Guitar Geekery – Les Paul Jr on a budget

This was going to be a tweet or an instagram post but it quickly got too long (because of course it did.)

I’ve long wanted a classic 50s or early 60’s less paul Jr double-cut (not the SG shape one, which was referred to by the same name during some dispute between mr Paul and Gibson).

I love the body shape, the stripped down look. I love the commitment to one pickup only, and the snarl of those original p90’s.

However, after many years of being an affordable starter guitar, people finally figured put how great they are and the vintage ones are absurdly expensive. The one pictured here, for example, is selling for $12,500 on reverb.com (and is still available, if you should happen to want it).

 

I considered having one made to my spec (vintage 50’s style pickup with 50’s wiring, classic body shape, big baseball bat of a neck), but while that’s not so bad as the vintage ones, it’s not cheap, and frankly i’m not a good enough player for it to be worth a couple grand for a deluxe instrument. I tend to favor the fun of many instruments the persuit of one perfect one.

So I opted to go another direction and just buy a cheap replica and upgrade the parts that don’t match 50’s spec (the pickup and wiring), and maybe the bridge/tuners if I want to be silly about authenticity.

I settled on two options, which are both cheap, and relatively well reviewed; the Harley Benton (which can be had for under 200 bucks + shipping), or the Vintage Guitars v130, which goes a bit over 400.

Quality overall seemed pretty similar based on a half dozen reviews and comparisons, but what finally decided for me was one review praising the thicker and authentic feeling neck on the Vintage; since i’m really a big-fat-neck guy (personally, as well as in terms of guitars – my neck is HUGE),  I figured i’d prefer that one, even if it set me back a bit more; I found a Vintage v130 on reverb.com with free shipping, from a shop that was willing to cut a deal, so the price difference wound up being less than 200. That seemed like a decent deal, and even with 300 bucks more for pickup upgrade, still left me with an affordable guitar.

However, what I got in the Vintage was less than I hoped.

The finish – and I should have taken some decent photos – was just unattractive. What claimed to be a cherry finish like vintage gibsons was a milky satin, that showed every fingerprint, but con cleaned most of the woodgrain. It make the guitar feel way cheaper than I expected, cheap in a bad way.

The pickup – and yeah, it’s gonna get replaced, but still, one hopes a 400 guitar would be ok; comprably priced Danelectros, for example, sound fucking mega fir under $400 – was just lame. It’s not a true p90, but instead has some sort of stacked design that’s supposed to be hum canceling. But it seemed to be just tone canceling; I really could not get a good sound out of it, even when I turned my vox ac15 way up loud. I didn’t spend enough time trying to analyze what was wrong with it, frankly, but, for 400 bucks I expected more.

Worst, though, is that it showed up with a cracked neck. I didn’t notice this when I first unpacked it, but after giving it a couple of hours play, I noticed the neck just felt wrong. When I actually examined the neck, I noticed what I thought was just a scrape in the finish, but which turned out to be a crack a couple inches below the nut, which when all the way through.

 

I’m not at this point blaming the place I bought it – i’m assuming this is a manufacturing defect, and that shipment and temperature changes worsened it, though It would have been nice if they’d caught the issue pre shipment. But, given the other things that felt very cheap about this guitar, i’m guessing this is manufacturer QC issue.

It’s now in transit back to the seller, and I have not gotten my refund yet, but, am expecting to do so in a few days.

So, that left me with the Harley Benton; I found one in ‘b stock’ (which means minor cosmetic defects usually), for 25 bucks less than the already low price. While i’d intend to go for a cherry finish like the authentic ones, i’m a huge fan of the Gibson pelham blue color, and this is pretty close, so I pulled the trigger on that.

 

Today when I unpacked it, I found everything about it to be better; the finish is beautiful (even with a couple of minor, acceptable flaws). The neck feels better, and the tone is far better, sounding much more like a modern p90. While I have not yet had a chance to turn it up and get some real playing it, i’m just far more stoked with it, at literally half the price of the the Vintage.

