Wednesday, December 25, 2013

They Don't Write 'Em Like That Anymore

Dateline October; middle of the month wheneverish, Place; Natick, Massachusetts, Event; all day DRA improvement Kaizen (Yes, this was my third Kaizen of the year-although the first two were more or less the same instantiation---also do you feel my work pain just a little when you hear Kaizen and then you see I’m using “instantiation” in the same sentence albeit with a few too many ellipses?).  So…whatever, the day is done (cue the Flinstone’s opening credits here).

Now it’s hard day’s journey into night (evening, really) decision: Do I dine out at the Cheesecake Factory with co-workers or do I go cd/vinyl shopping?  OK so the answer is easy and pretty much 11 times out of 10 I’m going to opt for truffle hunting (but for the record, I was traveling with some enjoyable co-workers and I really did try to do both.  Blame it on the rain and the fact that the shuttle was both pretty undependable and kind of limited in range).

Not that Natick, Ma had all that many destinations for used cd/vinyl stores.  I was traveling vehicleless, so that reduced my options considerably.  If all Boston was my oyster, I’m sure I’d have gone elsewhere, but for the sake of a car, the pearl would have been lost.  So just by random luck (and a quarter of an inch difference on a pretty dubious front desk map), I got lucky; Déjà vu records (an offshoot of the Déjà vu brand in downtown Minneapolis no doubt).  Somewhere to the left and down of the Natick downtown (Natick downtown you exclaim?  Yes, I nod my head and roll my eyes at the same time---and yes I know, eventually they will stick that way).

This will surprise you, but I even called ahead to make sure the store would be open (and to make sure the store would actually even be there).  “Yes,” the voice on the other end of the line replied in an eastern european accent (I’m going with Polish, but I don’t really have an ear for it), “Ve vill stay open.  Vhen vill you be here?  How long are you in town?”  ( also, I might dispense with the phonetic spelling, because it’s slowing me down, and I don’t think I’m getting it correct anyway, just add your own eastern European accent to anything I’m attributing to the proprietress of said establishment (and you can imagine a flat Wiss-cahn-seine aaaaaaac-sent to anything I’m supposedly saying if that helps move this along at all).  

Particulars nailed down (I had until 7, but being that it was 5.15 and the place was only a half inch away on said dubious front desk map I wasn’t too worried.) I had the front desk call me a taxi (apparently, I have the front desk do everything when I travel) and then call me another taxi when 15 minutes ticked away with no first taxi (I sure hope they cancelled the first taxi….i never did go back and check).  Finally, second taxi arrives and I’m off to the record store.  (I’m only going to briefly touch upon my irrational fear that every taxi driver I’ve ever had has been taking advantage of my pocketbook by taking every side track/detour/random route to my destination to run up the bill when I’m sure it just seems that way because of my unfamiliarity with areas)  Clock ticking, meter ticking (also, why does the meter keep rising when we are sitting dead in traffic? Also, why is there so much traffic in “downtown” Natick at now nearly 6pm on a Wednesday night (also also I thought I was being super conservative by saying I could easily be there by 6.15 but sheesh it’s gonna be close)?  

Finally, we arrive at a little strip mall (the cabdriver seems as surprised as I am that we’ve reached our destination-and a little disappointed that he didn’t run my fare up to $50).  Déjà vu Records!  Hooray.  I hop out of the cab(van), pay the fare (outrageous!) and go to the front door and……it’s locked!  GRRR.  But wait….lights are still on…is there someone still there?  No, but where is she?  Oh wait, stop panicking. (also, OMG look at all the vinyl and cds packed into that place, racks on the walls, bins on the floor, stacks of vinyl all over the place, and cds here there and everywhere, I MUST GET IN THIS STORE!)  oh wait…..There’s a note you missed.  “Be back at 6.30”  OK.  Fine.  Just wait.  Stop pacing.  It’s a nice night out.  Look at the amazing sugar maple across the street.  It’s catching the sun (now setting) just right and is practically glowing (even the crappy picture my cell phone took has brilliant color.)

