Friday, March 15, 2013

Nat & Me (Phonographie II)

Something that I love to do is go to yard sales. Sometimes they have really good things, other times, nothing much but clothes. 

I went this past Friday with a paycheck in my pocket and endless possibilities. It was around 1.30 and maybe our fifth stop when we came across this house with some really nice electronics set out on tables in a driveway. We parked our SUV a little bit down from the house and walked right on. 

First thing I walked past was a radio, that had shortwave capabilities. I knelled down and checked out the face. It was in great shape and knob turned with ease. Then I saw a the sticker on top of the unit. "$40". Talk about sticker shock.

As I headed into the garage, there was a table with a little black radio playing some Spanish-station. Next to it, a circular end-table with lamps on it. One lamp went for $6, while the others went for $20 each. Across from the lamps was this storage unit with computer peripherals stacked on all three shelves. There was a paper shredder I was interested in, but there wasn't a way to test it out. 

Nice way to shred all the evidence from The Archenemy, circa 2009.

At the end of the garage, there was this doorway that led into a dining room. I followed a couple in there and walked inside to find a table stacked with fabric things, like table cloths and towels, etc. I looked around and on the floor, there was this brown box up against the wall. In the box, there was a plethora of vinyl records. "Oh yes!" I exclaimed when I looked inside. 

An older man, maybe in his 60s, walked into the room. He looked a little like Bill Murray in Moonrise Kingdom, but his hair was messy, and he had a goatee. He was wearing a red shirt and pants, the color which I can't remember. I asked him, "How much are you asking for the records?" 

He replied, "I don't know actually. I don't remember if there's a price on them or not." He walked away to help someone else.

I excitedly picked up the box and set it upon the circular table that held some table cloths. I began to look through the box. I saw Frank Sinatra, Robert Goulet, Diana Ross, and all these great artists. The table I was on was unstable, so I moved over to another table in the room, and began to actually go in one-by-one. Some of the sleeves were missing corners, exposing LPs held in plastic sleeves.

There was a Hispanic man, maybe 40-ish, standing next to me as I rummaged through the box. He asked me in Spanish if I knew what they were. I responded that I did, telling him, "Son discos vinyl." 

My Spanish vocabulary and syntax sucks.

The man asked me if I had the machine to reproduce them, and I replied affirmatively that I did. In my rush to find out how much they cost, I asked a woman in a black sweater that was in the room whether or not she  was running it. In a high voice, she told she wasn't, "just shopping around like you". She laughed a little before she left the room. 

By this time, my mom was in the room, and soon enough, the man who was running the sale came by. He asked if I was interested and I said that I was. I asked how much he wanted for them, and he told me to come outside for a moment.  We walked into the garage and talked prices. As he stood in front of me, he asked how much I would give for them. I told him, "Well, I'm low on cash. And I don't want to make you a low offer. I know you guys have to make a profit and all that."

He replied amicably, "Don't worry about it. Make me an offer and we can haggle."

I said, "Well, how about... um... $8?"

He stood there for a moment, before he responded with, "Let me tell you what, let me count the records in the box and we haggle a little more." He put the box on a table and counted while I stood outside in the driveway, chatting with my mom in Spanish. 

After a minute, he turned to me and said, "Okay, let me get something and I'll be right back."

I chatted with my mom, before turning to a woman sitting in a chair outside the front door. She was a plump woman, maybe in her 60s, with white hair, a tie-dye shirt with something written in black on the front. I asked her, "Do you know who the records belong to?"

Quickly, she remarked in a sweet voice, "Oh no, their his! He's had them forever."

I got red-faced when she said. "Oh, really? Man, I feel very awkward about it!"

"Why?" she asked in return. In a long-explanation, I told her that I had never really bought records from the owner before because, well, the owner was deceased. I never had bought them from the actual person who had owned them before. We talked a bit more before her husband came out from the house. 