I have not taken a good picture of it as yet, that will come shortly, the above pic is from the Harley Benton web site; it’s way prettier in person than that.

Soon, i’ll take a crack at replacing the pickup (i’ve never done it, and while it looks easy, i’m waiting til I have enough time to work on it). Meanwhile, I need to give it some more time as is, to see if anything jumps out as cheap. So far, though, it seems like a hell of a lot of guitar for the money. I’ll go into details on which pickup i’m going with in a later post.

Almost half the man I used to be

scroll all the way down if you wanna go straight to the before-and-after pictures.

I could update on any one of a number of things but it seems any story I tell, needs to have another story first to set the scene.

This is why I never liked Twitter – even a short story, for me, runs long. I can’t even, as I used to say, clear my throat in 140 characters.

But anyway, i’ll loop back to family and job crap later and let’s just talk about ME for now.

Three months ago, give or take, I mentioned my progress with fitness, given that I was (at the time) four months out from rotator cuff repair.

Since that time, i’ve continued physical therapy, continued diligent and disciplined pursuit of strength and muscle mass (really, the only thing in my live i’ve ever been able to describe using words like diligent and disciplined.)

Muscle gains at my age (61) come slow, but it’s coming. The workout tracker I use (https://www.strong.app/) shows consistant progress in terms of what i’m able to lift; more reps, more weight, etc.

But it’s a completely separate area that’s really changed for me in the last few months.

I don’t know that i’ve ever mentioned diabetes here, since it was during the long downtime of moronosphere.com that I was diagnosed, but i’m type 2 diabetic, diagnosed as such about 8 years back. It’s been well controlled for a long time; I naturally eat a diabetes-friendly diet (not much sugar, no sodas, no juice, candy, etc, focus on protein, vegetables, whole grains, relatively low carb – not because I have to, but just because that’s how I like to eat). For many years i’ve controlled that well with a couple of medications (metformin, mainly). Alas, as is the way with T2D (Type 2 Diabetes), it sometimes just changes without any obvious reason. Despite good eating habits and a drastic increase in fitness level over the last 2 years, my blood sugars started to get worse.

3 months ago I started seeing a specialist, who suggested a big change in medication – she put me on a med i’d never heard of, called Tirzepatide (Mounjaro), a once-per-week injectable medication (which comes in a handy pen style injector for home use, self-injecting in belly or thighs with no fuss and no special training needed).

I’ll come back to ME, because that’s what this is about, below, but for those who are not familiar, here’s a bit of background on Mounjaro.

 

Mounjaro is extremely interesting; it controls blood sugar by triggering certain blood sugar controlling hormones, which differs from traditional medications which tend to treat insulin resistance by decreasing glucose production in the liver, for example. Tirzepatide and other similar meds instead go after more direct control. If you want to get into the pharmacology of this, go start with wikipedia, because it covers the technical details adequately and i’m not gonna try to cover that here.

What’s happened though, as treatment with Tirzepatide went through trials and then rollout a few years ago, is that it was found to have a major, positive side effect; weight loss.

Because treatment with this med tends to produce slowed digestion and a greater sense of fullness, it has a major impact on appetite control; patinets on it for T2D tended to also lose weight, sometimes significant amounts of weight, without specific diet regimens. Meds like Tirzepatide, and it’s predecessor Semaglutide have proven so successful at this that they’re now being prescribed for weight loss for non-diabetioc patients. I’ve seen studies (and I can’t find them now, but will attach if I find) showing that Tirzepatide approaches the efficiency some gastric surgeries like the sleeve gastrectomy in terms of sustained weight loss.

While Tirzepatide isn’t yet FDA approved as a weight loss medication, that’s getting close, but meanwhile, increasingly, it’s being prescribed as such, ‘off label’ as they call it, to considerable success.

