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Showing posts from January, 2008

The $100 Guitar, first in a series

This is a Harmony acoustic guitar I bought in Evansville, Indiana a few years ago. I have tried with very little luck to find the correct model number for those of you who care about such stuff, but it doesn't seem to match up with anything in the online world of Harmony guitar reference. We were on a stop on the Hootie "Looking for Lucky" tour with a Sunday off. My father had asked me to look around Evansville, as it was where his LST was built and launched from. There weren't a lot of places open, but there was a small music store a couple streets up from the hotel. A couple of us went inside, and once we got past the modern imported Strat and Les Paul knock-offs, we were dazzled: there were dusty old Stellas and Epiphones and weird Univox amps. Mandolins and ukes on pegboard hooks on the wall; ancient drums and accordions on the floor. It was like walking into the back of David Lindley 's mind, I imagine. And none of it was for sale ! The man who ran


We had a memorial for my dad today at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Winston-Salem. A car from Salem Funerals came for Mom, Webb and me at about 1:30, and we rode down Reynolda Road and up the hill to the church. As we pulled up, I saw a clutch of my closest friends at the entrance. Another was walking toward us from the parking lot. Neighbors of my parents were crossing Summit Avenue. The weather was unseasonable and balmy, much to my mother's delight. The church provided ushers who got Mom to the front pew. My wife and kids and I worked our way up there as well, with a few breaks to greet some of my parents' close friends. Dad's urn was in a carved wooden stand with a candle in front of it; I'm sure the Episcopalian Church has a specific name for this object, but I don't know what it is. The choir lofts where I spent many years as a boy soprano, then alto, were on either side, and the organist could be glimpsed in the mirror above the pipe organ. T


probably a hundred yellow golf pencils blank pads, empty notebooks of every size, graph and accounting paper, greeting cards for every occasion and their envelopes, three-by-five cards, lined and unlined, and thousands of return address stickers faded sepia pictures of my father and his brothers from 1916 when their mother was alive, my little dad in his pudding bowl haircut but looking exactly like my later dad's eyes and face canceled checks in envelopes by year a note from the White House to my mom's father, the General, and her mother to a state dinner during the Coolidge administration unwrapped Hershey Kisses in an old plastic box, alongside M&M's in a prescription bottle filled notebooks, the smallest ones with wire binding, filled with my dad's henscratch, listing what he did that date in 1995 and 2003 calendars with trains and wolves and dogs, many from 2005 a collection of plastic shopping bags a box with a ring of beautiful skeleton keys, no idea what t

Dreams for my father

Today I've been bombarded by memories of my life with my dad, understandably. I've spent a lot of the time padding around my parents' home, looking at pictures. Pictures of him in his Navy dress whites, leaning over a desk, talking to my beautiful young mother with his shy and knowing smile, or driving away with her after their wedding. Pictures of him standing in the Carolina surf in hat and waders, with his rod and reel but no fish. Pictures of him from a Wachovia annual report, planning someone's estate in the trust department. Pictures of him with his young grandson, sharing some unspoken thought. Dad was inscrutable. Not in any bad way, just quietly impenetrable. He kept it so for some unspecified personal reason, maybe to savor his own tiny half acre of solitude that he may not have been afforded with a family who didn't always value silence. It certainly was not in any sort of mean or unloving manner, as I never didn't feel love from my dad. But

Henry Holsapple 1912-2008

My father passed away this morning at the age of ninety-five. My mother and I, after spending time in his ICU room last night, found ourselves wrestling with removing his breathing tube. Fighting pneumonia, his lungs were being bombarded with oxygen and antibiotics. It would be difficult to say he was conscious throughout his last hours. Nobody wants to be the one to have to make such a decision. I'd had to be that person for my brother, authorizing his morphine drip several days before he died in 1997. The idea of having to do that again, despite knowing that it would alleviate my father's discomfort, was not anything I wanted to do. Mother wanted to believe that Dad would recuperate and come home, but even she was beginning to accept what seemed inevitable. But, true to form, my father made the decision for us. Thank you, Daddy.

