Friday, May 26, 2017

Audiophile Nightmares

This past March I I ordered four albums off of Amazon to flesh out my record collections. Yes, they were Jazz, but more importantly they were the four iconic Jazz albums from 1959. Charles Mingus “Ah Hum”, Ornette Coleman “The Shape of Jazz to Come”, Dave Brubeck “Time Out” and of course Miles Davis “Kind of Blue”.

To be honest, it wasn’t like I didn’t need them. No, this was strictly a purchase for my favorite music. I of course had a few of those recordings in digital format and they sound great. Remastered by technological wizards in the music industry. However; I wanted to hear them in their original format. You know, like when you watch Star Wars “A New Hope” without being digitally remastered, where Han shoots first, there aren’t platoons of storm troopers everywhere and no storm trooper is riding an oversized lizard. It’s like that but only for my ears.

Eight days after I ordered them, three of them arrived in the mail. I was happy and excited. I however did restrain myself from opening them. I knew I had to take them into my office where the rest of my records are kept, so I sat the three records on my desk and dreamed of what they would sound like. Oh, you want to know which record wasn’t packaged with the other three? Okay, I’ll tell you, it was Dave Brubeck’s masterpiece “Time Out”.

When I walked into my office the next morning, being ever so careful with my records, it was all I could do to not just sit down and play them. Instead, I bided my time, went to work getting the museum set up for the day and in no time I was opening my records. 

The first one, Ornette Coleman, opened easily, I stared at the cover of the legend holding his sax and I swear I could almost hear his tonality and fingering of that brass beauty. I pulled the record out, placed it on my turntable and began to listen. I pulled up a chair and just watched the vinyl spin and I could almost see the notes drifting out of my speakers.

It wasn’t until I was halfway through “Eventually”, the second track on side one that I noticed something odd about the record. More to the point, the label. It wasn’t the green over red label. I became disturbed. So I picked up the album cover and looked for the label marks. What I found was the name “Wax Time” where the “Atlantic” name should be. I became upset.

Now to be fair, I didn’t expect an original 1959 copy of the record. What I did expect was an official “Atlantic” reissue of the record. Not some company using public domain music to make a quick buck.

Which is about the time I opened the Charles Mingus album only to discover the same thing. Only this time, it was not by “Wax Time”, but another company just like “Wax Time”. Not the “Columbia” label. Not even close.

When I picked up the Miles Davis album I knew it wasn’t a Columbia record. After all, the cover art was all wrong and so was the back. I almost didn’t open it. But I did and I was once again disappointed.

Don’t hear what I’m not saying. I’ve listened to those three records on numerous occasions since I’ve bought them. And, with each listening, I love the music even more but there is something that always bugs me.

You see, I’m sort of an artist. I write and that is not just a skill but an art form. When I sell a story, I expect to get paid. When someone else sells my story, I don’t get paid. When I die and all the rights to my stories get turned over to my daughter, I expect she would get paid for any publication of those stories. That is where my mind was. Who is getting the money for these records since they are in my opinion “Bootlegs”?

Since that time, I’ve managed to replace one of those three albums with an authentic labeled album and I’m still searching for the other two. I know eventually I will find them. It will just be a matter of time and effort.

As for the fourth album, the Dave Brubeck album, well, that is an interesting addendum to this tale. You see, when I purchased that particular album from Amazon, it was from a private seller. This was a fact I didn’t know. When it came in a week after the other three I fully expected it to be another bootleg copy. It wasn’t.

What was it? It was an original 1963 black six eye Columbia recording. How do I know it was a 1963? Simple, 1963 was the only year that Columbia used the black six eye label. I was over the moon. It wasn’t a modern reissue or remaster. Nope, an original, period record. It has become one of my favorite finds and almost makes up for getting taken on the other three.

But that is okay. This is what life is all about. Learning and moving forward.

Have a great week.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Human Mechanics

This upcoming weekend, in particular, Sunday, I highly recommend that if you are located anywhere in the seven cities and hear massive amounts of yelling, cursing and the throwing of metal objects at other objects… please leave me alone. That is, unless you want to volunteer to come change a water pump on a jeep and throttle cables on my Harley.

It’s not that I don’t know what to do, or even how to do it. After all, I’ve changed starters, head gaskets, heads, valves, pistons, batteries, radiators, water pumps and, well… pretty much anything else gear related in my years. It’s just that I don’t enjoy it. Okay, that’s not totally true, I enjoy it up to a point… what that point is I can not say. 