So that’s pretty amazing; it’s not news to anyone that weight loss is a difficult thing for many people, and that better ways to manage weight are a Good Thing (and I say that not in a fat shaming sense, but just as a  broad statement that health is good, and management of weight is, for many people, part of being health for all sorts of reasons; T2D for example, is massively improved if one can lower body fat percentage).

There are issues, of course. First and foremost, Tirzepatide has absolutely gnarly side effects, including nausea and all sorts of GI impacts; it’s not unusual to have patients starting on it barfing all day or completely unable to eat. Less common side effects include insomnia, fatigue, aches, etc.

Worse though, for patients, is that it’s fucking expensive; a grand ($1000) per month if you have to pay out of pocket. Insurance in the US being what it is, coverage is complicated. Some insurance just won’t cover; some want patients to exhaust all alternate medication options (including having to try insulin, in some cases). The insurance coverage for this is a maze for some patients, and as always, US provate insurance is often structured to avoid-paying-at-all-cost, since ultimately it’s all for-profit business. There are, evidently, manufacturers coupons to help offset cost for those not covered, but likewise, THAT is a maze, which is often complicated and which keeps changing.

I’ve seen stories though, of patients having huge success, getting blood sugar/A1C under control, and then being classed as ‘non diabetic’ and having coverage withdrawn (curing diabetes isn’t a thing, you have it forever; medication manaages it, but doesn’t cure it). This is akin to telling a bipolar patient that because mediucation makes them functional, they’re cured and don’t need medication. yes, it’s that absurd.

But then there’s the whole, complex question of off-label use of a diabetic medication, for non-diabetic patients.

Sometime in the last couple of years, with the success of use for weight loss, fitness influencers and celebrities began flogging the two meds (ozempic/mounjaro) as magic weight loss solutions, and prescription for non-diabetics took off. I don’t know the exact story about when and who started this trend, though you can find mention of it herehere and on redit, threads like this. Googling will find you a hundred more.

This is all terrific for patients who find it useful, but it’s had a couple of unexpected side effects, so to speak. First, the manufacturers of both meds, Novo and Eli-lily respectively, hit on a gold mine and had stock prices take off. But second, because production of things like this is complex and expensive, both medications ran into supply problems as demand suddenly outpaced supply capacity. Suddenly patients are unable to get a medication they need to take every week without skip, and which, for diabetics, could potentially cause life threatening effects. While I expect that to resolve itself as Eli-Lily ramps production in 2023, it makes for an extremnely stressful situation for patients like me who are now on this med to manage T2D.

 

All that aside, the experience for me has been extremely interesting.

I’ve been heavy my whole life – since I was a kid. While some of that time I was extremely strong, even at my peaks of fitness (as a teenager when I hiked daily and lifted weights over, and then later in my 30’s when I had my first go at the gym rat lifestyle and power lifting), I was never anything you’d call ‘cut’; the muscles were all well padded. My weight peaked out at something like 265, which was a lot on my 5’9″ frame, even though i’m broad shouldered and deep chested. While my upper body is just big, my lower body isn’t, and at 265 I was a big guy.

Gradual lifestyle changes over last 10 years got my weight down around 225, where I hovered for a long time, but as I got into my late fifties and dealt with onset of T2D, that was more than my doctor wanted me carrying. But i’m not, and never have been, a dieter. That never worked for me. The lowest I ever got in my adult life was around 200 lbs, and that was after a significant illness ten years ago or so.

The last two years, my increase in weight lifting got me down to around 210 (which is what my driver’s license says I am, and has sinnce  got my license in 1977, but which really hasn’t been correct since around then).

But then I started on Mounjaro three months ago.

I touched on side effects above in a general sense, but it’s been nasty. The first few weeks, on lowest dose (2.5) I was so nauseous I barely ate, about 3 days of each week. Even when not nauseous, I had absolutely zero interest in food. I more or less stopped eating those first 3 weeks, aside from what I could force myself to eat (mainly protein since without that, building muscle is impossible). Cooking Thanksgiving dinner was a huge chore and eating it was only to share the event with family, not because I wanted it. My birthday (that same holiday week), I wasn’t able to eat at all.

