The first batch of pre-orders and sales that summer and fall of 2008 were mostly to family, friends, and the supportive Star Wars fans of the Ohio Star Wars Collectors Club and the vintage forums at Rebelscum.com. They really jump-started this whole thing with their responses to my 2007 online series of Star Wars recollections.
In early 2009, right around the time my last full-time newsroom job was eliminated and I found myself out of work, Rob Wainfur posted one of the earliest completely-neutral-party reviews of Collect All 21! on his Retro Finds site, which was a more-than-welcome bit of nice news, and especially neat because Rob’s from Wales.
Around the same time, Adam, my Collect All 21! editor, launched Deus Ex Comica, and suddenly I was like, “Hey: I want a cool, professional cover and a foreword, too!” And that’s where Kirk Demarais and David Morgan-Mar came in, generously contributing their talents to the revised version of Collect All 21!, providing me with some amazing front cover art and a kick-ass introduction.
Working with a great digital publishing team, I expanded the book for a Kindle edition in July 2011, adding some new personal material as well as interviews and my magazine-length feature on Lorne Peterson.
Some of the other neat stuff that’s happened along the way:
- In spring 2009, I got an incredibly kind and supportive email from George Krstic, another Northeast Ohio first-generation Star Wars fan who grew up to write neat stuff like MTV’s Downtown, Megas XLR, Star Wars: The Clone Wars, and Motorcity. We’ve hung out a few times since, and recorded a few Star Wars nostalgia podcasts, and it’s always a blast. (George also introduced me to Josh Ling, who’s also a first-generation Rust Belt kid that came of age addicted to Kenner toys, and, I think it’s also fair to say, deals with the same old-school v. new-era Star Wars internal conflicts that twist so many of us in geek knots.)
- Jenny Williams and Curtis Silver both said really nice things about Collect All 21! on the GeekMom and GeekDad blogs, respectively.
- At PAX East in 2010, thanks to the GeekDad crew, I met Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks author Ethan Gilsdorf, who bought a copy of the book on the spot while we were all hanging out, and later provided me with a superlative blurb.
- CNN interviewed me for a 30th anniversary story about The Empire Strikes Back.
- Sharing Star Wars memories became kind of a thing: My friend Jonathan Liu sent me an advance copy of Tony Pacitti‘s My Best Friend is a Wookiee (2010), and I wound up meeting Tony at Star Wars Celebration V to exchange books and stories. A couple years later, in 2012, Gib van Ert released A Long Time Ago: Growing Up With And Out Of Star Wars, which I read and enjoyed on the way to Star Wars Celebration VI. And, of course, earlier this year, Fanboys director Kyle Newman (who also encouraged me regarding Collect All 21! in 2010) put together The Return of Return of the Jedi.
- Geek A Week artist Len Peralta and I recorded a Star Wars and 1980s conversation/podcast.
- I got invited as a guest to a couple JediCon WV events, which were tons of fun, and got my name on a spectacular poster by Kenner toy photographer Kim Simmons.
- Hugo Award-winning author and good guy Jim C. Hines read Collect All 21! and blogged about it.
- Then there was that time in 2012 when the fantastic Renita Jablonski called me and said, “So, we were thinking of doing a piece on the 35th anniversary of Star Wars, and I said ‘I know a guy,'” and we talked on the phone, and then BOOM! I’m driving to work a day or two later, and right there in the middle of National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” is me. (And five years before that, when Renita was at WKSU, she produced a piece I wrote about not remembering the first time I saw Star Wars, which, again, is pretty much where all this started.)
- Topless Robot put Collect All 21! on its list of The 10 Greatest Non-Fiction Star Wars Books, which includes the line, “Celebrate the love, yub yub.” Yes!
- Somehow my book caught the attention of filmmaker Brian Stillman, who visited our house a couple summers back and interviewed me for Plastic Galaxy: The Story of Star Wars Toys, which should be coming out later this summer.
Crunching some numbers from Lulu and Amazon to figure out about how many copies of Collect All 21! are out there – counting print and electronic versions – I come up with a number somewhere close to 2,500. (I’m always looking to make that number bigger, of course, but hey – that’s not a bad run for a completely independent, word-of-mouth effort.)
I will never be able to say thanks enough for all the encouragement and support from my friends and family and everyone who’s ever bought, borrowed, read, or shared Collect All 21! among fellow Star Wars fans and 1980s-era nostalgia loons (which I can say since I’m one of them).
The Force Will Be With You. Always.
Adam Besenyodi will be sharing the table and selling Deus ex Comica: The Rebirth of a Comic Book Fan. He may even have some copies of Exo-1 and the Rock Solid Steelbots on hand. (And if he won’t, I’m sure he’ll let me know soon enough.)
