My first exposure to the Sisyphus myth was a bronze pair of bookends that one of my dad’s colleagues had his book- and record-filled apartment in Marietta. Until then, I thought Sisyphus was something you took care of with lots of penicillin and tetracycline. My dad explained to me the myth surrounding this unfortunate monarch: To punish his chronic and almost constant deceit, the gods condemned him to spend eternity rolling an enormous boulder up a hill in the Underworld, only to have it roll back down as he neared the top. Repeat throughout eternity.
I know that Albert Camus wrote a small book, The Myth of Sisyphus, which I have not read. During a mythology class I took at Marietta High School, I concluded (to my teacher’s reluctant agreement) that the closest manifestation of the Sisyphus myth was Wile E. Coyote, and these frequently involved boulders! (Anyone who watched The Six Million Dollar Man saw more laws of physics violated than in an eight-minute Road Runner cartoon, but Lee Majors did not bear out any significant mythology.)
Gentle readers, I bore out the myth of Sisyphus a day or two before the Washington trip, and I now understand it completely–although I did have a way out of it, unlike the poor bastard in the Underworld.
I left work early the day before my departure for Washington, and ventured to Used Kids Records on N. High St. I was in a good mood, about leaving work early because there was nothing to do, because I would have some Interstate underneath me in about 24 hours, and that I was flush to buy some records at Used Kids.
Used Kids is located upstairs in the 1900 block of N. High St., and its black-painted walls house a very eclectic selection of recorded music, on all media that is currently available. There are even commercially produced reel-to-reel tapes, as well as the God-awful eight-track tape. The bulk of Used Kids’ inventory is vinyl. There are also stereo components and speakers for sale.
But my eyes were all for the shellac. They had a fairly substantial, but completely disorganized, collection of 78 RPM records, and I have become like a guided missile when it comes to stashes of 78 RPM records. This is aided by the fact that several generous record store owners have given me their cache of unwanted 78s.
I asked the manager about the prices of the 78s. I was going to buy one album full of records. (A little explanation is necessary here: The maximum capacity of a 10-inch 78 RPM record was about three or four minutes’ running time. A longer work, such as a symphony or opera, had to be spread out over several records. If it was a single body, it came in an album with paper sleeves to hold each record. This is why, even on a compact disk or on an LP, and even today, a single collection of music is called an album.) The manager looked at me, and I suspect my reputation may have preceded me, because the vinyl peddlers in Columbus seem to have a relationship that is more cooperative than competitive.
He seemed to be deep in thought. “Tell you what,” he said. “I’ll let you have the whole lot for $20.” That was music to my ears, if you’ll pardon the expression. I said sure. I went home to drop off my knapsack, and to put on a denim jacket, since it had gotten a little colder than when I had left work. I came back, handed the cashier a $20 bill, and asked if I could bum their dolly. My yield turned out to be four milk crates, all four of them bursting at the seams. “Please tell me you have a freight elevator,” I said. No, they did not. With help, and also borrowing a frayed bungee cord, I was able to get this load all the way down the steep steps to High St.
|Used Kids Records, myself, and the plethora of 78s which are now piled up on shelves, in crates, and desk surfaces in my half double.
I envisioned that the worst part of the experience was cataloging the whole acquisition on Discogs, between the tedium and the often snide comments that moderators and administrators make to those who are still learning the ropes. I was wrong.
Hindsight is always 20/20, and I realize now that what I should have done was, after paying the $20, was tell them to hold the records, and then got on the phone either to a friend with a car or to a taxi dispatcher. But no, I had to try to get it all home myself. As retro as I have become in the last few years (almost to the point of considering typing out this blog on my Royal Skylark, almost like a more orthodox diary, and scanning the entries to go up here), I came away with an appreciation for iPods that I did not have when I got out of bed that morning.
Shellac and Bakelite records are heavy! When you multiply this by four crates, then the weight and the bulk are burdensome. There was no way I could remind myself of the famous litany (often spoken in vain) when helping someone move. “This isn’t heavy, it’s just bulky.” In the case of the 78s, it was both.
I believe now that every sidewalk between N. High St. and E. Maynard Ave. is warped and uneven. I was making very slow progress, less than a mile an hour, and trying without success to keep the stack of cartons from toppling at every small bump. I think that even if I had run over an anthill or a crushed beer can on the sidewalk, the whole load was in danger of collapsing. And if that happened, the records would shatter. It would be like holding up and dropping a box full of china.
I made my laborious way east on E. 18th Ave., going north on Waldeck Ave. (a mistake; the street is more uphill than I remembered, although I had no trouble traversing it on my trike or on foot on many nights), and finally east on Lane. After coming very close to spilling all the records–and having these nightmare visions of going through all the shrapnel that had been four crates full, and finding the remains of an Elvis Presley Sun 78–I took out the cell phone and called a cab. The driver did not look happy about this, and I am sure the car was riding lower than usual once I loaded everything into the back seat and the trunk (I had to ride up front with him).
I walked like Quasimodo the rest of the day, and I had to look behind me to see whether or not I had a knife handle sticking out of the small of my back, but I gritted my teeth and said it was worth it. So far, the most valuable record in there is Patti Page’s first recording of “Tennessee Waltz”, which originated as the B side of “Boogie Woogie Santa Claus” (Mercury Records 5534). I also acquired some unexpected LP vinyl treasures–all nine Beethoven symphonies, conducted by Arturo Toscanini, and a multi-record set of organ concerts by Albert Schweitzer, to benefit the people of Lambaréné and his medical mission there.
This is why I have never used the Sisyphus myth to describe my grappling with NaNoWriMo and all the many words and keystrokes that result from it. (On that subject, I am down to less than 10 thousand words, about 3000 of them written today.)
Currently, I’m in Kafé Kerouac, and they will be closing soon, and I will venture out in the falling snow to get home to bed. I have my headphones on, and the “Jewish Elvis,” Mr. Neil Leslie Diamond, is singing “Cherry Cherry,” my favorite song of his.