Tales of perfection


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Sunday night rambling anew.


Sunday night thoughts, streaming, and cooling down because they’ve been rattling around in my head all day.
Let’s see if I can rekindle the ember. Stoke the flame of an idea. Get my thoughts flowing. My brain is muddy. Sunday muddy.


I’ll relate 2 short incidents I experienced this weekend. They share a common theme, a common message.


Do you see it?


If so, perhaps you think much like I do.


In which case you should be frightened.
Or flattered.
Jury’s out.




Friday night, after work, I had a hankering for some greasy, fattening food. So I stopped and grabbed dinner at a place in nearby Montebello at a burger joint called Arry’s. You know it. One of those places you go to comatize, to swim in puddles of fat and saturate your taste buds in heavy saltiness. Even amongst these type of burger stands there is a hierarchy. Meaning that if you’re going to accelerate the heart-clogging process you might as well enjoy the process to the fullest. That is Arry’s.


Why do I bring Arry’s up?


It’s a burger joint. Burger joints are renowned for flunky employees and mildly repugnant “customer service.” Right?


Not Arry’s. You walk in and the employees, mostly men in their late 20’s and 30’s, greet you immediately. They ask you how you are doing in a confident barking tone. They are’t smoozingly corporate phony or corny. It’s not some bullshit script the corporate office handed down to all its soulless franchises. These guys are the real deal, they take your order, they scream it out loud.


If your nerves are overwrought, this might not be the place for you to dine. There is no peace to be found here. Your order is called, they hand it to you with a genuine sense of pride, and if you ask for anything, they will bring it to you promptly and unfailingly. The dudes work and they work hard. I’m sure they don’t make a fortune and the work is not L.A. glamorous, but it is what they do, and they do it well. It’s Zen. Living strictly in the moment and devoting themselves to their task. There is no superfluous or distracted teenaged bullshit from these guys. They are here to serve you. And they do. Do they enjoy it? Who knows. The point is, they do their job, they fulfill the role, they take it seriously and they dish it out. Like adults.


Arry’s is always a pleasure.





My son, the future rock star, found out that there is a Guitar Center located in nearby Pasadena. I was surprised too. I never paid attention to guitars until he immersed himself in this…hobby. This passion. The only Guitar Center I knew was the one on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood I saw when I was younger and cruising or hitting concert spots every week. Guitar Center seemed to have a special renown for musicians and fans alike…I always thought of it as a hardcore musician hangout. The store had regular artist appearances and signature signings. I knew nothing about guitars and it wasn’t my thing, so I never stepped foot in the place.


And then came along my rock star heir. The future Jimmy Page or Jimi Hendrix, who knows. But stages and bright lights are firmly ensconced in the self-laid path that is his future.


So today we made our way up to Pasadena.



Special note…drivers were very aggressive today. What the hell? I was being tailgated all the way up and all the way down. I even drew a honk and a “fuck you!” from some dude in a Pathfinder. All because I slowed down for a bicyclist. Ah…it was football Sunday. Explains the reduced IQ and bloated impatience of the day.



Anyways, we arrived at Guitar Center on Colorado about noon, just an hour after opening. The place was laid back and there were guitars everywhere. EVERYWHERE.


I saw stars and glitter in my son’s eyes.


Heaven on Earth.


We received a friendly greeting. We strolled back and forth for it was basically a hands off visit on our part. This was a scouting expedition only. No toy-buying today.


Checked out the picks, the distortion pedals, listened as a couple of customers test drove a couple of guitars. “Sweet Child O’ Mine” from Guns N’ Roses. Dude was pretty good and my son felt in over his head. I told him everyone was a beginner at one point. Those who excel in a field, the “veterans,” are the most supportive and helpful to the youth who aspire to their level.


No need for shame.


We wandered into the acoustic section and —- tells me he likes this “acoustic electric” by Ibanez. First of all, I hadn’t heard of such a thing until recently. Acoustic electric? The man working that section, a middle-aged guy, maybe in my demographic, greeted us calmly, asked if we needed help. I told him, no, thank you. —– and me roamed around. So many damned acoustic guitars.


The room smelled of wood. Pleasant and musical. Music in the raw? That’s how I think of acoustic guitar. The man watched us. He walked over finally and asked —- a few questions, then presented us with a few acoustic options. Really no plans to buy anything but I could sense the excitement level rise.


As I said, the man was about my age and the way he handled one of the guitars he pulled down showed he was very used to the Art of Guitar. He answered a couple of questions skillfully, but he held back, didn’t swamp us with sales schmooze. He was comfortable in his passion, and though it was obvious that of course he wanted me to buy, he wasn’t dependent on it. We could walk out that very instant, empty handed, and he would still be in the place he wanted to be. With strings and frets and curved wood. The passion which brought him here and which completed his life, or at least fulfilled much of it, was probably his guiding force.


I was helpless. I’m a man of consumptive passion as well!


In the face of such sincere and unadulterated passion on the part of my son on one hand and from the salesman on the other, the coalescing of 2 ends of the spectrum, how could I just walk away?


He showed us an Ibanez that was marked down 10 bucks and my mouth said yes before my brain comphrended what had just happened.







Two stories.


Folks doing what was right and pure, for them.
Living life to the fullest. Following passion, following duty; an unblinking commitment to achieving perfection.


And driving through Montebello, later, driving by a McDonads restaurant. I was reminded of imperfection.


A McDonalds franchise, that even by vast international corporate standards, left you feeling cold and impatient. Workers reciting rote passages over drive-thru speakers, a franchise which seemed to get your order wrong about 1/2 the time. A corporate franchise where the employees, bored-looking and unfriendly kids, seemed to wish they were anywhere but there.




Worse yet, the casual indifference to perfection.