Guitar Tales: Rabies Shots and 5-String Basses
This has got to be one of my favorite stories to tell. Back in middle school (90’s) I had acquired a simple, somewhat junky 4-string bass that I used for the recordings I was making at the time. After improving as a bass player and also getting exposed to the low-end goodness of 5-string basses, I was interested in upgrading to my own 5-string. The opportunity to do so eventually came, but in a most unusual way.
Now I’m a little foggy on the time frame, but I think the turning point came around 8th or 9th grade. I lived in my parents finished basement, which was great…most of the time. Early one morning I had an unexpected visitor run across me in bed. I woke up suddenly and yelled, hoping to scare off whatever creature had just disturbed my sleep. I cautiously followed the noise out of my room and discovered the intruder to be a small woodland creature (can’t recall if it was a squirrel or a chipmunk). My attempts to catch it were in vain, so I had to wake my father to help me get rid of the little nuisance. Problem solved, until a few weeks later when I was roused in the middle of the night yet again by one of these rodents and had to repeat the process of capturing it with my father all over again. Thankfully I never saw one in my basement again, but the story doesn’t end there (of course not, you’re still waiting to hear what this has to do with a bass guitar).
A short time after those incidents I woke up with some mystery scratches on my arm. I was pretty sure I had scratched myself in my sleep before, and suspected that to be the most likely explanation, especially since I had long finger nails on my right hand for fingerpicking. However, I made the mistake of mentioning them to my mother. She was concerned that they might have come from one of our rodent intruders, though I assured her I hadn’t heard or seen any that day. It was no use arguing, she insisted I see the doctor. I had never met this doctor before, that’s usually what you get when you make last minute appointments. He didn’t seem to know a whole lot on the subject of rodents, rabies, etc. because he had to go pull out some big ancient medical book on the subject to research. His conclusion was that he couldn’t determine where my scratches came from, and even if it were from a squirrel, it is uncommon for squirrels to carry rabies. But…if by chance these scratches were not self-inflicted and were from a squirrel, and if by greater chance it did have rabies, and yet greater chance it had happened to salivate in the scratches, then I could get rabies and as result end up losing mind, being partially paralyzed and eventually die!
Despite the improbability and the lack of any evidence of a creature being near me that day, and certainly not one with rabies, mom insisted I have rabies shots as a precaution. I was of course very resistant to the idea to which she replied, through tears if I recall correctly, “I’ll buy you a guitar!” That was all I needed to hear. After what seemed like 100 shots in my arm and a couple in my sides, I was ready to go to Daddy’s Junky Music and pick out my new bass. I quickly sold my old 4-string and mom paid the difference for a new 5-String Ibanez SoundGear bass. I’ve played it in bands and on plenty of recordings, but it has also served various bandmates well over the years when they didn’t have a bass of their own.
Here’s to small woodland creatures and acquiring new guitars!