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My Saturday: Boise, Restaurants, Musical Instruments, Music Stores, Thrift Stores, and a Rather Good Day.

March 14, 2021

Note: I do not get paid to endorse any products or restaurants or whatever in this post. I write about what I like, and am not an affiliate. You will find no links to buy these items.

If you want to learn more about bass guitars, I have a written a very lengthy bass guitar buyers guide for beginners that covers not only the instruments, but amps, straps, etc. You can find it by clicking “bass guitar” or “music” in the tag cloud.

My Saturday.. One worth writing about..

Most days off I just take care of stuff around the house, run errands, etc. But this past day, Saturday, I finally decided that even though my room is a bit messy, and there’s pruning to be done on some bushes in the backyard, and my car could do with a wash and..

It was time to leave, drive for awhile, and have some fun.. my kind of fun, anyway.. Perhaps not something some people would consider to be worth writing about.. But this is my post and..

Alright.. this post is going to mostly be about happily wandering through town, musical instruments, as well as music shops, a thrift store, and my favorite restaurant in the city. I don’t have pictures of the interiors of these places. I wasn’t planning on writing this post, so I did not take photos of where I was. Apologies to those of you outside Boise who like seeing various places in town, and photos of the town in general.

Right then.. Boise.. I think this city is amazing. For lots of reasons. One big reason is that.. well, I suppose this is, to some extent true of any city.. travel a mile or two in any direction and you will feel like you are in an entirely different city than where you were when you left home.

Just a few things that make Boise unique though.. Slight changes in elevation can make a big difference in what you are seeing. Drive over an overpass, and you can see hills in several directions.. including some hills you forgot were there. You might be driving on a level road, and then, off to your left another road dips down, and opens up to you a view of lowlands and more hills in the distance, just before dark with the lights of the houses shining, and it’s just lovely. This happens a lot, on many roads and residential streets.. and I am still surprised when I drive..

I live on the Northwest end of town, almost in the neighboring city of Meridian.. actually I’m also close to several border streets with the tiny town called Garden City, which is entirely surrounded by Boise.

This Saturday, I headed into Southeast Boise. I find pretty much everything about my surroundings anywhere to be interesting, not just here in town. So it is no wonder I enjoy seeing the different neighborhoods and restaurants and shops along the way to wherever it is I’m going.

Today I went first to a music shop and then to a thrift store. These are in a small plaza with some great shops and interesting restaurants.

The music store is called 12th Fret Music, formerly Broadway Music, and the thrift store is one of many St. Vincent DePaul locations. My two favorite types of stores.. those that sell musical instruments, and thrift stores.. and these two were right next to each other, in a plaza that also includes a Pho (Vietnamese) restaurant, and a Himalayan Cafe. I have not been to either of these yet, but I will go to both.

Before I reached my destination, I took notice of some of the restaurants I have been wanting to visit for years, and then, once in the parking lot, wrote them down in a notebook.. These places are.. On Orchard St. .. A Korean place called Gangnam, a carnerceria I forgot the name of, an Italian restaurant called Lucianos.

On Boise Ave., one of my all time favorite roads to drive on, because it meanders through many parts of town.. a taco wagon in the small parking lot of a gas station and convenience store, Cricket’s Bar and Grill, a cute breakfast and lunch place called Addisons’s.And on Broadway, where the shops I went to are, the Vietnamese and Himalayan cafes, and the Pho restaurant across the street from them.

Yes.. I plan on enjoying myself. I have goals! Goals that involve food! Yay!

And now.. 12th Fret Music. Oh yes, just a moment.. I need to mention one other place first. I have often been a customer of a pawn shop called Pawn 1.

There are a chain of pawn shops with that name, but the one on Overland and Maple Grove, in Southwest Boise, has half the shop converted into a music store. If you are in the market for used electric and acoustic guitars, amps, etc., this is the place to go! I’ve been a customer there for over 5 years. Talk to a guy named Chris. He knows his stuff. I had bought a guitar online that I wanted worked on, and Chris told me to head over to a music shop across town called 12th Fret Music. Chris said there is a skilled guitar tech there named Steven.

12th Fret Music used to be called Doyle’s Broadway Music, because it in on Broadway Ave., and because it was owned by an eccentric man named Doyle. Are there any dudes named Doyle who are not eccentric? I sometimes wonder how the names we are given shape our lives.

