The Ebb and Flow of Record Collecting

gtr battle 1

 

I bought my first record in 1979. Kiss Alive 2 was a double album and included a sheet of fake tattoos, a bunch of stickers and a Kiss Army enrollment form.

Don’t judge.

Sure Kiss sucks, I know that now, but to a 10 year old rock fan, this was a big deal.

Albums by Pink Floyd, George Thorogood, AC/DC and the Kinks soon followed.

But I cut my musical teeth on my parents record collection.

They had a lot of records.

My parents were in their 20’s in the 1960’s and the bulk of those albums reflects that era.

Beatles, Stones, Beach Boys, Doors.

Tommy.

Simon and Garfunkel.

Motown.

My mom’s taste ran all the way from the Dave Clark Five to Anne Murray to the Carpenters.

Besides lite pop, she also loved musicals, classical music and opera.

There was a lot of Leonard Bernstein records on Mom’s shelf.

My dad’s shelf was much hipper:  Frank Zappa, Yes, Emerson Lake and Palmer, Genesis and Pink Floyd.

Ten Years After, Grand Funk Railroad, Eric Burden and War, The Allman Brothers, Guess Who and CCR.

Then one fine day he took advantage of the Columbia House 10 records for a penny deal. Kansas, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Al Stewart’s “Year of the Cat”. Fleetwood Mac, the Star Wars Soundtrack.

He let me pick a couple and I went with cool artwork:

“Red Octopus” by Jefferson Starship. “Lark’s Tongue in Aspic” by King Crimson. Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid”. I wish I could remember the rest, but it was a long time ago.

I absorbed all of this music growing up and eventually absorbed more than a few of those records into my collection as well.

But for every record absorbed, one would disappear.

This is The First Law of the Ebb and Flow of Record Collecting.

(Which applies to all tangible formats of recorded music, but I’m of a certain age so I still get to say ‘record’)

For every record that I’ve liberated from a school chum’s older brother or a public library with no sense of loss prevention, one of my own got left behind at a party or somehow ended up in one of my sister’s ex-boyfriends’ collections.

And in turn, my sister’s record collection would assimilate some of her ex-boyfriends’ records which would find their way into my collection and so on and so on.

Also common is the leaving of cassettes and CDs in other people’s cars.

You and your friends love music and your buddies pick you up one Saturday night and in the pocket of your Members Only jacket is a cassette tape of  the Beastie Boys or Iron Maiden. It sounds so good blasting from that 1976 Camaro’s sound system, and you get all fucked up and forget the tape when they drop you off at home, but you don’t even bother to ask for it back because you know that in your car are his cassette tapes of Thin Lizzy,  The Cult and the Clash.

My friend Teddy Thomas scored 65 good CDs for 12 bucks from a junkie at a flea market and the next weekend, somebody broke his car window and stole a case full of 45 CDs off of his back seat. (Probably that same junkie.)

An extreme example, but a perfect illustration of The Law.

Recently I was forced to invoke the Law of The Ebb and Flow of Record Collecting to an uneducated, so-called collector of fine music. The recording in question was a semi-pretentious jazz rock jam band affair. I acquired said CD thusly…

My man Manny is a serious, obsessive music junkie. He’s got it all on vinyl, 8track, reel to reel and CD. Cassette tapes of every Grateful Dead and Phish show ever recorded and a bunch of shit you and I have never heard of and probably wouldn’t care to.

Manny’s collection has at least a dozen of my CDs and vinyl in it and vice versa.

We don’t talk about it.

Don’t have to.

Manny is thoroughly aware of the ebb and flow.

One day I went to visit Manny and he was rockin’ the CD in question. I dug it the most and Manny told me to take it home

(this is also a common method of assimilation. “You like that? Cool. Go ahead, take it home, give it back to me whenever.”)

So I did and it became a fixture in my stereo.

The thing is, it was acquired by Manny from the amateur and now the amateur wanted it back.

The amateur, who did not understand the Law.

Manny mentioned this to me.

I invoked The Law.

Manny agreed.

Ignorance of the law is no excuse.

