“I found this laying right by the side of the road! I sanded it down so they take it as number one copper. If there’s paint or something on it, they only pay you for number two.” Joe pointed to the section of copper tubing, about fourteen inches long lying on the ground amongst the scraps of copper wire strewn about his feet. Per usual, Joe was sitting on his metal stool, stripping wire - the life of a scrapper.
Since I last updated you on Joe (installment one, here) I have tried to find some things for him to do around my business. This has mostly been pulling weeds and sweeping. He does it gladly and is more than appreciative of the few extra dollars it puts in his pockets.
But the real return for me wasn’t a weed free parking lot; it was listening to Joe strumming his 1963 Guild hollow body guitar, singing a George Benson song. We had started talking about music a week or so before. Joe told me he played every Saturday at a nearby bar that had an open stage in the afternoon. A few days later, when I stopped after lunch to check up on him, he opened the door of his old yellow station wagon and pulled a battered hard shell guitar case from the back seat. He propped one knee up on the floor of the back seat, tuned his B string a bit and ripped into those funky jazz chords that are played halfway up the neck and sound just a bit off, almost slightly pained.
Since then, Joe and I have talked a lot about music. He can talk incessantly about jazz guitarists and their instruments. It is technical and loving.
A few weeks ago, Joe had to sell his Guild. He was having some problems with the pick-ups and the body had two cracks in it. He couldn’t afford to have the pick-ups fixed and the cracks caused a bit of a tone problem when he played through an amp. Besides, he needed the money. Selling a few pounds of copper scrap a day is a tough way to make a living. (Joe is so poor that he once walked six blocks to get a coffee because he didn’t want to waste the gas. That has been fixed; coffee is now free from our office.)
Joe has recently had his mind on a Peerless double cutaway, part of their Thinline Series. “I need to get something lighter, I want to stand up when I play,” Joe says. At around a grand a piece, Joe and I both know that may be out of the question. Today, Joe told me he is now thinking of a used Fender Stratocaster. Either way, that’s a lot of copper wire.