Doyle’s shop used to be in a location down the road from where it ended up. A rather dusty, cramped shop that was fun to browse in. But Doyle never bothered to dust the place, so some of his gear had electrical problems.. something you don’t want.. layers of thick road dust to get into the instruments if they are the kind you plug in! Doyle, some years back, moved his strange store to a better and slightly larger location, then retired and sold the place to a guy named Rob. Hence the name change. Rob does not seem eccentric, and I seriously doubt he engages in any thievery. Sorry, bad pun.

This music store is amazing, and I am sorry I did not take a picture for you. It is small, but has a massive assortment of electric guitars, some basses, and plenty of acoustic guitars, as well as a few mandolins and ukuleles, and amps.. watch your step in the electric instrument section.. very difficult not to trip over the amps.

We have a Guitar Center in town. I’ve been going there off and on for close to 10 years. You might be wondering how independent stores can compete with Guitar Center. GC, at least the one here in Boise, stocks many guitars of the same kind. For example, you can buy a Fender Stratocaster in about 5 price ranges.. from less than $200 (Fender’s cheap line, called Squier) to over $1000. But there’s not much variety there, and many brands they do not carry.

This is not the fault of the local staff. I know one of the managers at GC, and I asked him if the corporation told him what to stock, and he said yes. They put up for sale what they are shipped.And apparently they have been shipped far less inventory than usual lately. Last couple times I’ve been in, the place looked like it had been gutted. Don’t blame COVID. A lot of people have been buying instruments during this weird time. I don’t know why the GC inventory has shrunk so much. I feel bad for the local staff.

How have Mom and pop stores been competing when GC was more in its prime? These smaller stores can be more selective about what brands they sell. 12th Fret (What is significant about the 12th fret on guitars? That’s where the notes are the same as when the strings are played without being fretted, just an octave higher), sells brands that I like, including Yamaha (electric guitars, basses, and acoustic guitars, I especially like Yamaha acoustics) Danelectro (funky electric guitars) and Spector (pricey basses), Reverend (pricey electric guitars), and some brands I’ve not heard of.

One is called Tegami. Seems like a Japanese name, but I talked with the owner of the shop, and he says this brand comes from Brazil. Why not. Ibanez and Fernandes are brands of instruments based in Japan. Tegami makes Fender copies, mostly. Of good quality, as far as I can tell. The cheaper ones are made in China. Instruments even in the $500 range or higher might be made in China, or, more likely, in Indonesia.

Even Eddie Van Halen’s foreign-made (much cheaper than the American made) signature line of guitars are made in Indonesia. This is appropriate I suppose, since Eddie’s mom was either Indonesian or half-Indonesian, depending on what you read or what youtube video you watch.

Actually, I’m not sure if there are any American-made electric instruments at 12th Fret. I did not look at all of the most expensive ones. I saw a couple American-made acoustics. They were probably over $1000. Some guitars and basses and etc. are still made in Korea. The reason I use the word “still” is because up until maybe 20 years ago, South Korea was putting out more instruments than any other country. Then more factories were moved to Indonesia, and many were relocated to China. But still, some are crafted in Korea. Even the Spector basses costing over $1000 are made there.

Most of the instruments at 12th Fret are not cheap, and are new, so keep this in mind if you plan a visit. Very few used instruments there. I first made the trip out to the store about a month ago. I’d bought a “parts caster” on ebay awhile back. – That is an electric guitar that is a Strat (Stratocaster) copy, put together of used or new parts from various guitars, which may or may not include parts from Fender or Squier guitars. These are custom builds that don’t take a massive amount of skill to make. Some builders get creative with their rewiring of the instruments, or make interesting guitar body and neck combinations, etc.

There’s a problem with buying an instrument online.. I can’t play it before buying. I used to have a rule never to buy any instruments I had not played. Something I of course learned the hard way. I have been buying, selling, and donating instruments for many many years, and I thought I had learned my lesson.

Nope.

Learn from me. Even if you have to pay a little more, don’t buy an instrument unless you have played it first in a store and really like it. Even if you buy the same model online, it won’t be the same instrument. But even I don’t learn from me sometimes…

I bought a partscaster from one vendor, didn’t like it, donated it, later bought one from a different builder.. this one was better, but I didn’t like that one either, so I donated that one. The folks at St. Vincent put it on sale in a display case right away, at a price much cheaper than what I paid. I included a deluxe gig bag with it, and an very good 2″ strap.

