Friday, May 20, 2016

The Charity Bass

This bass has quite a story to go with it.  And it's a story that has taken a while to evolve to the point where it's ready to be told.  Stories can be funny that way sometimes.  

This bass is a manifestation of love in many ways.  Love, and pain.  Actually quite a fair bit of pain. The kind of pain that usually accompanies love and loss.  The kind of pain that is too often pushed away and buried until it's ready to truly be felt and processed.  I apologize if this is getting heavy, but it IS heavy.  For me at least.  Still.

I made this bass for my friend Adrian Garcia in the fall of 2007.  Adrian was very special to me and many others in the custom bass community and we had a wonderful friendship that had developed over several years.  But let me back up a little and start at the very beginning.  

When I began building basses full time at the beginning of 2003 I made a batch of instruments that were not to fill any orders.  A sort of opening salvo representative of what I thought I was capable of. At that time there was a microcosm of custom bass enthusiasts that filled up a website forum called  It was a pretty special place.  One of the regular and well known guys in there was named Adrian Garcia.  He was a dealer for a handful of high end brands.  More than that though he was an unbridled custom bass enthusiast of the highest order.  He became interested in my work as I progressed through the builds and posted regular updates on my website.  I happened to have one available instrument and I was looking for dealers.  

Adrian decided to come to my shop, which was in my 3 car garage at the time, and check out this particular bass when it was finished.  

He loved it and decided to buy it.  It was official, he had become my first genuine bass dealer.  I do remember having quite a bit of difficulty when I realized that he was actually going to take the bass with him.  What the heck?  But it was too late to change my mind and I definitely needed the income to keep things going.

Over the next several years my relationship with Adrian evolved and deepened as we worked out specs for quite a few instruments for his shop and for him personally.  I grew to both enjoy and fear our conversations as Adrian's enthusiasm for working out even the tiniest details seemed at the time to be a bit overblown and unnecessary to me.  But it was hard to be upset with someone whose wide eyed curiosity and enthusiasm about all things bass was so deep and infectious.  He just flat out LOVED basses and he loved the process of having one made, hoping it would realize the latest vision he had in his head, ears, and heart.

This was the way of things for several years.  

I can't remember the exact timeline at the moment, but there was a point in late 2006, I believe, where one of our bass conversations had an added component to it that was deeply upsetting.  Adrian let me know that he had contracted stage 4 colon cancer.  

I hadn't been exposed to cancer very often at that point in my life so I didn't really realize the serious nature of the diagnosis.  I was also probably a bit naively optimistic that he could beat it.

He started treatment right away.  We still had many conversations about custom basses and he had orders that we were filling.  Things seemed fairly normal from my end except for occasional indications of fatigue and sadness on his part.

Sometime in the fall of 2007 I came up with an idea for something I wanted do for Adrian that would really show my appreciation and love for my friend.  I drove to Vegas so I could let him know in person what I planned to do.

We decided to go out for sushi shortly after I arrived.  We went to his favorite place and got 2 seats at the bar.  Somewhere in the midst of the meal I pitched my idea:  I would build Adrian a bass.  Anything he wanted.  No cost - no limit.  Let your mind run wild.  

There was a catch though.  If (I still naively believed there was a strong possibility he could beat it) or when he lost his battle with cancer the bass would be auctioned off to raise money for a charity of his choosing.  

As you can imagine, many tears were shed at this moment.  And it was one of the most special moments of my life, never to be forgotten.  

Our conversations about the specs for this new bass took on quite a special cast as we both realized the magnitude of our undertaking.  He was more excited about this bass than he had been for any that had come before.  

And I have to say there was definitely a bit of extra care and humility as we went about gluing up the body and cutting the neck and installing the blocks and binding.  The whole process felt, well - important - in a way that I had not experienced before.

At some point before the end of the build Adrian let me know he wanted a bible verse etched into the back of the head stock.  The verse he chose was just perfect - 

"And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three: but the greatest of these is charity."  (Love)
1 Corinthians 13:13

The bass was finished in time for NAMM 2008.  Adrian drove down and came to the show, but he was not feeing well and only managed a couple hours before he had to leave and get some rest.  I presented the bass to him at the show and he lovingly accepted it and sat down to play it and get to know it a bit.  But then he had to head home.  He was just not feeling well at all.

