Self-editing is overrated. Or is it?

Sunday, December 25, 2005

This will not be a warm and fuzzy X-mas post!

So be forewarned! I do not want to hear it! I'm telling you in advance that this is a crumudgeonly post! Go away! Shoo! Bah humbug!

Still there? Great, now it's just us. OK, so check this out. Take a look at this record below.

See that? That record (CD, whatever) is the landmark release in jazz of this year. It's a previously undiscovered set that Thelonious Monk did with John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall in 1957. For almost 50 years, people did not believe a recording of this night existed, and it had lived forever as this night that people referred to in hushed tones, but hardly anybody was there to see it.

Then! Somebody found a recording of it in a vault somewhere! Not just any recording either, but miraculously a pristine copy of it! AND! If that wasn't enough, it turns out that the performance was actually was as good as people said it was! It's the jazz equivalent of somebody finding a 20,000 year old photograph that a dinosaur took of himself on vacation. People were pretty sure of what it might have been, but no one honestly really knew how great it was.

So enter me, Lindsay Jones. I want to buy this record as a Christmas present for my father, who is a jazz aficionado. There's only one problem. I forgot to buy it before I left Los Angeles to visit my family here in North Carolina.

Do not ask me why I didn't buy it! I just forgot, okay!? I just figured "Ah, what the hell, it's the jazz record of the decade, I should be able to pick this up in North Carolina." That part is not important! The important part is that I did not buy it before I got here!

Now, let's take a brief detour here. People always ask me why I left North Carolina. This story, this one right here, that I'm about to tell, this is why. OK?

Now I should start off by saying that Thelonious Monk, if you do not know who he is (and that's ok if you don't, really), is one of the giants of jazz. He's like in the top five guys of jazz. Coltrane, Parker, Davis, Mingus, and Monk. Oh, all right, fine, Ken Burns, you can have your Louis Armstrong, but that's it! It's hard to dispute and don't start handing me some line about Jaco Pastorius, I DO NOT WANT TO HEAR ABOUT JACO PASTORIUS. You and I both know who the top 5 (or 6) guys are, and no, I am not gonna come over to listen to your goddam Weather Report albums again. It's just not all that, ok? I'm sorry.

Now the other important thing for me to point out about Thelonious Monk is that he was born in North Carolina. You heard me. About an hour from here in Rocky Mount. Is there a museum about him there? No. The Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz? That's in DC. There's a public park in Rocky Mount with his name on it. That's it. Not bad, I guess, I mean it is jazz, so you're already walking uphill to get anybody to recognize it but anyway, back to my story...

Oh wait. One more caveat. I know I know, get on with it! But one more thing. I have worked for several record stores in my life. Yes, it was a long time ago, but I have worked for both chain and independent record stores, and I have a pretty solid understanding of how the record business works, ok? I'm just saying.

So I go looking for this CD. Nobody has it here. I mean, nobody. I call every record store within an hour of here, which is all of like 7 record stores. Nothing. For the last 3 days, I have been hunting for it, and now it's Christmas Eve, and I am in big trouble. Finally, I call Best Buy in Greensboro, and I get this guy who says "Yeah, we have 6 here." and I'm like hallelujah!

I go all the way over to Greensboro, and, my hand to god, this is exactly what happened:

I look in jazz, under Monk, and they have a couple of his records, but NOT this one. Certainly not 6 copies. Look under Coltrane. Zip. Nada. This album is not to be found. Damnation! Someone has got to pay!

I find this guy named Bryan, who's Best Buy name badge marks him as a "media specialist". (Hang on to that, I'll be back for it in a minute.)

"Hi, I'm looking for the new Thelonious Monk album at Carnegie Hall."

"Monk? You mean the TV show Monk?"

" Thelonious Monk."

"The Loneliest Monk? Is that like gospel?"

(Odd that such a specialist would have difficulty grasping this. Still, I press on.)

"No. Thelonious. Monk. He's in Jazz. Live at Carnegie Hall with John Coltrane. Just came out a few weeks ago. I called and talked to somebody who said you have 6 copies."

"Did you look under M?"

