Kalamazoo

Kalamazoo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

a few years back on a summer tour in the USA with our band there was a city i couldn’t wait to get to for a personal reason…detroit.  why detroit?  because detroit is reasonably near to kalamazoo michigan…and why there?  because in kalamazoo there’s a building that is as much a part of the history of america as…let’s say tesla’s lab in NYC or the airfield in kitty hawk north carolina.  on a day off i rented a car and made the trip over to kalamazoo to see if the place in question was still standing.  i started in the middle of town and followed my instincts which told me to find anything that looked recent…new or “nice”…plus the downtown business district as well as any sign of urban sprawl…and then to go in the opposite direction.  which i did.  as i moved out away from all the “tangle”…step by step the neighborhoods became more and more spicy…and once i crossed the tracks things fell into a comfortable and flat out funk.  plenty of tarpaper and unmowed lawns and cars that’ll never roll another ten feet up on blocks…big wild trees throwing shade over people on their front porches enjoying a summer day…clean clothes on the line…kids on bikes…littler kids on trikes…and food unseen cooking for sure by the way you could smell it.  this part of town was so “undesirable” that there started being a lot of room…houses having whole grass lots in between them…a developer no-man’s land.  it looked like people kept things together as much as they needed to and then just naturally let the rest ride.  undisputedly this part of town had a lot of soul.  and just before the neighborhoods thinned out into cornfields…there it was:  the building…this chunk of history i was thinking about.  funny how things are always smaller than they look in the pictures.  it’s a defunct and rundown red brick place about three stories high and takes up about a half a block.  it runs deeper toward the back and stands there looking like Days Gone By with broken out windows and moss running down the walls.  i parked the car and sat there staring at it for a little while just thinking about the stupendous output of this old factory.  the doors were boarded up but i went around to one of the side doors and found that it opened to a hallway that led to a folded staircase.  i went up a floor to a chained up big pair of wooden sliding doors which i pulled open an inch for a look inside.  the busted out windows lit it up enough for me to see a long wooden floor with water-soaked muck-covered boards bent up from rain…rusted out machinery piled up and strewn around with other haphazard and unrecognizable junk.  the air that leaked out between the doors smelled like wet newspapers…mold…and pigeon piss.  magic.  this is the place where more happiness and positivity was manufactured than you could reckon or measure.  what they made here in their heyday a long time ago was part of something majorly world-changing in a way that nothing will ever be able to erase.  this is the old gibson factory where The Guitars were made.  in the car i had my 1938 j-35 which was made right inside the piss-flavored room that i was peeking into and after absorbing the reality of the place…i went to get it out of the trunk.  as the afternoon began to cool off…i sat on the front steps of the little factory singing and just listening to the guitar in the alcove for a couple of hours.  across the street the folks on the porch were looking at me like i was mistaken or lost.  or maybe not.  finally a boy about ten came riding past on his bike.  the first time he came by…he didn’t look at me.  i kept playing.  he turned around and came back and shot me a glance as he zipped past.  i kept on playing.  the third time he gave me a good long look and almost ran his bike off the sidewalk.  the fourth time…he stuck safely to the street but stopped and pretended to pick a stone out of the tread in his front tire.  except there wasn’t any tread on it.  pretty soon he sort of looked somewhere almost in my direction and said hey.  but underneath that was really a “what the fuck are you doing here you crazy paleface and what’s with the guitar?”  i said hey come’ere.  nope.  i said come’ere man i’ll tell you something cool.  nope…he wasn’t coming any closer than the sidewalk.  i said what?…you think i’m gonna jump you or something?  allright…keeping a close eye on everything he wheels his bike over and i said…you know what this is right?  yeah…he knew it was a guitar allright.  i said…you know when this guitar was made?  (i call it The Yellow Rose because when i found it…it had and still has an ancient yellow rose decal on the headstock…it’s beat to crap but to me it sounds better than any other flat top).  no…he didn’t know when it was made but he thought it was an ugly piece.  i said man…this guitar was made in 1938….do you know what 1938 means?  nope…no idea.  well i said…that’s 67 years ago….probably about seven times older than you and back then they didn’t have tv’s.  he looked at me and the guitar like we were a ghost.  then i said you wanna know where this guitar was made?  where?  well..it was made right here in this building in 1938.  i said listen to this:  it’s a Gibson guitar and you’re going to hear that name from now on…it’ll probably start coming to you in conversations and you’re gonna see it in places because now you’ve heard that word.  this old place across your street here is where a lot of music started.  most of what you hear is played on stuff that was made here…and you ought to be proud because not too many people can say that they grew up across the street from the Old Gibson Factory like you can.  ohhh he said.  he whipped across the street and got on the porch with his folks and told them what he heard and i could see them nodding their heads and squinting across at the place as if they’d never really noticed it before.  but now it was getting a little chilly…dew was starting to fall…the sun was down…pretty close to dark.  i got a nice shot of the place before i got back on the road to detroit.  kalamazoo stood way out on that tour.  rs”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *