Apparently, my youth, it turns out, is worth exactly $263.

Perhaps I should say my “sonic youth” (of sorts).

Our lovely new “media storage cabinet” that required the disposal of my youthful recorded-musical heritage

Recently, within less than the last year, My Beloved got us to purchase a new rotating “media cabinet” on which to store our CDs, DVDs and VHS tapes (and, yes, we do have VHS tapes and perhaps more remarkably the devices on which to play them — still functional). Although the item sat in its rather large, six-foot-tall (and better-than-three-feet-wide) box, leaned against one of my (numerous) overstuffed bookshelves in our basement, for an embarrassingly large number of months, we put it together sometime before Christmas and installed as many of the “media” as we could. Sadly, that left a lot of CDs still roaming our house in boxes (and some more or less neatly stored beneath the oversized boom box that serves as one of our stereo systems these days). All well and good and for the most part neat and tidy.

Unfortunately the media storage unit dwells in a spot formerly occupied by a knocked-together shelf unit rescued once upon a time from the disposal pile after some play or another.* And on those shelves were the remnants of our (mostly my) sonic youth — all of our vinyl record albums, roughly 400 of them.

Glorified boom-box stereo in “the office” and associated CDs in what Janet considers appropriate storage containers

In order to construct and place the media storage unit, we had to remove all of the records and locate the not-a-bookshelf elsewhere (itʼs still more or less empty and its destiny still in limbo). The records, lovingly acquired from my sophomore year in high school through college and early career and our marriage until the late Eighties (or whenever vinyl thirty-three-and-a-third RPM records went out of use), along with a few cases of the cassette tapes that took those recordsʼ place in our audio lives in the Eighties and Nineties,** filled seven boxes (each long-ago holding four six-packs of Guinness Extra Stout, long since consumed). We stowed the record-filled boxes in a small chamber off the basement we call “my room” (or in Janetʼs case, “your little room,” always said with a faint or strong tone of repulsion and disgust, as itʼs there in those overcrowded confines that everything I wonʼt throw away even when she finds it no longer desirable, in any manner, in our regular lives, goes to dwell in darkness — including most of my school clothes, even during the days when I was yet teaching).

When I recently discovered that the boxes, stacked in two once-moderately-neat piles, had begun to rip at the corners (from the burdensome weight), it was decided*** that I must soon take them to Half-Price Books to sell. Now the nearest Half-Price Books is Cedar Rapids, roughly an hour away, but that destination for our (mostly my) once-beloved recordings seemed the most profitable possible (as I had no interest whatsoever in listing each record for sale on eBay).

Box Sets of CD music kept near at hand in the office, along with, of course, books

On Sunday I lugged the (amazingly heavy) boxes, one at a time (I said they were astoundingly weighty), to the bed of my truck and called the number for our nearest Half-Price Books store to be sure they did indeed have interest in purchasing a load of 400 vinyl records (I counted 56 cardboard sleeves in one box, one of which was George Harrisonʼs three-album set, All Things Must Pass, ignoring the plastic container of audio cassettes that really served just to keep everything stable but which were going to be gone as well). They did (uh, have an interest in buying my record library — in case we lost the track of that thought).

So this morning, having sent The Lovely One on her way to work, I clambered into the cab of the truck and drove off into the glorious day (highs in the seventies all week and into next — globally warmed, shortsighted bliss for mid-March, indeed) for the trip to the big city. Upon arrival I carried the seven boxes, once again (staggeringly ponderous) singly to the purchase counter, where an attractive young lady observed, as she got my name and my government-issued photo ID, that I had a lot of pop/rock,**** which is what sold well, and that was good. Then she sent me to wander the stacks while they assessed my auditory existence in seven Guinness boxes…

assorted CDs unable to fit in suitable storage elsewhere — including some in, unsurprisingly, a Guinness box

I had left about 8:30, and in just three hours I was back at home (an hour each way for the drive and an hour in the store as the lovely young ladies***** behind the purchase counter appraised my hoard). I got my seven Guinness boxes back, and I found seven books to buy myself (a complete OʼNeill in three Library of America volumes; Richard Wright in two LOA books; a DK guide to eastern American birds — at Janetʼs request, as we have observed some unidentified little eaters at our birdfeeders this early spring, not house sparrows or cardinals, red-wing blackbirds or crows; and volume one of the Mark Twain Autobiography).