I spent ten years working part time in a machine shop, tearing apart engines, cleaning them, fixing them, rebuilding them and even grinding, planing and refurbishing them back into fine tuned, high octane burning, carbon emitting, transmission grinding and tears in the eye joy machines. 

That type of work I don't mind. When the material I’m working on is staring me right back in the face. Working under a hood, stooped over fender, crawling around on the concrete or even sitting in the grass… well, it just makes my bones ache thinking about it. 

Now, truly these are not really complaints, these are just moments of uncomfortableness that I’m most likely exaggerating in my own little mind. You know, like we all do. Oh? You say you don’t? Really? Do tell me your story. I’m all ears.

You can’t. I know you can’t. Hell, I can’t. I wish I could.

Which is something I don’t understand. I like to fix things. Cars, motorcycles, toy trains, puzzles and hell… just about anything that’s broken, I’ll step right up and try to fix it. That seems to be a characteristic I was born with.

For as long as I can remember I was curious about how to fix things, how to build things and, how to make things better.  I never went to a trade school, but over the years I’ve read a few books, puttered with enough mechanical things, electronic things that I developed a breadth of knowledge on things that I can’t even begin to fathom how deep that well is.

No, I never went to a trade school. What I did do was simple.

I just showed up.

That’s it.

I showed up, kept my mouth shut and listened to the journeymen who taught me everything I know. However; like good journeymen, they never taught me everything they knew. Which is good. Some things you just have to learn for yourself.

  Which brings me to today.

You see in my life, my family that is, we’ve been going through a pretty damned hard rough patch. Not my immediate family, no, my in-laws to be specific. They are going through a rough patch. They are both pretty much incapacitated. My wife, being the good daughter she is, has stepped up to the plate to take care of most of their needs. Bills that need to be paid, or socks that need to be bought, or even a salad from a restaurant they might want to nibble on, she seems to be the one they call. Now, to be fair, her brother also helps out. From what I understand it is a lot as well. I’m just not around to see what he does nor am I around to see what my wife does all the time. I do however hear about it from her.

And, as you can probably guess, this type of activity can take it’s toll on a person. Just like a fourteen year old water pump with over one hundred thousand miles on it can break. Or, throttle cables on a motorcycle that gets ridden almost everyday of the year can break. People under stress or overuse can break.

Like the water pump or throttle cables, the stress, wear and tear go mostly unnoticed. By the operator as well as the people around them. That is… until…

Little things. frowns start becoming more prevalent. Exhaustion even after eight hours of rest. A less than approachable attitude towards any type of inconvenience and well, a general change in personality and disposition. The person who is going through this, wont notice it. Hell, they’ll even fight you if you mention it. Like a machine whose parts are failing, you know there is something wrong, but you just can’t communicate it to the machine.

So what do you do?

Simple, identify the problem, implement a solution and wait for resolution.

Int the case of the jeep, a new water pump. In the case of my Harley, new throttle cables… and in the case of my wife… on her birthday which is only a few short days after mother’s day… an all expense paid trip to the spa. Something that she’s never experienced.

This evening when I saw her for the first time since this morning when I left for work, she looked happy, relaxed and even a bit like the young lady I met thirty years ago. The mechanics at the spa spent over three hours working on her and it paid off. 

The months of wear and tear magically disappeared. She looked renewed and invigorated. This made me happy.

Now, if only I can get away with three hours of mechanical work on two vehicles on Sunday without messing anything up, I will be thrilled.

Have a great week. Do something that will make you smile and relax. And maybe, just maybe, you will have fixed something you didn’t know was broken inside of you.

Friday, May 12, 2017

The Loss of the Missing

We’d just dropped our daughter off for her prom. She was going solo with the intention of meeting up with her friends. She looked stunning. We were both excited for her. As we pulled out of the parking lot of the prom venue we looked at each other and said; “What do you want to do?”

You see, we were thirty minutes from home and we were her ride home, so driving back to the house was out of the question. We both laughed at our mutual words. I suggested we stop by a book store. We both like books and it’s a great way to waste time. She agreed and I pulled out my phone and did a web search for a bookstore in Suffolk, Virginia. 

