Help! I’ve Got G.A.S.!


That’s right, I’ve got G.A.S!

No, not the embarrassing bean-induced digestive distress, and not the American equivalent of petrol.

Amongst guitar players, G.A.S. stands for Guitar Acquisition Syndrome, defined thusly by GuitarDaddy over at The Guitar Buzz:

…the uncontrollable need to purchase “just one more” guitar. Then, when the new guitar arrives, the G.A.S. symptoms return. It’s a never-ending cycle that can be… terminal.

It’s an insidious condition, really, so common amongst musicians (not limited to guitarists, and therefore AKA Gear Acquisition Syndrome), that the acronym can be found on the interwebs in thousands if not millions of articles, blog posts, and discussion forums.

GAS-BookA book’s even been written on the topic.

My favorite piece on G.A.S. is at Music Radar, titled 7 Stages of Gear Acquisition, where the 7 stages are listed as: Dissatisfaction, Desire, Research, Purchase, Guilt, Acceptance, Relapse.

I particularly love this bit from the section on Desire:

You’ve seen the guitar you want, and it’s embedded in your brain like a want-splinter. Only this guitar can bring happiness. With it in your hands, your playing will improve and you’ll become a sexual colossus.

“Want-splinter”! LOL! So funny, and so, so, true!

I think most musicians would agree that these stages are not linear and sequential, and that one can bounce around them in no predictable order. Not all who suffer G.A.S., for instance, give into the Desire and amass massive collections and massive debt, and my own “collection” consists of only two electric and two acoustic guitars.

The vast majority of the time I vacillate between Desire & Research: checking the Craigslist musical instruments listings and almost daily, regularly getting lured in by a nice-looking guitar, scouring the reviews, watching YouTube clips, daydreaming and dreaming about the guitar, going to music stores to play the guitar if possible, etc.

Today, this is the one that got my G.A.S. symptoms raging:


In the grand scheme of things, this is nowhere near an extravagant instrument. The Crestwood reissue sold for as low as $300 brand new, but because it was a limited run and is no longer available at retail, those available at eBay or range from $500-$600. Small beans compared to, oh, let’s say, a $2,500 vintage 1968 Gibson SG or a $20,000 1957 Fender Stratocaster.

Still, I don’t need another guitar. This is simply a want-splinter, nothing else.


Being Sick Sucks, Revisited

(Since I’m bedridden by some bug or another, and consequently not feeling inspired to write anything new, I thought I’d re-post something from about four years ago on the topic of being sick. I did edit a bit, because I didn’t like the ending. Hopefully, I’ll be back with something new tomorrow.)

Seriously! Being sick really sucks.

When I was a kid, a sick day at least had a silver lining, it meant missing school. But now, every hour I miss at work is an hour I’m getting behind in my work.

I wrote back in August about how vacation is a double-edged sword, a badly needed break from the daily grind for sure, but that there’s often so much prep work to prepare for a vacation and so much catch-up work when you return, that the time off might not register as having been as relaxing and renewing as one would like.

Well, sick days are worse. There was no warning, no chance to prep, I’ll have tons of catch-up when I’m back at the office, AND I’m lying here in bed in physical distress.

I, of course, am very thankful that I have plenty of accrued sick leave and good health insurance. And so now, in addition to being sick, I feel guilty for complaining about being ill, while millions of people on this planet don’t have the luxury of calling in sick and getting paid for it; while millions of people don’t have any health insurance or access to adequate healthcare.

Being sick sucks, indeed, but for me and my fellow First Worlders, hopefully it engenders compassion for those less fortunate than us.

The Paradox Of “F**K It!”

(Disclaimer: This post contains the “F Word”. I apologize to any of my readers who are made uncomfortable by it.)

I was walking across campus this morning and saw someone smoking a cigarette and the phrase “Fuck It!” just popped into my head, for it seemed to me that this is what smokers must say to themselves when — despite the indisputable truth and common knowledge that smoking kills — they choose to start smoking, and they must say it again, regularly, at least subconsciously, every time they light up.

It might sound something like this:

Fuck it! I’m gonna die someday anyway!

At least that’s what I did, when I smoked for a short time during my college years.

From that one example, you could extrapolate that “Fuck It!” is purely a bad thing. And yet, as I’ve deliberated on it, I’ve come to the conclusion that “Fuck It!” can be a force for good or bad, and it all depends on the choice it accompanies.

