Writings in Progress    

1. Planet Chemo: Confessions of a Self-contained Man ( excerpt )

2. Song of the West ( excerpt )

3. Happy Valley

Planet Chemo excerpt:


I have cancer. I can't remember when I first uttered what would become a mantra of self-realization. It was an exercise in self-convincing. At a stop light: I have cancer. At dinner: I have cancer. While reading the paper: I have cancer. While shaving: I have cancer. IhavecancerIhavecancerIhavecancer. I was saying it to myself two hundred times a day. Then I would try believing it.

Being back on safe and familiar ground after the trip to Planet Chemo gave me time to settle into the reality of being a cancer survivor. The treatments had been worse than the symptoms, it was hard to identify the lymphoma since it had been, to me, nothing more than a nasty lump at the base of my neck and lab results from microscopic examinations of cells. But chemo rammed home the truth—cancer had become the defining feature of my life on Earth.

I'm going to die. Well of course I'm going to die; I'm not made out of titanium. It's one thing to contemplate my own death philosophically—and I have a degree in philosophy as evidence that I have—and a wholly different exercise to confront death as it's squirming inside me, vying for dominance of my every waking moment, seeking to end those very "waking moments." Cancer will try to kill its host, even though that means it will eventually die too. And "host" isn't a very good word because it's not an invader like malaria; it's my own stem cells gone haywire. I could ask, "Why is my own body trying to kill me?" but my energy is better spent on questions like, "How am I going to fight it?"

Life has become a meditation on when I'm going to die. And how I'm going to live. It's that last part that gets me up in the mornings.

Song of the West excerpt:

I finally reached the age where a rite of passage in western life took place. I was given a bolt-action, JC Higgins model .22 caliber rifle, magazine fed and complete with a 4 power scope. It was a major landmark in my ascent to manhood, and I was ecstatic. The rifle felt heavy, the blued steel reflecting a solidness to breach and barrel. This was serious business. Paper targets, concentric circles of black and white, were my first targets.

I read Dad's war manuals on how to shoot, the pocket-sized volumes complete with pictures in faded sepia tones, mostly of men with guns. One photo was of a strong, masculine hand squeezing a tube of toothpaste, illustrating how not to jerk or mash the tube, but rather confidently "squeeze." That is how you pulled the trigger on a weapon, squeeze, not jerk. One page contained a grainy photo of an Imperial Japanese soldier carrying a big bolt-action combat rifle tipped with a long bayonet, charging the camera. The caption read "Maybe his uniform doesn't fit as well as yours, his rifle may be obsolete, but he is as determined as you to kill his enemy. Don't underestimate him." I started at the picture and looked back with a determined scowl; I wouldn't take my enemies lightly, no sir. I would learn how to squeeze the trigger just so, keeping the barrel steady and not jerking it off target, whatever that target may be. I had just turned twelve.

The .22 didn't kick at all when fired, and the weight became a reassuring heft as I stalked the land. I was armed and able to affect the world around me in a newly profound way. I progressed from paper targets nailed to a fencepost to live animals.

Gophers were worth a nickel a piece bounty from Dad. I became an efficient shot, squeezing the trigger and always aiming for the head. It upset me to see the small brown furry rodents flopping around in the dirt so I tried to kill with one shot, making the end quick and easing any suffering, theirs or mine. There were huge complexes where gophers had built entire towns, real communities, and I would pick them off one by one. Timing was crucial. The gophers would stand up on their haunches taking turns to look for eagles, coyotes, danger of any kind, looking for any threat to the extended family burrowed below. A quick chirp, a warning flick of the tail, and they would scurry back below into their safe tunnels. But the lookouts could not beat a .22 Long Rifle slug. Occasionally I would find a blood trail leading down into a burrow, and sense the panic and fear hiding below me, the tiny heart pumping out the last of what little blood their small bodies held. I learned they had brains, bones, body heat. My nickels piled up as Dad's pride grew. His son was learning the song.

(photo courtesy: yourskinandsun[DOT]com/freepub.html)

Current News

February 2024
Jeff recently sold one of his favorite violas to a deserving young player in the Corvallis area. He has completed this year's viola entry for the annual Thomas Metzler contemporary American violin and bow maker exhibition and sale in Glendale, California in March.
He will also be placing one of his Sanctus Seraphin model violins in The Denver Violin Shop, near where he studied viola performance in the late 1970s, at the University of Northern Colorado. He currently has a 16.5" viola of his own design available. This instrument is bold in model and sound, with a delightful range of tonal colors.
He is also pursuing his studies of the Arabic oud, an ancient, 11 stringed instrument which predates the lute and guitar. Fretless like the violin family of instruments, it is plucked like a guitar. It has a unique sound more familiar to the Middle East and has cultural expressions from Iran to Greece, Armenia, Turkey, north Africa and beyond. Jeff seeks to find his own voice with this challenging instrument.
January 2023
Jeff has recently sold a viola he made in 1992 that had returned to his shop. He finished a 16.5” viola of his own design and will complete a violin based on his 1747 Sanctus Seraphin pattern soon. Both the 16.5” viola and violin will be entered in the 6th annual instrument exhibition and sale at the Tom Metzler violin shop in Los Angeles, California, in late March. The exact date and link the exhibit will follow soon.
August 2021
Jeff is currently working on a 16 1/4" viola based on an Andrea Guarneri (1623-1698) pattern. Jeff is using northwest woods aged over 25 years in this instrument.
April 2021
Jeff has recently completed his cancer treatments and is back in remission once again. Over the winter he completed a 17″ Maggini model viola and is currently finishing a 15 1/2″ Studio Model viola of his own design. Jeff is working with a woodcutter in Slovakia to obtain large, one-piece viola backs with dramatic figure and character for future works. He will also be visiting a regional woodcutter this summer to hand select interesting woods.
July 2020
Jeff's book Steel Beach is now available as a Kindle e-book at Amazon's Kindle Store.
Steel Beach e-book
June 2020
Jeff was recently diagnosed with a lymphoma relapse and is undergoing chemothereapy treatments to get it under control. Details will be forthcoming on his Living with Cancer page. He has completed the Betts model violin and will finish the Seraphin model violin soon. He will be taking temporary leave of his workbench until he's past chemotherapy and able to concentrate and do the quality of work he expects of himself.
March 2020
Jeff recently completed a 16 1/8" viola, which is entered in the Metzler Violin Shop's Fourth Annual Contemporary American Makers Exhibition, in Glendale, California. Photos of this viola can be seen in the instrument picture gallery. Jeff is also finishing up a Studio Model violin patterned after the Betts Stradivari of 1704, and will have a violin on his popular Sanctus Seraphin model ready this summer.
September 2018
The Oregon Folklife Network invited Jeff to join a discussion panel on musical traditions being practiced in the area. It will be held at Troubadour Music in Corvallis on Friday September 7th at 7:30 pm.
August 2018
Jeff was recently commissioned to write a short piece for the nationally distributed Vietnam Veterans of America magazine. It will appear on the Parting Shot page in the upcoming issue.
April 2018
Northwest Musical Instrument Exhibit: Saturday and Sunday, April 28th & 29th, 2018 Marylhurst University, Lake Oswego, Oregon.
Feburary 2018
Jeff will be entering his latest viola in the Thomas Metzler Violin Shop's contemporary instrument exhibition and sale taking place in Los Angeles, March 23-26. Violas will be played by a member of the L.A. Philharmonic at 4 p.m. on March 25th
July 2017
The 17" Maggini modeled viola is sold and Jeff recently finished a 15" viola of his own design and it is now available. He also has his Sanctus Seraphin patterned violin from 2006 back in his shop. This violin was exhibited in the Library of Congress that year as part of the American Federation's participation in "The American violin, from Jefferson to jazz" event.
September 2016
Jeff recently sold a violin based on a 1704 Stradivari as well as a 15 7/8" viola of his own design. He has started two new violas, one on the popular 15 7/8" pattern and one on his 16 1/8" pattern. He expects them to be completed by spring.
April 2016
Northwest Musical Instrument Exhibit: Saturday and Sunday, April 30th & May 1st, 2016 Marylhurst University,
near Portland, Oregon. Map
March 2016
Jeff just completed a 17" viola based on a Maggini pattern from the late 1500's.
Inquire for price and availability.
April 2015
Instrument Show Northwest Musical Instrument Exhibit: Saturday and Sunday, April 25th & 26th, 2015 Marylhurst University, near Portland, Oregon.
January 2015
Jeff was interviewed by the University of Oregon's school of jounalism for their series Northwest Stories: Violin Maker Jeff Manthos Violin Video link
Jeff is completing a 16 1/2" Da Salo model viola which will be available soon. His next instrument is a 15 3/4" viola on his own pattern, which will be ready by late spring.

Contact information

Street: 2635 SW Fairmont Drive
City/State: Corvallis, OR 97333
Phone: 541-754-7645
E-mail: jeff@jeffleemanthos.com