Krispy Kreme

I drove into Winston-Salem the other afternoon and went straight to the Krispy Kreme on Stratford Road. It had occurred to me that a fresh Krispy Kreme might be just soft enough for my Dad to enjoy. The consistency of a fresh Krispy Kreme doughnut is probably akin to the taste of an angel's halo, presuming those are edible. It's like biting into fresh, hot nothing covered in sugar. And then it disappears into your tongue and mouth and it's gone and so's the next one. They are hard to eat in the singular when they are young. Oddly, as they age, they fill with a cobwebby breadiness while their outside frosts over and stiffens. If you have a microwave, you can save your Krispy Kremes from this kind of fate. This is the location of the flagship free-standing Krispy Kreme, and most of the present building is still pretty old. When I was a new lad in town in the 1960's, Thruway Shopping Center hadn't spanned to Knollwood Street yet, but you could get these great

Music and Oysters for Wildlife

1/19/2008 I was a participant in a great, galloping concert last night in Awendah, South Carolina, just outside of Charleston. It was a benefit concert for Sewee Center . When we played at the Ryman Auditorium in 2007, Eddie White approached me about coming down for the show and playing some songs. So that's exactly what I did. Mark Bryan , my comrade from the Blowfish, has another band that he co-fronts call the Occasional Milkshake. It's a raucous trio featuring my buddy from the backline Gary Greene on trap drums and the estimable Hank Futch from the Blue Dogs on upright bass. They have been the host band for this show for three years running, providing backing to all comers. They are formidable. Tonight they're pressed into the services of a number of singers, Southern vets with family ties here, mostly through some involvement with Mark. Doug Jones , from Cravin Melon , whose new album Doug Jones Everybody Doug Jones features the Milkshake throughout, and Mark p


We have four ice cube trays in our freezer. Actually, I'm lying. We only have one ice cube tray. We have three other trays that create small half columns of ice. I love the ice cube tray. It was purchased new, or what passes for new, at a thrift store. It's classic. It is called the Magic Touch Spil-Gard. It's Carolina blue (natch) and it incubates eighteen ice cubes. The Spil-Gard is a small lip of plastic that guards spilling the water out of the tray and onto the kitchen floor. It works. You can usually get two 16 ounce glasses' worth of ice from a single tray. Like any ice cube tray, it sometimes won't produce. Half the cubes get stuck; the handle won't pull all the way up. But it's never anything that a short rinse under warm tap water won't alleviate. The hemicolumnar trays I don't like at all. In the couple of years I have been co-owner of them, I have not found a successful way to manage their payloads. Inevitably two or three


Recently, I've been consumed with numbers, small and large. I guess I'm really no different from anyone else on Earth, except that I've had all this time to think about them when I drive back and forth to Winston-Salem. I try to let the gas in the car go down as low as I can so I can take advantage of Sheetz 's "inexpensive" gasoline. That's a nice oxymoron for our times, since it's $2.88 per gallon. I can remember a time when it was a fraction of that, but barely. It's 82 miles from Durham to Winston, so the round trip is 164 miles. The odometer on the Subaru has just passed 159,500 miles, most of which we've put on the car. I just passed 25,000 hits to my myspace blog. That's pretty remarkable, considering what's been written. In my recent appointment as power-of-attorney for my parents, I'm now looking at their bank statements and such. I will not put their numbers here, as it's not for public consumption, but it's


Around 5:30am, Baby stirs. Mom tries the pacifier, but Baby's having none of it. We hear the four-year-old scampering to the bathroom. Baby quiets and Mom heads off to rendezvous with Four Year Old, encouraging him to wipe his own butt. Dad plays sleeping but eventually the sound of the percolating baby draws him over to her in the co-sleeper. He tries to insert the passy but Baby's having none of it. He pats her belly, strokes her face but she is making all sorts of noises from every orifice. Mom returns with Four Year Old for a half-hour of snuggling (sometimes struggling). She suggests Dad rock Baby. Dad folds feeding pillow in half, wedges it into the side of the rocking chair where Baby's head will lie. He rescues Baby from the co-sleeper, wraps himself and Baby in a soft blanket and begins rocking. Baby is having none of it; Dad looks down and sees the biggest widest pair of awake brown eyes staring up at him. Four Year Old is trying to initiate conversation