6.20.  6.25.  6.30 (I’m not impatient, just like to keep track of time in regular intervals) 6.35.  6.36.  6.37.  ah here comes a van and getting out of the van is a little old lady (clearly not from Pasadena)  Now I’m thinking Romanian instead of Polish, or maybe Czech (not that I’m saying she reminds me of my grandma or anything, but maybe a little).  She’s short, really short, old but maybe not as old as I think (or maybe way older), but brisk, short graying hair (but glasses, no glasses?  I can’t remember).  She gives me a big smile and points to me and says “You are the one who called, yes?”  I nod, and step aside to let her open the shop.  “you have been here before,” she asked.  I say nope and she gives me a quick rundown, the jist of which is that the place is wall to wall (floor to floor, ceiling to ceiling, I don’t want to say music hoarders, but there could be an A&E episode here, and I couldn’t say I didn’t see myself just a little in the place) music and that if there is a structure or organization to the place, it defies my western sensibilities.  But it is amazing.  The first thing that caught my eye was a Cybil Shepard album from the 70’s.  not saying that interested me (or that it has any value) but that’s what I saw. 

And then it all becomes a blur.  I asked if I could see her cd’s and she led me to racks towards the back of the store.  Three big shelves stacked every which way with music.  I’d no sooner finished the first row of the first rack when she dropped a box of cds at my feet and said, “More music in here.  You like Led Zeppelin?”  so I started pawing through that box.  Then she hauled another box from behind the counter.  “More here.”  Once I got through those boxes (interesting, and some close calls, but no holy grails), I went back to the racks and she hauled a handful of more cds back to me, “You want Classical? (No), “You want Jazz?” (not really but I need to look just in case), “You want Rap” (I’m getting the feeling that these aren’t really questions anymore but declarative sentences.)  “You want 60’s” (ah, what have we here, Chad Mitchell Trio on Collector’s Choice….thank you very much.  “You like box sets.” and shows me a shelf with a ton of boxed sets all akimbo.

Now I’m starting to get in the zone.  (is there music playing?  I don’t think so.  Just the fevered beat of a record hounds breathing) I’m able to get a row or two looked at while she is rummaging around the store looking for more random cds to have me look at.  (also, I forgot to mention, the driver of the van that brought her back to the store?  Apparently a customer, that she bummed a ride from, cos he’s digging through vinyl at the front of the store and she’s keeping him in steady supply as well (but it’s really me she giving all her attention to cos he’s a young punk customer who doesn’t love music like I love music)  Time blurs, space distorts, I’ve contorted my body into alternative dimensions to see every angle of music presented to me; spines upright, flat, angled, full on, backwards, I shape to the music.  Not sure why I am in a rush, guess I have this 7pm close time in my head and I want to get through everything before she tells me she has to close shop for the night  and I’ll have missed some vital piece of music I have wanted all my life and it was just on the one shelf I didn’t get to, stacked sidewise behind the donna summer anthology that I’m holding in my hands (didn’t get it, but I should have maybe…although I don’t think there is anything unusual on that collection).  THUNK, she drops another box of cds at my feet and starts handing me mitts full of cds.  “You like this?  (I think it was a cd of the ray coniff singers or somesuch, or maybe it was a herb alpert-which would have been good 5 years ago). 

OH BUT WAIT….WHAT HAVE WE HERE?  “Hard to Find 45’s on CD”  Volume 1.  unopened?  Well…all right, then.  That’s a nice one (I would have texted Melloy, but I’m pretty sure that not only is this place full of 70’s music, it actually is the 70’s (some kind of weird time well) and cell phones haven’t been invented yet or it’s just an extension of the fact that I didn’t have much cell phone coverage anywhere in Natick).  So I’m getting a little stack going, and I’m looking at stuff faster and faster (in the zone, in the zone) and I’m keeping an eye on the clock and I’m also thinking about my co-workers at Cheesecake Factory (but not thinking about Cheesecake Factory if you get my drift).  And I start to think, what is that funny feeling in my lower back, what time is it, where am I and how did I get here and oh my god, it’s dark outside and I sure hope I can get back to the hotel from out here in the middle of nowhere (a mile from Natick city center). 

