My Saturday routine revolves around record stores. Oh, I take care of other business–breakfast, writing, car wash, that kind of thing–but the main business of the day is seeing my buddies and digging for gold.
“Gold” is relative. My collection includes not just albums of good music, but those of some sort of historical/trivial interest, and those with unique album covers. I keep my eyes peeled for cheesecake covers, bad album covers, and controversial album covers. I collect specific cover artists, too, like the great Jack Davis or Hipgnosis. A Roger Dean that isn’t a Yes sleeve? Put it in my basket, please.
But honestly it’s mostly about the friends. A big part of the fun of dropping into Dimple is seeing Ryan and Steve, and I always look forward to hanging out with my buddy Jim at Esoteric. We talk music, laugh at the bad album covers, ooh and ah over the rarities, and swap war stories. I think I miss my years working in record stores more than I admit.
A few weeks ago Here Come…The City Folk showed up in Dimple’s new arrivals bin. The band’s name was clearly a play on “folk” as in folk music, but the juxtaposition of their corny look and the notion of the trio as urban sophisticates struck me as funny. The fact that they looked like they’d never been exposed to sunlight made the album cover even funnier. I grabbed my prize and walked to the counter.
“Oh, the City Folk. That just came in,” Steve said.
“Yeah, that’s some cover isn’t it?” I said.
“Definitely from that time,” he said.
“They look like they’ve been dead for a month.”
“What’s that? They died recently?” Steve asked.
“No, they’re just so pale they look like they’re dead,” I said. “Just a joke.”
“Oh, yeah. They’re pretty pale,” Steve said. I paid and left.
The following Saturday I bopped into Dimple, and Ryan was behind the counter. He was visibly upset about something. “Hey, James, I’ve go some bad news.”
“Oh no, the store’s closing?” I said.
“Steve died last Saturday night,” he said.
My mind rewound seven days, to the last time I saw Steve. He looked fine, but come to think of it, he did seem a little off. What did I miss? Should I have known that he was sick? Should he have had some sort of Twilight Zone purple aura? One minute here and the next we’re gone, ain’t that the way. And then I remembered: The last thing I said to the guy who went home, laid down, and died was, “The City Folk look like they’ve been dead for a month.”
So it’s hard to get happy about the City Folk’s bad album cover. Steve was a good guy.
Categories: From the Stacks
Death is so random, and don’t we always remember the last thing we said to a person? Was it trivial? Prescient? Angry? Kind? “Have-a-good-day-you-too-bye”? Whatever those last words are, those are the ones that stick really hard, it seems.
Also, lately I have noticed that I find out on Facebook that a friend has died. It’s such an odd way to find out, almost undignified. Facebook started out as fun, somewhat self-absorbed sharing, became not-so-fun political warring, but now it is everything. Every. Damned. Thing. And the first person to find out that “friend” died immediately posts it. Take a deep breath before you hit “log In” on Facebook.
I am sorry you lost your record store buddy so suddenly, Himes. There are never any comforting words, ever. I guess if he was working that day and died that night, the best you can hope for is there was not a whole lot of misery in-between being alive and dying. I figure that is what most of us want. Quick and painless. It’s selfish, of course, because we don’t get to do the “goodbye, it’s been great knowing you” tour that is always helpful to the living.
This getting older business is not for the faint of heart.