Building a Bass Guitar – Part 3 (A Bass is Born)

I’m afraid the bass building project was not documented from start to finish like I had planned.  A combination of things that kept me from doing it that way.  I’m still coughing like a walrus, and when it came time to assemble the bass, the girls were out of the house with the camera.  So, all you get is a lovely photo of the finished product.

As for the bass guitar itself, it turned out better than I could have possibly imagined.  I had originally planned on having a shinier finish, but the conditions under which I was working and a bit of impatience made that impossible.  I had no time to sit and sand the guitar 20 times with 1000 grit sandpaper.  Also, I knew it would be next to impossible to figure out which polish to buy in the Czech hardware store to give it the proper shine.  So, I left it with a slightly duller but still attractive matte finish.  I actually really like the way the color turned out.  Attractive but in a workmanlike way – the way a bass should be.

With the chore of the painting completed, I only had to assemble the bass and string it up.  Altogether, assembly and stringing took a little over two hours and was fairly intuitive, although some important parts were missing from the instructions.  When it came to putting on the pickups, there was no mention of floating them on the included springs.  I knew just enough about guitars to go and check the Internet for some pickup installation guides.  I’m glad I did.  The pickups are now installed nicely and can be adjusted down or up easily.

To me, the finished product sounds incredible.  Granted, this is only second time I’ve held an electric bass in my hands, but it sounds just like I thought it would.  Within the first hour following the setup, I cranked up the stereo and learned the riff to U2’s “With or Without You.”  A few hours later, I tackled the iconic riff to the Police’s “Walking on the Moon.”  Boom.  Childhood dreams fulfilled.

I bought my first guitar right after September 11th.  It was in the wake of that turmoil that I decided I should definitely do everything I’ve wanted to do in life.  I’m not sure why I didn’t buy a bass then.  I’ve always been more fascinated with it than the guitar when it comes to music.  But I’m happy to say, the wait was worth it.  Making my own bass from start to finish made it all the more satisfying.  This baby is all mine.  I know all of her faults but love her just the same.

Euro-Trash

Before my European friends get all spun up about the title of this post, I’m not talking about human beings.  I’m talking about trash.  In Europe.  Lots of it.

All over on our travels through Europe garbage is omnipresent.  I first experienced it over 15 years ago during “huelgas de basura” (garbage strikes) in Madrid.  For weeks at a time sanitation workers would go on strike and garbage would pile up in the subways and the rats and mice would grow too fat to scurry away from cigarette butt flinging commuters.  Piles of garbage as high as my head piled in some corners of the metro.

More recently, while vacationing in Crete, I decided to go snorkeling on one of the famous “black beaches.”  What did I see at the bottom?  Tires, typewriters, bottles, cans and debris of gosh knows what else.  I spent about 60 seconds in that water.

Graffiti adorns every block of historical Prague.  Churches, museums, even the castle is not immune.  I’m not talking the Lennon wall here either, folks.

Everyone in Europe talks green but my personal experience is that most of it is out of ignorance or plain old bluster.  To put it to the test, I tried to recycle some electronics one Saturday last year and found myself taking a 40 minute drive to the other side of town to the only sanctioned junk yard only to be told that they wouldn’t accept and old stereo.  They didn’t like my Czech ID and told me no.  I eventually forced it on them.  No wonder people leave so much crap on the side of the road.

When my generation grew up in America, we were repeatedly bludgeoned over the head with “don’t litter” campaigns, Woodsie the Owl saying, “Give a hoot, don’t pollute,” and even some ill fated kangaroo that tried reverse psychology in personal responsibility by proclaiming, “Let George do it!”  However, it worked.  I don’t do it.  Not even a tapa napkin.  On the other hand it’s quite obvious that Europeans have had none of that in their daily lives.  Or, if so, they didn’t pay attention.

I can go on about European hypocrisy.  They say the American lifestyle is unhealthy?  OK, compare them to infamous European smokers – not only the French.  Americans are fat?  Have one look at an Italian beach and you’ll believe that all American tourists have traveled to Italy,  are tanned and speak Italian while gesturing wildly.  Loud, ugly Americans?  Have you ever been in a beerhall in any of these countries?  Obnoxious?  Have you ever stood next to an unshowered French smoker?  Pushy?  Have you ever stood in a Czech excuse for a “line?”  Rude?  Have you experienced what passes for customer service in Europe?  Vulgar?  Ever seen a British stag party?

Having lived here over five years tends to strip away a portion of the romanticism of the idealized Europe.  Don’t get me wrong, living here is still great.  I just don’t think the Europeans have a leg to stand on when the claim superiority in so many different ways.  I’m not saying that America isn’t without problems of its own.  I’m just saying we’re not the only ones.