And I got paid $263****** for all my vinyl Beatles, Clash, Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Rolling Stones, Sex Pistols, Bob Seger, The Who, Yes, Warren Zevon and all the other bands and individuals whose music we (but mostly I) had acquired, enjoyed, endured, and sometimes forgotten during our teens, twenties and thirties.

Farewell, youth.

* (we have totally forgotten when or how that long-suffering servant of our storage needs was originally acquired)

** (but decisively not the compact disks that took the place of those former recorded-music formats)

*** Please note that evasive and nonaccusatory use of the passive voice…

**** We had decided that we would retain the relatively slim collection of classical and jazz we had on vinyl for future ditigization to iTunes (our turntable is still connected to the computer, along with the cord for another boom box for cassettes) and possible later discard to H-P Books.

***** None of whom, I observed instantly, had sufficient years to even recognize Savoy Brown, Brewer & Shipley, John Sebastian, King Crimson, Mason Proffit, Gypsy, Starcastle or Uriah Heep (just to pick a few not utterly obscure albums). Moby Grape…

****** (roughly a lousy half-dollar per album, gratuitous cassettes included — such is the price of [this oneʼs] juvenescence, in actual fact)

©2012 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Some Second Thoughts

On Saturday I posted an abortive little piece of non-writing mostly because I liked reading it when I found it on the computer. I was going to post this little piece yesterday, but then I realized that yesterday was Valentine’s Day. I figured Valentine’s Day deserved something special and romantic and for Janet. Nuts to all of you, I suppose, although truthfully I hope you did enjoy what I came up with. However, back to Saturday’s dated little bit of mental rambling; reading through that basic piece when I first discovered it a little less than a week ago, various topics I had written about got me thinking. I figured I should give some of those thoughts a chance before I moved on to other things (and back to Mantorville).

First off, I clearly made it up during the summer. If you remember, somebody was mowing. Of course back in those days summer would’ve been the only season I had time enough to sit around doing what I do all the time now. Maybe that’s why I enjoyed rereading this piece: it reminds me of some days now when I sit around attempting to be creative. Also I found it interesting that I was thinking of writing horror stories—how completely unlike the last two weeks.

Ah, the music

Thanks to Wikipedia

Second, when I wrote that piece for yesterday, I was fascinated with the Grateful Dead’s Dick’s Picks Volume 3. According to my quick bit of research on Wikipedia, that double CD came out in November of 1995. If I wrote during the summer, that must mean this piece dates from 1996. At several different important points in my life the Grateful Dead came to the fore of my attention. For about a decade after Janet and I got married, I drifted away from listening to the Dead almost completely. I didn’t much like Shakedown Street (was I just not ready for Dead reggae?) or the thoroughly boring Go to Heaven. And I’m not sure why I didn’t really respond to the Top 10 worldwide, huge popularity of  “Touch of Gray.” Just too cool to let the masses in to my own personal bliss, perhaps. Then two new releases of live material reignited my interest.

The first was the release of Without a Net in 1990. I can remember buying that still. Janet and I were shopping in Davenport and went down Kimberly east from the mall to K’s Merchandise—alas, long defunct now, although that is where I bought the school’s first digital camera for the drama department. I remember not just what Janet was looking for, possibly lamps (I can remember looking for lamps at K’s). But somewhere during the experience I got the time to go over and look through the CD rack, and there was a CD that I’d never seen before—Without a Net.

Maybe because it was from the 90s and a style of Dead I really hadn’t heard—that synthesized Garcia guitar sound I referred to in the piece but also the luscious sound of Branford Marsalis on saxophone for one of my favorite Dead songs, “Eyes of the World”— got me started on the band again. That album really is a fine collection of excellent Dead jams.

Blues for Allah cover art

About a year later, I encountered the first From The Vault release. The early and mid-70s were prime Dead time, in my opinion, so that release of the first live performance of one of my favorite albums, Blues for Allah, was a nearly automatic success with me. The band was really cooking on that CD too, although in an entirely different mode than Without a Net. (I guess their year off and the new approach to composing music on the album had all the boys and Donna Jean excited.)

