Saturday, December 1, 2012

Steve, Record Karma and the Holiday Season

The Kuge (legendary, possibly Norwegian, record collector) once told me records are karmic. This comment has been proven true many times, even if The Kuge never made good on our one trade. He got a Vatican Commandos record and was supposed to give me Nubs and Gai 45s in return. Well, he didn't. By now he may have traded them to someone else. Anyway, this is not about sour grapes. In fact, that whole situation may just be one more example of how his statement holds true.

The collection pictured above is Steve's. was his collection. Looks bad, right? I met Steve yesterday. We were walking out of a thrift store at the same time. I had a few not-very-exciting records under my arm. He had some glassware. I know this because he got into it with the thrift store people about how much newspaper to use to wrap the glassware. Classistly, I get a little nervous whenever voices raise in a thrift store. I know that's not a word, by the way. Also classistly, I don't want anyone to think I don't know that it isn't a word. Anyway, Steve notices my purchase and asks me if I buy records. I said it seems I do He told me he wanted to get rid of his records and asked if I would be interested. Sure, yeah, maybe. He said there were about 150 and that they were mostly 60's and 70's rock, some albums, some 45s. I asked if they were in good condition and he said they were. He also mentioned a custom rack he had for them. He wanted about $60 for all of it and could meet up in the afternoon. Sure, yeah, definitely. He told me to call him when I freed up and he would direct me.

I called him a few hours later. He told me he had been living in a motel up the street from the thrift store for the last two years. I didn't know where it was, despite having driven past it hundreds of times. He told me it was on the left, up the street. Odd directions. He was older, maybe 55. Maybe he doesn't realize the magic a GPS can work? The "living in a motel up the street" part told me to accept the directions as is.

I found it. He was standing in the parking lot, talking to another motel guest. Tenant? Resident? Classistly, I associate living in a hotel with people living at the Waldorf. Steve shook my hand, brought me over to his room, and pointed to a cardboard box on the bed. That's them in the picture above. There's some Kiss records, a couple ELO, one Queen. A bunch of 78s and 45s. A couple of the 45s would have been decently valuable garage records but they were pretty beat up from being sleeveless for 30+ years. As I looked at the records, I slowed down. He was talking about them and what he was doing when he bought each one. I have heard this routine a thousand times. Someone selling their records telling me stories about accumulating them. I tuned him out and looked around the room. Everything he had to his name was in this room or his van outside. The room had horribly stained wall to wall and one light. There were clothes hung neatly on a standing rack. Shoes lined up neatly underneath. He had some storage containers against one wall with the typical labels - pictures, kitchen, "Mom & Dad". The only thing on the walls was a piece of paper with a handwritten biblical quote. The end table had a bible on it. It mostly covered up the unemployment paperwork underneath it. I tuned back in to him and he was talking about how we would also sell the rack, that he wouldn't need it anymore.

He told me he was going back out to the parking lot to talk to his friend. The records were garbage. There was not one thing I wanted and I would be lucky to get the $60 back by selling them. I looked around the room again and pondered how to tell him I would not be taking them. I thought about how he said they were in good condition. He was lying, I thought. Not really, not to him. These were his records, collected long before this motel became his reality. They were dirty and dusty and wrapped in old newspapers. I looked around again and walked out to the parking lot and handed him $60. He helped me put them in my car. He was careful to make sure I took the rack - I had tried to leave it.

I drove out of the motel and down the street. There's an antique shop run by Russians on the right about half a mile down the road. I pulled in. There were two crates of Sinatra records on the ground, all horrendously overpriced. I asked the presiding Russian if they had more records. "Da", he motioned at a foot locker and opened it. It was full of records, mostly classical. Egh. Not my day. I decided to be thankful they were not dusty and dirty. I went through them all and fished out these :

The Tommy Turrentine record is in almost perfect condition. In this shape it has sold for $150, even $300 once. The Tenors Anyone record is also nearly perfect and runs around $100. The Ray Charles is a first pressing. They're all great. I'm not sure what to do with Steve's records. Most will wind up in the bin. But if I'm to believe The Kuge, I'm listening to Tommy Turrentine right now because I gave Steve that $60. I guess it's time to let got of the Nubs and Gai records and call that Vatican Commandos record a Christmas present.