music

Was I wrong to buy Bill a guitar?

In the interest of not ranting about politics right now, I want to pose the question that serves as today’s post title. Was I wrong to choose a guitar for Bill? I ask, because I think I inspired the following post in Fender Play’s Facebook group.

I have to admit, I kind of get her point…

I was so excited about ordering the new guitars that I posted about it in the Fender group. I got many likes and loves, but few comments. It didn’t occur to me why I didn’t get a lot of comments. I just wanted to share the news in a group where people love posting about their guitars. Folks are encouraged to post about their “new gear”, after all.

But then I saw the above post as I woke up this morning and it occurred to me that I probably gave some people the heebie jeebies when I wrote about “surprising” Bill with a guitar. Some of them might have felt I stepped out of my lane, presuming to make that kind of a purchase. I can see why they’d feel that way… it’s kind of like when someone gifts you with underwear. How do they know your preferences? I sure wouldn’t want a thong as a gift, for instance. By the same token, it’s not generally a good idea to give someone a pet as a gift. I guess some people see guitars as like dogs or cats… there has to be a “fit”. I don’t think guitars are like pets. A guitar doesn’t have feelings and won’t die of abuse or neglect. I’ve seen a lot of people in that group posting pictures of all of their instruments, too. Who’s to say Bill can’t try this one and get something else on his own later? A guitar isn’t like a spouse that can be cheated on.

Actually, my decision to buy the guitar for Bill’s birthday wasn’t a surprise for him. We’ve talked about him trying the guitar. A couple of weeks ago, he asked me if I minded if he tried playing my guitar. I let him hold it and he played a few chords that I showed him. A few days later, he said he wanted to try taking online lessons, too. He’s been listening to me practice every day and I’ve made some notable progress, although I’m not quite ready to post a video. I guess it’s inspired him to give it a go, just as he’s been using Duolingo to brush up on German and Spanish while we wait out the pandemic.

Bill says he only ever tried to play one instrument. It was the violin. His attempt was many years ago, so he really doesn’t even know what he likes in a guitar. He has no experience with it. I didn’t have much myself until last month. The guitar I bought is fine, and I’m sure I’ll still play it once the fancier one gets to me. It’s a classical guitar, while the one I bought this week has a different sound. But it may turn out I like Bill’s new guitar the best… or he’ll prefer the one I’ve been playing. Who knows?

I also know Bill really well… and it did turn out that I picked the one he’d been attracted to. I knew he wanted a basic level model. I knew he’d like it in black. There aren’t a lot of colors available for the basic guitars on Fender, so it wasn’t hard to choose the one he’d pick. If I’d bought him the one I chose for myself, then it might be harder to get the one he’d pick out, since they come in more colors, shapes, and sizes. Either way, the guitar I got for him with a 10% discount cost less than 200 euros, which for us, isn’t a lot of money. There was a time when it would have been, but it’s not at the moment. So I felt okay in making the purchase. If he sticks with guitar and decides to upgrade, I’ll let him choose one for himself.

On a more personal note, I was happy to choose a gift for him that doesn’t have to do with food or alcohol. We’re running out of space for gadgets and God knows we have enough booze in the house. A guitar is something he can enjoy for years, if he takes to playing it. If he doesn’t take to it, at least he’ll have the chance to try it. It’ll be one more life experience for him… and something we might be able to share at some point, if and when we both get to the point that other people would want to listen to us play. I really liked the comment below, posted on that thread, by a man whose wife bought him a guitar…

So the guitar my wife got me was a starter guitar, I’ve played now for 14 years. I would have loved a Gibson / Epiphone les paul, she got me a squire strat with limited edition color.

Although it wouldn’t be my first pick, it was an unbelievably kind gesture showing she supports me getting back into music.

Plus it helps I’m not picky and feel comfortable with most guitars.

And I’m sure if the guitar wasn’t a right fit for me (playing wise) she’s be willing to go with me to exchange it.


Her and my mother-in-law are seeing my excitement with music and my preferences in equipment and they’re learning more about it to help support me and make more informed choices.

I see giving Bill a guitar as akin to opening the door to playing his own music. He usually sits by and watches and listens to me. I know he loves music as much as I do, but he wasn’t blessed with a nice singing voice. He’d be the first to admit that, and I would agree… although I think he could do better if he put his mind to it. But I have told him that I know a number of good musicians who don’t sing. Singing or not singing doesn’t have any bearing on whether or not someone can play music.

Another poster had this to say, which I related to:

My husband bought me my first guitar out of the blue about a year ago and it changed my life.