The Bad of “Fuck It!”
“Fuck It!” can function as a foolish and futile deferral of unpleasantness.

There’s a long list of actions we take that don’t necessarily have immediate significant negative consequences: smoking, eating poorly, eschewing exercise, cheating on your wife, cheating on your taxes, embezzling, etc.

However, inevitably, these things catch up with you. And, while I don’t have personal experience with all of those examples, based on similar experiences I have had, I think the deferral of unpleasantness expires somewhere between 45 and 50-years of age.

For instance, on the topic of health, your body can handle only so many instances of the following:

  • Fuck it! I’m going to order that sixth pint of 7+%ABV beer!
  • Fuck it! I’m going to watch the entire 4th season of Battlestar Galactica in one sitting!
  • Fuck it! One more pint of ice cream won’t hurt!
  • Fuck it! I’ll start riding my bicycle again when the rainy season ends! (Bellingham inside joke.)
  • Fuck it! I’m going to ski this Double Black Diamond run even though my knee has been bothering me.

The Good of “Fuck It!”
Sometimes “Fuck It!” moments can be liberating, usually marking the choice to feel the fear and do it anyway. Fear can be a mighty prison, within which, the longer you’re an inmate, the phrase “I can’t” becomes a knee-jerk reflex, increasingly making life smaller and smaller and less fulfilling, possibly even dangerously so.

Therefore, it’s not hard to see the possible benefits of any of these:

  • Fuck it! I’m going ask her to the prom!
  • Fuck it! Screw withdrawal symptoms, I’m going to quit smoking!
  • Fuck it! To hell with my fear of flying, I’m going to take that 15-hour flight from Seattle to Sydney, Australia!
  • Fuck it! I really don’t need that iPad and I’m cutting up my credit card!
  • Fuck it! I know it will be hard being a single mother, but I’m gonna take my kid and leave my abusive husband and go to that women’s shelter I heard about!

Now, I won’t go so far as John Parkin and Gaia Pollini and hyperbolically assert that “Fuck It!” is, “The Ultimate Spiritual Way“.

From the description of the book:

Saying Fuck It is like massage for the mind – relaxing you, releasing tension, giving up on things that aren’t working. Just starting to say Fuck It can transform your life. Saying Fuck It feels good – to stop struggling and finally do what you fancy; to ignore what everyone’s telling you and go your own way. John C. Parkin argues that saying Fuck It is a spiritual act: That it is the perfect western expression of the eastern ideas of letting go, giving up and finding real freedom by realising that things don’t matter so much (if at all). This is the Fuck It way.

Perhaps I’m being cynical, but I’m well aware of the eastern idea of non-attachment, and when I read that my mind easily rushes to the many bad manifestations of “Fuck It!”, only some of which I mention above, and I just can’t see how “Fuck It!” can even come close to being the ultimate spiritual way.

I’m totally ok with the playful, irreverent tone that Parkin and Pollini employ. It makes more accessible a great and potentially life-changing subject that might otherwise be dry and woo-woo and a big fat turnoff.

It’s just that a student of eastern philosophy understands ideas like karma, whereby bad actions we take can come back and bite us, and yin-yang, whereby bad and good coexist.

Now, I haven’t read Parkin’s and Pollini’s book, so perhaps I’m wrong and they get around to addressing the possibility of “Fuck It!” manifesting badly. In acknowledgment of that shortcoming, I hereby conclude this post with a video that they produced in order to explain their philosophy:

Video Fridays: My Embarrassing Southern Rock Phase

Ok, I admit it! When I was in high school I went through a brief but intense immersion in Southern Rock, listening almost exclusively to: Allman Brothers Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Charlie Daniels Band, Marshall Tucker Band, The Outlaws, Molly Hatchet, and others. The first two concerts I attended were the Allmans and The Outlaws respectively.

I was an ignorant white kid from a white suburb, drawn to the driving electric guitars and the gritty attitude of the music, and as embarrassing as it is to confess, I even put a Confederate flag on the wall of my room, because many of the bands from that era included the flag as one of their icons.

Unbelievably, as if I’d slept through all of my U.S. History classes, I never made the connection between racism and the southern pride that the Southern Rock world was infused with.