The search came up with only three book stores. Each of them in another city and none of them selling anything I’d be interested in. Hell, I couldn’t even find a used bookstore. I made this information known to my spouse and she just shook her head. This was about the time we passed a super wal-mart. Our discussion then went on to what were going to do for the next two hours in Suffolk.

We’d been downtown already for dinner before the prom and we didn’t see anything of interest to us. We drove on. And on. And on.

Eventually we decided the only option for us was to wander around the Wal-Mart. We did a u-turn and eventually found ourselves meandering through the multitude of plastic trinkets, inexpensive clothing and discount electronics.  There was nothing we wanted to purchase and nothing for us to do except waste time.

I found myself in the electronic section. More to the point, I found myself standing near a kiosk with four computer monitors. This kiosk was for people to instantly print up their photographs. I immediately went out to the van, grabbed the camera I used to take hundreds of photographs of my daughter and went back inside to the kiosk. Along the way, I hijacked my wife who’d been strolling through the shoe aisles.

I put the SD card into the machine and started to scroll through the photos and was astonished at some of the photos I’d taken. My daughter looked so grown, so mature, so… so goddamn ready to leave home and take on the world. My heart soared as it broke into a million pieces.

Now, mind you, I miss my little baby, my toddler, and my pre-teen offspring. Yet I couldn’t be happier with with who she is now and who she is becoming. Still, for the last seventeen and a half years she’s been a constant in my life. Just thinking of her leaving, spreading her wings and taking on the world in my absence is heart wrenching.

I suppose this is what everyone talks about when their kids leave home. The emptiness. Which I suppose is why most people in my situation get a pet. They’ve no idea how not to dote on someone or something. Guess I’m lucky I’ve got Freddie the Master Feline in my life.  He’s a standoffish feral cat that has adopted my house as his. Hm, guess that makes him a squatter, since he has no money for rent or utilities and eats whatever food is around. Good thing is, he doesn’t like to go to the bathroom in the house. Now, if that were a trait my daughter had, it’d get ugly around her right quick.

Sorry, I digress.

While we waited for the photos to be printed I meandered over to the “Book Section” of the store. Hardcovers, trade paperbacks and magazines lined the shelves. It was like looking at the New York Times Best Seller list. Every big name author in the world was there, every genre seemed to be heralded… except of course Horror. Or even Speculative Fiction. I was dismayed.

Oh, did I mention I was the only one looking at the books? I was. No one was in the aisle with me. Also, the books were a mess, it looked as if whoever stacked the shelves just opened the boxes and placed them using the pell-mell school of cataloging. Sort of like my own library at home. I laughed, I shook my head and with stooped shoulders from disappointment I walked away.

You see, it wasn’t so long ago that book stores were everywhere. Open to everyone even if they don’t want to buy anything and just browse or waste time. They were there. No they are not. Which makes me sad.

And here is the real kicker, my daughter likes bookstores. Here, in my small city, we have two very nice used bookstores. Stores where you can just walk in, be surrounded by twelve foot tall bookshelves, sit down in an aisle with a stack of preciously picked out books and slowly page through them for as long as you want. No rush, no pressure, just pure literary enjoyment. If you want to strike up a conversation with another customer or even the stores owner, you are more than welcome to.

They are good bookstores. You loose track of time with all those wonderful pages around you. You meet nice people, swap book suggestions, make new friends and most likely walk away a more enriched person.

This did not happen that night. Nope, instead we meandered the overfit aisles of a box store, went to Panera Bread and then sat in the parking lot of the prom’s venue and waited while our daughter had the time of her life. 

While we were held in a state of limbo surrounded by boredom, our daughters wings grew larger and thicker.

We did not witness this growth, we did not see her younger self become wiser and leave a small portion of her youth behind. But we relished in her joy and glow when she finally emerged from the dance. And then we glowed in her growth.

Which seems odd, are the bookstores of my youth just that? A naive and archaic adolescent way of communicating? Are the digital books of today the new butterfly of our awake mental pleasures? Is this something I should look upon with joy and bitterness like I do my daughters life. Joy for the fact that books are readily accessible to any digital device, like the memories of my daughter and yet bitter because I miss the old stores as I miss my daughter when she was younger?

Yeah, it’s a damn fine conundrum.

One I don’t think I’ll ever figure out.

All I know, is I am enjoying the old used bookstores when I can and I’m enjoying the time I spend with my offspring. Yet I miss the real bookstores of my youth as much as I miss the youth of my offspring.

Have a great week.