Abunai, the Dog

I launched the Abunai 2 as the first overdrive pedal among a line of products Tone Freak now offers.  To many, abunai simply means “dangerous” in Japanese.  Seems a fitting name for an overdrive pedal.  Some who have followed Tone Freak throughout the years, knows the true origin of the name Abunai 2.  Abunai was a dear friend and companion.

Abunai’s comes from a line of pure bread Akitas.  Standing on his hind legs, he could look me directly in the eye.  He weighed a powerful 110 pounds and had fur as soft as a rabbits pelt.  When he shed his winter coat, I could pick off big patches of fur… it was all over the place.  A quiet dog most of the time, but he certainly made it known when he sensed an intruder with a thunderous bark that could shake your bones.

Abunai considered himself the guardian of the family.  Gentle to everyone, but not to potential threats.  There was a time in the park when someone let loose their Doberman Pincher off leash.  The Doberman caught sight of Abunai and started aggressively charging with fangs showing.  Abunai did nothing until the last moment when the Doberman came upon him.  Abunai grabbed the Doberman by its throat and took it to the ground.  Abunai could have easily killed that Doberman, but he only held it down until they were separated.  The sense of family ran deep within him and his loyalty came second to none.

When I first started Tone Freak, I mostly modded pedals to the current Abunai 2 specifications.  I setup a table in the garage and would wake-up at 4 am in the morning to get some work done before my day job.  Abunai greeted me with puppy like enthusiasm.  Abunai found a favorite spot under the table, which happened to be nestled right on my feet.  I would scratch his back with my toes, which made his leg twitch.  Every morning without fail, he and I worked on Tone Freak stuff.

Anyone who had big breed dogs know that they usually have a shorter life span than smaller breeds.  This rang especially true for Abunai, who was not expected to live past 7 years, following heart surgery.  His vet called him the “miracle dog” because as the years went past 7, it was evident that Abunai would prove him wrong.  However, Abunai’s heart didn’t give him troubles, it was his hips.  He developed severe hip dysplasia and in his twilight years, found it increasingly difficult to get up.  It reached the point where he could not get up at all.  At 13 years of age, surgery was not an option.

I sat with Abunai at the Vet’s office during his last moments.  I know some people find it too difficult to watch their pets get euthanized, but I wanted to be there for him like he was with me every morning in the garage.  Abunai let out one last gentle breath and just like that… he was gone.  With that breath he took with him a big chunk of my heart.  The sorrow I felt reached deep into the depths of my soul and I cried uncontrollably.  After a while, I knew I had to go or I would never leave his side. I gave one final gigantic, humongous hug, told him “I love you” one final time, and then… I let go. I guess I was there for more than an hour… I didn’t want to leave my friend.

The next morning, I got up at 4 am to start Tone Freak work. The garage felt empty and I caught myself reaching for Abunai with my toes.  My partner wasn’t there.  I had been working on creating my standard mods into the PCB.  I hadn’t named the pedal yet and in an instant the name became obvious.  Abunai.

All of a sudden, my sorrow turned into excitement.  I will get Abunai’s name out there for all see! And the nature of this overdrive fit well with Abunai’s Akita heritage.  In fact the original name for the controls were “Bark” (volume), “Bite” (tone) and “Growl” (gain).  I decided against those names because they didn’t properly describe Abunai’s true character.  He was gentle, kind, loyal, loving, dependable, and protector.  Couldn’t ask for a better friend.

I put a lot into each of my pedals, but the Abunai 2 has a deeper and more personal connection to me.  I successfully got Abunai’s name all over the world and that makes my heart smile.  Every time I bring out the Abunai 2 enclosure, I can’t help, but grin… every time.  Truth be told, the real Abunai could care less… he just wants a back scratch with my toes.



Video Games... Well, Sorta

These two handheld electronic games belonged to a dear friend of my wife and mine, who passed away a few years ago.  When I first glanced at these, my mind immediately transported back in time to a place where my brother and I used to love visiting… Toys R Us. Back in the day, Xbox, PlayStation, and Wii systems didn’t exist.  There were no handheld video games because technology wasn’t there yet.  We only had these Mattel electronic gems.

My brother and I did a pretty good job hounding our mother about getting that game and we finally wore her down to the point she agreed to buy it for us.  Kids at school had one, so, of course, we wanted to have one as well.

As soon as my mom parked the car in the Toys R Us lot, my brother and I bolted out and sprinted to the store entrance.  We could hear her yelling behind us to watch out for cars.  Of course, we weren’t… eye on the prize, not on cars.  Once we got into the store, there always comes a moment of frenzied confusion trying to locate the target.  Toys R Us was this huge warehouse of toys back in the 70’s and 80’s, but today, these stores are a shell of their former self.  Imagine two kids, boiling over with excitement, hopped up on sugar, and trying to locate a hand held game in an area the size of a Costco.

After a couple wrong turns down the G.I. Joe and Light Bright aisles, we finally found them on a display table and it was a sight to behold.  The grins on both our faces was as wide as a can of Lincoln Logs.  We grabbed the game and headed straight to the checkout line.  We stood there giddy in anticipation of the fun that would commence once we got home.  We were so restless that anyone looking on would swear we had to go to the bathroom.  The drive back to the house was only 15 minutes, but it felt like 15 hours.


We just about busted down the front door of the house and raced to get a 9V battery.  Then, the moment of truth... switching the unit on.  Not much to see, but to my brother and me, it was the best thing to come along since Pong.  We spend hours upon hours playing that simple game, until we could no longer move our thumbs. Even then we figured out a way to use our fingers, so we could continue playing.  Ever hear of Nintendo Thumb? Well we had Mattel Thumb.

Now as I gaze upon these classic games, I think about simpler times and the beginnings of electronic games dominating kids’ lives.  We’ve substituted riding our BMX bikes and skateboards for playing video games pretending to ride BMX bikes and skateboards.  As much as I fondly remember these electronic beauties from Mattel, my fondest memories come from the experiences playing in fields, racing on a BMX dirt track my friends and I created, and coming down a skateboard ramp doing my first 180.


I'm Tired, Willie

I'm Tired, Willie

I’m tired.  You see, my dog, Willie, has really long hair during the winter to keep him warm.  However, this means he has long hair all over, even around his rear end.  The problem comes into play when he has a particularly sticky bowel movement, which then binds to the hair around his butt.  So, this morning about 5 am, Willie comes in through his doggy door and starts to lick himself. I get a scent of what he’s was trying to clean-up and fly out of bed thinking that he’s about to take a poop in the house. To be honest, I wish it was that because it would have been a much easier to clean.

So instead of waking-up to the sight of my dog squatting, I catch the sight of him trying to lick himself clean… much worse.  I walk him over to the bathroom and attempt scrape off the poop from his hair, but the baby wipes were not getting the job done.  I must have used half the container before realizing I needed to give Willie a bath... at 5 am in the morning.

I get the water running nice and warm. I could tell Willie wasn’t exactly excited either because his tail was buried up his ass. I lathered him up and proceed to wash.  I won’t get into the gross details, but I ended up cutting away the poop infested hair. There really was no avoiding it because his hair got tangled tightly around his crap from me scrubbing with the baby wipes.  Good thing I had child safety scissors.

In the end, my dog got clean and his ass hairs trimmed… and I’m still tired.