Tuesday, August 22, 2006

My Home Tower (Records)

More than a little down this evening. I drug everyone to Tower today after we'd finished activism (before we even ate dinner). Music's really important to me and, although I'm not big on chains, I'm a big supporter of Tower Records. I have no idea what their policies are and they may be mining diamonds in Africa.

What I do know, and always did, was that the vinyl album, then the cassette tape, then the CD would always be there for me. When I was a little girl, I would save up my money. My allowance absolutely. But if someone I loved had something coming up (and I studied those upcoming releases the way some kids study sports stats), I wouldn't eat lunch at school. I'd save that lunch money on top of my allowance so that when that album came out, I was there, first in line, ready to get it.

Albums come out on Tuesday with few exceptions. (Neil Young's Living With War came out on a non-Tuesday. It may have been a Monday.) I can remember when Fleetwood Mac's Tango In The Night came out. There was excitement on that for Mac fans. My friend Liz who now lives in Hawaii called me and said, "We went to every concert, we are going to be first in line, right?" I told her absolutely. We were probably way too old but if she was willing to cut work, I was there with her. (I've always been free lance, made my own hours.) But Liz was convinced the album was coming out on a Monday. I told her no, but she wouldn't listen and I thought, "Well she must know something I don't." So we met up at eight a.m., went to breakfast, drove to Tower (listening to U2's The Joshua Tree the whole way) and nothing. It did come out on Tuesday. She had argued and argued and if we'd been in any other store, she probably would have continued to argue. But Tower knew music.

The store, the employees. Other stores wanted their clerks to look like they were about to rent you a car. Tower wanted people who knew music (or were willing to learn).

I never worked at Tower. I used to dream about that when I was really young. The way some people dream about working in a candy store.

But then, in ninth grade, summer after, Pam got nabbed for stealing jeans and it was a major thing. I remember thinking, I had gotten an application from Tower, "Are you going to be able to resist the urge?" I honestly couldn't say that I could. I love music. If I was closing up, could I guarantee a record or too (they were vinyl then) wouldn't make it out of the store with me -- liberated, not stolen? Nope.

And that little nothing boutique went to town on Pam. She was going to pay, her parents were going to pay but they pressed charges and everything.

In these days when everyone's just found Jesus and has the I-Will-Wait braclet to prove it, it may be shocking to some but shoplifting happened a lot when I was a kid. No, everyone didn't do it. I did it in seventh grade. There was this red top that was a flowing thing and I could just see myself wearing it and Bobby (the class stud -- back in the pre-celibate days a seventh grade could have a stud) would notice me and forget all about Faith and her drippy little smile. I got away with it but I was sweating like crazy. Then I guilted like crazy. Then I was just paranoid. Finally, I went back to the store, two weeks later, and handed the manager twenty bucks (which more than covered the top). I told him I'd found it on the floor. He wanted to take my name down in case no one claimed it. I think, after we went back and forth, he grasped that I hadn't found it but was trying to pay off some guilt.

But Tower? In the summer before I went into tenth grade? With all the vinyl? I just couldn't be sure I wouldn't steal. Which was a real bummer because Angie and I were both convinced we could lie about our age (if we wore our hair up, we thought we looked older) and Angie went ahead and applied anyway. Had the time of her life. (Angie denies to this day that she got a discount. If I ever find out that she did get a discount -- I'm pretty sure she did -- we will have a very loud discussion about that.)

Tower Records was just part of my childhood landscape, part of my teen landscape, part of my young adult landscape and part of my landscape today. Of any store, I've logged more hours in Tower.

And now they've declared bankruptcy again because, the story goes, they're trying to sell off before the big rush arrives (traditionally November and December are big months for music sales, now October starts it off). It's not like they have a sign up in the window saying "Closed." And maybe they'll hang around in some form.