All right, maybe he's just toying with me now. This cannot be a serious question.)

"As a matter of fact, I did. No luck."

"What's his first name?"

"THELONIOUS. And yes, I looked under T as well. Look, the person I talked to said you have 6 of them. Now, he can't have pulled that number out of the air, right? Where would have gotten that idea?"

"I don't know. Who did you talk to?"

"I didn't get his name."

"It was a guy?"


"Well, I'm the only guy here, and I didn't tell you that."

Must. Not. Kill.)

"Hey, look. Someone told me this. Maybe they're in the back or something?"

"I can look, I guess."
He does. He comes back.

"Nothing back there but a bunch of boxes with a ton of cd's in them."

"AAAAAH! Any of them Thelonious Monk?"

"Well, I don't know, I would have to open every one of them, and my manager wouldn't like me to be off the floor that long. We probably have them back there somewhere, so if you want to come back in a few days..."

"A few days? Tomorrow is Christmas! I need it today!"

"I'm sorry, man. I can't go tearing open a bunch of boxes for some jazz CD."
With the emphasis on jazz as if it was the kind of music that is only listened to by blind lepers or something, and man! I was mad!!

I wanted to grab that guy, rip that badge from his chest, and shove it down his throat while screaming at the top of my lungs:


But! I did not. I looked at him long and hard, and finally said "Do you have a computer in here that connects to the internet?" He pointed to one, and I went to work.

I found a couple of stores in Greensboro, so I tried them. The first one I tried was the Record Exchange; now, remember when I said I worked in record stores? This was one of them, and in my time at Record Exchange, I learned a whole lot about music, so naturally I have high expectations about what kinda service I'm gonna get in here. So I call and a very surly teen male voice answers the phone:

"Record Exchange."

"Hey, I'm looking for this new jazz CD with Thelonious Monk and John..."
He cuts me off.

"The only new jazz CD I have is Jamie Cullum." in the surliest record store employee tone imaginable.

Without even thinking, I just said "Well, then if I were you, I would kill myself." and I hung up on him. I mean, all right fine, it was mean, but come on! Jamie Cullum is not jazz! THIS IS MADNESS! SOMEONE HAS TO TAKE A STAND AROUND HERE!

I have one last call to make. Border's. If it ain't here, it's over and my dad is getting an Arch Card from McDonalds. Good god almighty, please oh please, can I just get some good jazz juju just once in this lifetime? I make the call:

"Hi, I'm looking for the new jazz cd by Thelonious Monk."



"Please hold."
Long long pause. "No, I'm sorry."

"Listen. I'm sorry. I yelled at you before. That was very rude of me and I'm very sorry. It's just been a frustrating day, you know? Could I ask you to do me a favor? Would you look under the letter C for Coltrane, just in case? Please?"

She looks. THEY HAVE IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I tell her there's $20 in it for her if she can keep anyone else from buying it before I get there. I drive 120mph on I-40, I'm there in 3 minutes. I buy it. I have it. It's done.

All right. Looking back on it now, it seems a little ridiculous. Perhaps. But, ya know, for all people talk about "Oh, Christmas should be about love and family and not all that commercial stuff", you know that what people really want is to find that killer gift for somebody. It's true. All the love and family stuff is very important, don't get me wrong, I'm an extremely fortunate person, and I thank people every single day for everything that has been given to me. But deep down, people would love to give that gift to someone that they would use over and over again and becomes a part of their life in some lasting way, so that it somehow resembles the love that goes with that gift.

Is a Thelonious Monk cd really that gift? Honestly, who knows? I'll give it to my dad today, and I'm sure he'll be very happy to get it, and then Christmas will be over, and this story will quickly fade away. So maybe this story that I'm writing down now is my gift to myself, so I can look back at this year from now, when I'm insanely chasing down the next impossible-to-find gift, and hopefully I can plan ahead, and even if I don't, try to be more nice about it, whether I find it or not.

Merry Christmas and Happy

Oh, and before I forget, go check out this site where it talks about this CD
. It really is something special, in my opinion.


Anonymous Alex said...

I like your non warm and fuzzy posts.

12/26/2005 10:47 PM


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