Yes, after a couple of months I upgraded from a starter guitar to something nicer. But if he hadn’t given me that gift, I wouldn’t be playing today. 

Now, though,…yeah, I’d like to pick out my own.

I knew a woman in college who played piano beautifully. In fact, she was a music major, and I remember being awestruck by how well she played complex classical pieces in recitals. But she was also in my voice studio and her singing was rather cringeworthy. One of my college roommates majored in organ, and I think she might have been the very last organ major at our school. She didn’t sing at all, but boy could she play the organ! My mom also plays organ and piano, but I have rarely heard her sing. I don’t know if it’s because she just doesn’t like to or because she thinks she can’t. No one would ever say she isn’t musically talented, though. Maybe Bill will turn out to be really good at guitar. Or maybe he’ll decide to try something else. We’ll never know if we don’t take the plunge, although maybe it would have been better if we’d gone to the music store in Wiesbaden. But if we did that, we’d have to wear masks, and I don’t wanna.

Anyway, I thought that thread was interesting. It seemed like a lot of people might have felt what I did was borderline offensive. I was glad to see comments like the ones above, though. And this was what I posted myself, since I have a feeling my post might have inspired the thread in the first place:

Ordinarily, I would agree… but I know my husband really well.  😀 In fact, when I showed him the one I bought for him, he said “That is exactly the one I would have picked out for myself!” He’s very easy to please, though. I buy most of his clothes for him, too.  

And, I want to add that he knows better than to pick one out for me, because I am a lot less easy to please. Instead, he takes me on trips or out to dinner.

Speaking of music… I was very pleased to listen to Immediate Family’s new song. Immediate Family is a band made up of some really incredible session players who have always been on the cusp of fame, even though they are every bit as talented as the headliners they back. Check this out!

Seriously… I love these guys! You can see how much they love what they do, too!

I may do a few songs today, since Bill has to go in to work. I like to do music when he’s not around, since I get distracted and self-conscious. But weirdly enough, I don’t mind practicing guitar when he’s home. Hopefully our new gear will get to us by Friday, since Bill is taking me out for my birthday on Saturday.

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complaints

OMG, I hate IKEA…

I really do. There’s a lot to dislike about IKEA. I hate going in their stores, which are invariably horribly overcrowded, and having to meander through the sales floor to find whatever item I need. I hate that when we went to the one in Sindelfingen and had a cart full of stuff, we couldn’t use our credit card because that location wouldn’t accept American cards (this was in 2014 and we now have different cards). And then, when Bill tried to get cash from the ATM, the machine wouldn’t accept that, either, so we had to leave empty-handed after spending a couple of hellishly stressful hours shopping.

I also hate that almost everything has to be assembled, unless you are lucky enough to score one of their floor models. We do have an old TV stand that we bought at a U.S. based IKEA that was already put together when we got it. That was a coup, although the TV stand was made for those honkin’ big TVs that were the norm until we evolved to flatscreens.

Spotted on the way into the Sindelfingen IKEA. Should have been a sign of what horrors were to come…

We live really close to IKEA now, and aside from one or two trips there when we first moved to Wiesbaden, we don’t shop there. However, I’m thinking we might have to bite the bullet soon, because there are a few things we need. Unfortunately, in Europe, IKEA is kind of a necessary evil. Almost every single rental house we’ve stayed in over here has been at least partially decorated by IKEA because they’re ubiquitous and inexpensive.

Just now, I went to their Web site to see if they have anything we need. It detected my German IP address, but offered me a choice of languages. Or, at least that’s how it appeared at first… I was initially delighted that their site was going to make it easy for me. But it wasn’t to be.

Try to click on the language tab and you’re fucked…

It looks like I have a choice of languages, right? But I don’t. If I click where it offers me a choice, the drop down menu doesn’t work. So I am forced to use the site in German or, barring that, use Google Chrome, which will translate for me automatically. I know… I know… in the grand scheme of things, this isn’t a big deal. Just use Chrome, right? Except it annoys me that they appear to offer me a language preference, but don’t, actually. It’s kind of like that day when we loaded up our cart only to have our credit cards refused. Why have the option to choose a language if you’re not actually going to allow a language preference. What a tease!

I don’t like IKEA’s mod, overly plain style. Some of their stuff is kind of goofy looking. I prefer more classic looks in furniture, although that preference is definitely not notable in my art. I have some admittedly weird art in my house, which reflects my unconventional and off-color sense of humor. I also don’t like that so many people buy their furniture that it’s everywhere. Thanks to our ex house, I especially hate those cheap hanging paper lanterns they sell. They suck. They’re cheap, tacky, impractical, and fragile. I hate the way they look and I hate bumping into them. I hope I never live anywhere else that has them… well, if I have my way, I won’t.