I don't know. There was a music store I drove an hour to go to until 2002 when it closed. They hung a sign in the window saying, "Thanks Napster." Napster wasn't what closed them. Shitty service did the trick. The store had no supervision and the kids thought it was their playground. Now if that's kids into music, it could work (and I've seen it work many times). Instead, it was all bring your dates to work, eat pizza with them, talk on your cell phones and know nothing about music. Some Eagles album, probably Hell Freezes Over, I don't know, was what an older guy was asking about one day. Three different clerks told them they'd never heard of the Eagles. In California?

Now kids their age would put up with the crap. They'd get mad and you could tell they were mad. I remember one young woman griping loudly as she searched for Third Eye Blind (this was long after "Semi-Charmed Kind of Life"). But older people (and I fall in there) really don't put up with that crap. If they're asking for help, they expect to get it. Maybe you won't have what they're looking for, but you'll try to see if you do.

So shitty service killed that store. (They had an incredible used CD collection which was why I went. I swear, they must have had a dee jay close by who was selling off, bit by bit, everything he or she had ever bought. You never wanted to skip more than two weeks because, if you did, there was no telling what you'd missed -- what import, or what bootleg live album or you name it.)

So I spent the time since I learned the news thinking what was my Tower not doing? The thing I think they weren't doing? Or things?

I didn't care for the new categorization system that they'd implemented. But I think the real problem was the customers. The Wal-Mart crowd really doesn't belong. If you're trying to get the cheapest price, go to Wal-Mart. If you're bringing in your kids with you (and they don't give a damn about music) go to Wal-Mart. No one needs your kids running up and down the aisles.
Sumner got pissed one Saturday because he was trying to remember the name of a group he'd heard on the radio once and only once. He almost had it. (He had the first letter of their name.) And then these four kids (none older than eight) started playing tag and running through the aisles. We came back here and logged on to Amazon where he found the album in about two minutes and ordered it.

If Tower's not about music, if it's a kiddie playland like McDonald's, it's not a place for music lovers to go. I also felt like they had a sorry way of promoting music lately. Getting behind some new act and you turn around and there's another cardboard cut out. Meanwhile, despite their scan and listen stations, you kept coming across CDs that you couldn't scan and listen to. Either they didn't show up or they'd show up but there was no listening opition, just titles listed.

So maybe that was it? I don't know. In terms of the kids, I made a point to go first thing in the morning or the hour before they closed. That way I didn't feel like I was being pushed aside by a crowd of kiddies seeking the cage with the balls. (There was none but they really were allowed to treat the store like a McDonald's Playground.)

I also feel like there was too much 'new.' A music store needs to keep things in stock. If you're selling to the new crowd only, you're missing a lot of sales. There was a kid asking for Dark Side of the Sun last month and they didn't have a copy in the store. (That's Pink Floyd for anyone who doesn't know.) I sw the same thing happening in the Joni Mitchell section. Joni hasn't had a new album in some time. She's released some collections (which I bought) but I always check Joni when I go into Tower. Maybe they'll have an import or something I've never seen. What I noticed was more and more it was becoming Blue and only a few others. (Of course every damn thing Bob Dylan ever did was there with several copies but that's how it always for the boys.)

Even as a kid, the back catalogue mattered to me. I knew we could run to some five & dime and grab the newest thing. But I knew if I wanted to dig deep into the catalogue, I needed to go to Tower. I also noticed a refusal to special order.

It was a refusal. I would ask about something, ask them to special order, and I would be told, "Oh, you can go to Tower.com and order it." Okay, but I didn't want to go to Tower.com. If I wanted to order online, I'd go to Amazon. What I wanted was to do a special order and pick it up at Tower. Now maybe everyone they advised to go to Tower.com did (I doubt it, I'm sure most went to Amazon.com -- the Tower website isn't user friendly and it's actually an unattractive site). But the store lost business, lost sales, it could have had if the clerks had been willing to write a special order. (Maybe that was store policy, no special orders? I have no idea. I just know no one would take them.)

