Saturday, June 3, 2017

A lifetime in a thrift store

Well hell, I don’t really know what to write but it seems like I ought to say something . . .
Yeah, I’m still alive and kicking, and I am still traveling for work, though very little of it is done as female for an assortment of reasons.  You remember that problem I’ve had for years with big painful bumps on my legs? I went for two years without an outbreak and thought maybe I was done with it, but apparently my celebration was premature. Not only has it come back, but it is exponentially worse and more aggressive. This time it is also affecting some of my joints, and at one point it hurt so bad to walk that I honestly feared for my ability to continue working and bringing home the bacon. I’d given up on going to doctors for this, but being unable to walk sort of forced my hand, and so I found myself at a Rheumatologist in South Austin - over an hours drive from where I live. That started out on a hopeful note, with her assuring me that she would find the source of my problem, even though every other doctor I’d seen in 20 years had failed. So they took a shit load of blood and a deep tissue biopsy and ran about 30 labs on them. The biopsy indicated severe swelling – most helpful (NOT). Every one of the countless labs they ran on the blood came back normal and negative, just as they had for every other doctor that had tried the same tests in the last 20 years.  If it weren’t for the very obvious nodules all over my legs, I’ll bet that they would have referred me to a mental health professional by now, thinking that it was all in my head since every test says I’m fine. So, this doctor has joined all of the others in going from “We will figure it out” to “I don’t know, so let’s treat the symptoms” in a very short amount of time.  For the majority of the last three months, I’ve been taking relatively high doses of steroids to keep the swelling down, and to let me keep walking. Three times now I’ve completed the recommended courses of steroids, stopped taking them, and my problem has returned even more aggressive than it had been. Call the doc, get more steroids, the problem retreats again. Yeah, I took the last of the latest batch of steroids three days ago and now I am waiting, scared to death at how bad it is going to be shortly. Say, have you ever taken large doses of steroids for three months straight? It does bad things to you- jittery, sleep deprived, highly irritable, and my hands shake like an old alcoholic. So yeah, I’m not traveling “pretty” and I am definitely not in my happy place . . .

I’ve said a lot about it on Facebook, but I don’t think I’ve said much about it on my blog, but my wife and I have bought a vintage stereo, complete with a record player, and I’ve been obsessed with looking for records when I travel. Having a job that has me on the road a lot gives me the unique advantage of being able to raid thrift stores all across the country looking for these old treasures. I’ve hit every single Goodwill in the Austin area, and every one of them between Austin Texas and Baton Rouge Louisiana on interstate 10! Some of the stuff I’ve found is just “ehh” and some of it is awesome.  All of my life I’ve loved “elevator” music – orchestras and the like. When other kids were loving the hell out of “Kiss”, “Van Halen” and the like, I loved Montovani, Mitch Miller, Ray Conniff , and others like this, and now it has come to my advantage. The thrift stores are full of records that I love and adore, that others have looked at and passed over as uninteresting. I’ve got two “Les Paul and Mary Ford” records from the 1950’s that are crystal clear and absolutely gorgeous. I swear I’m not exaggerating – it sounds like they are in my living room playing just for me. Someone gave those records up, lots of other people passed over them sitting in the thrift stores, and along I come; absolutely shocked to find such wonderful things sitting there and waiting for me.
The other cool thing is listening to the records that I grew up with. I’ve found many records that I recall from my childhood – Ray Conniff, Boots Randolph, Herb Alpert, Dinah Shore, on and on.  I kid you not, the first time I placed the needle on a record and heard that hiss and pop, I had tears in my eyes. I’m not even sure why. When my big sister heard about my new obsession, she sent me a dozen records that she has been carrying around for 40 years. Now think about that for a second. She hasn’t had a record player in decades but she loved these records so much that she still kept them all these years, and she gave them to me. Now that is love!  My kids both looked at me like I was crazy when I put these records on and tried to explain that not only were these the songs that I grew up with, but these were in fact the very records that I had played them from. This was of course deeply emotional for me, but absolutely meaningless to my children.
There is also something profound about the records that I’ve found in these thrift stores. I’m not sure what the moral or the lesson here is, but it strikes me as profound. I’ve found some records that have labels on them like “LP 1,346” and “LP 3,522”. Some of these records are 50+ years old and in pristine condition. Think that through for a moment. Someone loved their record collection so much that they had  spent a great deal of time, effort, and expense in buying at least 3,522 records, labeling and cataloging them, and taking such good care of these relatively fragile records that 50 years later they still sound flawless. Where did their beloved collection of a lifetime end up? In the hands of family that might enjoy them in fond memory of the person who had loved them? No, they ended up in a dirty Goodwill full of used and worn out items that meant nothing to anyone.  If you think about that long enough, it will bring tears to your eyes. . .
I’m gonna tell my kids that I’m hiding a thousand dollars in the sleeves of my records. I may or may not hide money there, but by God when I die, they’ll have to look through each and every one of those damned things before they throw them away . . .


  1. Glad to see you're still around and posting! I was getting concerned.

    We know we're getting old when the young computer repairman comes by and I point out the huge box with my 45rpm record collection in it. (Remember those? The ones with the big hole in the middle and a huge spindle to make them change automatically?) He didn't have a clue as to what they are. So I told him, and showed him the changer.

    Another enlightened Millenial.

    Sorry to hear your issues have returned. I'll keep you in my thoughts and prayers.



  2. I haven't got any 45's myself. Having to get off my lazy butt and turn over the LP's every 20 minutes or so is enough hassle. lol

    1. Actually, I don't listen to them anymore. The serviceman happened to be there as I was in the midst of a project to convert my favorites to MP4's, using the record changer.

      I've finished the first round, and stored the 45's again... They haven't seen the light of day since. But the MP4's are on CD and in my cars and old iPod.

      When I get "round to it" I'll unearth the records again and do the second round. My bigger project is converting the LP albums to cd's. I have the technology. Maybe someday...

    2. I still have my vinyl collection, 1000 odd LP's across the board dipping into most genre. Some I have bought as CDs for the convince of not having to flip them over every 20 min as Kim so pictorially put it. Quite a lot of them you can't even get on CD these days, so I as with you, may some day get round to 'ripping' them to a hard drive. At lease with LP's you don't need to get out the magnifying glass to read the covers, and some of the art work is superb from great artists in a proper size.

  3. I really hope they get to the bottom of your issues. I have been dealing with arthritis in my thumbs which makes working with tools hard. Since I do not rely on working with tools for a living my hardest tasks are tying my shoes and clipping on my bra. I am still vain enough that I relish clipping my bra behind my back.
    There are committed audio lover who cherish vinyl. I suppose the question is which of your two minorities is larger...lovers of vinyl records or folks like us who love to dress as women?

    1. Pat, I've just gone into retirement and thought I cound catch up making music in my studio but I have now as with you arthritis in my thumbs! Which is a bugger when playing the piano. Is it only the thumbs with you? The rest of my hands are ok, till now that is.. And as you have mentioned it, I belong to both minorities and about 50/50.

  4. Swollen ankle (and obvious pain) aside, I have to say I LOVE those shoes!