Kevin to Alan, 4/17/98

From: Kevin
To: Alan
Date: 4/17/98
Subject: Hafa Adai, Amigu!

Dear Alvino,

Long time no writee. This being the Birthday Month I thought I'd better send you off a message and be the first to wish you one. Although it is a bit early. What's up? I am curious to know how the plans are progressing for the summer reunion, whether you guys have been rehearsing, etc. Nothing going on musically here, unfortunately, although as seems typical with work and family even if there was I am not sure I would have time for it. I have recently become fascinated with the idea of assembling an electric guitar almost from scratch. There are a few companies that specialize, or at least offer, Tele or Strat bodies and necks. I finally decided that the best way to get the "right" sound is to pick the body, wood, and pickups that will be able to get the proper tone. The recipe I have come up with tentatively is a Tele body of swamp ash, which is supposed to have a bright sound, and is not too heavy. Maple neck, of course, but with the Gibson scale length, which is slightly shorter than Fender. Probably medium width frets - if they get too wide, intonation suffers. As for pickups, my current thoughts are to put a humbucker in the neck position to get the tone I usually do for the swing tunes. The rear position would have a Seymour Duncan Tele bridge pichup. They are quieter than Fender pickups, but would have that Tele "quack" (or is it a "cluck"?). THEN in the middle position (no kidding) I would probably put a Strat pickup to get that slightly raunchy sound - good for the rock sound and a few others. The wiring will allow for various pickups to be out of phase with themselves or others by means of pots that act as volume or tone controls in the normal way, but also have a push/pull function that acts as a switch to reverse the polarity. I would put on a Gibson-style bridge, since I think the Fender Tele bridges give up too much tone by the way they are constructed. Finally, I might put on a Point Technologies Tremelo, which should manitain its tune better than the others. I'm not sure on whether I really want a tremelo, so I may scrap that idea altogether. What do you think? The advantage is that I could get the parts a few at a time, since there is no pressure to complete the project. Did you ever replace your Steel pickup as you thought you might?

Two weeks ago Tuesday at 2:25 a.m. we boarded a plane here and eventually landed at 8:00 a.m. in Seoul, Korea for a four- night, 5-day stay. Seoul is within a fairly short drive of the dividing line between North and South Korea. Seoul has about 12 million people in a city that is more or less ringed by mountains. In many ways it is reminiscent of both Boston and Chicago - it has the narrow and hectic streets of Boston, with market areas that spill from the storefronts into the sidewalks selling produce, meats and a huge variety of other goods. It has the cosmopolitan feeling of Chicago. Seoul has 4 or 5 main market areas. A couple are set out along streets and on the adjacent sidewalks. The stores sell consumer goods such as clothing, shoes and pottery. On the sidewalk next to the curb street vendors' carts sell ties, hats, T-shirts, and food items. We found this market to be crowded and full of American servicemen and tourists. Near to the South Gate of the city there is a huge market that sells everything from leather goods, designer clothing and traditional wedding accessories to pigs' feet, eels and ground hot peppers. Many vendors speak enough English so that it is fairly easy to haggle over prices - a custom which is expected. People are very polite, friendly and helpful about giving directions. On Saipan it is not unusual to see men with ponytails and tattoos, wearing flip-flops, T-shirts and shorts. Women also tend to dress very casually. In Seoul, it is unusual to see men dressed in anything other than suit and tie, including the cab drivers and many other people you would not expect to see turned out in western business attire. Women also dress in business attire, and a lot more skirts and dresses than slacks.

Our first afternoon we lined up an afternoon tour to one of the many palaces within the city. There seems to be an ongoing project to rebuild and restore many of these palaces, which are usually single-story buildings with pagoda-shaped tile roofs. Many of them have been damaged over the centuries by various occupying forces, and the restoration must be very time-consuming because the entire underside of every roof is painted in brilliant-colored designs and patterns. It is an unimaginable amount of brushwork which must take a lot of time to complete. It would be like painting a wallpaper design on a three-dimensional ceiling. The forsythia, plum and cherries were in full bloom, and in a few places tulips were blossoming. It was usually in the 40s at night, 50s during the day. Ducks are considered to be good luck, and pairs of brightly-colored carved wooden ducks are given a wedding gifts or used as decorations. As part of the traditional proposal of marriage, the family of the groom gives a goose to the parents of the bride as a token of the promised fidelity of the husband-to-be. The Koreans have developed their own aesthetic in design and color which was a pleasure to see.

To get around we usually took taxis. Armed with a map, or with the assistance of the hotel doorman telling the cabby where we wanted to go, we did not have much trouble. Fares were usually about $3.00 or less for all of us. One morning we took a cab to a bus stop where for $.35 we rode out of the downtown area to a mountain hiking area that was previously one of the mountain fortresses. The hills are mostly composed of granite, and appear to be as old geologically as the White Mountains out east. We hiked for about 2 hours up some moderately tiring trails, past long granite slopes that had been worn smooth by glacial movement, weathering, or both, and periodically along a mountain stream that flowed in a gorge near the trail. On the bus we noticed many people dressed in hiking boots with day packs, and heavy woolen stockings pulled over their pants legs - exactly what I would expect to see in the Alps. It turns out that hiking in these mountains is a favorite pastime for many city-dwelling Koreans, as the park is so accessible. Trails were well maintained, and we saw a lot of hikers even though we went on a Friday. From a distance we saw a stone Buddhist shrine, and we walked under the eves of another pagoda set in the mountains about an hour's hike from the trailhead. We went near the top of one small mountain, but the trails keep on going up some very tall mountains that contain some very challenging climbs.

We left wishing we had more time to see other parts of the country, such as the southern farmlands, and especially the seacoast. There are many small islands offshore, and the tides are said to rise 25-30 feet between high and low tides.

I understand this is a beautiful spring in Michigan. Here, we are still experiencing a drought, but it is not as severe for us as it is in the Marshalls and other places in Micronesia. Soon the Flame trees will be in bloom, crowned by orange blossoms along the main streets.

Hope all is well with you. Regards to Liene and Alex. Kevin

PS: Thanks for forwarding Ed Rudolph's message.

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