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After Work: A Visit To Dr Duck

…You can tell a questionable area in South Florida by the usual signs. Razor wire is a tip off. Gang graffiti on walls is another warning. Roll down gates over storefront signals blight as surely as broken windows. However, in South Florida there are other markers. Bus stops posters extolling criminal defense attorneys give me pause. Signs on sidewalk benches advertising bail bondmen also make the think this area is one I shouldn’t linger in…

The intrepid Dona Gibbs found herself in a very dicey area when she went in search of Dr Duck and a tenor guitar.

For more of Dona’s well-strung prose please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/after_work/

“Yes, you can get a tenor guitar from Dr. Duck and I’ll restring it like a ukulele,” my bubbly instructor told me.

I had fallen in love with the big, sweet sound of her instrument.

“But you might want to have him ship it to you. His store is in a dicey area.”

I don’t mind dicey areas, I thought to myself. I’m a New York City girl and I think I can size up a situation quickly. If you hear footsteps behind you speed up, jump into the nearest store. Carry your car keys separately. Scream like a banshee if necessary. That sort of thing.

So I set off for Duck’s.

I was to look for him in the back of a pawnshop.

Ah, I mused. Dr. Duck got into the instrument business through a natural affinity for musicians, the struggling kind who sometimes had to pawn an instrument for cash. He’d be a cool, hip guy with story after story that he’d spin for me. I imagined Marvin Gaye dropping by. Eric Clapton dashing in for a set of strings. The Band jamming in his crowded but atmospheric store.

First I had to find the place. I know how to use Google maps but my printer isn’t connected to my laptop. So generally I just read through the instructions, make a few notes and grab the keys. And generally I get lost.

This trip was no exception.

Most areas in South Florida are laid out in a grid. No brainer, I thought. I had visited this small town before. It had seemed to be on the verge of a renaissance. Native Floridians shook their heads knowingly and told me it had never been much of town and would never amount to much even though the main street had sprouted two or three antique stores and an art gallery.

Hard times had clobbered it. Signs for house foreclosures told a sad story. Boarded up stores confirmed that this hardscrabble working class place had lost its hope.

I circled the area where I thought Dr. Duck held forth. I circled again and again. The address I sought didn’t seem to exist.

You know you’re in an area where you aren’t particularly welcome. Gazes followed me.
Nobody on the street looked friendly. I got hostile glares. A narrowing of the eyes. Or dropped jaw looks of curiosity.

It was a dicey area.

You can tell a questionable area in South Florida by the usual signs. Razor wire is a tip off. Gang graffiti on walls is another warning. Roll down gates over storefront signals blight as surely as broken windows. However, in South Florida there are other markers. Bus stops posters extolling criminal defense attorneys give me pause. Signs on sidewalk benches advertising bail bondmen also make the think this area is one I shouldn’t linger in.

I pulled into the parking lot of a pawnshop I thought might be Dr. Duck’s.

I tried the door. It was locked. I checked the Open sign and leaned against the bell. A buzzer sounded and I walked in.

I’d never been in a pawnshop before. There were all kinds of electronics, watches and tarnished jewelry. I spotted an airbrush machine.

The man behind the counter was amused.

No, he didn’t know anything about his competitor Dr. Duck who sold new musical instruments.

I stopped in a convenience store. It sold beer, laundry detergent and lottery tickets. The windows were barred and the woman at the counter wore a no-nonsense expression.

She thought I was at the wrong end of town.

I certainly was. I was beginning to doubt that there was any right end of town.

Off I went. After a desperate call to Dr. Duck, I was talked in for a landing.

This end of town looked no different from the other end. Walker Evans, the Depression photographer, would have found much to document in its seediness.

Hooray, I spotted his sign. I was elated. Now I would have my tenor guitar, soon-to-be big, sweet ukulele. And I would meet the famous Dr. Duck.

I was already relishing his stories.

He a graying, paunchy man with what remained of his hair pulled back into a ponytail.
He greeted me with a strong Brooklyn accent and shuffled over to a curtained back room.

“How did you get the name Dr. Duck?”

“A friend of mine thought it was funny,” he replied.

“How long have you been in Florida?” I tried again.

“Since 1975.”

“How did you get into this business?” I thought maybe he was start revealing how he was a former sideman and had always loved music.

“A friend lost his partner. The guy took off to Mexico. I bought out his share.”

“What did you do before?”

“I owned a hardware store.”

“In Brooklyn?”

“Yeah, in Brooklyn,” he replied snapping the guitar case closed.

“Can I help you out with it?”

“No, thank you, I can handle it. I don’t buy anything I can’t carry myself.”

“Then I guess you don’t own a refrigerator or any furniture.”

That’s when I though there was probably more to his story than he was letting on.

But I’ll never find out.


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