On another occasion, the amateur and Manny were talking on the phone when I arrived at Manny’s. The amateur was aware of the fact that I possessed the CD and he demanded to speak to me. Manny took a perverse joy in being the middle man. Finally he just laughed and handed me the phone.

The amateur asked for his CD back.

I declined and explained that it was really Manny he should be demanding the CD from, not me.

He didn’t understand this either and just kept demanding his CD back.

I explained The Law.

The amateur rejected The Law outright.

I tried to use examples and metaphors to illustrate The Law.

The amateur became angry.

I told him that he too was a part of the circle and a beneficiary of The Law even if he didn’t realize or sanction it.

The amateur questioned my integrity, manhood and sanity and threatened violence.

I have seen the amateur in person and I was not at all moved by his threat.

I told the amateur that as soon as he returned all of the pilfered and ill gotten music in his collection to its rightful owners, then so would I, and hung up.

I haven’t seen or heard from the amateur since. I heard he moved to L.A.

L.A.????

Pffft… amateur.

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A Fowl Enterprise

 

quickhux

 

You want to know what’s truly disgusting?

Working on a chicken farm.

When I was fourteen years old, a couple of my friends told me about this cool job where they made five bucks an hour to catch chickens. Minimum wage was around three dollars or so, and this job was cash under the table.

The boss didn’t care if they smoked cigarettes or chewed tobacco. One of the older kids always brought a pint of whiskey, they said. They needed a few more people and I jumped at the chance.

We met in the parking lot of the local lumber yard. The farmer picked us up in an old flatbed truck and drove us about five miles outside of town to the chicken farm. Along the way, Arnie Blume, the kid with the whiskey, told me what to do.

“Chickens can’t see at night, so we wait until dusk and turn off the lights and they cant see us coming. What you gotta do is pick them up by one leg and put that leg between your first two fingers. Then get another one and put it between the next two fingers. And then another and then one between your thumb and forefinger so you have four chickens in your right hand. Then you grab as many as you can with the left hand. You could probably only get one, maybe two. Me and Timmy Rizzo can get four in each hand.”

And you gotta do it without gloves. You’ll never get more than two or three with gloves on. Only pussies wear gloves.”

I suddenly felt self-conscious about the pair of leather gloves in my back pocket.

 

Arnie leaned forward and spit tobacco juice off the side of the truck and it sailed into the air like brown mercury. He wiped his mouth on his sleeve, “Then you take the chickens and hand them to the guy on the truck and he puts ‘em in cages. Then you go back for more. Over and over and over. It’s dirty work and sometimes those little fuckers’ll draw blood. but we have fun. A lot of times you find a crippled chicken or a really dumb one and we fuck them up. Swing them around by the feet and make ‘em dizzy. I like to smash their heads into the ceiling beams.”

He laughed and pulled out a small bottle and took a shot.

“Here you go, it’s our tradition. Drink up.”

I took the bottle and examined it.

Wild Turkey.

I never drank whiskey before. I took a long sip and liked it more than I thought I would. It burned a little bit, but that didn’t really bother me. I wanted to take another shot but Arnie took the bottle from me and drank again and then passed it to Timmy who passed it to another older kid I didn’t know.

The tough guy shit talk went back and forth and the Wild Turkey went around until it was empty and Arnie threw the bottle at a road sign. It smashed into a billion pieces. I tuned out the chatter and just enjoyed the hot feeling in my stomach and the cool air on my face.

Any idyllic notions of freedom and fresh air were quickly dashed at the first whiff of the chicken coops.

I don’t think I could accurately describe the stench. Growing up in a farm town, there are a lot of funky smells. Ripe corn on a hot day smells like old piss. Wheat smells dusty. Chemical fertilizers are acrid, acidic.

To me the smell of cow manure means spring time and conjures a simple, earthy thing. Yes, it stinks, but it’s not offensive.