I know some people love IKEA. It definitely has its place. If you like IKEA, more power to you. I just wish there were more alternatives to IKEA… Just had to say that. Maybe later, I’ll be back to write about something of substance, but for now, I’ve got IKEA on the brain.

Edited to add: My German friend reminds me that there ARE alternatives to IKEA here. It just doesn’t seem like it when everywhere you go, there’s IKEA shit spread around. Seriously, it’s unavoidable.

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nostalgia

Black Friday… not about slavery.

I don’t know how this happened, but I grew up the daughter of small business owners and never heard the term “Black Friday” until 1994, when I took a job working at Windsor Shirt Company in Williamsburg, Virginia. Although my parents were in retail, they never used the expression “Black Friday”, and somehow I never heard of it on television ads, in newspaper or magazine articles, or anywhere else.

My job at Windsor Shirt was one of two jobs I ever had in retail. The other job was more like a retail/food service hybrid… it was at a chocolatier that served desserts, coffee drinks, and sold chocolate themed gifts. I liked the chocolatier job more than the shirt company job for a lot of reasons. For one thing, my boss at the chocolatier was a lot nicer to me than my boss at the men’s shirt outlet store. For another thing, I like chocolate more than I do men’s dress shirts. I held both jobs at the same time, and although the chocolatier paid minimum wage plus the odd tip, I much preferred it to hawking menswear… although I liked the clientele at Windsor Shirt Company more.

I remember my boss at Windsor Shirt that year was complaining that no one wanted to work on Black Friday, including me. She hadn’t explained what “Black Friday” was or why it was important to work that day. In the 90s, I was still very much into our family Thanksgiving gatherings in Natural Bridge, Virginia, clear across the state, and I wanted to spend the holiday with my folks. In my defense, it was my first retail job and I just didn’t have a clue, despite being raised by parents who ran a retail business. They simply closed for Thanksgiving weekend rather than fool with “Black Friday”.

My boss, who was a vegetarian, said I could go eat with her family. I was kind of offended by that, since Thanksgiving isn’t about the food for me. Seriously… although I like turkey fine, I can think of other meals that are a lot more exciting to me than a roasted bird is. I wanted to see my family, not hers. In those days, they still knew who I was and wanted to see me, too. Every year, the family has a big party and that serves as our family reunion as well as a holiday celebration. It’s important to most of us.

This particular boss was the type who spoke in a sing songy voice that thinly veiled her condescension and hostility. She used to beckon me with her fingers and speak to me as if I had limited intelligence. Strangely enough, most of the people who worked there said her husband was unfriendly, but I got along with him just fine. I remember thinking he was a perfectly nice guy, albeit a man of few words. I guess he’d have to be to deal with his wife every day.

In the end, my ex boss begrudgingly gave me Black Friday off, and I went to Natural Bridge, but rushed back to work on that Saturday. Ex boss was pretty nasty about that, too, warning everyone to park in the right area so that all of the parking spots were available for customers.

Man… I was so glad to quit that job, and she was glad to have me gone. My boss at Windsor Shirt and I didn’t mesh at all, for a lot of reasons. I’m also very glad I didn’t work Black Friday, since the following year, I was serving in the Peace Corps in Armenia, where I taught English, and I would not be home again for Thanksgiving until 1997. Little did I know that after I got married, I’d go “home” for Thanksgiving even less frequently.

My job at Windsor Shirt was handy, since I could buy clothes and shoes at a discount, and I needed both before I went to Armenia for two years. I stocked up on boots, sweaters, and turtlenecks, all of which really came in handy over there. That job did help me determine that I dislike working in retail, and I absolutely hate Black Fridays in stores, which brings me to the reason I’m writing today’s post about Black Friday…

This morning, someone shared this viral post on Facebook.

Shocking, indeed. I had never heard of this story and decided to investigate it.

I had never heard of this version of the “Black Friday” story, and I took courses in African-American literature and Women’s literature in college, where we discussed these things in depth. First off, by 1904, slavery in the United States was abolished. Secondly, while the term does have roots in the 19th century, it had nothing to do with slavery.

According to History.com, the first recorded use of the term “Black Friday” came about due to financial disaster. Wall Street financiers, Jay Gould and Jim Fisk decided to try to make a lot of money in the stock market by buying up a lot of gold and trying to sell it for huge profits. On Friday, September 24, 1869, their conspiracy fell apart and the stock market crashed, causing financial ruin to a broad array of people from all walks of life.

