For kids and grandkids, I felt a need to grow up. Adults, keep that inner kid alive!!
It is March of 1988 and Atlanta is shedding its winter coat. My oldest son, Paul, and I always go to a yearly record show held in a hotel that looks like an old castle. It has turrets and is a cross between something in a theme park and an actual hotel complete with rooms for customers. I must confess I have never stayed there as a guest and don’t know that I would recommend it.
We always park in the gravel lot behind the hotel and enter the bowels of it where the smell is musty and sweet from the contraband. We pass by long haired guys that check us out with their eyes. Everyone is wearing their favorite band shirt. These are vintage, the real thing, Aerosmith showing The Toxic Twins, from 1977. Another guy with worn bellbottoms has on a psychedelic Dead shirt, faded and proudly worn. A woman, in her fifties, wears a Jefferson Airplane shirt over a short denim skirt. She is smoking a cigarette with attitude. They are all having a cool time talking about the shows they have been to and their experiences backstage hanging with bands.
It is a motley crew that Paul and I love. There is a series of “ballrooms” in this basement with worn carpets. One has a sign that says “ Record Show, Old and New, Collectors Items”. We walk into a huge room with long tables that have been set up by individuals selling their wares, bootleg records and shirts, stuff that had been sold at concerts. Something for everyone that loves both old and new rock music. The music system is epic, playing a variety of new and older stuff from alternative, singer-songwriter, Glam Medal, Grunge, Rock Classics, Disco and some Rap.
We have been coming here for a couple of years and have learned to make a great deal. Usually the two of us split up. My kid is tall with curly red hair and I can always find him. Plus he watches out for his Mom, being sweet and protective.
I am looking mainly for Springsteen and Clapton. Paul is looking for Pink Floyd, U2, R.E.M and Zeppelin. My kid is a musical connoisseur. He has been playing four instruments in a high school band and orchestra that has traveled all over the US winning competitions. They have played in numerous parades like the Tournament of Roses. He plays either alto saxophone or the tuba. He is also in a prizewinning bass quartet that travels to cities for special occasions. He is a delightful mixture of rebel and honor student.
I am a proud Mom and have been on the parents chartered bus, rooting for our band. Since I work full time, RN on night shift, I can't always go along. Watching his high school days, with band, the proms, football has all been more fun than I had in high school. I was a lonely kid. Music was my friend. In the 1960’s, I mostly dated older boys in garage bands. I have found good music always brings generations together.
I walk up to a booth and start to go through the merchandise. A guy, about sixty, in a white vintage mohair vest, a dark purple long sleeve shirt, faded jeans with genuine holes, and love beads around his neck winks at me. “Hey, babe, what gets you off? You look like a Stones fan!”
He has a coffee cup from Starbucks he takes a swig from.
I know this game, if he knows what I am looking for I am going to pay full price. I never wear a concert shirt that gives me away.
“Got anything by Patti Smith? Live?”
“Yeah, I think so, lemme look”.
His head goes down into the boxes under the table. I scan for Springsteen. He has some stuff but is too high! I have a money limit.
I move on around the room, stopping at various tables, picking up albums and cassettes with live shows. One woman has a psychedelic background with sun catchers, jewelry, and different kinds of incense. Not much in the way of records but looking around I spy a brand new “Exile on Main Street” by the Stones in plastic. It is calling to me from behind her.
“Excuse me, are you selling that?” I point at the coveted album.
“That’s my old mans, he went out for lunch.”
“Can I see it?”
“I guess, he doesn’t have a price on it though”.
It is brand new, pristine with the postcards still attached to each other.
“I’ll give you $35 for it”.
“Maybe I should wait, ya know?”
“It’s a good price, they are still selling these. It’s not like it is rare or live.”
“Try my essential oil, ok? Homemade. Let me think a minute.”
I open the sample of a woodsy lavender. The eyedropper releases three drops of pungent oil immediately. It makes my eyes burn, so strong, but I feel like I am transported by the oil and George Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass” on the overhead stereo.
Paul and I meet up. We have both scored and spent less than $250. We have bags full of goodies. Live shows on cassettes that we had sampled. Some great colored rare vinyls, one of a kind samples that had gone out to DJ’s only, a couple rare backstage passes and autographed albums. I had the Stones jewel. We also probably had a contact high. WOW, smell that smell!
We put a cassette into the car’s player on full volume and take off for The Varsity to get Frosted Orange shakes, greasy onion rings and chili dogs, an Atlanta tradition. With full stomachs and hearts, we drive back to the suburbs where my husband is mowing grass and my youngest son, only 10, is trying out new tricks on his skateboard.
Paul went on to Georgia Tech for college and then into the corporate tech world.
I am now a grandmother to six but I still go to every Bruce concert in Atlanta. Those were golden days I spent with my first born son, going to concerts and record shows. I will never forget them. Music is the fabric that stitches our lives together. Great memories!
The following is from the song "Growing Up" by Bruce Springsteen
I hid in the clouded wrath of the crowd
But when they said, "Sit down," I stood up
Ooh, ooh, growin' up
By Kathie Stehr
written for The Writer's Cramp