For me, the rush and joy comes from walking into the store and walking out with a sack full of music. Waiting around for the mail to be delivered doesn't do it for me. Add in that my postal carrier doesn't always knock on my door so I end up having to trudge down to the post office, wait in line for a half-hour, hand over my (ha ha) 'tried to deliver' slip and get my package, and mail order doesn't cut it for me.

But I will give the clerks plenty of praise for knowing music. They knew music. If it was a new person who'd gotten hired because a friend worked there, you could watch and see them become mini-experts over a few weeks time. Whether that was a company policy or just at my favorite store, I don't know but I'll give them credit for that.

So now, this is the depression, the store that I've always shopped at is probably going to close down the way so many other music stores have lately. I know I should adapt and get used to downloading and all of that. But for me, there was always this special thrill of walking out of Tower with my yellow sack full of music. Though I couldn't do this in the vinyl days, in the cassette and CD days, I'd be a few steps into the parking lot when I'd be reaching into the sack, ripping off the plastic of one and getting all exctied about the fact that, as soon as I was in the car, I'd be listening.

So that's my Tower lament. Put on Bruce Springsteen's "My Hometown" and read with tissue.

Tomorrow on KPFA's The Morning Show, after the 8:00 am news (second hour), Bob Watada will be the guest. That's Ehren Watada's father so make a point to listen. Oh, almost forgot.
Guns and Butter. I think tomorrow is the second part of the Darfur discussion. That was really great. C.I. told me the names of both of the guests I was impressed with but I've forgotten the guy's. (Keith something.) The woman was Sara Flounder. The guy was Keith Harmon Snow! I just remembered. So that's two things worth catching tomorrow.

Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot" which is both more to the point and more important than my sobs over Tower:

Tuesday, August 22, 2005. A
day after the Bully Boy's inner-dialogue in front of the world, chaos and violence continue in Iraq, British whispers say there may be a pull out, a witness says he didn't believe Jake Kovco's roommates told the truth about what happened when Kovco died April 21st, and Ehren Watada's father Bob continues traveling and speaking to raise awareness about his son's case.
Starting with the Bully Boy of the United States,
Oliver Knox (AFP) reports on the "revolt" Bullly Boy's facing with some Republicans (Chris Shays) calling for a timeframe for withdrawal, some cheerleaders lagging and the general mood of the United States.
On the mood,
CNN's latest polling (released Monday) found that only 35% of those surveyed "favor the war in Iraq" while 61% were opposed to it which is "the highest opposition noted in any CNN poll since the conflict began more than three years ago."
Though Bully Boy boasted yesterday that, as long as he was the leader, US troops would remain in Iraq, there is good news in the CNN poll for Bully Boy as well. He can break that promise without shocking many -- "
Most Americans (54 percent) don't consider him honest, most (54 percent) don't think he shares their values and most (58 percent) say he does not inspire confidence."
On the topic of the cheerleaders . . . Did someone cry "War Cheerleader Down!"?
Or was that the sound of Thomas Friedman ripping
another pair of tights/pantyhose? Robert Parry (Consortium News) examines the laughable Thomas Friedman's record of 'analysis' and concludes that it's past time that Friedman and his fellow War Cheerleaders, who got it all wrong from the start, "have the decency to admit their incompetence and resign." Parry digs into the writings/record of Friedman and notes that: "Friedman, despite botching the biggest foreign-policy story in the post-Cold War era, . . . retains his prized space on the New York Times Op-Ed page".
As the War Cheerleaders cheer a little lower and think a little slower (is that even possible?), the
Guardian of London reports that "a senior military commander" (British) has stated that British forces in Iraq could drop from "7,000 to between 3,00 and 4,000 by the middle of next year". This as another British commander, "British Royal Marine Lt. Gen. Robert Fry," calls Iraq "a civil war in minature." Fry tells Robert Burns (Associated Press) that it's "important that the conflict not be described as 'civil war'" (this after doing just that) because, among other things, it "encourages . . . adventurous media reporting." Perish the thought.
As one British commander offers (carless?) whispers of a partial pull-out and another wants to play word games,
Bloomberg reports that "U.K. voter support for Prime Minister Tony Blair's Labour Party fell to its lowest in 19 years" and that "[t]he Liberal Democrats, who opposed the war in Iraq and have criticized Blair's relationship with U.S. President George W. Bush, gained more than the Conservatives in the past month." The BBC breaks down the poll's findings as follows: "Tories on 40% -- nine points ahead of Labour on 31%, with the Lib Dems on 22%." The Times of London, on the same poll, reports: "Nearly three-quarters of the public believe that Tony Blair's foreign policy has made Britain more of a target for terrorists". Support for Blair, like support for Bully Boy, has fallen.
In Iraq?
CBS and AP report a hidden bomb claimed the lives of two civilians in Baghdad. Reuters notes a mortar attack in Muqdadiya which has wounded at least fifteen and a roadside bomb "near Yusufiya" which has wounded two civilians and killed a third. AFP reports what we'll call a 'corpse bomb' in Muqdadiya which caused damages to a police vehicle.
AFP reports that eight "young Shiite men from Najaf . . . were pulled from buses by gunmen late Monday . . . and shot dead in the street." CBS and AP note that, in Baghdad, an engineer "was shot dead while . . . in his car" while "crossfire" claimed the lives of two civilians in Amarah. Reuters notes the following: Ramadi -- a body guard of the governor of the Anbar Province was killed in a drive-by; near Kirkuk -- two civilians shot dead; Baquba -- a police major was shot dead (his driver wounded); and in Mosul -- a civilian shot dead.
Reuters notes that Dawoud Salman (Shi'ite Endowment employee) was found dead in Baghdad while another corpse was found "near Hilla."
Turning to kidnapping news, the priest kidnapped last Tuesday (
hit the wires on Friday, the Pope issued a plea for his return this weekend) in Baghdad is apparently alive. Reuters reports that a ransom note has been recived and that the Misna news agency has spoken to Father Saad Syrop Hanna.
Ehren Watada is the first commissioned officer known to refuse to deploy to Iraq. Despite confusion in the e-mails, he has not been charged with anything today. (A program announced he had, they were covering Thursday's Article 32 hearing.) Lt. Col. Mark Keith is weighing the testimony and will issue a conclusion on whether or not action should be pursued. Tuesday
The KPFA Evening News had a report on Watada and they spoke to his father Bob Watada who supports his son and is currently speaking in and around the San Francisco Bay Area.
Bob Watada stated of the illegal war, "They're killing innocent men, women and children -- that's a violation of the Geenva convention which we agreed to. We're using depleted uranium, we're using cluster bombs, we're using phosphoric, we used to call it naplam, but they're phosphoric gases to burn the people. These are all war crimes. Talk about the torture that's going on in Abu Ghraib and other places. You know the rapes of the civilians and so forth. And Ehren would be forced to participate in this illegal war and would be forced to participate in these war crimes that are going on every day."
Bob Watada is attempting to raise awareness of his son's case and upcoming events include:

Tu. 8/22
1-3 pm brown bag lunch & educational event Peace & Justice Center of Sonoma County 467 Sebastopol Ave.,
Santa Rosa Contact: Elizabeth 707-575-8902

6-9pm Buena Vista United Methodist Church- Reception & Event 2311 Buena Vista Ave.
Alameda Contact: Rev. Michael Yoshii 510/522-2688

Wed. 8/23
10:30-noon UC Berkeley gathering with students and campus organizers Heller Lounge, Student Union Building, UC Berkeley Contact: Nina Falleunbaum 510-812-8026

noon-1:30pm Event at UC Berkeley ­ Sproul Plaza Contact: Wesley Ueunten 510-579-2711 7-9:30pm Reception & Educational Event St. Paul's Church, 405 S. 10th St,
San Jose Contact: Rose Takamoto 408-725-2933