“Black Friday” was used again in the 1950s, when police in Philadelphia coined the term “Black Friday” to describe the masses of people who descended upon the city to watch the Army vs. Navy football game. The huge swarms of people made it impossible for any Philly based cop to take the day off work and caused them to have to work extra long shifts due to the bedlam. Not only did the crowds cause injury and property damage, there was also an uptick in shoplifting as criminals took advantage of the confusion.

Because the term “Black Friday” cast a shadow on the city during the biggest shopping season of the year, Philadelphia business people tried to coin a new expression, “Big Friday”. But that didn’t take off so well, so after a few years of trying, they eventually started using “Black Friday” to denote the big shopping day the day after Thanksgiving. That’s when the Christmas/Hanukkah seasons really get into gear and people start looking for gifts to exchange. By the late 80s, “Black Friday” became an expression that meant retailers would see their bank accounts go from “in the red” to “into the black” due to all of the money being spent.

And now that I’ve read about that, I can see why I had never heard of “Black Friday” until 1994. I graduated high school in 1990, and that was early in the history of today’s meaning of “Black Friday”. I moved away from home to go to college, and my parents didn’t open their business on Friday after Thanksgiving, anyway. As the History.com article points out, “Black Friday” isn’t even the biggest shopping day before Christmas. It turns out the Saturday before Christmas is even bigger. That makes perfect sense, if you think about it. I’d imagine convenience stores also do well, as people scramble to get something after all of the other stores have closed for the holiday.

Anyway, while I think my friend– an African– means well by sharing this mythical tale, there is no basis in truth that the original “Black Friday” involved slaves being sold at a discount or otherwise the day after Thanksgiving. Slave sales the day after Thanksgiving probably did happen at some point in history, but the event wasn’t called “Black Friday”, and today’s “Black Friday” has nothing at all to do with slavery, unless you want to facetiously include being forced to work that day or be fired. My former boss hinted at the possibility of my termination if I didn’t work that day; she opted not to fire me, because she happened to be pregnant at the time and needed me to stick around until after the baby was born. Personally, I find “Black Friday” pretty tasteless regardless, but there’s no need to make it more so by spreading falsehoods. Snopes agrees with me, by the way.

Who needs turkey? That dinner plate arrived yesterday after I broke one of our dinner plates on Tuesday. We weren’t able to bring all of our dishes with us when we moved in 2014, and World Market doesn’t ship to APO. I don’t know how much longer we’ll be here, but I guess I’ll just replace stuff with this pattern now. I just got three smaller plates delivered a minute ago.

Bill and I had a nice Thanksgiving. We had Cornish game hens, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and peas for me (since Bill can’t have them until he gets scoped), spinach for Bill, homemade rolls, and chocolate cake for dessert. I mentioned on Facebook that German ovens and hormone infused turkeys don’t mesh, due to the small size of the ovens most people have over here. Someone asked if hormone infused meats were “allowed” in Germany. As my German friend pointed out, they’re not. However, the commissaries on any American military base abroad carry American products, and that includes turkeys from the United States. We don’t just shop on the economy for food, although we certainly try to as much as possible.

If I was inclined to cook a turkey for Thanksgiving or Christmas, I probably would not go to a German Metzgerei, because it’s not likely that their turkeys would be prepared the way I would expect them to be. For instance, the first time we tried to cook a German chicken, we mistakenly chose a “soup chicken”, which was intended to be boiled in a pot of soup. It was much too tough to eat. I would not want a similar disaster to occur with a turkey, given how much time and effort goes into cooking them, so I would probably opt for a Butterball, even though they’re not as clean as German birds are. Or we could just do a breast, but I like dark meat more than white, while Bill is a white meat man.

Since there are just two of us, and neither of us cares that much about turkey, we decided Cornish game hens were better. And we have plenty of leftovers, too. I only managed to finish about half of mine. Germans don’t seem to cook turkeys like we do, anyway. They prefer to eat goose this time of year. I wish Bill hadn’t made so much cranberry sauce. I don’t like it as much as he does, and he can’t eat any until after he gets scoped on Monday. The rolls were a hit, though, as were the potatoes!

We also had lots of wine and lots of Gordon Lightfoot. I bought all of his album in MP3 form from Amazon so I could stream it from my Bose speaker in the living room while I finished our latest jigsaw puzzle. It was 1000 pieces, and we were missing four until we found them under the couch.

This was a real bitch to put together, but seeing it completed is rewarding. And now, I’m going to take it apart and start on the next puzzle, which will probably also take two weeks to complete.

Well… I’m not sure what we’ll do today. Bill took the day off, since he worked enough hours last week to pretty much make up for today. We may venture into Wiesbaden in search of coffee beans, or maybe we’ll check out the Christmas markets… but that would mean shopping on Black Friday, which is sort of catching on in Germany, too, even though Thanksgiving isn’t a “thing” in Germany.

