“Aren’t you Sasha Litvinova’s son?” the young woman asked me. She looked me directly in my face, and did not seem at all put off by my unshaven, withdrawn look.
Father, talk about a shock to my system! Who the hell was this person? And how did she know Mother? And why was she speaking to me? I was just sitting on this bench minding my own damn business!
But can you believe it, Father, those five little words changed the course of my life forever, and lifted me out of seventeen long, lonely years of despair and desperation,
It was April 17, 2054, a little after one in the afternoon. I am not quite sure about the time, just the date; still, I thought it was a little after one, mainly because I did the same thing, at the same time, every day that the weather allowed—which was to sit and stare at the ocean, and occasionally take one of my walks to Coney Island and back.
The so-called Manhattan Syndrome still had me firmly in its deadly grip. I didn’t own a DYE. I can’t remember the last time I read a newspaper, or anything. I was plugged into nothing! Absolutely nothing.
Except one thing. Listen to this Father, remember that old rack set you had, with CD, radio, tape and vinyl all combined. I still have it! Can you believe that shit! Nothing on it works anymore, but of all things, the turntable. That old turntable works just fine.
That’s my only passion. I search everywhere, looking for those old vinyl records. I will trek anywhere if I hear about how I could get my hands on these precious treasures.
Recently, I even took a boat trip to the Bronx because a dealer told me about a place that still sold vinyl. But I shouldn’t have taken that trip, Father.
As we slowly churned our way up the East River, I didn’t want to go there, but something drew me, some ghost whispered to me, Father, and I couldn’t help myself.
I walked outside and felt the cool air hit me. I turned and looked at that huge pile of hot rubble and the ghostly shells of burned out buildings. I knew all my friends would remain buried forever underneath all that crap.
As strange as it may seem, Father, I had avoided this scene all of these years. This was the very first time I was viewing it in person. I had only seen it on screen, or whenever I flew over it, when I was in the military, or in print. But I never went up to look for myself, until this trip to the Bronx.
I stared long and hard as we slowly passed the once grand island of Manhattan. It was unbelievable! I mean, unbelievable, Father!
I soon noticed an older white couple staring with the same disbelief. Most of the younger people on deck had grown up with it and were paying that still smoldering big junk heap little mind. They just kissed, hugged and laughed with each other, reminding me of another time.
Just as I knew little about Sept. 11th, these young people knew nothing of all the grand buildings that once stood so proudly, that once helped define who we were as a country, grand buildings that once reached so high to the sky, so mighty, so world conquering, that all the world wondered in jealous awe!
Now it was gone!
The older couple started holding each other tightly, with the woman burying her head in his shoulder, as the old man gently patted her on her back. I could see her elderly body shaking. I watched as they led each other back inside, and I could see the despair in their bent bodies.
And I understood, Father, unlike those young people on desk, who probably didn’t even notice the grief that the old couple was experiencing. They just continued to laugh, kiss and have fun. Yes, I understood. It was funny, Father. I haven’t cried in years. I mean, ever since that day on that cold, wind swept pier on Coney Island, when death called, and I did not answer, I have not shed a tear.
Now, I felt the tears coming. I fought them. I fought them hard, Father, with everything I had inside me. And I won! I kept them under control, Father. I kept them under control! I forced myself to break away from that awful scene.
I walked back inside the boat and quietly sat in a corner, and put my head down, and kept it down for the rest of the ride.
I must say, as an interesting aside, my trip was somewhat successful, however. I was able to take the slow, quiet Fusion bus to 181st street and Belmont Avenue, to this strange old white guy, who lived in the basement of one of those old tenement buildings that you must have walked by as a young boy.
I fully expected a dark, dank littler place full of junkies and rats, and who knew what else. I was especially worried because I knew I had a pocket full of cash. But dressed as I was, I seriously doubted if anyone would have guessed just how loaded I was.
Walking around with a pocket full of money, looking like death warmed over, was one of my favorite little games! Plus, I still felt that I could hold my own with any dumbbell that was foolish enough to try and attack me!