I have been to huge music festivals and used the filthiest porta-johns. I have sifted through the rancid contents of a putrid dumpster searching for a lost key. I have been puked on, in the face by a naked drunk girl, more than once. Those things were disgusting and offensive. But chicken farming? There aren’t strong enough adjectives in the English language that can accurately describe the smell of a chicken coop. repugnant, repulsive, they don’t get close. It’s a total sensory experience. You can almost see and hear and feel the stench. It gets in your skin.

This was indeed the foulest of enterprises.

I tentatively walked into the coop and was immediately overwhelmed by the smell. I gagged. I pulled my t-shirt over my nose and the older kids laughed at me. The chickens were freaked out by our presence and all ran into one corner, piling up on top of each other. Arnie started yelling “Hurry up and spread ‘em out! Don’t let ‘em kill each other!”

When frightened, the chickens get so wigged out that they just go crazy and stomp and peck each other to death in a big pile. Dead chickens are useless, they need to be alive so they can kill them properly at the slaughterhouse.

Arnie and Timmy waded into the sea of white feathers and started tossing chickens to the center of the coop where we were to catch them. The first one I grabbed was easy. He had been dazed from the rough treatment and I scooped him up. My confidence was up and I went for another one. I grabbed his little foot and he wheeled around and shanked me with his beak. I yanked him up quickly and felt his leg break in my hand. He went limp and I felt like I was going to throw up. I took my first two victims to the truck where a guy snatched them from me and shoved them roughly into a wooden cage.

It was exactly as Arnie described it, he and Timmy got six or eight chickens at a time and I got two or three. There was no way I was taking the gloves off. I was called a pussy more than once, but Arnie and Timmy both died of various diseases in their early 30’s and sometimes I think that maybe it was caused by the infected beaks and claws of those stupid birds.

I considered quitting and walking home more than once, but stuck it out and went home with thirty bucks and a nose full of tiny chicken feathers. I did it again the next week, but only out of peer pressure. I drank an extra big shot of Arnie’s Wild Turkey but it didn’t help. I ended up stepping on a retarded chicken and falling on my ass in chicken shit. It was wet and nasty and I had to stand up in the truck on the ride home and a bug hit me in the eye.

I never went back.

Not In The Neck!!!

 

 

Image128One day I went over to Jimmy’s house to cop some weed.

Jimmy had recently become a needle junkie. He had previously been a snorting junkie. Before that he just snorted bumps on the weekends. But through it all he was my weed connection.

“You can only be a junkie if you shoot up,” he once told me. I kind of believed him at the time. He made heroin sound like some kind of new toy. He sounded like one of those new mothers that acts like nobody else ever gave birth before.

I guess it was because I grew up in the sticks, but heroin always seemed so exotic to me. I understood booze and weed and to a lesser extent, cocaine, but in a small farming town in the late 1970’s and 80’s, heroin wasn’t even on the map.

My naive vision of heroin users and dealers was like some kind of Hollywood-rock n roll-jet set-James Bond world of fake passports and international intrigue. Where well-dressed gentleman dealers with leather briefcases and European accents pull off  huge and risky business transactions in swank hotel rooms.

In my fantasy world, there were no nickel and dime street deals or festering sores on the backs of hands.

That was all shattered by my first trip into… the “BADLANDS”.

The Badlands was a neighborhood in Philadelphia notorious for drug dealing, murder and other anti-social mayhem. The first and only time I drove Jimmy there, I felt like I had left Earth and landed in the middle of some abandoned third world moon village. Jimmy pointed out dubious landmarks as we crept down the street.

“That’s the alley where I got hit across the back with a 2×4.”

And, “Never go to that corner. I got beat there like a hundred times.”

The place looked like an earthquake hit and nobody ever bothered to clean up. Boarded up and fire gutted duplexes on every block.

Old brick houses that just collapsed from a lack of basic maintenance.

Buildings un-boarded up and turned into shooting galleries and crack houses and condos for the homeless.

Piles of rubble and trash or rusted out cars in every empty lot.

We passed a burned out church. It looked like World War 2 Europe.

“Pull over here. Keep the engine running, I’ll be right back.”  He took a few steps and then turned back and stuck his head in the window, “I think this is the place where Frankie O’Leary got stabbed by a little kid. So… keep your head up.” He disappeared down a grungy alley while I kept a sharp eye out for cops, thugs and 8 year old killers.

