So this is what is on my turntable.
The Beatles by The Beatles (aka The White Album). Vintage Vinyl.
I scoot up the front steps to our porch, a new find under my arm. It’s early afternoon on a Sunday. The front lawn has a light carpet of red and gold leaves. The air is sweater-warm. An announcer from a tiny tots football game from the park down the street calls a fourth down and seven. Trusty Steve, my Schwinn cruiser, is cooling off in the garage after a trot up to KK.
I creep into the house, making sure the front door doesn’t bang. The little one is still napping upstairs. The big one is hugging on her Mama on the couch. Inexplicably she is in her hot-air balloon pajamas.
“What do you got Papa?
I pull the find out from its bag.
“Check this out,” I say. “What color is this album?”
“It’s brown,” says the big one. She’s right, of course. The album I hold is 40 years old.
“That’s true,” I say, deciding not to fall into a lecture about Jay-Z and Danger Mouse. She is four. We’ve got to start at the source.
“Look here in the middle. What color is that?
“Right,” I say. “This is the White album by the Beatles.”
“The Beatles are my favorite,” says the big one. I open the album to reveal their pictures. “My favorite is the girl,” she says
“That’s John Lennon,” I say. “ He’s got long hair but he is a boy. He’s Mama’s favorite too.”
In the top right corner the previous own has written her name. My laptop is sitting on the piano in the living room. I open it up and google. I’m in luck the name has an unusual spelling. The first hit seems entirely plausible. She is an assistant professor of English at UWM. Her email address is on the UWM website. I click on it and write:
Dear Professor Washburne,
My name is Michael Pointer Mace, and I am a teacher living in Bay View. I'm writing because I was down at Luv Unlimited on Kinnickinnic this Sunday afternoon, flipping through old vinyl, sippin' on some joe from the Hi-Fi cafe, when I came upon an original issue of the Beatles' White album (early issues have serial numbers). Your name, Carolyn Washburne, was carefully written on the inside cover. I googled you and came up with your faculty page on the University of Wisconsin website. It seemed entirely possible that an English professor who wrote an article entitled "Inspired by God: Wresting and Metal," and who graduated from Wellesley College in 1965, may have owned this album. One of the things I love about searching though vintage shops, looking for a little nuggets of life and art, is taking home something that someone else once owned. That person may have loved this music. They may have loved this album.
This seems likely since this Carolyn Washburne took excellent care of her Beatles’ vinyl (nary a scratch), and carefully placed an x next to Dear Prudence and Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da.
This is why I find recycled vinyl to be superior to iTunes downloads. It's not the warmth– it's that the White Album sounds better if it was once played at dinner party in 1968. I wonder if this was true for you. Was vegetarian lasagna served? What kind of wine? My wife, a Vassar grad herself, bets that a good cabernet accompanied talk of great ideas and envisioned utopias.
With great curiosity,
~Michael Pointer Mace
I hit send. The big one and I head to the record player. We await a reply.