Notice there is no logo on the headstock. Some builders leave the headstocks blank, some put on their own logos, and some put on Fender decals, and enough lacquer so that the Fender logos look real.

Why not try and sell these instruments I’ve bought? I got tired of selling instruments on eBay and craigslist. I’ve almost never bought expensive ($500 or more) instruments, so if I don’t like one, I’m not out a lot of money.

But I don’t buy junk. Just because I don’t like a guitar or bass doesn’t mean it is not good. I do not donate stuff to thrift stores unless I think it is of sufficient quality that a shopper will feel blessed when finding what I have donated. Donating instruments is great because besides helping people (I donate stuff to St. Vincent DePaul, which is not an official Catholic charity, but was started by Catholics. It is very reputable and helps lots of people), I also share the joy of music with whoever buys what I brought in.

I do wish I’d realized I wanted to donate the second parts caster before I had it worked on though. I could have saved $50, because the modification to the wiring I had requested wasn’t necessary. I just wanted more tonal options.

As with genuine Fender and Squier Strats, there is no tone control for the bridge pickup. I got the idea from an ebay vendor to have the tone control for the neck pickup be wired up to the bridge pickup as well. Good idea!

Steven at 12th Fret did a great job. The labor was not cheap though. $75.

If I’d planned on donating the guitar, I would have just paid $35 to have the fret wires on the edges of the neck filed down so they were smooth and not sharp.

While I was in 12th Fret the first time, after talking with Rob about the changes to the partscaster I wanted made, I bought an electric guitar that sold new for $179 plus tax. The brand is called Cort, based in Korea, but this guitar was made in Indonesia.

I like buying straps on Etsy. Thousands of great designs. Takes me ages to pick one, but that’s part of the fun, until I drive myself nuts. But then I’m nuts already, as you can probably tell.

You might be doubting your own sanity right now, as you ask yourself.. “why am I reading all this?”

The Cort guitar.. it sounds great, and has several features I really like, but, although I prefer light guitars to heavy ones, this is one of only a few guitars I’ve ever played that really feels too light. I also don’t like the feel of the neck of the instrument. Too narrow and too curved. Bad combination for me, but this guitar might be very good for a middle-schooler or other small human being.

Not sure what I will do this one. I feel like I’ve donated more than enough instruments, so I might try to sell it at Pawn 1 if I find something I like better. My second visit to 12th Fret, I picked up the partscaster that had been worked on, and brought it to St. Vincet a couple days later.

Something odd happened right after I donated the guitar. Often I make a donation, in the back of the store, and just go home, but sometimes, since I am given a 25% off coupon, I go into the store and browse. When I donated a guitar and accessories last year, I found three small items of furniture for my room that I really like. This time, I wandered through the furniture section first, though not needing anymore furniture, just curious what was available. I had an intuitive moment.. look to the left. The room widens, and there is almost a little alcove.. surprisingly, it was in this small space that I found a battered classical guitar.

Made in Taiwan, (I’ve never seen a guitar made in Taiwan), with the unusual and somewhat unnerving brand name of Gremlin. No logo on the headstock, but I know to look into the sound hole of acoustic guitars and read the label.. make, model, and sometimes a serial number and country of origin are listed there. I already have access to a good classical guitar at home.

My aunt owns a Gibson guitar made in Michigan, which she purchased in Michigan in 1967. Surprisingly, it is not worth very much. Were it a steel string acoustic or electric guitar that old, it would be worth a lot. But it is a nice guitar to play.

So why was I happy to find a beat up classical guitar at a thrift store? I remember when I was young, friends of mine would find great bargains at garage sales, including at classical guitar that was in good shape and very cheap. I wanted a super-cheap guitar too.

This one was not in nearly as good of shape as the purchase my friends had made decades ago, but that’s alright. I kind of wanted a “beater.”

A beater is an instrument that has dents, scratches, etc, that can be taken to a beach, to parks, to the homes of particularly clumsy or drunk friends, and who cares if the guitar gets a few more scratches or dents as long as it still works. I bought my beater classical guitar at St. Vincet DePaul for $22.50. It was priced at $29.99, but I had a coupon.

