The day after Bo Diddley died, I watched a carpenter stretch a line the length of a board & give it a pluck: a diddley bow with no resonator, dry chalk instead of a bottleneck slider’s glissando note. I’d been expecting blue, but this line was red. The saw followed shortly with its howling eraser.
I had an argument with the carpenter about new tools versus old. Why does something that works ever have to be replaced? Why red? Why plastic for the housing? Why the constant upgrading to new drills & saws? The carpenter showed me his hands: they were cruelly crippled. I can only use what fits my grip, he said.
That sudden, electric blue from my father’s chalk line was one of my favorite things. Inside the chrome-plated reel I pictured a Galilee of chalk where the string went to renew its glowing shadow, like a blueprint line translated from the plane of the ideal: fuzzy, but straight as a fault.
Links for the culturally deprived: Bo Diddley; diddley bow.