My “last farewell” in a Tacoma record store…

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I’m repurposing this from one of my old “Song Of The Day” entries on “The Kirkham Report“, but the story has to be told here as well…because…well…it just FITS, you know?

Roger Whittaker is known throughout the world as one of the most popular crooners of the 1970’s. Yet in America, he was virtually unknown until his song “The Last Farewell” catapulted him to the top of the MOR/AC charts here in the States.

Got a Mom story for you, if you weel….heh heh heh…picture a twelve year old TC  in the summer of 1975. (Or maybe not…don’t want you running off screaming…heh heh)

My mother loved that song from the moment she first heard it. Now, she’s always been partial to crooners like Dean Martin, Perry Como, Al Martino, and the like. And “The Last Farewell“…well, she just LOVED it. She’d go around humming it to herself while cooking dinner or doing the laundry, etc.

In fact, she loved it so much, she asked me if I was planning to buy it when I got my allowance one week. I told her sure, I could get it, because I liked it too. But I told her it was a back up. But that week it turned out that two other songs I wanted were out at the local record store I frequented then, and so I grabbed a copy of the song for her.

The look I got from the clerk was priceless. The clerk at the record store – it was in a strip mall up the street from the Narrows Bridge in Tacoma Washington (and anyone who might know what this place was, PLEASE get in touch – I’m trying to find the name of it, and photos if anyone has them – it was somewhere in the 6000 -7000 address range (I think) on Sixth Avenue in the same plaza as an old “Wigwam” store and a small Chinese restaurant among other businesses) – was what we could loosely term a “hippie”. He was probably in his late teens or early twenties, with long reddish-brown hair pulled back into a ponytail (oh MAN how I wanted his hair..it was so cool). He always wore loose fitting clothes that were usually pea soup green in color (I can’t remember the name of the store, but I vividly remember the clerk’s clothes…go figure…).

So after perusing the singles bin that morning,  and picking up an album I wanted as well, my 12 year old self brought to the counter that day the 45 of The Last Farewell by Roger Whittaker along with:
1 45 of Walking In Rhythm by the Blackbirds
1 45 of The Hustle by Van McCoy
1 LP of Windsong by John Denver

The whiplash on the store clerk’s neck as he looked through my purchases…it was priceless. I laughed my ass off when I left the store.  Apparently the clerk couldn’t wrap his mind around a somewhat plump, long-haired twelve year old who liked disco, folk, and crooners at the same time.

A few years later I had a similar experience at a Eucalyptus Records and Tapes store in Spokane…but that’s ANOTHER story…heh heh heh…

Anyway, both my mom and I remain Roger Whittaker fans to this day…and we’ve never forgotten that story…and forty years later to the month – YIKES! – I still laugh when I remember that poor clerk’s face…ROTFL….

Tears when reading…ok, but not in public? Oh what the hell..

Have you ever had that rare experience where a book made you cry?  I don’t mean just thinking to yourself “Wow, that was sad”, but actually tear up while reading?  Knowing that you won’t put the book down, even when it hurts to continue?

I have.  Twice that I can recall.

The first time it ever happened to me was reading a book that made up part of the “Dragonlance” series.  Being a little Geeky McNerdly Nerd going way back, a series full of drama, adventure and magic sucked me in faster than you can say “Wizards of the Coast”.  I loved the grand sweeping universe of these books, but even more I loved the characters.  They were more than just wispy figures in my mind.  They felt solid – they felt real.

So real that when we lost one, it hurt.  A LOT.

The book was called “Dragons of Winter Night”, and (spoiler alert) the character who died was a knight named Strum Brightblade.  He was the closest thing this world had to a Paladin – he was brave, he was chivalrous, he was a man with a strict code of honor.

In short, he drove the other characters crazy.  Paladins tend to do that.

Yet when he died, sacrificing himself to save the others in his group, it felt like a punch in the chest.  I still remember my eyes welling up, my throat growing tighter and tighter.  Sitting there thinking to myself “No, he’s not really… he is.  He’s gone.”  It hurt more than any pain I had felt before reading a book.  I thought I’d never feel that type of emotional connection to a fictional character again.

Guess how that turned out.

Fast-forward a few years.  I’m not an (alleged) adult, browsing around in a local bookstore.  I find a new book, sit down and start reading.

It was “Remembering Farley”.

BIG MISTAKE.

A compilation of Lynn Johnston’s comic strip “For Better of For Worse” comic strips that dealt with the family dog, “Remembering Farley” was about the rambunctious sheepdog’s life – and (again spoiler alter) his tragic death.  Farley died after saving little April Patterson, who had tumbled into a river.

And there I sat, in the middle of a public bookstore, sniffling away, the words and pictures blurring from the tears in my eyes.