The Guild S-200 Thunderbird

In the pantheon of guitars I still wish I had, the Guild Thunderbird ranks at the head. It was the guitar I always wanted, and I got not one but two of them. Then I sold them because I had to at the time. Now, years later, when I run across a picture of one like this one from someone's collection , I stop short and linger over its design. I look at the three slider switches, like a Fender Jaguar . The on-off switch, like you'd ever turn it OFF. The big shiny lead pickup knobs (that go to 9, from back in the days when there was still a value placed on reserve) and the two smaller ones for the rhythm. I look at the wanky old Hagstrom tremelo unit --I had a stop tailpiece installed on my sunburst T'bird, much like I'd done to my poor Les Paul Standard years ago, turning from an investment of an instrument into a 'players' guitar'. I think about the guitar stand in the back. Basically, if you've never seen one, it's a nine inch flat metal bar th

Raking the leaves

Today I spent a large part of the day outside, raking leaves and bagging them. I had help from my four-year-old for a couple hours until the lure of inside and warm and cozy drew him from my side. It's okay, because he was only so much help anyway and it was more about the company. While I was alone, I realized that raking was a very good way to put my mind into a better place. This has been a week of commuting back and forth to my parents' condominium in Winston-Salem. They are elderly (95 and 86), somewhat infirmed and still living on their own. My father has now fallen a number of times, and it's cause for great concern. I'm the only living child of my parents; they now have to depend on me for direction on their welfare, something no one would have expected any more than Brian being the sole surviving Wilson sibling. Parenting one's parents is not an ideal job, especially with my folks. My dad has tightly clung to the reins of the family's finances. H

A Kent and a Kalamazoo

My parents and my grandparents got together for Christmas of 1966 and bought me a Kent two-pickup electric guitar and a Kalamazoo amp. It had become pretty obvious that I was serious about playing guitar, and the grown-ups wouldn't have known a Kent from a Gretsch White Falcon . So this is what I got. I must say that my anticipation that Christmas got the better of me. In my father's night table, I located the key to his closet where I found the guitar. Despite my best efforts at subterfuge, my parents caught on that I'd sneaked the guitar out for a few hot licks. My mother, in particular, was incensed that I'd lied about sneaking in the closet; she was probably the angriest class mother at my fifth grade Christmas party. I carry this guilt with me today, for some reason. My across-the-street neighbor, Charles Vance, got the identical guitar in red, and he got a Kay amp (I think). We were playing music together, much of the same repertoire that Dana and the Blue

My big brother and me, 1959

1 Meadow Lane Shorelands Old Greenwich, Connecticut


Tomorrow is my brother Curtis' birthday. Were he alive, he would turn 63 years old. He died in 1997. Looking at his Dinky Toys recently, I was impressed by the condition of most of them. In the argot of their collectors, they are somewhat 'played with' but not to the point of needing restoration. Their original paint is largely unchipped. Their primitive plastic windscreens are still attached. Their tires are original ('flat' in some cases). If they came with drivers, the drivers are still there. I even found the box for the Austin Healey. It is, overall, remarkable to see an assortment of fifty-year-old miniature cars and army vehicles in such pristine order. If you were to find my own Corgi Toys, which were similar size to Dinkys but had operating doors and bonnets and other features more attuned to the Sixties Child like me, they'd be tireless, driverless hulks of scarred, scraped and dechromed miniature automobilia, ready for the tiny car crusher.

