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July 2024
Vol. 23, No. 10

Out of My Head

The Value of Things

by Al HowardFebruary 2020

What’s the value of a record? There are plenty of options with which to do your research. Websites, completed auctions, price guides, quality, songs, lyrics, melodies, one’s personal relationship. Value can take on so many different meanings in a land where perspectives are infinite. I bought a record at the swap meet this morning for a dollar. According to it’s worth $8. If pressed by the seller, I would have gladly given $20 for it. Though as an adverb, “gladly” may be a stretch, “reluctantly, cursing the sky, but willingly” may be more accurate. The album was the Bermuda Merrymakers at Horeshoe Bay. The drummer sold my mother her first car. My mom didn’t drive until she was in her 40s, but she got a license because she wanted to take me to a better school than the ones in our immediate surroundings. And, somehow, on this rainy day in San Diego where all my intentions of sleeping in were squashed by a paralyzing fear of missing something good, I found this record. They couldn’t have pressed more than 500 of them, in Bermuda, about 50 years ago and there it was, in a molded stack of show tune and easy listening albums so stripped of interest I barely got through the stack. I was thoroughly excited in an otherwise dismal bargain hunting excursion. I could plant this record in my mom’s collection and hopefully shock her just shy of a heart attack.

The topic of value had been on my mind of late. Some years ago I purchased a Velvet Underground & Nico record for $2. I didn’t want to pay more than a dollar for it. Before you accuse me of obnoxious frugality, hear me out. I’ve had the fortune of finding a number of these original pressings through the years. They’re almost always hammered beyond recognition. The record, one of my favorites, offers some insight into the turbulent lives led by those Velvet Underground fans exposed early on to the music. Because every time I find this record, I have the brevity of excitement and I’ll pull the vinyl out of the sleeve and it looks like Wolverine dj-ed with it at an East County methamphatemine party. There are often circular stains from where glass bottles were rested; it’s more likely autographed by cigarette burns than one of the musicians. But, I’ll buy it in any condition because it has that rad Andy Warhol cover and eventually I’ll put all of them together and Frankenstein a beautiful copy for myself. This one I got for a lofty $2 looked like it had been torn apart by rabid cats with a grudge against the avant garde. A good portion of the cover was missing, lost in the ether of time, the record itself was a glazed donut of lord knows what. If you licked it you’d probably see surreal trails for 7-10 hours, followed by a new life outlook and a free tie-dye.

This is the actual description I used when listing this record on eBay for a seven-day auction starting at 99 cents. It was probably the most honest set of words I’ve ever strung together. By the time the auction was over, the record, missing a portion of the cover, playable for only a couple of tracks with enough background noise that it became the foreground, dirty and dinged, sold for $66 to someone who needed it more than me. Far surpassing the $3 I would have been content with. During the auction one of the bidders and i started a correspondence. His peak bid was $3. We were both surprised how high it was going for, he said I’d perhaps dent my rent a little. Living in San Diego, it likely covered 13 minutes of my monthly. At $66, I can only assume that Moe Tucker sold the buyer’s mom her first car.

I can’t place a price on the way that the light shines on a lost memory

A penny for your thoughts, which I found on the ground, is now worth a whole world to me

Times takes your back through the bends and the cracks

And the folds and the maps of a life

And I’m out in the deep on the verge of some sleep though these thoughts keep me up through the night

Can’t claim a cost on the things I have lost as they slipped though the hands like the sand

Just out of reach though I search and I seek for the place where they keep to no end

The soundtrack that played as we painted the days with the moments that matter always

And you hear a slow song tell you where you belong and you’re finding yourself as it plays

In the place our memories keep

I can’t quite forget how the table was set in a house past the reach of my mind

It’s a painting we have like an old photograph that tethers us tight to a time

It’s a slide show you’ve seen in a fractured day dream where the dust looks so crisp in the light

And the ticket is free, what you hear, what you see

When you travel behind your closed eyes

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