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On Moving a Musical Life to a New Home [Part II]

22 June 2006

Eldridge in April; the office, just before I began to box it all up. (photo: Michelle Santos)

[Continued from Part I]

And it’s not just music itself, now stored on hard drives instead of on wood, cinderblocks, and other shelf-contraptions so seemingly flimsy that various girlfriends and my eventual wife feared that they might have records fall on their heads while they slept due to a sudden collapse of the shelves.

Here are three boxes or so of posters so far. Posters! Not even on my walls (I took ‘em down in 1992). Didn’t even know I had a RIDE poster. It’s been rolled up in a funnel tube for 15 years I guess. Books? Just music books, I think that was another dozen or so, heavy mothers at that. Did I read all those? I must have. Other people’s magazines? Hell yes. Oh, c’mon, are you going to throw out your 1978/1979 NME’s? Maybe I should sell them, but these covers with X-RAY SPEX or GANG OF FOUR or THE CLASH peering out on me makes me 16 again, just like the Buzzcocks song goes, and I just stare at them with the same rapt sense of feeling totally alive and wired like I did then—like I’d just plugged my finger into an electric socket and felt the jolt.

But it means more heavy boxes. Issues of Magnet and Mojo are too good to be chucked, so into the box they go with my hallowed, epiphany-inducing old copies of Search and Destroy and Slash which feel like holy scrolls to me now, as they did then—as if I should convene a convention of scholars to pour over every word written by CLAUDE BESSY and VALE. And there’s so much more. It feels really funny dumping the hook rug (hook rug!) of THE CHAMELEONS that my friend WAYNE GUSKIND gave me a decade ago into a box, but it’s not going to drive to Brooklyn on its own.

More boxes of memorabilia dealing with the three bands (EVEN WORSE, SPRINGHOUSE, and LAST BURNING EMBERS) I was (and sometimes am again) in. You want to look at the riders for Springhouse’s various tour gigs 1991-1994, contracts we signed with promoters in Toronto, Reno, Ft. Lauderdale, Grand Rapids, Seattle, and Houston? No, we didn’t ask for green M&Ms; apparently, we asked for fruit (guess that’s why we rarely got sick on tour!). Here they are in my files, next to our publicity shots, press clips, and a few dozen rolled-up posters, old gig flyers, etc. And on an on it goes…

Oh, and did I mention I’m also moving a small business with a lot of mail order goods? How about 40 or 50 boxes of various back issues from our shelves, CDs of those three bands and DOUG GILLARD from my little label, t-shirts in six sizes and three different colors, office supplies, computers, printer, shelving units, old zip disks, and CDs of data, old originals of our mag’s issues from the first 15 years before computerization. Hey you want to see some old photos of RUTS D.C. I took at Mudd Club in 1981, which I pasted onto this original page in issue 9?.... Oh, right, yeah, I said no memory lane. My bad. Into the box with you!

I write all this not to brag, not to ask for sympathy, not to even marvel at it by myself, but for one reason only: because so many of you have had to do this, exactly like this, in boxes of equal number, and so many of you will do it again and again for a third and fourth and fifth time, carting around (what to other people is) the multiplying clutter, emblems, artifacts, and librarian aspect of a beautiful immersion into music; music that has mattered so much in your lives—such a vibrant and utterly devastating and exhilarating art form that has made us not less sane, not more insular and exclusive, hip and geek-lonely, but more aware to life’s possibilities and the deepest bits of feeling.

In your boxes you fill and move, are this whole range of emotions and inner responses that are only articulated to its fullest in your music you love and in the relations you have with your lovers, friends, families, business pals, favorite shopkeepers, and that girl you exchanged a joke with on the subway. This jazz that is life is set to a tune you can’t get out of your head and it feels like your most understanding companion. You’ll carry around your wonder of it from place to place like you’ve got the museum of truly modern and moving art in your clutches, and how wonderful that, unlike MOMA, this same stuff you schlep was available to your friends and cronies for them to own too and revel, revel, revel in the current that makes you fee like your hair is standing up on end, Linus-like. It’s a sense of community in a box, not a ego-trip to impress anyone, and it reminds you of so many great things you’ve done with your time while others were watching crap TV that doesn’t fulfill them and wishing they did something other than just go to work and come home.

Right now, I’ve changed my tape to another cassette I haven’t played in about five years, a mix tape. SERPICO’s ultra-hot punkish-power-pop of “Price of Everything,” a then-new song from 2001, has given way to CHARLIE PARKER’s strings-and-cool-beat sax-bleatings on “Just Friends” from 1949, and I, yes, revel. As JACK KEROUAC once wrote so eloquently of a San Fran basement jazz gig he saw in the ‘50s, “Blow man, blow!”

I am transformed, and the boxes, heavy and numerous as they are, get lighter, like they’re full of air and feathers. This is precious public-cargo, mass-produced gold instead of the tourist trash bric-a-brac and passing fancy inanities that should be dumped into the garbage the second one has to move it to another abode. And just as THE FLYING BURRITO BROTHERS’s 1969 masterpiece “Hot Burrito #2” begins, I swoon, as I wrap up the framed photo of me pointing to the cover of Springhouse’s first album in a record shop on St. Marks Place, framed because it was a lifelong dream come true. It’s been a musical life well-loved and well-participated in, methinks, and if I have to buy more shelves and truck it ten times in a year, I won’t be parting company with any of it soon!

And neither will you and yours, I bet!!! Hello Mayflower? Or, in my case, hello good friends with strong arms and shoulders and U-Haul? Come get the gold!


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