Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Ashes To Ashes Redux

A few years ago I wrote a piece called “Ashes To Ashes” about the death of a long time customer, and how the buying of his collection affected me personally. It ultimately turned into an expose of my feelings about the importance of individual fans on the career development of successful artists. I noted how much this business I’m in revolves around death and divorce. Often people lose their collections when their life is in turmoil or when their families find themselves in the unenviable position of disposing of their legacy. Recently another good customer died and I found myself again confronted with some complex feelings about the experience of buying his collection. This customer was a very nice guy who was involved in many facets of the music business for many years in Colorado. He had connections to radio, bands, labels, and I knew him to be a genuine fan of music. In the last few years he had transitioned out of music, and had purchased a bike shop. From my perspective as a casual acquaintance and business associate he seemed to have led a charmed life. Unfortunately, there were problems that resulted in a drug overdose.

One of my employees called me at home on a Sunday evening and said, “man this is crazy, I’ve been working on this collection all day - it’s amazing. You must have known this guy.” When I looked at the collection the next day, it was clear to me too that I must have known the guy. Many of the CDs were purchased at Twist and Shout, and his taste indicated that this was someone I would have seen eye to eye with about music. When his father came in that afternoon to collect his money, I spoke to him briefly. Yes, this was indeed someone I knew. I was very saddened that evening as I thought about the quickness of events and the impermanence of life and the permanence of death. In the next few days, as I went through the collection, I put aside a few items for myself. I almost did it unconsciously. They weren’t items that I felt I really had to have. There were some things I was glad to get (early John Prine titles I was missing etc.), but as the process wore on, I started to ponder the real purpose of my acquisitions. I started to remember other events like this, and I realized that any time I purchased the collection of someone I knew, or anytime the experience of purchasing a collection created a profound emotional resonance in me, I would almost always leave myself with some kind of totem. These items then take on a special meaning within my collection.

Here are two literary references that play into this for me. At the end of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest as Chief Broom smothers McMurphy so he won’t have to continue living as a lobotomized vegetable, he says softly “You’re coming with me Mac.” This always struck me as a very interesting and touching thing to say. The other scene involved Holden Caulfield, the young tragi-comic hero of The Catcher In The Rye. He talks about the death of his younger brother Allie and how he always felt sad about Allie being in a lonely graveyard when it was raining and cold and wet. He didn’t want to leave him there alone. It’s not an exact correlation to my feelings, but I kind of feel like, by keeping a couple of representative items from the deceased’s collection, I help that person’s memory stay a little clearer and a little more whole before the gaping maw of eternity. By holding those John Prine CDs near, I’m saying; “I won’t leave you alone, you’re coming with me.”

1 comment:

joe said...

Great post. I still have the copy of Another Green World I inherited a long gone friend of ours.