Sunday, January 17, 2016

An Open Letter To the Guy That Might Have Stolen My Delay Pedal

If you're not the person that stole my Boss DD-3 delay pedal, please delete this letter with my apologies.

Some time in early 1998 (approximately), I was in a band with Dave Choi. We were called The Greman, and we... weren't very well-received. The other guitarist's name was Eric Allen. He committed suicide almost 10 years ago. The rest of this letter doesn't involve him at all, but his death still affects me. Anyway, we practiced at Dave's house, which was sort of a warehouse space on Grace Street (if memory serves - I'm terrible with directions). He was/is an artist, as were the people that he lived with. It was a really cool place - unfinished sculptures and paintings everywhere, Negativland, Jesus Lizard and Shellac coming from various boomboxes.

Maybe you remember reading an article online about how someone bought Eric Clapton's famous Fender Stratocaster for $900,000? I'm not a fan of ol' Slowhand myself ("except for Cream" like they all say), but I get it. It's not unlike the age-old concept of "sympathetic magic" - transferring spirit into physical objects. For me personally, there is a line between my own heart when I am playing music and the hearts of anyone that happens to be in the random bar I'm playing at on whatever given night. Heart to mind to fingers to instrument to cable to effects to cable to amplifier to microphone to cable to PA system to air to minds to hearts. The cleaner the signal, the more pure the expression is. As a result, I have a personal relationship with all of the physical objects in that line. I'd rather buy a cheap/new guitar than a "nicer" used guitar. It has someone else's soul in it, you know? If I buy a used effects pedal or amplifier, it's not really MINE until I've had it modified in some way. I got an old Electro-Harmonix Electric Mistress flanger when my friend Lance Hahn died, but it didn't become mine until I accidentally fried it and had my friend Bryan Richie replace the circuit board.
On Christmas of 1991, my parents got me a Boss DD-3 Digital Delay pedal. White, blue, shiny. It meant a lot to me.

It was customary at the time (and still is) to leave your musical equipment wherever your current band practices. There's a level of trust that exists. It goes beyond that, though. For example, let's say that one of my bands is playing at a certain bar. I'll drop off my gear at the bar, go back to my car, find a place to park, and come back. Everything will be where I left it. When Dave Choi's roommates held a party on that winter night 18 years ago, I assumed that all of the attendees were My People. Musicians, painters, sculptors, writers, artists. Unlike many, I include graffiti artists into this subculture. We weren't the normal or popular kids in High School, regardless of whether or not we wanted to be. We are the creators and we are the ones that can appreciate creativity. We don't swim in the stream, but we (generally) don't negatively judge the ones that do. We channel our dissatisfaction with culture into creating instead of destroying, giving rather than taking.
We don't fucking steal from each other.

I remember when I noticed that my delay pedal was missing, asking Dave and his roommates who could have taken it. They said that their only guess was maybe the guy that had "DELAY" as a graffiti tag, because he collected things with the word "delay" on them, and he was allegedly at the party. I didn't want to find this person to try to fight them (I'd lose) or to try to have them arrested or whatever. I just wanted my pedal back. I loved the way it sounded. I loved the "Hold" feature that would allow you to play two things at once. I loved setting it to a slapback repeat for that Chicago Blues sound. I loved being able to twist the "D.Time" knob and change the rate and pitch of different notes, or even feedback. I loved dragging various battery-operated sex toys up and down the strings of my guitar and hearing all of the different counter-rhythms as the echo repeated. I loved singing through it and hearing the subtle textural changes that would happen as the pitch would slightly vary. I loved setting a low repeat time, playing diminished scales, and hearing the cascading harmonies of minor thirds and diminished fifths. I even loved the way the repetitions decayed when the battery was dying. What did you love about it, after you took it from me?

The other day, I was talking to my daughters (11 and 13) about the moral relativity around theft. I said that all stealing is wrong, but there are degrees. It's far more morally reprehensible to steal a sandwich from a homeless person than it is to steal a pack of gum from Wal-Mart. Our justice system is (and has always been) such that crimes committed against the powerful are punished more severely than crimes against the powerless. It would almost seem as though the legality of theft is inversely proportional to its morality. Some people adhere to the tenets of Christianity so they can cope with this injustice - comfort in hoping that the people that have wronged you will eventually have to answer to a Higher Power.

I've had other people steal from me. I've had my car broken into, my apartment broken into, my house broken into. Countless bikes. Mugged at gunpoint. Had earnings from a show stolen from me. I gave an acquaintance of mine an old Mu-Tron Phasor pedal to have him sell it for drugs. In the last instance, he had a legitimate problem. He looked me in the eye and I could tell that he was sorry, and he offered to replace it. I said it was fine. All of the other people that have stolen from me might have had their reasons, too. Maybe they were starving, or desperate, or fiending for drugs. What was your excuse for stealing my delay pedal?


Hell, I've stolen things myself. Remember those old contraptions that you could stuff a few dollars in to pay for parking in those lots around the 1100 block of Grace Street? I've been so broke that I've taken a dollar or two out of them a few times. I still feel bad about it, and I'd pay whoever I stole from back if I could. So, you can make this right. If you still have my delay pedal, I'll give you my address and you can send it back. Or you can send me something of equal value. Or you can send me cash in the amount of the going rate for the pedal (I take paypal). What I don't want is an apology - those are beyond meaningless.

Hope to hear from you soon,
David DiDonato