December 10, 2013

On Alexa, the Sheikh and the Fender (and Syrian Work Horses, but that's just in the pictures)

A prototype of a Syrian work horse; they like to deck them out, personalize them,  with little things

It seems the storm of all storms is upon is; Alexa. I have heard that one before, last year, with Olga; that one also came out of Siberia, and I’ve got lovely pictures of it.

The Landlords Association (didn’t even know a body like that existed) warned that the storm could collapse old buildings. Reason to start doing something about maintenance, I’d think, landlords of Lebanon.
There will be snow on the higher elevation, but no such luck in Beirut. All we get is traffic jams.
I was listening to the radio while in one of those traffic jams, when an add came up about Gibson guitars. Apparently – according to Music Garage – they make an excellent Christmas gift because they only go up in value.

Ever since we have an influx of Syrian refugees, you see these little motorcycles everywhere.

Which made me think of the sheikh. And his guitar.

 Two years ago, my husband wanted to go from playing electric guitar back to acoustic. He was member of a guitar forum here in Beirut, and during online conversations, one of the members displayed interest in hubbie’s blue Fender, an electric guitar. His name was The Axe, his profile picture showed a mean looking guitar-dude, and he had a Gibson to trade.

Hubbie said fine.

Cars have always been terribly expensive in Syria, due to a hefty government tax.

 But before the trade was a deal, The Axe had some questions.
Was it a California blue or a Baby Blue?
Was it made in Japan or in the States?
Was it made before 1997 or after ’97?  
Did it have a extra thick neck or was it a regular?
All these questions indicated that this was someone who knew his guitars.

The trade was a deal.

Can I have your phone number so we can organize the trade,” hubbie asked?
The answer was no.
"Well, can we set a date,” asked hubbie?
That was difficult to say, was the answer.
Can I come to your house to make the trade,” hubbie asked?

For most Syrians, a car is out of reach financially; so how to transport yourself and your family?

 The Axe wanted to trade the guitar somewhere on a street in Beirut, and he’d call like an hour in advance, as he was a man who had little time on his hands. My husband thought it was a fishy deal, and probably involved a stolen guitar.  He rather did this one on home territory.

And so when The Axe called, he said, “Listen, I am in my office right now, and can’t really leave. Could you please come to my office, and I will make sure the Fender is there.”

The Axe agreed.

An hour later, my husband sees a black SUV driving into the parking lot, with tinted windows.
A man gets out from the front, and looks around. Then the passenger door opens, and a wiry spotty teenager gets out.
And finally the back door opens, and a rather large sunni sheihk steps out, in his late forties, in full gear, guitar case in hand. Apparently the dad, a sheikh, is coming along to help his son out on this guitar swap, hubbie thought. That gave him some confidence. So it was not a stolen guitar.

In the old days you’d have a donkey, or a horse. These days, it’s the motorcycle.

The boy walks into hubbie’s office, my husband shakes his hand, and says “So, you’re The Axe, right?
"No,” replies the boy, “My dad is,” and he tilts his head to the door.

And here comes the sheikh, with a long beard a la ZZ-top, guitar case in hand.

My husband is slightly taken aback. A guitar-playing sheikh? The boy must be pulling his leg. They shake hands, but the sheikh does not offer his name.  He places the Gibson on the desk, and reaches for the Fender in its case.
He gets the guitar out, places his foot on a little side table, guitar on his leg, and he plays a riff like there is no tomorrow. Eric Clapton. His fingers are fast, and he plays well.

It’s not tuned,” he remarks, as he plays, and he tunes it. Without a second thought.

Uh, I have some pedals for the guitar, if you want those as well,” says hubbie.
"No,"  he replies, he’s got them all.
Does he need an amplifier maybe?
No, he got that one as well, and he names a pretty well-known brand.

"Maybe we could play together some time,” hubbie suggest, but the sheikh answers he only plays at home, alone.

I call them the Syrian horses, because they are not for fun; they are an essential way of life for the Syrians (and now the refugees)
 And before he knows it, the sheikh announces that it’s a deal.

You want to check the Gibson?”
No, no, it’s fine,” my husband answers.
It’s tuned.”
Oh, I’m sure.”
Well, have a nice day,” and off the sheik goes, Fender case in hand, spotty teenager behind him.

Ever since that time, I look differently at those sheikhs. Which one of them is that guitar wonder? 

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