Bourbon, Missouri.

It seems that whenever I go into a coffee shop, almost anywhere in America, there’s a small group of old guys (as in my age) sitting around a table for their morning chitchat. In La Jolla California, I have heard the old guys talk about their financial investments. In Ashland, Oregon, I’ve heard some discussing who they were in their past lives. In New Mexico, I’ve listened to a long conversation about the price of dirt. In Oklahoma, the old guys I sat near were talking about the weather and the price of cattle. Here in Bourbon, Missouri, this morning’s group was made up of friends who’d lived in this small town for nearly 70 years. One worked In lead mine. Another salvaged scrap metal. A couple of the guys were mechanics. All were talking about their buddy Daryl, who’s claim to fame was that he drove his lawn mower 4 hours to a neighboring town – and back. 

Daryl

Texas Wind

Recently, the roads that Quincy and I pedal are long, flat and straight. There’s very little traffic – one or two pickups pass us every hour. As the Texas sun heats up the land, the steam rises from the fields around us. The humidity builds. Stop for a moment, and we are dripping wet. Wheat is a favorite crop here. Huge wind turbines tower over the wheat fields and turn with the wind, slowly, deliberately, churning the thick air. Their blades are about 200 feet long, gracefully angled resembling giant propellers on an airplane, mounted on a pole 400 feet high. Texas produces the most wind power of any U.S. state. Wind power accounted for about 12% of the electricity generated in Texas during 2015. I wish they would turn toward us and spin faster like giant house fans, to cool us

Salvador Giardina, The Restoration Man

SalIt was the last day of my two weeks in New Orleans. My feet ached with blisters from all of the endless walking through neighborhoods. Sal was on my list of interesting characters to photograph. Last year, Adrienne, a street musician known as The Bob Dylan Girl told me, “One night I was on my bike headed home. My light was out. I got hit. I was okay, but my mandolin broke in half. Sal fixed it for a really good price.”

I’d been wanting to meet Sal for a long time.

I dialed his number, half expecting to be put off and told to call back another time. Instead, Sal listened carefully, as I told him about the book I was writing. He jumped in and said, “Come by any time. I go to lunch between noon and one o’clock.”

Twenty minutes later, after a long trip up Canal Street, I found his tiny shop and parked in front. As soon as I stepped through the door, I thought I might be on the set of Storage Wars, looking into a room filled with piles of decaying wooden instruments. I stood in wonder, trying to make sense of it all, scanning the walls where violins, guitars, mandolins, tools, bottles of glues, stains, and violin bows: all in various condition, all covered in a thin blanket of sawdust, and all waiting to be restored by Sal.

Sal greeted me with the warm, sandpapered hand of a craftsman. He smiled, standing behind a cluttered counter, working on the bridge of a splintering bass, with the focus of a man who loves his work. To his back was a workbench littered with a hodgepodge of tools, parts, and scraps of wood. A boiled-over can of blackened glue sat on top of a rusting hotplate. Sal’s weathered face and long hair reminded me a little of Neil Young, his skin a bit sepia-toned, aging like the rest of the orchestra lining the walls.

“You can shoot as many photos as you like, but I gotta just keep working. I get so far behind with getting this stuff out. Customers come in and say, ‘You know how long you’ve had my instrument?!  When is it going to be finished?!’ I just tell ’em, ‘It will be done when it’s done.’  I never know. I don’t own this shop. I don’t run it. It runs me.”