be on back-order. I hear the best deal is in the economo-shrink-wrapped six-packs. I don’t think I need six, though.)
– – – – – – – – – – – – – A PAUSE FOR A COFFEE OR ESPRESSO – – – – – – – – – – – –
Anyway . . . there’s some pertinent background to the art-follows-pregnancy thing. To the best of my conscious knowledge it is the following:
Shortly before my divorce, when my marriage was really on the rocks, I had an affair with a woman. I had been feeling like a dried out prune for a while and was ready for and needing something that made me feel alive; this affair helped. It was, I might add, only technically adultery; my soon-to-be-ex-wife knew all about it and really didn’t care one way or the other. Well, at least there wasn’t the secrecy and sneaking around that usually accompanies these kinds of liaisons.
This woman that I had the affair with, “Susan”, happened to be a therapist. It’s impossible to avoid therapists in Northern California. There are more than 30 schools continually cranking out therapists, health advocates, spiritual integrators, family counselors, body workers, psychologists, life coaches, psychiatrists, people trained in transpersonal counseling, etc. etc. etc. I mean, if you crash your car into a tree around here four therapists will fall out of it. And Susan was quite smart, and interesting, and attractive. And a competitive scrabble player.
I like words and word play and word games, and I happily played scrabble with her. As I said, she was a competitive player and she beat me soundly. The first game we ever played, she beat me something like 300 points to 75. I didn’t mind, really; I liked the game and I didn’t have anything riding on winning. But I’m pretty smart too, and I got better at it. She helped me by sharing with me some tactics and strategies that every successful scrabble player knows . . . and my scrabble improved.
At around the holidays of that year Susan and I decided to spend a week in lovely, gorgeous, exotic, romantic, and exciting Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. That town is in fact none of those things, but The Night of the Iguana movie had been filmed there and everybody thought of it as a an exotic getaway place [NOTE: the word “exotic” is defined as “not indigenous to this region”. It literally means from somewhere else. It’s got nothin’ to do with quality; it’s about location.] Anyway, we went down there. And we took the scrabble set.
It was in Puerto Vallarta that I beat Susan at scrabble for the first time. And oh my God she got pissed at that. She had an annoyance/intolerance tantrum.
She hated losing and, having lost, she became very snippy, cold, grumpy, and unpleasant to be around. So I avoided her for a day or two. I spent the time just walking around the town. The tourist hotels are all about a mile out of town; they look like the fabled Emerald City of Oz, all gleaming and shiny. The beach in Puerto Vallarta itself is certainly not worth flying down there for. It’s quite narrow, and . . . the sand is brown. Like brown sugar. It’s clean, but not even close to being white. Mostly, there’s really hardly any beach. The tourist hotels outside of town are built in the middle of several acres of white sand that had been imported to make the place look better. Those hotels are modern highrises that are in every way what you might imagine them to be; and that whole area looks mighty sterile and artificial.
Puerto Vallarta itself, in contrast, is dirtier, more frayed at the edges, and more real. It’s sort of old and weathered, and none of the buildings are freshly painted or shiny. There was no visible police force whatsoever; however, but there is a military garrison nearby and the streets were (and maybe still are?) patroled by soldiers who were armed not with pistols or rifles, but with machine guns. Really. Yet Puerto Vallarta retains some of the charm of the original Spanish/Mexican architecture, with cobblestone streets, nice old wrought iron work everywhere, street vendors selling all kinds of tasty viands, a brown-sanded beach, and a pleasing kind of not-all-that-modern atmosphere. You can walk out of town and see iguanas.
So I walked around Puerto Vallarta for a day or two. To my surprise, I enjoyed it. I mean, I hadn’t planned on spending time like that. It helped that I speak Spanish; I couldn’t get lost. And I found the architecture to be pleasantly Spanish Colonial, in an understated way. No two buildings were the same size or shape nor painted the same color. And they were real colors! . . . not the tame decorator pastels that you and I are used to seeing. I liked the patterns of the cobblestoned streets. I liked the wrought iron work. I liked the mix of bright colors everywhere. I liked the visual texture of the place. I had a good time walking around . . . despite the fact that the town really is a tourist trap. Its main industry IS tourism. There are many art/craft galleries, restaurants, stores selling designer knock-offs, curio and trinket shops, etc. It all brought back to mind that when I was young I had been an artsy-craftsy kind of kid and did crafts-type projects all the time. I whittled. I drew. I made models and assembled kits. I painted. I worked with plaster and wood and clay. I collected stamps and coins and arrowheads. I put jigsaw puzzles together. I carved some things. I also had a woodburning set and an erector set — if you know what those are — and used them a lot. And I read a lot. I spent my childhood doing such things.
These, however (moreover?) were all things that I hadn’t touched in years and years. High school, college, etc. all got in the way of playing creatively like that, and I’d left it all behind me. High school and college are institutions that are supposed to prepare one for life as an adult; but (except for the occasional art class) NO ONE EVER MAKES THINGS IN THOSE PLACES. People study, regurgitate information, write papers, and take tests . . . and get ready to get a job . . . and a wife . . . and a mortgage . . . and all that stuff that reassures our parents that there kid can spel corectly and they have’nt razed a dud.
But my walking around Puerto Vallarta revived those vivid memories for me. It reminded me of the pleasures I’d taken in those activities when I was still doing them, years before. And that reminder stirred up things of that nature sufficiently, in me and for me, so that I think I was primed to think of such things a bit later, when my therapist got pregnant.
So we’re left with this (or at least, I’m left with this): if I’d lost that scrabble game in Puerto Vallarta I don’t think I’d be the artist in wood that I am now. I probably would just have talked the pregnancy issue out over time, and dealt with the situation verbally. Isn’t such a thing mindboggling???? It makes me scared to consider what kinds of things are behind a lot of the decisions that get made in the Oval Office, boardrooms, and the Pentagon. And, not surprisingly, that trip was the beginning of the end of my relationship with Susan.
P.S.: About the Oval Office/boardroom/Pentagon thing . . . whatever happens in those places, or doesn’t, it’s been noted (in psychological work) that significant personal insights can occur while one is . . . in the bathroom. It’s unlikely to be the result of any cognitive thinking; it’s more in the category of sudden realizations — and the location where such events occur undoubtedly has to do with body/mind/excretory connections of the kind that were first identified by Sigmund Freud. I know, from personal experience, that there’s something to this. More significantly, though, it’s known that Martin Luther, the spark plug of the Reformation and initiator of the Protestant movement, and who started this revolution with his radically controversial Ninety-Five Theses, had his breakthrough epiphany while in the privy. No shit. Uh . . . sorry; that just slipped out. I mean, it’s true; I read about this in a psych book written by a guy named Fiedler, back in college. And, as I said, I know from personal experience that there’s something to this.