Jimmy owned the place. I loved the guy. He was a recovering heroin addict, 30 years younger than me. In Chicago South-side terminology, he had "chops". He was cool, and he had knowledge of all types of music. He always had some great jams playing in the store. Buddy Miles, Bo Diddly, Miles Davis, Chico Hamilton, Sarah Vaughan, you name it, and he had it. He sold nothing but the old vinyl LP's. Cassettes and CD's just don't give you the sound of the old wax LP's.
Jimmie bought the shop from a retired Chicago police officer. I went in there usually 2 or 3 times a week, to watch them play chess and drink strong black coffee. Eventually, I would saunter through endless aisles of the old thirty-three-and-a-third LP's. I found such gems as Susanna McCorkle, Milt Jackson, The Jimmy Hall Quintet, John Coltrane, and Muddy Waters. I always left the shop with 2 or 3 records, in pretty good condition. The price for a record was anywhere from 2 to 7 bucks...Not a bad deal! It was amazing. I figured out how to hook up a nice turntable to my Bose stereo sytstem. It wasn't easy, till I got an alligator clip to ground the turntable. I contacted Bose, and they shipped the accessory to me for only ten bucks. The sounds were wonderful, and worth the wait.
Jimmy and I talked a lot about sobriety, when his policeman friend wasn't there. I respected his anonymity, and he respected mine. He had a nice young girlfriend who watched the store for him, when he was taking classes at the local college, or out buying records. Jimmy let me hang my paintings in his shop. They hung there for a couple of years, but I never sold a piece. I hung one of Jimi Hendrix, one of Janis Joplin, and one of Jim Morrison. Later on at a National Art Show, the Hendrix painting won a minor award. News of my painting sale, appeared in local newspapers, and we hung the article in the record shop. I sold the Hendrix painting to a guy who drove a truck for a living. Anyhow, Jimmy started slipping again. Business wasn't very good, and he was going to have to close his record shop. He started snorting heroin once again. Heroin is a cruel mistress. His girlfriend confided in me, and told me of his plight. She cried alot of tears in the days to come. She knew that I also loved Jimmy, and shared her angst with me. I asked if I could help in any way, but she told me that he was too far gone. I kept coming to the shop, but the doors were usually locked. The only times the shop was open, was when Jimmy's girlfriend could work a shift. She had her own full time gig at a hair salon. After a while, I saw him again. He had sallow skin, and dark circles under his sunken eyes. He had lost a lot of weight, and looked like a ghost. He smiled at me, put his arm around my shoulder, and told me everything was fine. I told him that I knew otherwise. He was off and running with the horse again, and you can't stop a runaway train, so I didn't pitch sobriety to him. I knew he didn't want to hear that from me anyway.
I caught him packing up his records, the week he was closing the shop. He said, "Hey man, you've been a great friend and customer', "Why don't you grab 3 or 4 records that you like". "I'm moving back to the city". I said, "Are you sure you want to part with them Jim"? He said, "Yeah man, its OK". I don't have room for all of them anyway". Then he asked me if I could spare him some cash...I gave him a couple of twenties. I knew where the money was going to go, but I gave it to him anyway.
I saw his girlfriend a few months later. Jimmy and she weren't an item anymore. He sold all the records for heroin, and was spiking in some desolate building. He was sharing needles with other addicts, somewhere in the inner city. I had to write his story. I couldn't believe such a smart kid could do this to himself; but we all initially think we are smart enough to handle our addictions. I think he might have died. I think that was the news I heard on thes street, but I blocked it all our of my mind. I didn't want to remember him this way. I sure miss that kid.
"A Spider in the Corner of my Mind"...available on Amazon.com