The side effects, as is typical, have tapered off; as I have gone up in dose, I get a bad few days on the first injection, but then stabilize. I’m able to get enough food in now that my weight ins’t crashing downwards, i’m mostly able to get my 1g proton per pound of body weight target for muscle building. But my appetite remains suppressed. I just don’t feel like eating at least 3 days of the week. I’ ve also suffered a lot of insomnia and fatigue and had to take some vacation days in early Dec because I was too fatigued and ill to work.

So, what’s the effect on by blood sugar, which is the point of all this? I’m still at a low dose (5mg, going to 7.5 next week), so I don’t yet expect a lot of improvement. But i’m seeing my sugars mostly in target range (between 80 and 130), which is better that it was. But i’m not yet sufficiently contriolled, and my A1C isn’t where we want it, so i’ll continue to increase in dose and to monitor my levels.

But the effects on my body is dramatic. My prior lowest weight of adult life was around 200 lbs, and that was one time. Today, the scale showed 182, which is a trend now of a couple of pounds lost per week, after an initial drop of 10 lbs.

I’m continuing to work out and focus on protein, and for the first time ever, i’m seeing the beginnings of a six pack. I can see my obliques. I can see my pecs growing, despite the fact that i’m lifting far less weight and the muscles are far smaller than in the past. But actually seeing it, for the first time in my life, it’s pretty amazing for me.

I used to wear XXl tee shirts and sweat pants, not that long ago. I’m now buying size L tee shirts, and my size M sweat pants and now too big for me (I have no hips to speak of); i’m currently wearing my daughter’s size S sweat pants.

I wish i’d had the foresight to take nude or at least shirtless pix when this started. I can’t find any. But below are before and after shots, best representing the changes in my body over the last few months.

The one on the left is xmas 2020, with a beasutiful guitar my family bought me for xmas.

The one on the right is Jan 26, 2023, same guitar, but lesser by about 35 lbs.

Proof of (something akin to) life

it’s been a minute, as the kids say, since I’ve been here (or fucking anywhere).

I’d say sorry but who’d notice?

life fucking gets in the way. Family shit, health shit, job shit.

just, you know, shit.

details later. I’m ok, but too overwhelmed by piles of trivial stressors to get my mind back in a writing frame as yet.

to be continued at some point.

Silvertone 1457

I’ve been a guitar nerd far longer than i’ve been playing, at least, far longer than i’ve been playing with any consistency. I loved guitars since my very first experience with music, and I grew up around music, my mom lived and breathed music so it was always there.

There are a few guitars I remember saying, I need to play, because I need THAT guitar.

There are some obvious ones (a classic tele, for example), and some less (a Rick 330 or 360 6 string).

But one that caught my attention a long long time ago was a classic Silvertone amp-in-case my friend had, which won me over with it’s cheap, trashy look and feel, as well as it’s unique style and sound.

These things were total contraptions; made for Sears as part of thier house brand for music gear, they were built by Danelectro in the mid sixties.

Built to be affordable for beginners, they used inexpensive materials (Masonite top and back, pine) with a semi hollow body, they have a made-from-spare-parts aesthetic. Pickups were housed in surplus lipstick tubes.

They sold for under a hundred bucks at the time, and most notably, included a 3-5 watt amp built right into the case, allowing a beginner to get both guitar and amp and be rocking out wthout any need for further gear.

Like the guitar, the amps look like they were built out of spare parts, but surprisingly, actually sound great; the higher end models even have a tremolo circuit.

In collectible condition (all original) these go upwards of 1600 bucks today; i’m finding some currently priced as high as $2000.

I’m not a big collector of things like this; the slope from collector to hoarder is slippery, I feel. When I buy a guitar it’s because  I want to play it. So those collectable all-original, don’t-fucking-touch-it examples are wonderful, but, not worth it for me (particularly given my rather rudimentary guitar skills). And, I already own more guiyars than I can play.

