A FAREWELL TO VINYL FEVER

There’s something about a good record store that their digital replacements just can’t match.

Yes, I used the term “record store.” I stopped buying 12″ vinyl albums in the 1980s — but CDs are records, and they always have been. (Not really worth debating, at this point, since CDs generally are seen as nothing but space-wasting dust collectors.)

Record stores are disappearing; That shouldn’t be news to anyone. The bigger surprise is that, somehow, a scattered few independent places have managed to keep operating as bricks-and-mortar (and posters-and-tape) enterprises.

One of those quirky, funky, jumbled, genre-busting places — Vinyl Fever in Tampa, Florida — is closing its doors this weekend, after 30 years and several moves. The store’s lease is coming due, and another move seemed too financially risky.

The Tampa Tribune’s pop music expert, Curtis Ross, paid tribute to the store and its owner, Lee Wolfson, writing “the joy of Vinyl Fever and other stores like it is finding records I didn’t know I wanted, in having my head turned by something new or old while searching for something else. It’s being able to talk about music face to face with someone just as obsessed as I am, and that’s something the Internet can’t replace.”

Before the store was emptied of its treasures, I stopped in to look for an appropriately Fever-ish final purchase: a used Roxy Music LP, perhaps?; a Robert Johnson CD box set?; or maybe a too-tight New York Dolls T-shirt?

What I found was much, much better.

True to the spirit of independent record stores everywhere, the good people at Vinyl Fever always had organized their inventory with hand-lettered white vinyl dividers. Nothing could better convey the indelible personality of Vinyl Fever.



They went for 25 cents apiece.


I LOVE WAX MUSEUMS

My sixth-grade class traveled to Washington, D.C., for a massive gathering of school safety patrols from around the country. While we were there, we took in all of the monuments and memorials, of course. We looked at loads of famous buildings and swarmed through the Smithsonian, with its impressive collection of richly varied artifacts.

So, what do I remember most clearly about that sixth-grade trip?:


— One of my classmates bought a really tiny camera from a street vendor. (It probably cost no more than two dollars, but it was super cool.)

— One of my classmates bought some realistic rubber vomit, and used it to prank our chaperon, the chief of police.

— The wax museum.


I was absolutely fascinated by the wax museum. Some of the figures were amazingly lifelike, others were stiff and utterly horrible. It didn’t matter; I loved them all.

The battle of the Alamo was a stop-motion frenzy of looming disaster. President Richard Nixon sat awkwardly behind a desk, his facial expression a bit too relaxed and engaging. (He looked more like a game show host than the shifty-eyed, tortured soul that we’d come to know from TV and magazines.) Gen. Douglas McArthur and his assistants waded ashore in the Phillipines (“I shall return!”), their pants legs eternally wet. (How did they do that?? My sixth-grade mind was boggled.)

In the years since, I’ve seen some really great wax figures — in museums in Hollywood, in London, and elsewhere — and some stunningly terrible ones, at those very same museums. (Why did the Elvis Presley figure in Madame Tussaud’s in London look like an effeminate cross-dresser? It was deeply odd, but memorable.)

I never had a chance to visit Tussaud’s London Wax Museum in St, Petersburg, Fla., but I have a post card that shows an amazing tableau from their “Chamber of Horrors”: The 1963 assassination of Lee Harvey Oswald by Jack Ruby.

Somehow, Tussaud’s team of modelers was completely unable to capture any sense of horror or historical resonance; Instead, when I look at Oswald’s pose and expression, I’ve always envisioned him drunkenly singing a spirited sea shanty:

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