Thu. 8/24
noon-3pm World Can't Wait­Youth & Students Conference San Francisco (site TBA) Contact: Jessalyn Gagui 415-286-3408

7pm Reception & Educational Event Newman Center, 5900 Newman Ct.,
Sacramento Contact: Sacramento-Yolo Peace Action 916-448-7157

A complete list of the events Bob Watada will be taking part in can be found
"I'm trying to publicize my son's cause and publicize what's going on in Iraq,"
he tells
Judith Scherr (Berkeley Daily Planet). Scherr reports that Ehren Watada's civilian attorney, Eric Seitz, told her that, if there is a court-martial, "our intent" is to "put the Iraq War on trial". Meanwhile, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer is preparing an editorial to run on Ehren Watada's case.
We will again note: :
Cedric (Cedric's Big Mix) is advising those calling Donald Rumsfeld (703-545-6700) or mailing him (1000 Defense Pentagon, Washington, DC 20301-1000) to say: "Hands off Ehren Watada! Let him go." Billie advises that you can use public@defenselink.mil to e-mail the Pentagon. She suggests "Re: Ehren Watad" or "ATTN: DONALD RUMSFELD." Courage to Resist and ThankYouLt.org. will continue to offer resources, ideas and inspiration. Get the word out.
In other resistance news,
Jeff Paterson (Indybay IMC) reports on this past weekend's rally "outside Fort Lewis, Washington" in support of Suzanne Swift which calls for "an honorable discharge for the Iraq veteran and sexual assault victim who went AWOL instead of returning to Iraq." Among those taking part were Swift's mother Sara Rich and CODEPINK's Ann Wright (US army Col. retired). [And yesterday, Jeff Paterson, of Not In Our Name, was wrongly billed by me as "Jeff Patterson." My apologies.]
In Australia, the military inquiry into the April 21st Bagdad death of Jake Kovco continues and apparently the only one not allowed to traipse through the crime scene was the officer making the assessment.
Tracy Ong (The Australian) reports that, in his testimony to the inquiry, Major Mark Willetts was "refused permission to enter the room at the Australian embassy compound in Baghdad but observed it from outside and saw photos." Australia's ABC notes that Willetts testified that while he wasn't allowed to enter "the room was occupied by military people, with no investigative skills". Paul Mulvey (Perth Now) reports that Willetts encounters with Kovco's roommates (Soldiers 17 & 19) weren't productive and that Willets "believed . . . they were witholding evidence" because "I find it difficult [to believe] that two men in the room would not have had more information in regards to what happened." For those who've fogotten, both roommates have stated they saw nothing (19 has stated he was getting a drink out of the room's mini-fridge, 17 states he was looking elsewhere ). The AAP quotes Willetts stating: "It's a small room; there were three people in there; it would have been very difficult not to have known what was going on in there." Tracey Ong notes Willetts' testimony regarding Soldier 21 who has now retracted his statement that he heard "Allah Akbar" yelled "10 seconds before the shooting" -- of Soldier 21, Willetts testified: "He was quite adament, in fact he was emphatic he heard Allah Akbar."
CBS and AP report this on Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi: "An Iraqi investigative panel has launched an independent probe into the rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl allegedly by American soldiers currently in U.S. custody, who will be tried in absentia if necessary, an official said Tuesday." The probe actually began Thursday and is expected to last at least a week. Abeer's 15th birthday would have been last Saturday.
Robin Morgan reported the following (Guardian of London via Common Dreams): "The victim's name was Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi. Abeer means 'fragrance of flowers'. She was 14 years old. According to a statement by one of the accused, the soldiers first noticed her at a checkpoint. On March 12, after playing cards while slugging whisky, they changed into civvies and burst into Abeer's home. They killed her mother, father and five-year-old sister and 'took turns' raping Abeer. Finally, according to the statement, they murdered her, drenched the bodies with kerosene, and set them on fire. Then the GIs grilled chicken wings."