A couple weeks ago, however, one if these  – a Silvertone 1457, in original case –  just more or less fell into my lap.

This is a longer story and not really mine, but, a brother-of-a-friend-of-a-friend passed away suddenly (Addiction is a terrible thing); he was a collector/hoarder of various thigs including guitars. SO this instrument was one of the things I saw posted on facebook as available.

I need that, I commented on it, assuming it would be going for far more than I was willing to spend. By my friend said, make an offer; I threw out an amount I felt was fair given that the thing was partially dissembled and in unknown state. My offer as accepted, to my surprise.

When I picked it up, we found the original parts that had been pulled off; the bridge was new (upgraded), and the tuners had been removed but were still in working shape. SO my local luthier, Keith Holland, was able to get it playing with only a little TLC. Everything worked, once they cleaned the tuners up; switches, knobs, pickups, all of it was fully funtional. The did a little fretwork, and I have it back.

IT’s clearly been played a lot; this wasn’t someone’s collectable. It’s got dings and chips like a guitar someone played a lot, maybe even gigged with. The pick guard is yellowed, so it’s been out of it’s case a lot

This is an absolutely wonderful guitar. Light, with a great feeling neck, it’s easy to play, easy to get good sounds out of, and sounds amazing with some dirt through my Vox ac15. It’s gotten me playing again, after a year or more of having my gear all put away. I have yet to try this with clean/fingerpicked tones or slide, but it feels like it would be amazing for slide.

I’m completely in love with it.

I do not yet have the case/amp back; that’s the big question, is the amp salvageable without a lot of money. It was missing some tubes, but the amp tech at Keith’s shop is looking at it and will let me know what i’ll cost to get it working. I’m hopeful, given the generally good shape. Because the amp has the serial and any other info for authenticating date, I don’t yet know the year on this thing, but i’m guessing it’s ’65, just from pictures I’ve found on line. I’ll post later when I get it back, and hopefully can report that it’s playable (and maybe even so a sound demo).

I write when I write

So much for writing every day right?

Fuck it though, I write when I write and I feel like I have something to say

Lately, what i’ve felt like I needed to say has more to do with longing and loss than anything else, for reasons that are both incredibly complicated and not strictly my story to tell, though in fact I think I could simply say it all, since the number of people reading is less than fingers I have on one hand.

But today – inspired by the incredible Journey Chase, what I really want to be writing about is raw, brutal sex. Because she does that to me, consistently. She makes me react, physically, mentally, emotionally. She makes me want to write poetry (which one day i’ll figure out), and to write erotica (which I can obviously do, well, when I am able to get the time). She makes me want other things as well, but, well, that’s not what i’m here to talk about.

Alas today, at least, thus far, work remains a huge drain on my creative energy, so erotic writing will have to wait a bit.

For now, know i’m thinking about these things and hope to have more lurid updates in immediate future.

You will have to wait for it, though. No, I don’t like waiting, either.

 

 

 

I miss her like that as I fall through my life

There are pieces of writing that make one stop – full stop – and put down a book, because they are so beautiful, or so well said, or so evocative, that the passage needs to be left to ring out, to resonate in the mind.

Sometimes they need to be re-read, sometimes they just need to not be followed with anything, until they have sunk fully in to one’s mind.

I’m lucky enough to have engendered this feeling in others, or so i’ve been told, though I can’t say I know which passages, either because I was never told, or have long forgotten.

I have encountered that feeling a few times as a reader; some I likewise can’t recall, today, but one, I revisit often.

This rings in my head not just because it is beautiful, but also because it is so true and deeply felt. For you, a reader, it may not strike this way, but for me, itt describes a particular ache and longing, for something long ago.

 

The line – from Guy Gavriel Kay’s A Brightness Long Ago, is:

 

The sailors say the rain misses the cloud even as it falls through light or dark into the sea. I miss her like that as I fall through my life, through time, the chaos of our time. I dream she is alive even now, but there is nothing to give weight or value to that, it is only me, and what I want to be true. It is only longing. We can want things so much sometimes. It is the way we are.

