See You In Brooklyn? Not Anymore
So, yesterday I had either an extraordinary epiphany or an utter psychotic episode, depending upon your point of view. Let me set the stage by going back about 30 years to the time when I borrowed $10,000 from family to acquire my first record collection, 1,000 records that seemed like a poor investment at the time, paying $10 apiece. At the time I probably had about 1,000 records of my own and I wound up with many duplicates. There was no e-Bay at the time, of course, and the best way for a collector like myself to get rid of duplicates was to work the record shows that took place on the weekends. Between Long Island and Manhattan, at the time, there was probably a show every month or so, but I would be selective and do one or two a year. Sometimes I’d take my daughter and she would hang out and, when she got older, sometimes follow in her father’s footsteps and go out and seek some scores of her own. In between these record shows the duplicate records would sit in boxes somewhere in my house. Over the
years, I would do the record shows less frequently, and I would accumulate more duplicates, and the boxes of records would expand and expand, until there were many boxes and I ended up at times either renting storage space to house them or building extra cabinets so I could peruse them, even though they were records I already owned and had sitting on a shelf at another part of my house. The bottom line is that I’ve been hauling boxes of records to and from record shows for about 30 years. And, remaining in the same general geographic area, I’ve been seeing the same guys, wearing the same clothes, hauling the same records, for the same 30 years. The exceptions are the guys that got too old to haul records any more, or died, or the one transgendered dealer who is still hauling the same records, but is now wearing dresses instead of jeans.
Anyway, a year and a half ago I worked the WFMU Record Fair in Manhattan and the night before the fair I had driven down to Baltimore and hauled home 30 boxes of records, and I pulled out some duplicates and sold them at the show and nearly paid for the entire collection in one day. But I had many, many more boxes of duplicate records and I worked the next WFMU Record Fair last year and sold off more of them, but still I had boxes and boxes of records and no time or interest in selling on eBay and I was getting really tired of hauling records and my back was also getting really tired of hauling records and I decided that I just wanted to get rid of some of these records. So I took all of the records that would not be sellable on eBay and I put them into boxes and loaded them into the car and vowed not to bring them back into the apartment in Manahattan. Instead, I drove out to Infinity Records on Long Island and basically told my friend Joe he could have the records and the boxes for whatever he wanted to pay me, which wasn’t much, but it was quite a relief just getting rid of all of the boxes and not having to worry about them again.
Still, there were maybe 500 remaining records plus Downbeats and other stuff and they were stuffed into boxes and put on shelves waiting to be released once again at the next WFMU Record Fair, which was this weekend. And on Friday I loaded these records and Downbeats and other stuff into the car once again and drove out to Brooklyn and unloaded them and did all of the stuff you do at one of these shows. And I walked around and looked at other tables and saw the same guys, in the same clothes, with many the same records I’ve been seeing at various times during the past 30 years. And, of course, I still got the same old adrenaline rush and bought a few records, even a few more duplicates, just because they were there and the price was right. And I spent the day at my table, chatting with the occasional customer, and at the end of the day I had barely sold enough records to cover the cost of the table and I went home and knew I had another day at the record fair and then I would have to haul the records one more time, loading them into the car, bringing them back upstairs to the apartment, sticking some of the boxes into the closet, putting other records on shelves, and the whole thing started to feel old and tired.
Or maybe it was just me feeling old and tired.
And it was 11 p.m. and my back was aching and I was thinking of this 30-year pattern I’d been in and I turned to The Lovely Mrs. JC and said something to the effect that there was a piece of me that wouldn’t mind just selling all of the records in one shot, never loading them back into the car again, and not worrying about what to do with all of my duplicate records. And The Lovely Mrs. JC looked at me and smiled and said: “You should do it.”
And I went to bed and I thought about the records and the years of hauling them and the money I had paid to store them and how they kept accumulating year after year after year and how good I felt the year before selling eight boxes of records to Joey. And I got up in the morning, walked Marty the dog, had a bite to eat and headed over to Brooklyn not knowing what the upcoming day would have in store for me. And I went to my table and saw the same guys in the same clothes with the same records and I realized that I didn’t even really know any of these guys even though I’m one of them and have been for 30 years. But I’m a jazz guy, and there’s always been just a few of us, and we tend to be among the outsiders within this broader community of outsiders still obsessing over vinyl records. And I started thinking about the conversation with The Lovely Mrs. JC the night before and hauling records and storing records and cleaning records and these were records I already owned and were just doubles that I had accumulated over the years.
And then it happened. Call it what you will: Epiphany, psychotic episode, revelation, nervous breakdown. I looked across the aisle and saw a dealer from Japan who had been to my house many times and who I liked very much and I thought to myself: “Would he? Would he just buy it all? If he wanted them, how much would I take? How much would he offer?” And I impulsively walked over to him and I could see he was busy and I told him to stop by my table once he had a chance; I had something I wanted to discuss with him. Then I went back to my table. A few people came by and bought a few records and I counted the records I had on my table and looked over some of the nicer items, including a few original Blue Notes and Prestiges and I came up with a number in my head and this number in my head was a pretty low number for the records involved because by this point I wanted to do it, I wanted to sell the records, be rid of duplicates, not worry about hauling them or storing them, and I just wanted to go back to Manhattan and join my family for lunch and the theater. And maybe 15 minutes later he came by and asked what I wanted to talk about. And I said I wanted to sell him everything, all of the records on my table. And he thought I was kidding and smiled and chuckled and said, “no, no.” And then he thought for a second and said, “unless it was a low price.” And he still had a big smile on his face because he still thought I was joking. And I had the price in my head and it was a low price and I didn’t even make an effort to negotiate and I just said the price out loud. And he did a double take and the smile disappeared from his face and he looked me in the eye and he realized I was serious. Then I pointed to a box with several original Blue Notes and Prestiges and I said that the price was what it was and it included everything, including the records in that box. And he went over to that box immediately and started looking pulling each record out of the sleeve to look at the condition and the address on the label and the deep grooves and all the things any of us would do confronted with the opportunity to buy a bunch of nice jazz records at a very fair price. And then he pulled out a few more records and looked at them and then he started counting the records on the table and I could almost see the calculation taking place in his head: “If I buy these records, how much am I paying per record.” And when he calculated the number in his head and then said it out loud and realized I was serious, he looked me in the eye again and simply said, “Yes.”
Fifteen minutes later I was in my car. I texted the Lovely Mrs. JC and told her I had done it. She was with my son and daughter and they were having lunch for an early Mother’s Day celebration and they were going to see the play Fun Home on Broadway. I told her to order me some pizza and get me a ticket for the play. I was leaving Brooklyn and my records behind.