19th: Let your countenance be pleasant, but in serious matters somewhat grave.
Best of Broadway, a stage show
11 September 2004
"This will be your fortune some day ," my father told me many times.
He had collected records all of his life. His passion was jazz and he had all the greats, starting with the 78s he began collecting in his youth, right up to the huge collection of LPs that he continued to collect up until his death.
He had a particular passion for jazz piano (being a jazz pianist himself) and his favorite was Art Tatum. I couldn't tell one pianist from another, but he could hear 3 notes of a piece on the radio and know instantly who was playing. He was always right.
He didn't have a lot of money when he died, but he left me this huge, valuable (he felt) collection of 78s and LPs, music that was no longer available.
The word "remaster" had not yet entered the vocabulary.
We gave the kids first chance to take the records they wanted, and they did. I started calling used record stores trying to find someone who wanted my father's lifelong collection of jazz LPs. Paul asked me to please hang on to the 78s.
I was to discover that people were just starting to re-record old long-playing records so they could be played in stereo. My father's old vinyls were quickly becoming obsolete. In fact, I couldn't even find anybody interested in coming to look at the collection.
Finally one guy showed up and made me an offer. By this time I'd been trying to sell this huge collection for months and when he offered me $250 to take them off my hands, I agreed. I knew that I was probably being had, but to try to get more money would involve more work than I was willing to put in, so I let them go for $250.
(In contrast, his collection of Life magazines, which he saved throughout the war, which filled one box, was eagerly snapped up by a book dealer in San Francisco for $300!)
But there were still the 78s. Bing Crosby, The Andrews Sisters, and all those jazz pianists as well as other records from the 40s.
Not only were there the 78s that Paul asked me to hold on to, but now you couldn't even find turntables that would take 78s.
And, of course, Paul died, so I couldn't foist them all off on him when he moved into the home he was going to buy.
So here they've been sitting, since 1988, when my father died, and I can't get rid of the damn things. They have become a huge albatross around my neck.
In order to move Walt's mother's bookcase in here, I had to totally empty two bookcases (and then 30 minutes later, fill them back up again!). One bookcase had the entire bottom of it filled with 78s (a small fraction of the collection--the rest are upstairs).
I looked up rare record dealers in Sacramento and found there are apparently none. "Rare" records are original Beatles recordings, not 78s of Bing Crosby singing "White Christmas." Now these same rare 78s have been remastered and put on CD, with better sound quality. Who wants skratchy 78s?
I also checked on e-Bay and discovered that there are a lot of records up for sale, and none of them for more than a pittance. Even a recording of Al Jolson was asking only $2.00 -- and there were no bids for that. I began to realize that the market for my father's records was dying with him.
I finally sent off an e-mail to Sean Bianco. Sean is the opera guy on the local public radio station. He's also married to a woman I used to work with, and he's the musical director for the Davis Comic Opera Co. And Sean collects 78s.
A couple of years ago, Sean and his wife came over to look at my valuable 78 collection and I learned that my collection was hardly worth anything. One problem, in addition to the fact that you can't find a machine to play them on, is that my father took the original records out of the original sleeve they came in and put them into albums he bought. The records alone were worthless. The records in the sleeves would have been worth "something" to collectors.
(It reminded me of all of those theatre posters of Judy Garland movies that I cut up to fit into binders--nowadays they are worth a fortune to collectors. Hindsight is 20/20.)
Sean didn't seem enthusiastic about the collection at all, when he first looked at it, but he said he'd come back and go through them. He never did. I figured that his silence meant he was being too polite to tell me that he wasn't interested.
My e-mail read: Last call. I'm about to throw away all the 78s. They are taking up too much space and I can't find anybody who wants them. If you'd like them, they're yours. If not, they go into the garbage on Tuesday. I suspect you don't want them--but I didn't want to throw them out without checking with you first.
By almost instant return e-mail, I received a note asking if he could stop by on Saturday.
If he will take this albatross from around my neck, he's welcome to have them, sell them, trade them, or do whatever he wants with them. He can even become rich on them if he finds the right buyer. I just want them gone.
They were my father's fortune, and for him they were a fortune because they brought him pleasure beyond price. For me they're just a pain in the patootie and I'm praying that Sean will cart them off and that after Saturday, I'll finally be rid of them.
In the "get a life" department, they are doing work on the sidewalk in front of our house and Walt had rented a truck to haul his mother's furniture yesterday. I couldn't park on our street, so I went to a dead end street behind our house. I parked in front of a house that was at the dead end of the street, and pulled my car way up to the fence because I remember when Paul used to park there when high school girls would see his car at our house and stop by to see him (in the days when he was singing with Lawsuit and was starting to have young "fans"). The woman who lived there called the police on his legally parked car twice and the police told him that if he continued to park in this legal parking space they would have to ticket him because of her complaints.
At about 4 p.m., I get a call from the Davis police telling me that the owner of the house called to complain that I'm blocking the sidewalk and the police were ordering me to move my car. Now, bear in mind this is the END of the sidewalk. There is nowhere to walk to. And the car was, literally, one inch over the slope from the sidewalk down to the street.
I wonder if I'm going to be a crotchety old lady looking for excuses to call the police on my neighbors when I get old(er).
The Economy's OK, Stupid
In case you missed this AP story, I'm feeling MUCH better today, because our beloved Vice President has pointed out how the economy is improving:
I'm sure all the folks without jobs who are selling off their belongings in order to make ends meet are so pleased to hear that.
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