I have yet to determine if the tuners on it are good enough so that the instrument doesn’t go out of tune every few seconds. I still need to restring it.

Back to the music store.. My 3rd vist to 12th Fret was brief. My nephew and I were on our way to my favorite restaurant, Westside Drive-Inn on Parkcenter. The music store was mostly on the way. I wanted to check to see if they had a particular guitar cable, and strap, one called Lock-It.. cool art on these straps, with a strap lock feature built in, so you don’t have to have strap locks installed. Nice. I didn’t find any of this kind that I liked at the store, and the cable I was thinking of was over $50 for one of 10′ length.. to expensive for me at this time. I also went to in to show my nephew the store.

This past day was my 4th visit. I had only planned to spend $10 to have a strap button put on the bottom of the beater guitar. Most classical guitar players do not play standing up, using the usual guitar strap, but I am unconventional (also, I can barely play as of yet, so I guess I am an aspiring classical guitar player).

I browsed for awhile, and tried some instruments. I was not planning on buying any, because I have a bass, which I bought used on ebay.. not entirely a mistake.. a good bass for the price.. a Fernandes Gravity 4X (probably made in China, no label on the instrument though),

..But it is a bit too heavy to be within my comfort level, even though I use a 3″ wide strap with a backing made of glove leather. I have tried MANY kinds and brands of guitar strap, and for instruments such as basses and heavier guitars like the Les Paul, I recommend Franklin straps, unless you are a vegan. If so, try a brand called Couch. They have a few 3″wide straps, which might be good. I’ve only used their 2″ straps. And no I don’t get a kickback by mentioning any brands or whatever. I’m not a sellout.

The neck on the Fernandes is surprisingly long. It even looks a bit freakish. The neck is also too narrow until it becomes too wide. You can see the blue Fernandes in one of the photos. Most basses have 20-22 frets. This one has 24.. Even a dude like me, who is 6’3″ and has long arms.. the guitar neck is still a bit of a stretch.

Also, although it does not look like a Fender Jazz bass, it is based on one, and has the same neck, which is very narrow at the top, the headstock, and gets wider toward where the neck attaches to the body. I don’t like this. Were I aware of how this bass would feel, I would not have bought it online. But oh well, I had made up my mind to practice anyway.

I wasn’t planning on buying an electric guitar either. If I buy a different one, I will likely purchase a used instrument from Pawn 1 and try to get an ok price for the one I have. I don’t want to donate any more instruments. I’ve donated so many. I did not walk out of the store with an electric guitar… but.. 6 or 7 years ago, I owned a base-model (lowest price and quality of the Ibanez Soundgear line) 5 string Ibanez bass, a GSR-205 with a spalted maple top (doesn’t improve the sound, but sure looks nice.. a very very thin layer of decorative wood) that I liked.

The 5 is because of the bass having 5 strings. The GSR-200 is the 4 string model. GSR stands for Gio Soundgear. Ibanez makes Gio model guitars too. (The Gio line is like the Squier version of Fenders.

But for some reason I do not know, even though I quite liked this bass, I lost interest in playing it shortly after I bought it, even though it was quite good for the money. I’d paid $300 for it new at GC. I sold it to one of these high school music genius kids.

As time has passed though, I have sometimes regretted selling it. I never did buy another one, because I wanted to try other basses. But I’ve really been struggling with the bass I have, wanted something more comfortable to play.. a bit lighter, wider neck.. and one with more strings.

What is the percentage of bass players who use an instrument with 5 or more strings? 0.000099%, or less than that. Just a guess. The main genres for basses with more strings are smooth jazz, which I am not fond of, new age music (which I mostly like), and various forms of progressive metal.. some of which I also like.

6 string basses are too much to handle and I have never owned one. But I have had several 5 strings, all made by Ibanez.

Have I ever become proficient at.. actually playing bass? No.. why not.? Sometimes I’ve gotten so obsessed with the idea of practicing bass or guitar that by the time.I had time to practice, I didn’t want to anymore. And also I’ve spent a staggering amount of time window shopping online, looking through instrument catalogs, reading about instruments, buying and selling them.. easier to do than practice? I don’t know.

