by Shawna Black
If you’re a parent, you know that kids beg for stuff. Some kids beg more than others, some better than others. My husband, Marty, had begging down to a science by the time he was 18 years old. He begged often. And he usually got what he wanted. And usually at the eleventh hour. Wait till the last minute, don’t give the folks too much time to think about it, hit them hard and you’ll get your way.
The first big thing he begged for relentlessly was the clarinet lessons in sixth grade. Unfortunately, Marty didn’t make it through the first book. When the time came for getting his grade and progressing to the second book, Mr. Magnusson, his music teacher, stood in the doorway, shook he head and wouldn’t let him in the room. That was the end of clarinet lessons.
His second big thing was begging to go to sixth grade camp at Camp Cuyamaca for a week, where he was bunked with the other bed wetter, Sean Mahoney. On the application was a box to check if the child was a bed wetter. He father told him he’d have to check the “yes” box and that Marty would just embarrass himself by going to camp. Marty was set on going to camp and the idea of embarrassing himself was not enough of a deterrent to keep him from wanting to attend camp. His father gave in and he went to camp that year. Although the camp counselors would wake Marty and the other better wetting kid, Sean, twice during the night to relieve themselves, in Marty’s case, it was usually too late. And in Sean’s case, it was really too late. As for Marty, this explains why we can’t go anywhere without having to stop to find a bathroom. During that week at camp, story time for the bed wetter turned into a nightmare in itself, when the dens would gather in a different section of the bunkhouse each night for said story time. The night they gathered in Marty’s den, it would be quite obvious what was happening in his bed during the night – the poor kid couldn’t hold his bladder and the smell was evident to those who sat on his particular bed during story time. The kids what ask, “What’s that smell?” and Marty would just shrug and Sean, aka Pigpen, just didn’t care.
His third big thing was the bass guitar. He bought his first bass in early 1979 when he was 18 years old. He visited Guitar Center in downtown San Diego and paid $580 for a Rickenbacker bass guitar, case included. The bass was one of the “biggest” things that he begged for relentlessly to his father when he was young. For a kid, begging is often, but this was different. This was big. On impulse, he paid $100 down on a 30-day lay-a-way, for the best bass in the world, a 4000 series Rickenbacker. Almost on a dare, with his buddies Steve and David standing next to him, Marty put down the required minimum deposit of $100 and made the commitment, despite the fact that he had no way of following through with the commitment of the contract. Now, that’s peer pressure. As Wayne in the movie Wayne’s World, staring at the white Fender Stratocaster behind the clear, protective case, so eloquently put it, “It will be mine, oh yes, it will be mine.” And you see, Marty just had to be Geddy Lee. On the last day of the 30-day contract, when he had the choice of paying the balance or losing his deposit, the bass was back on the wall, as the salesman concluded that the contract would not be fulfilled. Deposit, no return. Thanks to dad and Mastercard, Marty took his bass home and this would mark the first of many close calls of losing the bass forever.
As many musicians surely can relate, this bass has been in and out of pawnshops throughout the years. Too many bands, so many drummers, so few Neil Pearts. “Can’t anybody play a Rush tune?” Marty had dubbed his bass the Rickenhocker due to the countless times that pot was more important than food or music, even when the quality of the weed was dirt. Begging became an art form when the loan payment was a day late and the Rickenbacker was literally in the pawnbroker’s hand. On one particular pawnshop occasion, Mr. Pawnbroker said to security, “Hey, you like my new bass?” After giving Marty the third degree, Mr. Pawnbroker graced him with another day and asked him never to return. Mr. Pawnbroker made it very clear that he and Marty’s business relationship was henceforth severed. Begging is in Marty’s genes and money was in his dad’s jeans. And for a moment in the universe, a pawnbroker grew a heart.
Marty’s days of pawning his instruments are over. The Rickenbacker is safe in the closet, where it lives in its case when not being played.
Marty has never had to beg Shawna for anything