I believe I speak for
all both of us at booth A12 when I say it would be excellent for you to come by and nerd out for a few minutes.
Although I didn’t land on any panels or have a booth at Star Wars Celebration V, I did have a lot of fun sharing Collect All 21! last week, even if my daughter and I had to lug my 10 copies in our carry-on bags because they pushed our shared suitcase just over the airline’s 50-pound limit.
For starters, the day we flew out of Akron-Canton, I spent the morning getting some new promotional postcards printed up for the book, since Ethan Gilsdorf, author of Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks: An Epic Quest for Reality Among Role Players, Online Gamers, and Other Dwellers of Imaginary Realms, had just written this incredibly nice blurb:
“Collect All 21!” is a deliciously warped nostalgia trip through Star Wars fandom. From collecting Kenner action figures to eating Star Wars birthday cakes to scribbling fan letters to Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher, Booth shamelessly flaunts his lifelong lust for all things Star Wars. Like a tractor beam, this endearing account draws us in, and makes us reminisce about our own geeky obsessions.
A couple days later, on Aug. 11, I spent the afternoon in Clermont, Fla., hanging out at Heroes Landing and talking comics and Star Wars with Adam, The Force Among Us creator Cris Macht, and Korgi author/illustrator Christian Slade. A steady stream of customers to the store led to some book sales and a lot of Celebration V chatter, and I traded a copy of my book for Cris’ DVD, which I couldn’t pass up after noticing, “Hey, those are my OSWCC friends in that movie!”
I was also introduced to Felix Albuerne of the Prime Time Geek program, which proved to be an awfully timely meet-up, since he called me four days later for a fun interview about my book, which he worked into this post-Star Wars Celebration edition of the show.
I already wrote an overview of Celebration Day One, but I want to stress here again how fun it was to finally meet Steve Sansweet – not because of his status as a megacollector and Lucasfilm fan liaison, but because of what his first Star Wars-related book meant to me. This is from the Collect All 21! chapter called “The Dark Times”:
Then Steve Sansweet’s “ Star Wars: From Concept to Screen to Collectible” book came out. This thing came at me out of nowhere one afternoon in a mall bookstore, and I absolutely devoured it: page after page of the toys I’d had, the toys I’d craved, and sweet God, the toys I’d never even known existed but now wanted to see. And for just the second time in my life, my eyes fell upon the image of a Blue Snaggletooth. This single picture and one-paragraph explanation of the figure’s existence, maybe more than anything else in that book, put the scent of Star Wars collecting back in my nostrils. “Collecting” even seems too antiseptic and grown-up. This nostalgia was like being little again and feeling that bone-deep desire to Collect All 21!
So, yes, it was amazingly neat watching him sign that same now-well-worn copy of his book most of two decades later. We talked for a couple minutes about journalism (he’s a former Wall Street Journal writer, and I always appreciated the interviews and research that went into Concept to Collectible, as well as Sansweet’s ability to tell the Kenner story) and about my own writing, and when he asked me to sign the copy of Collect All 21! I gave him, that was a great moment, too.
On Friday, I met up with another fellow writer and fan, Tony Pacitti, whose My Best Friend is a Wookiee – One Boy’s Journey to Find His Place in the Galaxy memoir is set for a Sept. 18 release. Tony’s book came to me through two near-simultaneous recommendations: GeekDad Jonathan Liu sent me a personalized, signed ARC he’d picked up during his coverage of the San Diego Comic Con, and while it was in the mail, Ethan Gilsdorf sent me a link to Pacitti’s book asking if I’d seen it.
After online introductions and back-and-forth messaging, Tony and I met face-to-face:
I gave him a copy of my own book, and he plowed through it after the convention and wrote up some cool reactions here. Even though we’re fans of different generations – he watched the original trilogy on VHS and came of age during the prequel era – I enjoyed his book and it’s deserving of its own dedicated review post rather than a paragraph shoehorned into this entry.
The last panel I attended on Friday was titled “Why We Love the Prequels,” and while I’ll admit I enjoyed it probably more than I was prepared to, I really went because Fanboys director Kyle Newman was there. See, awhile back, after I’d created the Collect All 21! Facebook page, I noticed one day that he was among the new “likes” – and it just sort of floored me. So just before heading to Celebration V, I sent him a note thanking him for the support and offering him a copy of the book. He had responded with a thumbs-up, so just before the panel started, while he was hanging out near the door to the room, I introduced myself, and we talked about the book for just a minute or so. (Neat moment: He said he really liked the title, and identified with it, since he’d once considered starting a company called “12 back.”) When I told him that Jim and I had stayed up late and watched Fanboys the night before the convention kicked off – mentioning one quote from the movie in particular – Kyle nodded and said something to the effect of, “Yeah. That’s it.”