And the Dead stuff just got better through the 90s. Sure, Jerry died, and for any Deadhead—even me—that’s tragic, but for someone like me, who had never gone to a Dead concert, although I had been invited back in the early 70s by returning ex-military (and just home from Vietnam) friend Jim Albaugh to a concert in Des Moines, the Vault and Dick’s Picks releases opened up a whole new world of the Grateful Dead for me. I know Janet would agree that the 90s were a Dead time, far more than she would ever have liked.

Avalon Sunset— once again thanks to Wikipedia

Before we leave the subject of the music and the post, the “Van” is Van Morrison, whose music I’ve ignored for most of my life. One day when Janet and I were driving home from somewhere to the north, after dark, probably in the winter, listening to NPR, we got to hear a selection from Van’s then-new Hymns to the Silence album. To be utterly trite, it blew us both away. In the summer of 1996, the Morrison albums I was probably thinking of had to be  Hymns, Enlightenment or Avalon Sunset. (I wasn’t sure which Morrison album cover to choose for this paragraph, but Avalon Sunset was the most interesting.)  Van’s moody spirituality and cool soul sounds appeal to something very deep in me (and it doesn’t hurt that Janet likes him too). Unfortunately, even though I thought about Van in the writing, I don’t really sense his music coloring that piece at all.

I’m also fairly confident that I lie in the piece about remembering that I had played “Tangled Up in Blue” to the Iowa Wesleyan College campus from the top floor of the Chapel—out the window of the light booth. I have a vivid memory of the first time I heard that Dylan song, and I was no longer a college student when it happened. I was in Cedar Rapids, visiting my second major girlfriend, the one I was thinking about in the piece for yesterday (the one who went unnamed), who was attending Coe College. She headed us downtown on Second or Third Avenue for lunch one Saturday to a vegetarian restaurant (I’d never eaten vegetarian before, at that point), and I heard this song while eating there. That would have been in late ‘75 or early ‘76, during my second year of teaching, a good while after I had left IWC.

So what was I thinking? Did I have some vague plan I don’t remember now to turn yesterday’s post into a story, possibly a story about a writer? I don’t know at this stage. Everything else in it is entirely true to my life (on the other hand, according to comments to this blog, some people have trouble distinguishing my fiction from my reality).

Two more things

My memories of the attic in the Chapel are especially precious to me, and although only a paragraph or so in yesterday’s piece, are a place I visit in my mind and imagination—not often but with great feeling. Strangely, I even felt nostalgic for the Chapel attic back when I was there, going to school, lighting plays and events, imagining travel through time from the woody, dusty vastness. When people talk about the “best days of their lives,” they’re often thinking back to high school. Not me. The best days of my life would either have to be pretty much now or my college years. And the best thing about my college years in many ways was the time I spent in the Chapel attic. Unfortunately, I don’t think I can tell for you, gentle readers, all the reasons or experiences or events that lead to that statement about my college years in the Chapel—modesty and a sense of decorum inhibit me. But some may remember and understand…

Memory is the greatest time travel device of all. It only leads one way, of course, to the past, but as King Arthur tells Mordred in Camelot, “Sometimes the only real vacation spot is the past.” (I wanted to check my accuracy in that quotation, but the script is not available online—how strange for copyrighted material—and I discover that I was mistaken to believe we owned a DVD of the movie. I am not about to watch our VHS version of Camelot to locate one line almost at the end of the film—besides Janet made noises that she wants to watch it soon.) Of course the time travel of recollection is what I’ve been getting off on in this blog all year. Discovering old poems, reviewing old favorites, revisiting fond and cherished memories (and boring all of you to boot?).

And then there’s the not-exactly-an-ending to Saturday’s piece. Just before quitting in the middle of nothing in particular, thinking about winter, I indulged myself in a fantasy of driving around the county. Being in transit is a marvelous feeling for me. Suspended between responsibilities, one has the freedom to enjoy one’s existence, but it always has to end, and the journey is always so short. Or as I said Saturday…

“There is your ideal lifestyle. Driving. You love that. Especially on a day like this, out in the country on some backroads highway dipping up and down through fields and woods. Surrounded by green and blue. Like you’re suspended between earth and sky. Suspended. Perfect…. Going nowhere, caught between obligations. In transit. Nothing you have to care about or worry about. Wouldn’t be like that in winter, though”

No, it wouldn’t be like that in winter at all.

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.