By Vincent J. Fitzgerald
When I was young I grasped the tangible world of record stores, studied the featured album blared from speakers, and inhaled must from unmoved records. I roamed aisles of albums long since eradicated by the abstract world of digital music, captivated by a ritual ignited by bus rides debating the merits of hair bands versus heavy metal, and ending with comparisons of purchases soon to spin on turntables, later to be traded among my friends. In between I commiserated with fellow fans whose passionate positions helped me divert from Rock to Rap, opening my ears while raising friends’ eyebrows. That community has since disbanded, and banter silenced, replaced by a comment section in which I type some thoughts I fear no one will ever read.
I miss nods of approval from familiar cashiers who confirmed my selection solid. No one validates my push of a “buy” button; and a download lacks dramatic flair of fresh vinyl emerged from a brown paper sheath. I miss giving those nods as a record store clerk, long before I became a therapist and my opinions bore greater consequences.
I miss album art I admired when I still dreamed of being the artist, before iTunes replaced artistic expression with tiny icons whizzing by from the force of my finger. I miss the slow leaf through records I gazed upon like old photos; covers stirring memories of my dad introducing me to melody and harmony. My kids never discovered a dust covered record collection, and what my taste in music revealed about me. I cradled my records close and so tight the edges creased the palms of my hands. Had I clutched my children with such vigor, the distance between us would be far less.
I miss selecting a record from my cabinet, appreciating its self-contained individuality, wiping lint before placing my stylus with surgical steadiness, and the crackle and pop preceding the first note. Playlists erased album identity, and pristineness is now maintained with the wipe of a smudged thumbprint; my display cabinet replaced by a cloud I fear might one day dissipate. My rows of records, categorized in order of affection, drew admiration when friends visited. If anyone requests now to peruse my music collection, I hand them my phone, and request they swipe gently. Album integrity is compromised by the a la carte menu of digital stores in which hits are the chef’s specialties and album tracks leftovers. I empathized with deep cuts buried on B sides and ignored by radio, longing for appreciation of their unique qualities.
I miss listening in stillness on my floor, ensuring my needle would not skip, absorbing an album in sequence rather than sampling the choicest cuts through ear buds on the run. Music filled me with ideas; now it fills time in transit. I learned so much from reading liner notes detailing session recordings and the creative process of putting a record together, always hoping someone would take time to read the liner notes written within me.
I spent lazy Sunday mornings with Casey Kasem, dodging my grandmother’s requests I run to the store even as she burned and buttered my toast, and brought it to me it to me with a Pepsi Light and kiss on the cheek. I miss Casey and those weekend retreats to my grandmother’s house where tumult could never find me, and I wish I never protested her simple request I go to the store. I miss my grandmother.
I miss showing off new records to my mother, the way she rolled her eyes at satanic band names, and how she huffed at coarse lyrics through her strong lungs. Had I given her more time, she could have watched me mature to The Platters and Bob Dylan. I miss bonding with my little brothers through exposing their impressionable ears to notes and lyrics they never before heard.
I miss my brothers being little, and mom having strong lungs
Each day chips away the concrete, and I am exposed by abstraction. I did little to appreciate all I could touch; cursed by false belief all endures. As my own erosion creeps up, I pretend time is infinite, my mother’s voice will always sing from her end of the phone, my children will forever be available to me, and I can reconcile with my father at my pace. But each mounting loss bludgeons me with impact that spins me like an old record on an irrelevant turntable as a needle scratches deeper.
Vincent J. Fitzgerald is a writer and therapist born and raised in Jersey City, NJ. His work has appeared in Longridge Review, Missing Slate, and Dads Behaving Dadly 2 among others, and often reflects the importance of recognizing and changing negative generational patterns. “I am convinced writing is therapy, and often encourage my clients to explore their personal narratives.” Vincent earned Bachelors degrees in Psychology and English from New Jersey City University and a Masters degree in Social Work from Fordham University. He is in the process of becoming a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), and is soon to be married to his love, Gemma, without whom his growth would not have occurred. Follow him on Twitter at @scribetherapist, and Facebook at Vincent John Fitzgerald (Scribe Therapist).