But I remember, very vividly, when the light bulb of awareness came on.

I was with my family visiting my older sister who was attending the University of Georgia, and during that trip we went to a county fair, and everywhere I looked there were Confederate flags and tough looking guys in leather and cowboy hats, and I suddenly remembered that I was a Jew.

Gulp. I was scared. And as soon as I got home the flag came off the wall, and I stopped listening to Southern Rock.

Now, years later, I’ve been able to compartmentalize the music from the culture, and if the music is good and the lyrics aren’t offensive I’m now able to enjoy it again.

Fast Forward: As I mentioned in a Video Fridays installment two weeks ago, the band I’m in has been gigging a lot lately, and it’s been a blast.

But when we played a bar in a rural community last weekend, several times, in between songs, some very vocal folks in the audience screamed out, “Skynyrd! Skynyrd!” and we had to disappoint and respond that we didn’t have any Lynyrd Skynyrd songs in our repertoire.

Our bass player, who, in the past, had played this bar with another band, had suggested for weeks that we work on Skynyrd’s song Gimme Three Steps, but we brushed it off…and I couldn’t help thinking about the lyrics of that song.

See, the narrator is being threatened at gunpoint and begs the gunman to give him a three-step head start toward the door, that he might have a decent chance to run away unscathed.

Heeding this cautionary tale, we’ve since rehearsed Gimme Three Steps, we’ve been asked back to that same bar, and we’ll be debuting it there tomorrow night.

All we have to do now is not screw it up, so that we don’t have to wonder whether or not we’ll need those three steps towards the door.

The Continuing Adventures of a Herniated Disc

I’ve written thrice before (Post 1, Post 2, Post 3) about having been diagnosed a year and a half ago with a herniated disc (that’s an x-ray of my actual spine in the photo here, showing that my L5 vertebra has slipped forward and is making bone-to-bone contact with my sacrum), and I bring it up today partly as an excuse for the slowdown in new content here at Fish & Bicycles.

During my recent vacation, I noticed that my lower back was becoming increasingly stiff as the days passed. I wasn’t alarmed initially, given how much physical activity we engaged in — hiking, often carrying a heavy pack, boulder scrambling, jumping into cold rivers, sliding down a sandstone river bed on nothing but our butts, rafting down the Colorado River, and rock climbing — but toward the end of the trip it was getting increasingly difficult just to get in and out of our rental car.

Then, at our dinner on our last night there, I made a seemingly harmless twisting motion, reached for something that had fallen to the floor, and I experienced a piercing, sharp pain that took my breath away.

I made it through the rest of the trip without another pain incident, but this past Friday night I had one of the worst physical pain experiences of my life, and I would have ended up in the emergency room if my wife hadn’t found an old prescription of painkillers.

But painkillers only last so long, they make me feel all kinds of crappy, and so I’m back to getting seen by doctors and chiropractors, with physical therapy and massage therapy likely to follow.

All I want is to be pain-free. Stiffness and a need to stay off my bicycle for a while, that I can handle. Usually the rest works, but this time it’s not helping.

With all the bed rest I’ve had since Friday, you’d think there’d be more new posts here than ever. But, what really happens is that I’m too drowsy from the drugs or it’s too comfortable to be in any kind of position that would allow me to type, and so it will be for a while longer.

How long? I have no idea.

Stay tuned…

Rude Awakening, Wednesday Morning

Yesterday I bicycled 6 miles, to and from work and on some errands…

…AND I attended my first pilates class.

So, when I saw the following animated GIF this morning it seemed to perfectly capture how I felt when I woke up today, figuratively speaking, of course.

First Drop In The Bucket

Listen, I know that the whole bucket list thing has become a worn-out cliché, but I’m trying to stop making apologies for the fact that, as I mentioned Monday, I’m usually late to the party.

(Aside: You know the equally cliché term early adopter, particularly as it applies to technology products, and how many early adopters come to regret having been so early, because new products often exhibit bugs and other problems that get resolved in subsequent, improved versions? Well, consider me a cautiously delayed adopter.)

Anyway, I came across some amazing photos today by photographer Stephen Alvarez, taken in Madagascar’s Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park. And, I was so blown away by the images that I was inspired to start my own bucket list, despite having sworn I’d never jump on the bandwagon.

Bottom line, I WILL go here before I die: