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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The last Record Store

Like "Fort Apache The Bronx" the settlers have their wagons in a circle. We can see the dust rising on the horizon and what's coming ain't Injuns. It is the corporate bean counters getting ready to ax the last record store here in the super fertile retail land that is routes 4 & 17 in Bergen County, NJ

Most of my adult life I have worked in the music industry, starting as a part time employee on the selling floor and advancing through the ranks to management and supervision., ending with the job of "Buyer" when the bottom finally fell out.

The recession/depression mangled ALL of retail, but the music industry was particularly hard hit. Not only were sales cut into by the growing and soon to be huge Amazon, but what had started as a file sharing site by some college kids had then gone "viral" and just about anything one wanted could be downloaded illegally. As each dollar spent by a consumer for entertainment got cut up more and more the writing was on the wall became clear as crystal. Not in plain white chalk either, but in big, bold strokes of gore. Yes, the high and mighty executives at Sony had now become hooded Voodoo priests and were sacrificing  whatever they could find to appease the lustful and vengeful Gods who no doubt had it in for them. Paranoia was rampant and dogs started to mysteriously disappear off the streets of Manhattan.

During it's heyday in the retail rich region of the "miracle mile" there were no less than 11 or 12 full blown record stores and record departments. The competition was fierce, the selection, immense. The industry, for the last time, had pulled the retail wool over the unsuspecting public's collective eyes.  They held the poor, work-a-day-world schnook in high contempt when they convinced him, one last time, to buy his entire music collection all over again in the new CD format. This was the last great frontier in pre-recorded music...we promise you will never need anything else...what a crock.

I lost my gig in the fall of 2003 and scrambled for one of the few remaining openings that still existed in the music business. The only problem was that the line ahead of me stretched from New York City to the environs of Albany. Within that line, along with all the "soldiers" of the industry resided more than enough CEO's, VP's and Grand Poobah's to fill a dozen board rooms. Somewhere in the distance, a single church bell tolled.

My life from 2003 through to the present is like a sojourn through the annals of the Iliad & Odyssey complete with Sirens, Cyclops monsters, and Giants. All the while I kept running into casualties of the industry. "Hey, man, How's it going!?"  I'd shout enthusiastically as I spied and old colleague. The answer was always the same...broke, out of work, on the dole, selling aluminum siding, the whole bit. Fucking depressing. It got so I avoided these guys when I saw them coming. It was a dance of the dead and my card was already full, thank you.

...and then, I finally landed here.

Here, the last record department/store left. Back to exactly where I started....on the floor as a part timer. This lovely industry had sure as hell given me a ride, my money's worth some might say...from minimum up to six figures and back to minimum...and it only took 30 years. The big wigs had partied and pissed the money and the industry away and had taken the last cattle car to the coast, some to write their best selling memoirs, leaving me and those like me to pick up the pieces of this smoldering shit pile, put on a brave face and sink slowly with the ship.

Now, once again, the rumor mill is in overdrive. This department will be phased out. It will be replaced with educational toys, you have, tops, 2 years left.  What's left for me after the last record store sinks?


The cloud on the horizon is closing in. I can now just barely make out swirling "Dust Devil's", thousand of 'em approaching, stumbling along like drunken sailors on shore leave. "Shit, We're in for it now" I think as I watch with bated breath.  Tons of dust and tumbleweeds will be dumped upon us, then smoothed over by the incessant one will ever know that we even existed.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Brown Eyed Women

She came sailing out of left field, like the perfect throw from an outfielder to catch a runner at home plate...yes, a perfect throw. I cannot really remember anyone quite like her, before or since, if you want to know the truth. She was always so warm, her hands soft and soothing, her brown eyes inviting and loving.

When was the first time I held her close? It wasn't too damn long after I had met her. She was the epitome of the beauty found in the central plains, and if I travel to the ends of the earth I shall never find another like her. Less then a year, I believe, was the amount of time I was lucky enough to love her, but that was time enough to burn a lifetime of longing into my heart......

 My friend had fixed us up as he was dating her room mate. I don't believe it was meant to be any big deal, hell, it was just a college town and guys and girls got together all the time. Nonetheless, I took my time getting ready as I was hoping for the best and anticipating the worst...I had been burned before by blind dates.

Music, a most important part of my persona, was flailing out of the speakers as I got dressed. I must confess, many times I received inspiration from album covers. The covers that have good looking long haired rockers posing in a relaxed, laid back manner. Mannerisms, dress, attitude...all those things I took from the covers...they were the Sears and Roebuck catalogs of my life.

I sat in the bar with my friend waiting for the girls, nervously fingering my glass of beer and smoking a cigarette. I had never met either before so when they approached I was not sure who was who. My friend went to his girl and gave her a peck on the cheek...that left you know who.

She sat down across from me. I could not take my eyes off her hair or her beautiful brown eyes. A very important girl in my life once told me to always love women with deep brown eyes. This thought jumped to front of my temporal lobe and I felt like a newly minted lobotomy patient. In a word I was dumb founded. 

Through the fog I heard conversation, it sounded like Mandarin Chinese. I reached in deep and pulled myself back to the surface. Something was being discussed about football or basketball or school or some such bullshit...someone asked me a question...was it her? Was she speaking to me? I mustered up my energy and coughed , I think. What a dope! I was blowing it! Wake up, stupid!

She didn't seem to mind, she seemed to like me anyway despite the spittle flowing out the side of my mouth and the glazed over eyes of a serial rapist. My God, what a beauty. I looked down at the table and was amazed at how delicate, how beautiful, how unpretentious her hands were. I mean, girls at that age oft times don't know when to stop applying stuff and have all manner of adornment on their hands. Her's were unassuming, plain yet exquisite. 

We all stood to leave, I helped her on with her coat. I looked down and I saw "it". Her jeans encased it like it was the rarest of gems. Smooth, pert, round, taut...I had to have her, to make her mine forever, to somehow convince her that her future lay with a long haired drifter.

I fooled her for about a year, but then she took hold of her senses and went back to what she was supposed to be doing with her life, hurt but never angry, I slowly got over her. What is the saying? Forgive but never forget? Twas Ever Thus.