There weren’t many people on the street but the ones out there looked like tough customers.

According to the clock on my car stereo, it was only about 3 minutes but it seemed like an hour when Jimmy came shuffling back to the car.

He wasn’t in the car for a full minute when he started preparing to shoot up. He grabbed an empty soda bottle from the floor and removed the cap. “You got any water?” he asked me.

I didn’t.

Then he spit into the bottle cap and emptied half a bag of powder into it. “Got anything to stir with?”

“I don’t know, look around.”

He rummaged around in my glove compartment and found an old toothpick.

“Not sure how clean that is.”

He ignored me and stirred up his nasty little concoction as I tried to concentrate on getting out of the city alive.

“Aren’t you supposed to cook that up and remove the impurities and shit?” I knew this from reading many rock star biographies.

He continued to ignore me and focused on his mission. Halfway across the BenFranklinBridge I looked over again as he was trying to suck up a mess of spit and heroin and millions of germs into a hypodermic. When the car tires reached dry land he was sliding the needle into his leg.

By the time we got back to his apartment, he had an angry red sore where the needle went in and he was complaining about the lack of a quality high. As soon as we got in the door, Jimmy grabbed a spoon and a glass of water and sat down at the kitchen table.

I just wanted to collect my gas money and get out of there.

“Hey Jimmy, you got that ten spot for gas?”

“Awwww, sorry man. I forgot. I spent all my cash on dope. Sorry bro.”  He flicked a Bic lighter and held it under the spoon.

“What the fuck, Jimmy?! I’m riding on fumes, dude! I drove through that hellhole war zone for you and risked my life for ten fucking dollars and you can’t give that to me? You can’t give me ten fucking dollars, Jimmy?!”

“Dude, I’m sorry.. wait… what? oh, sorry dude, I totally forgot. I spaced.” He sucked the properly purified solution into the hypo.

He finally looked up from the spoon.

“I’ll give you a bag…”

I really didn’t want a bag of heroin. I didn’t use heroin and a bag of heroin won’t fuel my ride.

Jimmy ran a finger over the big veins in his neck. He stopped at a certain point and pressed and tapped at it.

“Take a bag”, he gestured with the hypodermic toward the small pile of light blue paper bags. “Sorry.”

And with that he popped the needle into his neck. I looked away, but like any horrifying freak show, I quickly looked back. He pressed the plunger, slid it out and then held a dirty bandanna to the bloody little spot. He looked at me as his eyes unfocused and he nodded off to la la land.

With a clumsy sleight of hand, I took 2 bags from the table and stuck them down in my sock. I grabbed a random handful of his records and split. (Traffic, Yes, Kansas, Jethro Tull)

A few weeks later Jimmy called. He was sick and needed a ride. I told him no ride, but I knew where he could get a couple of bags if he was willing to pay double. He was annoyed and insulted and said “fuck that” and hung up. Twenty minutes later he was at my door with 32 bucks.  I gave him a hard time about the 8 dollar difference but finally let him slide.

I told him he couldn’t shoot up in my house but he quickly poured a little pile of powder in his hand and sorted it up his nose. I hustled him out the door and he just sat on my porch and started the emergency junkie routine.

I was fucking pissed.

I live in a respectable neighborhood, I wasn’t having any of this.

“Jimmy what the fuck?!?!?”

I grabbed wildly at his stuff. He protected the dope and I came away with the syringe. It didn’t stick me but it didn’t matter. I was enraged. I threw the syringe at Jimmy’s chest. He used both hands to evade or catch it and I punched him hard on the chin. He crumpled like the under fed 120 pound junkie that he was.

I threw all of his shit in the trash except for the unopened bag, which I stuck in my pocket. Then I threw him over my shoulder and carried him to my car. I drove him 2 blocks to a bus stop and left him there.

Phrenology

 

space legs

Phrenology

Danny and Tal were throwing darts at the bar.

Actually, they were throwing them at a dart board which hung on a wall inside the bar.

