More Breakthroughs

July 19th, 2010

God’s Own Cake and the Devil’s Music

I took the Tower of Babel cake to church to get rid of it. It was a great success. Now they want more. I have piles of bananas scattered on the kitchen counter, fresh from the trees in my yard. I guess I’ll freeze what I can’t cook immediately and put the rest in cakes.

My nam wa banana tree finally produced. The bananas are very nice. They’re finger-sized bananas, but they’re not like the lemony guineos we always have in the markets in Miami. They’re very sweet, and they have a smooth texture. It’s a little like banana ice cream.

God keeps working in my life. Last week I led some of the armorbearers on the first Armorbearer Freedom Fast, and Mike joined in. Some of us were fasting to beat gluttony. I was fasting in support of the others. Mike called and said he went to a restaurant after the fast and ordered a kid’s portion. He couldn’t face a regular-size meal. In the past, it has always been hard for Mike to face regular-sized meals, but that was because they were too small. His new attitude is incredible.

I worked at church on Sunday, and when I left at nearly 4 p.m., I hadn’t eaten anything except a piece of cake. I didn’t want more food, but I made myself stop at Five Guys. I got a bacon cheeseburger, Cajun fries, and a large Coke. I ate two thirds of the burger and a third of the fries. I drank half of the Coke. I threw everything else out. I didn’t want it. Today I went to breakfast with my dad, and I left a fourth of my nova bagel on the plate. Not bad. My Armorbearer friend who was fasting because of his weight said he tried to eat something he usually enjoys, and it made him sick, so he couldn’t do it.

Fasting works. My pants and belts do not lie. We are getting supernatural results. And my dad is witnessing all of it, which is also great. One day, we’ll get him.

Church continues to amaze me. I keep meeting extraordinary people there. One of the new Armorbearers is a drummer. His name is Travis. I started talking to him yesterday. I asked him if the drums were his only instruments. He said he played TWELVE, and he listed them. And he said he played them WELL, so apparently it’s not like Prince, who claims he can play forty but probably includes instruments that made noises because he accidentally sat on them in the studio.

I know everyone thinks Prince is a genius. When I see him do something that indicates talent, I will agree. So far, all I’ve seen are weak pop tunes. And he holds a purple guitar sometimes. Wait. I think it’s white. Anyway, I haven’t heard any solos yet.

Travis got a full scholarship to college, based on his ability. That’s what he does now. He said it was largely based on his sight-reading skills. He actually knows who my trombone-virtuoso cousin is, which is astonishing.

So now we have two professional musicians in the group, and they’re not three-chord wonders or rappers. They are real musicians.

The other musician, Zachary, is trying to find a hundred-watt tube amp he can afford. He said he would consider building one, if he had the skills. I used to build temperature and current controls for diode lasers in college, and I have a ton of tools. He sent me links to some sites that have amp plans. Interesting.

One of the guys bought a Bushmaster AR-15. He brought it in for us to look at. We were handing it around and admiring it in a back room. I said, “You know, church has CHANGED since I was a kid.” That cracked Travis up.

My music is going really well. The bluegrass is coming up to speed. My left hand has only had five weeks to get strong, and that’s not enough. When I use a capo (makes fretting easier), I get a taste of what my playing will be like in another month or two. I plan to continue playing bluegrass, simply because it’s great for my technique and it’s wasteful to throw away a whole genre you’ve already learned.

I was suffering with online blues lessons, but I couldn’t take it any more. I got a ZZ Top book, and I started working on “Tube Snake Boogie.” I realize this is not good music for a Christian to work on, but hear me out. The guitar stuff is all blues-based, and it’s HOT. It will get me into electric blues via the side door, and it will help me get familiar with my instruments and amps. I don’t plan to sing this filth in the sanctuary.

I struggled for a week, but today I got it working. I put new strings on my flamenco guitar (like a classical guitar, with a cutaway and a different sound), and I started using it for practice. This is much easier on me than my dreadnought and heavy hollowbody. It allows me to practice pretty painlessly. I actually got through the first page and a half.

I may get hollered at for saying it, but so far, as I expected, this stuff is a complete joke compared to bluegrass. True, you have to go up the neck more, but so what? I’m using elevens, and the guitar’s action is very light. I’m playing at half the speed of bluegrass (or less), the strings are kinder to my hands, and the licks are child’s play. The only real problems are getting used to playing over pickups and coping with the light strings. When you’re used to blasting thirteens at maybe eight notes a second, you can barely feel elevens.

When I used to try to play Stevie Ray Vaughan material, it was difficult, but then he played very fast, and he didn’t cheat by using his left hand to play the notes. He did it just like a bluegrass guitarist.

I’ve noticed that some rock guitarists play runs that seem very fast, but their right hands aren’t keeping up with the notes. Evidently, you can effectively double your speed by hammering on and pulling off and bending the strings with your left hand, between right-hand notes. I wonder how many of these guys could cope with bluegrass. I know some of them have been there; Steve Morse does both styles.

I had a feeling this would turn out to be easy, simply because I know the kind of people who play rock. They are not known for being industrious. Rock guitar isn’t about artistry and sacrifice. It’s about looking cool and attracting shallow women so you can fornicate. That’s what got Pete Townshend started. I know there must be many rock guitarists who woodshed all the time and aren’t afraid of difficult material, but a lot of this stuff appears to be based on using two fingers, the way you might when you’re stoned in the back of a tour bus. And everyone loves nines, and I don’t think that’s totally based on professionalism. It just might have something to do with lack of character, in some cases.

When you play an electric guitar, the gadgetry does a whole lot of the work. It’s pretty cushy compared to killing yourself to get music out of an acoustic.

I look forward to getting a grip on this form of music, and then I want to do a reverse Ray Charles. I want to use bluesy sounds to make music for God. I know you’re supposed to go the other way, ripping off gospel and using it to play secular music. I don’t see why I can’t turn the tables.

I’m glad I held onto that flamenco guitar.

Tisha B’Av is about to start, so if you’re fasting in sympathy with Israel and the Jews, it’s time to get on it.

Life is wonderful.

9 Responses to “More Breakthroughs”

  1. Chris Says:

    “The guitar stuff is all blues-based, and it’s HOT. It will get me into electric blues via the side door, and it will help me get familiar with my instruments and amps. I don’t plan to sing this filth in the sanctuary.”
    The looks on peoples’ faces if you started playing “La Grange” would certainly be pretty startling.

  2. pbird Says:

    The trouble with old mothers fasting is that they still have to feed people. Not really hungry, but weeak.

  3. J.M. Heinrichs Says:


  4. Steve H. Says:

    I don’t see how a guy who was writing in 1937 can be the inventor of gospel. Wikipedia says Amazing Grace was published in 1779.
    The Wikipedia “gospel music” entry says gospel goes back at least to the 18th century.
    Looks like the article your reference links is yet another PBS moment of FAIL.

  5. Charliei Bravo Says:

    So…. Did you take Rev. Billy F. Gibbons advise on the Mexican peso?
    He’s also right about Mexican food, and about slides made out of the necks of Mexcan beer bottles….

  6. Enas Yorl Says:

    *Waves lit cigarette lighter back and forth*

  7. Steve H. Says:

    Will a Bahamian quarter work?

  8. Charliei Bravo Says:

    Certainly, yes…. The Bahamian quarter will do! Write some of your stuff and publish it here, please!

  9. Amy Says:

    Steve, I have been reading your blog for a long time now and seeing you grow in the Lord and your passion for the faith has truly inspired me. I’ve picked up my Bible for the first time in a very lonnnngg time. Thanks!