Today’s featured photo is not of Black Friday– it’s of the hellacious security line Bill and I endured a few years ago when airport workers went on strike. We went to Hamburg for MLK day in 2015. I think in 2020, we may visit London again. We’ll see…

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complaints

Depressing and strange Facebook ads…

This morning, as I was scrolling through my feed, I noticed a new ad from the Facebook gods. Apparently, I am in the demographic for which bowel cancer screening is now encouraged. Check out this ad.

I don’t doubt that bowel cancer is a risk for me… but do I really want to be warned about it on Facebook?

All kidding aside, it probably wouldn’t be a bad idea for me to take this test. I just think it’s kind of depressing that it shows up on my Facebook feed, along with ads for shape wear, ugly leggings, and period proof underwear. Lately, the ads have been getting more and more obnoxious and offensive, and I find myself clicking the “hide ad” button. They don’t give you enough choices to explain why you want to hide the ad, though. If I want to hide an ad, I have three choices as to why– it’s irrelevant, repetitive, or I’ve already purchased it. I don’t have the opportunity to claim that the ad is offensive, annoying, or stupid.

See what I mean? This just showed up in my feed. Good on them for showing women of different body types, but what in the world makes them think I’d want to wear leggings?

I’ve also been getting ads for things I’ve Googled, but not necessarily posted about on social media. For instance, a few weeks ago, I had an itchy rash. I was looking online for a good skin cream to soothe the itch. Before I knew it, Facebook was showing me ads for German skin products that treat itching. It was kind of creepy, since I never posted about the rash on Facebook. I mean, sometimes I do overshare, but even I have my standards.

For some reason, Facebook seems to think I’m in the market for beachfront property in Spain and Croatia. I get ads for homes for sale in those countries. To be honest, Bill has been talking about buying a house in Spain, mainly because we like Europe better than the United States. I don’t know that we’ll ever do that. It’s possible. He has friends who have done it, and we really don’t have any pressing reasons to move back to the United States, other than to reclaim the stuff we have in storage. In Spain, especially, there are lots of like minded Brits who abandoned England for sunny Spain. I like Spain, too, although it reminds me a little of Texas, especially in the summer.

The Croatian houses appear to be a good value, but I don’t speak a word of Croatian and have only been there on a joyride that lasted about two or three hours. I have yet to take a proper trip there. So why does Facebook think I want to buy a house in Croatia?

I’m kind of surprised I haven’t gotten more ads for cars. Bill and I recently test drove a couple of vehicles and decided on a Volvo. We usually buy our cars brand new, but we drive them until well after they’re paid off. I have a 2009 Mini Cooper that hasn’t even cracked 50,000 miles yet because I don’t drive it much. But it’s been paid off for five years. The Volvo is probably going to be our last expensive car. We’re getting older and there’s no need for all the bells and whistles. But I have mentioned the car shopping on Facebook and haven’t really been bombarded with car ads yet. Bill is placing the order for the car today, though, which probably means I’ll start getting hit with ads.

It seems to be the way of things that I get ads for things I’m no longer shopping for, like period proof panties. I mean, I can still use them, but I don’t see the point in that, since I’ve been dealing with occasionally bloody undies for over thirty years now. Why switch when pretty soon, I’ll be in the blissful land of menopause?

I also get ads for dentists and dental insurance. It’s true that once I hit forty, I started having more dental needs. In fact, I have a date to see our dentist this week. Hopefully, there won’t be anything wrong, because that’s all I’d need.

I think the worst ads are the ones that seem to read my mind. It’s almost like advertisers know what’s in your head. Sometimes that’s not such a bad thing, since it can lead to finding something you want or need. For me, it’s unnerving, though, that social media seems to know what I want when I haven’t even expressed it. Right now, there’s an ad for a Swiss mattress on my Facebook feed. I haven’t posted about needing a new mattress or even shopped for one, since I have an American bed and European mattresses are different. But we do need a new mattress. The one we have is about ten years old and it’s due to be replaced. That will have to wait. 2019 is already turning out to be very expensive!

I suspect there will be more annoying noise pollution today as the road workers continue to reconstruct our sidewalk. Last year, in our last town, they were fixing the road in front of the house. This year, in a new house, it’s the sidewalk. I’m glad we’ll be leaving town in a couple of days, because the noise really stresses me out.

Oh… and I’m so glad Meghan “popped” yesterday. Funny, she was probably in the process as I was writing that post. I guess we were on the same wavelength.

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