Tal drained his beer as Danny pulled their darts from the pig hair target.  He separated them by color and handed the red ones to Tal.

“I have to break up with Josie. I can’t take it anymore.”

“Is it the night terrors or the fact that she never does any housework?”

“I don’t know. That stuff doesn’t really bother me anymore.”

“Is she cheating on you?”

“Not to my knowledge.”

“But dude, she’s smoking hot and you always say that the sex is amazing.”

“Both are totally true, and she treats me like a god, but…”

He threw a dart good for 30 points.

“She has asymmetrical nostrils.”

“What are you talking about?”

“The holes in her nose are not the same size and shape.”

“I know what you said. I don’t understand why that’s a concern.”

“It’s just unsettling. And I think it means something. Like she’s dishonest or she has some kind of horrible personality disorder. ”

“You’re just noticing this now?”

Danny’s dart missed the mark.

“Yeah. last night she was climbing on top of me and i looked up at her and saw her face in a way i never had before. her chin looked super weird and her nostrils are asymmetrical.”

“Ok, but i still don’t get what the big deal is.”

“I feel like it’s a sign or a symptom of something larger. Something I don’t know if I want to be a part of.”

Tal’s dart just missed the bulls-eye.

“She’s blind as a bat, can’t see shit without her glasses. Asymmetrical body parts, inferior genetics, and she has a lumpy skull. Now that ain’t right!”

“Are you talking about phrenology? Because it’s long been proven that the size and shape of one’s head and facial features is not a legitimate means of assessing character.”

“I don’t know. I think maybe phrenology was an early victim of political correctness. Doesn’t it stand to reason that a damaged or deformed skull would house a damaged or deformed brain?

And how come I can look at a person and get an immediate vibe?”

“Because you’re shallow and weird?”

“No. And it’s not just a vibe, it’s a very tangible thing. Beady eyes, heavy brow,  shifty mannerisms. Hell, probly hormonal too. Or pheremonal or whatever. Creeps give off creep scent. You KNOW when someone ain’t right.”

“But Josie doesn’t have beady eyes and a heavy brow. And the lumpy head thing is a myth.”

Danny’s dart hit for 10.

“I don’t think so, man. It’s quite possible, probable even, that phrenology is an accurate science, killed off by the early p.c. police. When a guy is on trial for robbery or rape or murder, there should be testimony from a State appointed Phrenologist and the jury should  have a big old picture of him posted on the wall of the jury room. They should consider the defendant’s looks and general vibe just as much as the evidence.”

“That doesn’t seem fair. What if it was you on trial?”

“Doesn’t bother me a bit. I look like a nice, normal, decent person. My features follow the rule of thirds, I radiate a positive vibe and my skull is free of suspicious lumps and bumps.”

“That’s why I’ve never shaved my head. I have this giant protrusion near my temple.”

Danny ran his fingers beneath his shaggy hair.

“I thought it might be a brain tumor, but if I had a brain tumor big enough to poke through my skull, I guess I’d probably be dead by now.”

“Or maybe you’re a serial killer.”

“You think I’m creepy like that?”

Danny threw a bull’s-eye.

“I don’t know. You creep the shit out of me sometimes.”

“Gee thanks.””

“Seriously, think about serial killers and sex offenders. They all have that same creepy look.””

“I don’t know…”

“Ok, think about Sean Willis. Big, misshapen head and those weird, beady eyes. Remember when you first met him? You said he gave you the creeps. And that’s before you knew anything about him.”

Tal pulled the darts from the board.

“Yeah, but that was more from the vibe that he was giving off.”

“I thought you said catching vibes was shallow and weird.”

“Only when it’s you, dude.”

“That’s fair. So, if it was dark and Sean Willis was standing behind you, you would have felt his creepy presence?”

“Probably.”

“Doubtful. He probably would have bitten a chunk out of your shoulder and kicked you down the steps and had you chained to the wall before you knew what was happening, just like he did to those girls.”

Tal handed the green darts to Danny.

“One dart, closest to the bulls eye. 20 bucks.”

“You’re on.”