Those moments of pain are treasured memories, strangely enough.  Like a wonderful movie I’ve seen recently brought home, sadness is part of life, and the joy of reading is one that I will always have.

A leisurely day at Barnes And Noble

bnsaugusThere’s something about having an entire afternoon to yourself.  A time when you don’t have to answer to anyone, go where you like, do what you choose, that makes this such an irresistible prospect.

I spent 5 plus hours in a bookstore one day, and it was heavenly.

To set the scene – this was back in the 90’s, when I had a car, and TC worked at Coconuts, a record chain popular at the time.  The store was based in Swampscott, and one Sunday he was scheduled to work from twelve to six.  So being a good SO I offered to drive him and pick him up.

“What are you going to do in the meantime?” he asked.

“Oh, I’ll just go hang out at Barnes & Noble,” I replied.

He looked at me.  “For six hours?” he said, incredulously.

I just smiled.

So I drove him to work, kissed him goodbye, and headed off to the Barnes & Noble on Route One, at the time a rather newish bookstore in my hometown of Saugus.

And read.

And ate in the store’s café.

And read some more.

And browsed through magazines.

And read still more.

And bought a bunch of books.

And went to pick TC up – slightly late because I lost track of time, but I made it.

It was one of the nicest days I ever spent.

Just wandering the shelves, picking up a book here and there, settling in a comfortable chair to browse, and occasionally people watch.  It was great, it was relaxing, it was the perfect Sunday afternoon.

At least for me.

My own personal “Music Box” dancer…

ist2_7596973-discoAlthough I’ve been listening to music since I can remember, and buying records since I was about three, for the most part from that time until my teen years, I purchased records in regular stores. There was a large bin for records at a number of local stores when I was growing up in Ohio – Ben Franklin in Utica, Twin Fair and Seaway in Newark, Kings and Arro in Heath, and others. And while I went to a few stores devoted to records as a child, including one in Tacoma WA that I can’t remember the name of (though I remember the clerks faces, go figure), my true haven was a little mom-and-pop owned record store in Spokane, Washington. It was called “The Music Box“, and was a bit of a hike from the downtown shopping area that had been revitalized by Expo ’74. Eventually, they’d extend the skybridges through the local buildings to the Music Box‘s block. But usually it meant going through the bridges to Pay N Save, then going down the stairs and walking the remaining two blocks to the store. When we came to town a couple times a year from Harrington, where I lived (50 miles southwest), The Music Box was the first place I headed with the list of records I wanted.

I loved this place. It was small and homey, had a few bins for albums, and they kept the 45s behind the counter in a rack where they were sorted by record label. You went to the counter, worked with the always friendly ladies that worked there going through Billboard’s Hot 100, and they pulled what you wanted out and gave it to you. If they had it, it was yours for 99 cents.  And if they didn’t have it, they could special order it for you using the old Phonolog catalog.  I mean, you could do the same at Odyssey Records, a large chain store down the street a few blocks. But it wasn’t the same homey feel.

The Music Box also took mail order and would even ship them to you for $3.00. But usually I would send them a list of stuff, and then a few days later, I’d get a list back showing me what was being held, what wasn’t available, and what they’d special ordered for me. And I would write them back and let them know when I would be in, and would stop by and pick up the lot. They were very cool.

And then it was over.

Without a word to any of their loyal customers, they suddenly closed up shop, not long after the skybridge to their area was completed. It was Summer 1980 (I think), and they simply couldn’t compete with the local chain stores anymore. I mean, with records and tapes available from at least 6 stores in the Skywalk network (Penneys, The Crescent, The Bon Marche, Pay N Save, and two other stores), it was hard for them to compete. So after nearly 40 years of service to the Spokane area, they were gone. Poof. And I found out the hard way – my latest order list was returned to me as undeliverable. Even Odyssey had gone bankrupt by this time – they went belly up in December 1979, which I found out when we were on our way back home from Disneyland, and I trekked up the street from the bus station to it’s location in Fresno, CA only to find an “out of business” sign in their window.

Now, I WAS driving by this point, but our car had fallen apart at the end of the previous summer after I’d had a semi-major accident (thankfully neither I nor my passenger were injured). So I depended on the Greyhound to get me to and from Spokane, and so couldn’t make it up there very often. When I had the car, I had a number of other record stores I could get to, such as DJ’s Records and Tapes in Northtown’s new “mini-mall” area, and Eucalyptus Records and Tapes down the street. But they were out of my way once the car crapped out; no real way to get to them. And I missed my Music Box anyway…it was an experience I will never forget. It has always been my FAVORITE record store of any kind. Some others have come close, but NONE ever gave the personal service that they did, and I will always be in their debt for making me the collector I have become.