Twenty years ago I was in Rochester New York visiting my brother, his wife, and their two small children.  We had an afternoon to kill so they took me to a guitar store called “House of Guitars,” or something like that. Maybe “The Guitar Castle.”  Did I mention it was twenty years ago? My memory truly sucks.  I found a used mandolin there for $150. Funky but it had potential. I bought it and brought it home and lovingly restored it to health. I  had my guitar guy work on it… fix the neck… put a pick up in it. It sounded amazing.

I’ve had it for twenty years. I played it on my demos back in the 90’s when I would write and record a song on Tuesday and it would be on the charts on Friday. I played it on my solo CDs. I’m not a great mandolin player. Hell, I’m  not even a GOOD one. I play it like someone who has just had it placed in his hands for the first time… like a new born baby otter… and what I play is usually just strange and different enough to be cool and do the trick. I played it on a lot of the songs on our BSR CD.

I never named the mandolin like Clapton does… or BB King. If I had, I probably would have named it after my school friend Marty. Marty the mandolin. Because, like the mandolin, Marty was small… and had eight strings.

Today my brother is still in Rochester. His wife passed away a few years ago. Those small kids now have grown kids. One started college. Yikes. And I still have Marty. The mandolin… not the kid. I have no idea where HE is. And you can’t really “have” another human being. Not since the Emancipation Proclamation.

So tonight when our guitar tech, who normally is in the business of helping make our instruments sound BETTER… turned on stage a little too fast and knocked my mandolin over and broke it… it made the bottom of my stomach drop into the bottom of my shoes.  I mean… broken. Not scuffed up. Not out of tune. I mean “weird things hanging off the sides of the poor bastard” broken. Ex-mandolin broken. Total accident… but man. It’s broken.

I use my mandolin on about four songs every show. Not tonight. I stared at it like it was a kitten with antlers. What exactly am I seeing here? This is the same sensation I had when my leg got broken in a soccer game. I stared at my once familiar leg with wonder cause it had a 90 degree bend in it in a place it never had one before. I literally could not look away. That was how it was tonight as I stared at Marty. The mandolin… not the kid.

So tomorrow they promised me as soon as we hit Boulder they would find a mandolin repair store (one on every corner) and have it fixed by the time we have sound check. That is probably just something you say when someone is having a hysterical meltdown in the center of a stage with Teamsters looking on. Marty may yet live. The mandolin… not the kid. I’m sure the kid is fine. I’m not sure about our guitar tech. He looked so sad as we left him on the side of the road  in Colorado Springs…

Also… never eat Indian food before you go on stage.