Friday, March 03, 2006

Tears of My Tracks

So, it's a Billy Bragg tune... again, that brings the Hearbreaker Song List up to 9.

The sorrow and pain of loss and heartbreak are a touchy subject, one not prone to levity lightly. Death and the end of a relationship do not usually elicit a laugh, hardly ever a smile. Even the loss of an object can be a minefield of an event. How can we get upset about losing or giving up an inanimate thing? True, we have loved it, possibly even hugged it. But, it’s never returned the warmth nor the feelings (unless you’ve had a "thing" for a radiator).

A few years back. Well, a lot of a few years back when our living quarters were tight and our first-born was knocking on delivery’s door, one of those "It’s either me (and the baby enclosed therein) or those things! You decide"! moments came up between the ever-loving wife and I.

Those things happened to be the around 1,000 albums or so stashed in different boxes in the puny apartment. They had been accumulated mainly in college and the single years thereafter. We had been companions for quite a bit of time. They had traveled with me from and to my various places of residence in Montreal, New Jersey, North Carolina, & Delaware. Wear and tear, nick and gouge, the vinyl was always there for me in our one-sided relationship (I listened, they played) from late teenage years to pseudo-adult years. As I'd moved from dorm room to a long series of apartments, the weight of the boxes of LP’s became heavier, slightly due to an increase in the collection but more so (at least that's what my self-delusional conversations ended up concluding) due to the emotion, fun, tears, rage and empathy that I’d put into listening to them. The vinyl records were my emotional sponge. For a guy who was not too quick on the verbal uptake, this collection of songs were the physical evidence of my moral, spiritual, and loving depth.

How many times had I used some of these records to speak for me when I found my mouth dry of words?
How often was Jackson Browne, with his "Late for the Sky" album, Cyrano to my Christian de Neuvillette? (Not that Mr. Browne had a proboscis problem).
How many times did I call on Muddy Waters to double for me when I couldn’t be satisfied?

Now a key moment in my adulthood was calling for a deliberation of critical proportions. My records. My son.
Which of These?

As if responding to Bring out your dead!, boxes and boxes of albums were loaded into the car. The shocks sagged, the car resembled a low-rider as I slowly drove away, at hearse speed.
Heartbreak a plenty. Little did I know what pain lay ahead.

Hauling the LP’s into the record shop was a chore. 800 records weigh quite a bit and when you’re carrying them up two flights of stairs in beat up boxes, the weight seemed more. The owner of the emporium, a fellow who was later busted for burglary and running a fencing operation was quite the expert of assessing non-emotional value to my collection. Around 500 records he found totally worthless, even though he (reluctantly) acknowledged their mint condition. Of the balance of 300, some were worth one buck and about 50 or so $5.00.
I was speechless. The multiple trips up and down the multiple stairs had left me winded. No, make that had me leaning against a wall doubled over in asthmathic shock. Yeah, that reads more tragic.
So, I was speechless and breathless. All that oxygen not getting up to my head left me incapable of any verbal protest.
I took the money and bid my (limited) past goodbye.

The 500 albums that he found worthless? He didn’t even want them for free! The price of my finely tuned soul was not even worth pennies. Reluctantly, I hauled the rejected pile back to the car, piled them in, and drove them to a local Salvation Army. I couldn’t bring the vinyl orphans back home as crib space had knocked out music space.

With the small bills from the sale rustling in my pocket, I repaired to a local suds establishment where I promptly loaded some dollars in the juke box, took a seat in a booth, and ordered up a pint.
Here's what should have been playing.
"Tears of My Tracks", from Billy Bragg and the Blokes' "England, Half English" release.

Tears of My Tracks (a little wordplay coming off of Smokey Robinson and the Miracles’ hit tune, Tracks of My Tears )

I’m down but I’m not out, but Lord, I’m hurting
I’m down but I’m not out but I feel blue.

I sold all my vinyl yesterday
At a boot sale out on the highway
And now my room is full of fresh air.

I’m down but I’m not out, but Lord, I’m hurting
I’m down but I’m not out but I feel blue.

Somebody owns all my albums now
They probably don’t even wonder how
My name got written on the sleeves.

So I’m down but I’m not out, but Lord, I’m hurting
I’m down but I’m not out but I feel blue.

I opened the window, I let in the sun
My record collection has ended
For someone else it's just begun.

So I’m down but I’m not out, but Lord, I’m hurting
I’m down but I’m not out but I feel blue.

(This is #9 of Ten (or maybe a bit more) Heartbreakers as memed by Whisky Prajer)

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And now your son would give anything to scratch, sample or just plain play those old LPs. The heartbreak only grows with succeeding generations.
WP, funny you should mention that. He's recently been giving me the "I can't believe I'm a by-product of this guy" look when I mentioned off-handedly that I used to have (key words being "used to") vinyl versions of some of Donny Hathaway and Al Green's albums. In my defense, the copies were totally beat-up, having been played on the cutting edge of turntables using teakwood needle cartridges. The records looked more grey than black.
Had exactly the same experience without the excuse of being p-wipped into dumping the vinyl.

I just foolishly thought they'd be worth some dough. Stunned at the paltry offer and too lazy to haul them back up to my apartment I took the offer and almost instantly regreted it.

Do yourself a favor and don't go back to see what he's getting for your $5.00 albums.
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