Things I wish they made in grown-up size

I'm a man. Spell M. A. N. Man. Not no boy-child. A man . But sometimes I wish I was a boy-child again, especially being father to a four-year-old lad. Responsibility is all very fine and good, but nothing beats the kind of directed leisure that children get to experience. All that Dinky Toy stuff made me long for toys, even though theoretically I'm too old and, ahem, mature to play with childish things I put aside long ago. When I see some of the stuff that kids have today, I get all excited then pouty that we didn't have some of that when I was a child back in the mid-20th century. Oh sure, I had an Aurora H O raceway set with the crossover tracks and banked curves. I had the game of Trouble which I still enjoy from time to time. I can't remember much more than those, having been a books-and-underwear kind of kid at the time. And for all the cheap and crappy import toys that proliferate the market, there are still some things that, were they made in adult

Chasing the piano

Tift Merritt bestowed upon the Holsapples a Baldwin Acrosonic spinet piano several weeks ago. "It gets to stay in the family!" effused Ms. Merritt, herself a talented ivory-tickler. We, too, were thrilled, since my job is basically one that involves keyboard instruments most of the time; the last piano I had was Smart Wife 's childhood spinet which bit the dust in Katrina, unfortunately. Our little kids will be subject to piano lessons, and now they have one for the hours of practice they will undoubtedly be putting in. I arranged with a company, who shall remain nameless, to move the piano from Tift's place out in the boonies to our urban hideaway in the Bull City for a flat rate. It was substantially less than what is known in the business as a "professional" piano mover would charge, and perhaps my radar should have registered that but it didn't. I felt like I'd found a bargain. We arranged that the movers would call an hour before they w

More Dinkys

Broad Street Cafe, Durham, NC January 5

My Smart Wife suggested that I put this info up on my blog, so here goes: I'm playing the middle set on Saturday at the Broad Street Cafe in Durham. The opening act is Sweet By and Bye , an all-woman bluegrass band who I got to see a few months ago. They are so very appealing. At the show where I caught them, they did a swell version of "Ooh La La" , a song that naturally works in that setting. The headliner is Peter Lang , a self-described "American primitive" guitarist. I knew his music from the days when he was on John Fahey 's Takoma Records . Peter is also doing a guitar workshop the next day at one in the afternoon at Broad Street Cafe. I look greatly forward to this gig, my fellow performers and my friends in the audience. It's a benefit show for First in Families in NC , a worthy cause. The tickets are $13 in advance and $15 at the door. Please make your way down to the BSC and help this group while hearing some good music.
Here, inspired by Terry Anderson's Christmas morning drumkit shot, is a picture of my first band, Dana and the Blue Jays. I was a Blue Jay, the one to the right with my mom's discarded Silvertone. My bandmates were Tommy Winfree on the other guitar and Dana Olive on drum and cymbal. I met Dana at the dreaded Wake Forest Physical Fitness camp that my parents sent me to two consecutive summers (for all the good that did, basically putting me off all things physical- or sports-oriented for life). His dad was a WFU professor, I believe, because they lived in a campus apartment. I can't remember if Tommy went to camp too, but he lived kitty-cornered from Reynolds High School . They both were in the next grade up from me. Most of our repertoire came from the Golden Beatles songbook (the original sculpture on the cover which I saw under glass at the first Tokyo show I played with R.E.M. years later--what a gas) and WTOB radio's playlist. It was about then that I s

Life flashing before eyes, pt. 2

When I wasn't taking pictures of toy trucks last night, I watched some television with my wife, including a retrospective of Saturday Night Live from the '90's. I watched the show fairly religiously when it was the original cast, but I have been an infrequent watcher since then, partially due to my chosen vocation's tendency to have gigs about airtime and partially because when I'm not gigging at that time, I'm probably trying to sleep. There are people who I know that can quote entire skits from SNL word-for-word at the drop of a hat. (Not until about three weeks ago had I ever seen the Christopher Walken 'more cowbell' episode, but I felt I had, having had it replayed for me dozens of times by lots of different people.) I forget jokes or worse, punchlines, even as funny as I may think something is. My mind is a humor sieve. I also am not very good at recognizing popular cultural icons of today, or even, apparently, of the Nineties. There were cast

Dinky world

I spent a good part of New Year's Eve photographing Dinky Toys . These are metal cars, trucks, farm implements and army vehicles made by Meccano Ltd. in England from the 1940's and 1950's. I'm probably going to put them up for auction at some point in the future, but for now, instead of finding out what I'm thinking about today, I'm putting them on the blog to see a tiny lead-painted world that we're long gone from....