He walked into the garage holding a black book. He turned to me and said, "Do you know who Nat King Cole was?" I said, "Yes, I do. He was the first Black man to have a show on NBC."

He placed the book on the table and took one of the records out. "Well, this is album of some his songs. They're in great shape as you can see." He slowly reached into a paper sleeve and let me examine the disc. "Woah," I replied, "they look fantastic. Not warped, and no scratches on it." He put the disc back into the sleeve and placed it on top of the open album book.

"I really hate to get rid of my Nat King Cole's, and just saying it is making me choke up." He turned away from me, with his hand on the table that was holding the lamps. He composed himself and he looked straight into my eyes. I can still remember how his eyes looked: green on the outside, turning hazel was you went closer you go to the iris.

He continued, "There's 47 records in the box, and I'll throw in my Nat King Cole collection..." He stopped abruptly and looked away for a few seconds. He composed himself, and said, "I'll give you it all for $50."

In my mind, I was a little overwhelmed. I didn't even have $20 on me! I looked at the box, and then at him. "I'm sorry, but I don't think I could pay that. I have some responsibilities first, and after that, about $30 left." 

With his chin a little further up, he asked me what was the best I could do. "Well, $20. And you can keep your Nat King Cole records. I wouldn't want to take them away if you cherish them so much."

"Oh,don't worry about it. I haven't played them in ages."

Behind him were two stereo systems, an Aiwa, the other a GE, both with turntables

"What about those?"
"Oh, I haven't tried them in ages. They probably need new needles, but I never got around to it."

"Well, how about this deal. You can keep the Nat King Cole records, but you offer me the other ones for .50 cents a piece?"

He quickly noted, "Are you not interested in the whole box?"
I added, "I am, but I couldn't afford to buy all of them. I just don't have that kind of cash."

A bit defeated, he said, "All right. You come back Sunday, and you can pick-and-choose for .50 a piece."

"Deal?" I asked. "Deal" he said. And we shook on it. 

With the tension gone, I told him, "You know, this is a bit awkward for me as I told your wife. This is the first time I've ever bought records from the living owner." He gave this huge laugh. "Yeah, seriously. I went to this estate sale a month ago, and in the living room of this house was a record player in the corner. I asked if I could mess with it and they agreed. The thing is, no one knew how to work the thing. The ladies in charge told me the last person who knew how to use it died in 1992. So in the end, they just gave it to me." 

We talked a little more before he got a phone call and in passing, mentioned that he had a "young gentleman" interested in his record collection. I left him to his phone call.


As I walked out of the garage, I thanked her for letting me in to her home. As I was walking away, I noticed a letter jacket patch and inquired about it.  The patch had the high-school name emblazoned in green with a soccer ball  in the middle with "84" sown in the middle of it. 

I told her why I was so interested, and she told me that I'd have to ask him. She added that he and his first wife has coached soccer at the high school in the early '80s. She said, "His first wife died a few years ago, and we met about three years ago." I asked how they had met, and she said, "Right here in Texas. I'm from San Francisco and he's from upstate New York." 

I was surprised that they settled down in Texas, but she added that they were going to travel around the country. I wrapped up the conversation, and headed back to the Suburban, where I was scolded by my mom for "talking for like an hour." "What can I say," I said, "I'm just like you."


The thing is, that although I want the records so badly, I feel a bad. I mean, this man really liked them, and now, he's selling them to some kid who doesn't know the difference between 'who' and 'whom'. It feels weird to do it, because I feel as if I'm taking a big part of this man's life. 

He worked hard and he bought what he liked. And now, some stranger is taking them for cents on the dollar. In the end, maybe I shouldn't feel so bad, because it happens to everyone, and one day, it'll happen to me. I just hope that I can pass them on to someone who feels as passionate about them as I did. 

And for this person, I just might be that person.

I hope that I am, because I will cherish them forever.


Sunday, 17 March '13

I was unable to get a ride to the house today. No one was in the position to help me... thanks a lot assholes. I hope to go sometime this week, even if I have to go walking.