So I stand up and kind of check my surroundings and think I could get lost in this place if I keep at it.  Seeing me pause, the owner (at least I assume she’s the owner) pulls a binder off the counter and brings it to me.  “You no find what you want?  Maybe you find it in here.  What are you looking for?”  I mention something about “Buckingham/Nicks” vinyl and she gets a faraway look in her eyes and taps the bridge of her nose.  “I might have it.  You look at book, I check in closet.”  This book is filled with all kinds of requests for vinyl from across the world.  People apparently send her wish lists and when she finds something she mails it out to them.  (I get the impression she isn’t on amazon or ebay, like I said…70’s baby, 70’s)

Alas, she can’t find the Buckingham/Nicks album.  “You make list and send to me and I put in book and mail you when I find,” she says assuredly (and I know she would find it an mail it to me.)  I’m maybe winding down a bit from my rush, so I just start randomly browsing the vinyl bins.  Melloy would freak out.  Tons of cool vinyl (Martin Briley, Van of course,….ooh, I’m tempted, but such a drag to transport).  She brings me out another little stack, “Good stuff, good stuff,” she states as I flip through it.  It is some fairly new stuff (and good at that---a couple MFSL things I should have grabbed but didn’t) but I can tell I’m saturated and winding down.  “I think I’m done looking,” I tell her and I fell like she’s just getting started and is disappointed I’m such a record slacker (her driver is still going full bore).  “How far is it  to the city center from here?”  “You are done,” she states, clearly thinks I can’t be serious.  “You not find what you want?”  (now I feel like I’ve let her down personally.)  “This is great,” I reply, but I need to get back to the hotel.  “oh, ok,” she says, still not at all convinced that I have seen everything (clearly I haven’t scratched the surface of this place).  “I call you cab, they pick you up.”

Once she’s rung me a cab, I show here the cds I’ve grabbed (only 4 surprisingly, for all the stuff I’ve looked at) and she kinda sniffed at them, like she expected more of me (although I am very delighted with all my choices).  “How much,” I ask. And she looks again and says, “two, three dollars.” So I give her three fives.  “No No,” she goes, all together.  Well that’s just crazy, but she won’t take my money, so I pull a five out and give her ten and she takes that (which is still completely crazy.)  but I guess we are both happy.  So I’m just idly flipping through vinyl and enjoying the store, waiting for my taxi.  She gives me a little sheet of paper with the contact info on it and tells me to make her a list of what I want and she will find it and to definitely come by again if I am back in town.  As the taxi arrives I negotiate the vinyl stacked pathways through the front of the store and head off into the night.

What a cool, fun store.  Reminds me of when the twin cities used to have mom and pop music stores all over the place (Garage d’or, platters, rockit records, northern lights) and that first rush when I’d go there, not knowing the place or what they’d have and what I might find.  Don’t get me wrong, I love my cheapos, fetuses and even my down in the valleys, but there used to be so much more to it all (and I sure wish I could go back to me too when it was all so new and I was being shaped by the music so much more).  But still…Déjà vu was so wonderful, not so much for what I found music wise (although I found great stuff and I’m sure there’s still great stuff there waiting to be discovered) as for what I found spiritually I guess (if that’s not too religious or anything).  The owner was so great and appealing and seemed to be having as much fun as I was having.  Gotta file that one away for a rainy day, and if I ever had a music store (or at least a music store in my mind) I’d hope I’d have a little bit of what she was giving away.

1 comment:

  1. You need to write a book! This is fantastic. But it could be because I squealed at your vinyl request! I would choose the same thing, record store over factories.