Kay is one of our greatest living writers, transcending genre (his work is nominally fantasy, but is such only in that it exists in analog of historic time and place, and in that it exists ‘a quarter turn to the fantastic’, as Kay has described it. His work exists in a exists of quasi-historic settings, akin to renaissance Europe, Byzantium in the time of Justinian, England during the viking era, medeival china, Spain in the time of El Cid, as well as one foray into modern day Aix en Provence,  and one into other-worldly high fantasy.

Each setting exists as a backdrop for variations on our own histories; analogs of historical figures or events server as a stage for his own stories, filled with intrigue, adventure, politics, romance, and in some cases, music and art.

I’m hard put to pick a favorite of Kay’s books; all are brilliant, and while I have my own picks for his best and least great, even my least (The Last Light of the Sun) is some readers favorite.

The book in question, A Brightness Long Ago (which is set in 15th century Italy leading up to The Italian Wars), begins with this passage, below. I can’t stress this strongly enough, though; if you love this, you should read all of Kay’s work, it’s all worthwhile.

 

Read more “I miss her like that as I fall through my life”

need, love, longing

“You should be inside me right now,” she said, and I agreed.

“I just need to be crushed beneath you tasting only your kisses and being filled and consumed by you.”

Words like these will light a fire in me, will make me forget anything other than a need to be there, now, doing exactly as described.

But a message like this from far away, in situation not just in distance, bings with that fiery, burning need, also a melancholic longing.

Love and desire are something most of us well understand, but it’s that ache of the forbidden; Juliet on a balcony, a barrier both physical and metaphoric (and then later, Juliet across the gulf, seemingly, between life and death.

Rapunzel in her tower, Ned in Pushing Daisies, Guinevere unavailable first to Lancelot, and then, as it turns out, unavailable to Arthur. Buffy and Angel, Tony and Maria from West Side Story; Literature and pop culture are filled with tales about loves forbidden, somee fulfilled with consequence, some unfulfilled and tragic, some ending, against odds, well and happily. Because any trope that common is explored in all its variations, both in life and in fiction.

But common themes always are both the pain of longing, and the burning need.

Burning need is something i’m all too familiar with; i’m a creature who feels needs with huger intensity, but also, a creature who loves, when I love, with complete commitment.

So yes, indeed, I should be inside you, now, and always. That thought is present in my mind more and more, as time passes.

 

Fresh Ink

First tattoo since well before pandemic, and I could not be more pleased with it. This is a tribute to two dogs gone too soon – mine, Thela (named for a King Crimson song, Thela Hun Gingeet), five years ago, and my friend’s, (Otis)  two or three months ago. Both far too young and much missed. 


Also though, it’s for my current dogs, Vera (named for a Blue Öyster Cult song), and Levon, named for Levon Helm. 

Really though it’s for all the frenchies, because they’re awesome dogs and I love them all. 

 

 

done at Fog City Tattoo in Santa Cruz CA, by my friend  Blake Brand. 

 

 

Tattoo Future

So much for writing every day (it’s been almost a week now) but, I do my best. Fuckin’ life, you know how it is. It has a way of interfering even if you’re getting fuck all done.

That said, i’m feeling a bit more positive than when I wrote this a week ago. Conversations with my employer are progressive but things felt less adversarial.

Meanwhile, i’m scheduled to get tattooed on Tuesday the 11th, which i’m looking forward to. It’s been more than 3 years, and that’s a long time, for me.

My last piece was a walk-in on a whim, at my friend’s shop (since closed, a victim of pandemic), Samuel O’reilly’s in Santa Cruz, CA. It’s a old school ‘cut throat’ straight razor with the latin translation of Occam’s Razor engraved on the blade (ergo, Occam’s Straight Razor).

This one is a long-planned neck tattoo; i’ll put a pic up after it’s done. My first neck tattoo, though most of the rest of me is pretty covered. So this will be a slightly new experience.