But anyway…

Tucked into the far corner of the music store was.. an Ibanez 5 string bass with spalted maple top, almost identical to the one I sold many years ago. And it turned out to be used, and sold at a surprisingly cheap price. $179. Yeah, I bought that one.

Business at 12th Fret happily concluded (and the store was busy!), I went next door to one of the larger St. Vincent shops I’ve been to.

I was hoping to find some art for my bathroom (which I did not find), and also browse the books and DVD’s. Amazing selection of books. One buck each. I bought at least 10. Some for myself, several for my dad, who has been devouring religious books and novels for many months, and two Catholic books that I think my mom and aunt, both being very very devoted Catholic converts, would like. I also bought a bunch of DVD’s.. also a buck each, and one sampler CD.

I already have over 100 sampler CD’s I want to go through before I sell them on ebay (CD’s are a lot easier to sell on ebay than instruments. Less of a burden to take to the post office), but I spotted a double CD sampler, called “Afternoon Chillout,” that I figured I might like, and harvest some songs from for my computer and iPods, before selling the CD.

I spent a long time at St. Vincent, and enjoyed myself. Also, I had an old 25% off coupon in my car, which helped.

After that.. a pleasant drive, mostly though town on Boise Ave., to Westside Drive-in on Parkcenter.

Boise Ave. does not go right onto park center though. I took a short, intriguing road through a small but fancy area called Bown Crossing, which looks nice and lit up at dusk and after dark. Bown took me to Parkcenter, where I made a left.

There are two Westside Drivein locations. The other is downtown on State Street. That one does not have a dine-in option, except sort of.. during the winter, there is a heated tend on the blacktop where the tables are. I almost never go to that location, even though it has its own charm. I like heading more southeast.

It’s quite pretty in Southeast Boise where the Parkcenter location is, and that one has more of a diner feel to it. Plenty of places to sit, but inside and out. These two drive-ins were created by a trained chef, and the food.. so much variety.. even prime rib dinners.. wow.

For me it is the culinary equivalent of heaven. No, I don’t need prime rib. My favorite is a large meatloaf sandwich with onions and tomatoes and cheddar cheese and, admittedly, too much lettuce for my taste, but I can take some off. Mac and cheese, yes please, and some spiced sweet potato fries. Normally I just have the fries on the side, but this time I wanted more dairy besides the small vanilla malt, and so brought home the sweet potato fries, along with the honey-whipped butter dip, for my dad, along with his favorite, the Maui burger, complete with some form of sliced pork, and pineapple.

The drive home.. after dark, pleasant, but I was feeling pretty tired. Once home though, energy level back up to the usual too intense feeling. Something I suffer from. Every day.

I plugged in the bass I’d just bought. Crackle crackle.. severe static, then nothing. Hmm.. oh yes. This is the type of bass that requires a 9V battery to function. After having some difficulty unscrewing and prying off the battery cover, and putting in another 9V, and only making one tiny scratch on the guitar, which has a beautiful finish both front and back, better. No problems when I plugged it in.

I blasted through a bunch of random notes on each bass.. back and forth between the two for over an hour.. time goes really really fast when I’ve done this at music stores.. and at home too. I finally decided to put the Fernandes bass away, and spend more time instead on the Indonesian-made Ibanez.It is more comfortable, and has that extra low 5th string.

And that’s mostly been my night, except for over an hour of feverish writing. Time to read through the post, and fix a few things. Here is the box of most of the goodies from St. Vincent, including a little essential oil candle burner.

I have an electric diffuser, but think it might be nice to use a votive candle diffuser. Why not. This one has a nice falling leaves motif that I like. Price for all the books, DVD’s, and diffuser, with 25% coupon.. under $17. Awesome.

Gosh.. time changing.. in the next hour we will spring forward an hour.. so it will soon be 2:34 am, not 1:34. I usually go to bed between 3 and 4 am. It will be 5am when I fall asleep tonight, I’m guessing, considering the time change. I worry about getting enough sleep, but have difficulty getting to bed any earlier. I almost always get enough sleep anyway. Unless Tucker, the family dog,

finds something or someone to bark at. I can’t always sleep through all that. Schnauzers are incredibly loud for being little dogs! Time to finish this post I guess.. and try to relax. Hope you enjoyed reading all this! I sure needed a good day.

I enjoyed my Saturday.

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