Thursday, April 19, 2018

Man on the phone, walking across the street by Grand Army Plaza:

“When I bought this thing I was like, wow.”

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The Autobiography of Someone Else - 17

Dad loved to buy records. There was a store in town on the second level of a dreary little strip mall, near a laundromat, near a drugstore, near a printers. He’d go there two, three times a week, bargain hunting in the cutout bins. For Promotional Use Only – Not for Resale. The Nice Price.

I’d go with him and sometimes he’d let me buy something but never something good. All the real music cost money. Presence. Animals. Let It Bleed. Beautiful covers with beautiful words in tight, unscarred plastic. Tantalizing me with that beautiful, impossible sticker: $7.98. I could get something for a couple of bucks, maybe four if it was a double album and Dad felt generous. Bands I’d never heard of. Compilations in garish hues.

My dad would buy anything as long as it was cheap. Kenny Rogers, Carpenters, Lovin’ Spoonful, Rascals, Average White Band. Didn’t really seem to matter. He liked to exit the premises with at least four or five in that square, yellow bag, not spend more than twenty dollars.

Sometimes I wondered whether he liked music at all.

One Tuesday night after dinner he got the itch to go. A school night. A work night. Everyone was about to settle in for Happy Days.

“C’mon,” he said. “You wanna go?”

I wore my Aquaman pajamas and my Spider-Man robe. But I wanted to go.

“Honey,” Mom said to him, exasperated.

“He can go!”

“In his pajamas? Paul.”

“Who cares? It’s warm out.”

There was a moment when nothing happened. Then something remarkable did. My mother gave a faint little shrug and returned to her newspaper, looking back down through her reading glasses—a series of gestures that meant: OK, fuck it, I don’t care.

So there I was wandering the aisles of Record City in my nightclothes. Did anyone stare? The other customers were all heads down, thumbing through stacks like you’re supposed to do. But had they looked away the moment before I saw them? Jerry, the paunchy, gregarious owner, had greeted us in his usual jolly way. Not appearing to give a fuck, either. Was it a conspiracy? Would they all howl with laughter as soon as we were gone?

For a while I laid low in the nether regions of the place. Along the far wall was a swivelling rack of aluminum-framed display cases with posters front and back—images waiting to be worshiped on adolescent walls. I paged through them glumly. Kiss Destroyer. The four men in their body suits and makeup; giant, snake-fanged shoes stomping on a silhouetted pile of rubble. Jimmy Page sweating profusely in his dragon-covered suit, his disheveled hair magenta from the spotlight. Queen sitting on the stone steps of some monument somewhere, looking bored. Jimi Hendrix in a military coat and purple velour pants. Some kid at school said his bandana was always soaked with LSD. Two men in business suits shaking hands in a desolate industrial complex, one of them ablaze.

I found a copy of Tommy at a surprising discount. Dad okayed the purchase and handed me a fiver. Stunned by my good fortune, I walked to the front and handed it to the young woman behind the counter. She examined it with a frown, and turned to me with a look of concern. But not for my clothes.

“You know what this is, right?”

“It’s Tommy.”

“It’s the Tommy Soundtrack. It’s not really Tommy.”

She handed it back to me so I could see. I turned it over and I felt a shock of shame. Elton John, Eric Clapton, Tina Turner. A parade of names that weren’t the Who. Ann-Margret.

“It’s like, some of it has other musicians on it,” she added helpfully. “Other people singing.”

I now became aware of my little penis and balls naked, hairless, against the polyester of my pajamas. I was a fraud. Not a man—not even a real boy—before this woman, this judge. But I felt called upon to respond. To defend myself. To survive.

“Is it… good?” I stammered.

She shrugged. “It’s not bad. It’s OK. Some of it’s good,” she said. “But it’s not Tommy.”

“How much does Tommy cost?”

“Fourteen ninety-eight.”

I was about to return this disgraceful, odious object to the stacks, as a demonstration of some kind of principle, or maybe just pride, when my father approached, oblivious to my predicament of course.

“What are you doing, Pete? Buy it. Just buy it already,” he declared.

So I handed her the five dollar bill, wadded and wet from my sweating hand. She rang up $4.99 plus tax and gave me back a little handful of change with a little smile. I took my faux Tommy under my arm and we left.

Or was it just a dream?

Thursday, April 05, 2018

TROOPS

I even drove down with Karen to visit him in Wildwood (she had a license, I didn’t).

Monday, April 02, 2018

Sitting on the train to work I felt a sudden jolt of pure dread, inexplicable. It went away in a moment, leaving me with an unpleasant buzz.