This site used to be FULL of tattoo pix, but as i’ve mentioned, loss of my server a few years ago wiped most of the pics, so i’m slowly fishing them out of my backups and replacing one by one.

I’ve mentioned in the past; it’s common for people to ask, how many tattoos do you have. But at some point the question stops making sense; as tattoos merge into, say, a full sleeve, how do you count? Sessions? The whole as one? How many there were? It’s meaningless, so you go to a point whee it’s percent coverage.

I put myself somewhere north of 60%; full back, arms filled shoulder to fingertip, lower legs mostly full, feet partly full, chest and stomach mostly full. My sides, thighs, hips, butt, head and neck remain mostly empty. So those are the areas I count as 40%, though of course those numbers are rough.

I have a number of larger pieces planned, which will go on thighs or sides, and after that, it becomes fill-in of smaller things where they fit.

I may never get close to 100% coverage; we’ll see. But at 60, my skin is less good for tattooing than it was 20 years ago, so i’m not waiting on anything other than finding the right artist for the next couple things I have planned. Meanwhile, my neck is going to be largely filled soon (I have another piece planned there, before end of 2022).

The face, I have a plan, but, the artist I want to work with is in Berlin, and as yet i’m not feeling like going to Europe (i’m in California). When I do feel like making that long trip, the artist I want to have tattoo my face is Durga Siapati (that last name may be wrong it’s from memory). I do not expect to do that in the next year or so, but, unless I wind up opting for something else meantime (perhaps Maori inspired), Durga remains the plan.

I do, though, feel a bit of a ticking clock on these things. At 60, i’m now all too aware of life expectancy questions, not to mention some risk activities (scuba, mortorcycles, etc). My health is good, but, my family history is full of heart disease and cancer, and of course, in pandemic area, there is also the looming virus question, which, despite how we’re action, is far from settled.

My philosophy has alwayts been, and remains, don’t put things off, do them while you can. That is very much how i’m looking at tattoo decisions in next couple of years.

In the pandemic era, faces are mysterious

A funny thing about the pandemic era is that we now (in some places/cases at least) now have people we routinely see, who in effect have faces that stop below the eyes 

This makes the rest of the face a mysterious, intimate place, much as things must feel in cultures that routinely veil. 

There is a young woman at my physical therapist’s office (one of two who run the front counter) on whom I have a wicked crush. Pink hair, glasses, lots of very well done tattoos. She’s bubbly and friendly, relentlessly enthusiastic. We talk, at least every other session (I do PT twice a week, rehabbing a shoulder surgery), about tattoos, and she can’t wait to tell me about her last piece, or next piece, or pieces she’s planning for future. I’ve told her about piece i’m getting next week, and again, she can’t wait to see it. 

We’ve never seen each other’s faces, in all the months we’ve been chatting. 

Today, we were talking about coffee; someone had just brought her some fancy pour-over latte thing from philz coffee, and she was complaining about it, meanwhile laughing and telling me in great detail about whatever was wrong.

And then she tuned partially away, pulled down her mask and sipped.

Seeing the whole of her face, lips parted as she brought cup to her mouth, was as thrilling as catching a glimpse of accidentally exposed underwear, and to be honest, was nearly as thrilling as a brief glimpse of nipple. 

Because i’ve now been chatting with this beautiful young woman for about three months, twice a week, and never gotten her whole face, it was a wildly intimate feeling. Her face seemed too beautiful to believe, but I think that’s entirely the veil idea; the fact that I should not see it, made it intensely wrong, which is hotter than hell. 

I’m not, to be clear, saying anything positive about cultures that enforce veils/hijabs. It’s indefensible to enforce any such rule on a woman.

What i’m saying instead, is that the side effect of a practical need to protect each other with masks during a deadly plague, has produced a side effect that never occurred to me; faces have become a hidden, intimate place, a mystery. And I do love a good mystery.  

I already wanted to kiss this young woman. But this glimpse makes it a hundred times worse.