We kept the bass in the booth for the length of the show and told the story behind it as often as we could.  The week after the show I drove the bass up to Vegas and officially handed it over.  I even hung around to see him play it in a Vegas show.  

When it was time for me to head home we hugged and said goodbye.

I think we talked on the phone a handful of times after that.  He was always deeply appreciative of what we had done together.  

I remember the last time I called up after he had made a turn for the worse.  He wasn't able to talk on the phone, let alone talk much at all, but I was told that he had tears in his eyes when they told him it was me on the phone.  

He passed a few days after that.  

The funeral was scheduled a few days later, June9, 2008.  I was deeply conflicted about going, still in disbelief that he has lost the battle for real.  At the last minute I decided to make the drive.  That was a very challenging day.

After the ceremony, his friends presented me with the bass we had made, and I was invited to dinner at Red Robin with family and friends.  Then I drove home.

And I put the bass away.  For a long time.  Too long of a time.  Guilt started to eat away at me, but I just couldn't follow through with the auction.

I had my reasons.  Lots of them.

The loss of Adrian hit me really hard.  I believe I fell into a pretty deep depression.  That depression didn't do much to help my marriage at the time.  

Then the economy crashed.  It didn't take long for financial stresses to pile onto an already fragile situation and break my marriage for good.  My wife moved out and I was left with a lot of empty space and a house missing its family.  

I did the best I could, but those were dark days.  Eventually I decided to let the house go back to the bank.  Like so many others in those heady days of the real estate boom we had gotten caught in the insanity.  But at least I had my business to keep me going.

That wasn't the end of the heavy financial stuff for me, but I won't go into details here.  Suffice it to say, losing the house, my wife, and my ideas about who I was and what life was supposed to be like really kicked my ass.

And there was zero room for me to even begin to deal with auctioning off a bass that represented one of the hardest losses I've yet experienced.  I just was not emotionally capable of following through at the time.

It's still hard.  But I believe the time has come.  

I have had the bass around for a while.  It's even come out of it's case on a regular basis.  I've used it to test new pickups, and we put our own preamp in it a while ago, replacing the original Audere that was in it when Adrian had it.

It currently sports our new Big Blade pickups and our 2 band preamp.  And it's going to stay with a  really good friend for a while.  That friend is Andy Irvine and he's going to help me share this story.  He's starting an online community he's calling The Daily Funk Club.  He's going to use the bass for demo videos and he's going to mention this story often.  

So now we can really do this thing justice.  And we can raise as much awareness for this auction as possible.  So that when we go through with the auction later this year we will raise as much money as we can for Adrian's chosen charity.  With Charity the bass.  

That charity is St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.  Adrian was deeply affected by the kids he'd meet when he'd go in for treatments.  The unfairness of being stricken with a terminal disease at such a young age troubled him deeply.  And he wanted to help them.  

I consider it an honor to have had this experience with Adrian.  If I could, I'd trade all of it to have him still here with us.  But that's not how this went.  

Please, if you're not able to bid on the bass when the auction happens, at least drop a couple bucks over at St. Judes.  And accept my deepest gratitude.   

Otherwise, stay tuned.  The auction will be announced as we figure out the best way to make it happen, and after the bass spends a good stretch of time with my friend Andy and we spread the word as far and wide as we can.

Thanks for reading,

One Door Closes, Another Door Opens

"One door closes, and another door opens." Sounds like a common cliche, doesn't it? It's something someone would quickly say to help you feel better then walk away and forget. Something i would have once written off as a simply saying without much substance or merit. Things happen for a reason and one door closes, another one opens. Cancer happens for a reason. Hmmm...OK, I know this now. It happened to make me a better man. It improved me. I am a better man, and I can get better yet.

I now have purpose in my life Real purpose. Not purpose to drive a better car. Not purpose to buy a more expensive instrument. I am quite content with what I have. I have a Purpose to make a difference, To let people know that therer is hope. Purpose to take time out to help someone in need. To live right, to love, to forgive.

To do good things. And all good things come from above.

So let God's love and His blessings rain down upon you. And begin to live life with purpose. Begin loving, begin blessing, and be blessed.

- Adrian Garcia, 2006