This old man’s basement apartment was extremely neat, and well lit. He had rows and rows of old CD’s and video games, and hard to find VHS and DVD movies. But where was the vinyl? Had I already wasted half a day? Had I exposed myself to all kinds of danger and bad memories for nothing?
“Ah, young man, wait, wait. Just a minute,” he said, no doubt noticing how disappointed my body language became after he told me that he was all out of vinyl of any kind.
His face brightened up. We walked over to a little locked cabinet. He unlocked it and fished around inside.
“I knew it! I knew it!” he said happily. “I knew I still had them. Just slipped my mind. Look young man, look!”
He held up two round 45’s. “Its doo wop, young man. doo wop. You can’t find that anywhere.”
My heart started pounding. “Yes!” I thought. “Yes!”
As I look back on it, I can see how you would have cracked up watching us. This old guy acted as weird as me. We both talked and negotiated for over an hour over those two 45’s, but only occasionally looking at each other. Mostly he spoke with the same weariness I could hear echoing in my own voice.
The Manhattan Syndrome, I suppose. There was certainly a lot of it around. Over 9 million of us from Staten Island, Brooklyn, The Bronx, Queens, could have been in Manhattan that day. And this is not even to mention those squares from Long Island, New Jersey and Connecticut! And what about all of those people from the rest of the country, or the world, for that matter? Those crazy frustrated bastards in Vermont sure knew how to put a hurting on us, Father!
On the way back to Brooklyn with the two old doo wops, I was still somewhat disappointed that they were not the full LP I lad been led to except to find before I made the long trip. But they were doo woo, nevertheless, which was a great find, even through they cost me my entire Army pension check for the month.
Whatever world-weariness and Manhattan Syndrome the old white man suffered from, I still couldn’t budge him off of his outrageous price.
“Are you kidding? This ain’t that phony black market stuff. This is the original. Here,” he said, letting me touch the 45 while he still held on tightly to it. “See. Go head. Feel it.” I glanced briefly at his face and saw a real spark, as I had seen when he first remembered that he had this hidden treasure.
I touched the smooth surface, which surprisingly, from what I could see, was thankfully free of scratches. I have paid big dollars in the past and gotten home and could barely hear what was one those records they were so badly worn. But this didn’t seem like the case, this time. I knew the old man was right. I could tell that this was the real stuff.
“Two Grand, that’s it.”
I tried one of my favorite tricks of taking the money out and flashing it before his nose, hoping to provoke a greedy grasping for the hard to find dollars.
This old bastard wasn’t biting, Father.
“You shitting me, right!” He still didn’t look directly at my money or me.
Still, I liked this old guy for some reason. I loved the tough guy Bronx accent. Those guys used to think that they were as badass as us Brooklynites! Can you believe that, Father!
Oh, sorry, Father. I forgot you were born in the Bronx. No disrespect intended.
But, Father, I wasn’t shitting him. Two Grand for two fuckin 45’s was enough. I mean, what the fuck did he think I was, a retired General! I was only a Major, for Christ sakes!
But in the end, who cared what they cost. He got his two grand somewhat reluctantly, seeing that I wasn’t going to budge.
I loved doo wop more than any other kind of 20th century music. Man, those cats could sing. Their beautiful, clear, passionate, naïve voices made me feel much better about life (“Life is but a dream…ohhhhh weeeeeee.”)
Gina loved that shit as well. We used to smoke pot and make love to them all the time.
You were one lucky man, Father, to have lived when you did. The music was great, new, exciting back then. I bet you even saw some of those slick looking guys, with their processed hair; and those gorgeous young babes, in those great looking outfits, prancing all around the stage! What an honor that must have been.
On the way back to Brooklyn, I settled down for the long boat ride. I sat down quietly in the same corner of the same boat, eyes down, holding on tightly to my precious find, smiling silently to myself
It was starting to get dark, but even with that, no matter what, I wasn’t going to look out the window, or even look up, until we arrive back in Brooklyn. Nothing was going to spoil this rare moment of pure joy, and deep satisfaction.
(To be continued…)
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