The quote? “It was never about the movie. It was about all of us.”
That line came to mind a lot during Celebration V.
Star Wars Celebration V begins a week from today! Watch for my vehicle on Interstate 77 southbound:
It’s been almost five-and-a-half years since the last Star Wars Celebration I attended. As I wrote in Collect All 21 –
The biggest, best, craziest part of the Episode III build-up was the trip Jim and I made to Star Wars Celebration III in Indianapolis, just about a month before the movie’s May 2005 premiere. We planned this sonofabitch for more than a year and got ourselves a freelance assignment for four days of web coverage and a print feature on the movie.
I had just started a new job, and my first few weeks, Jim and I emailed back and forth constantly, ironing out details about what to cover and how to handle it, setting up deadlines, checking the event programming to see who was going to be there and figuring out how to drink it all in. We were seriously, ridiculously psyched.
A lot’s changed since that spring: That new job is the same one which landed me in the role of full-time freelance writer in March 2009, thanks to staff cuts, and these days, I’m the parent of a recently-minted teenager.
But here I am again, a week from Star Wars Celebration V – which is literally right down the road from Jim’s house in Orlando – and even without the buzz of a saga’s conclusion to drive the hype, I’m awfully excited about the week to come.
For lots of the same reasons, of course: Geeking out with Jim, being among fellow Star Wars fans, checking out props and artifacts and old toys.
But I’m also excited for a few different reasons. For one, Kelsey will be spending a day at the convention with me. (Just one, which I absolutely understand. She has a friend in Orlando she’s excited to visit, and relatives we only see once a year, tops, and while she does enjoy Star Wars, one day immersed in the fandom is all she’s looking for. Now, if this were a Kids in the Hall convention…)
I’m also providing coverage for GeekDad this time around, and I’ve already got what should be some fun interviews lined up.
Then there’s this Pre-Celebration V party and trivia contest from 3-10 p.m. August 11 at Heroes Landing in Clermont (a quick & easy drive from the Orange County Convention Center). I’ll be there with copies of Memoirs of a Star Wars Geek, and Adam Besenyodi is signing Deus Ex Comica: The Rebirth of a Comic Book Fan. Cris Macht, director of The Force Among Us, is supposed to hang around awhile, and the gang from the Star Wars Action News podcast is hosting a trivia contest to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Central Florida. (Where Jenn used to work, as it happens.)
So that should all be fantastic fun and a nice pre-con psyche-up.
Mostly, though, I’m looking forward to meeting people in person whom I’ve only met either online or through interviews or through Collect All 21! The best parts of my previous two Star Wars Celebration trips – I did a whirlwind 36-hour trip to Celebration II in 2002 – were the ones that just grew out of moments spent in the company of friends, talking Star Wars and nostalgia and expectations and life both here and in that galaxy far, far away.
Saturday’s road trip with Adam to the Pittsburgh Comicon made for a long day that left me both physically exhausted and mentally worn out from a kind of roller-coaster day.
I’ll get the low point out of the way first: I didn’t sell a single copy of Collect All 21, which is a first since I’ve started actively attending conventions and promoting the book, and this really bummed me out, especially since this was the biggest convention I’ve been a part of so far. I absolutely love doing readings and going to cons anyway, so I was really excited at JediCon WV last August when I met Christine from the Science Fiction Alliance of Pittsburgh and she invited me to give a presentation at this spring’s show. And as the date drew nearer and I saw the scope of Star Wars-related guests and the impressive slate of comic creators who’d be on hand, I just got even more psyched.
I also have to admit it was neat seeing my name in the program book and a description of the panel along with a logo of the book’s title. And I was glad to see Christine again and meet some people from the group who I’d only met online.
About a dozen people showed up for my reading – I spent a good 10 minutes before 1 p.m. talking Star Wars with a very nice couple in the front row – and that number was absolutely fine with me, seeing as how, through no one’s fault, I was scheduled at the same time as the Legends of the Marvel Heyday panel, meaning guys like Roy Thomas and Joe Sinnot were right next door. I made sure to thank everyone who came, and though things got off to a rough start when the video clips I had prepared wouldn’t play, I felt like I was hitting some of the right chords in the right places as I read different excerpts from the book and moved through the saga.
I gave away a copy of the book as a door prize afterward, and I was glad that the recipient was one of the audience members who had seemed to be enjoying the reading the most, judging from smiles and laughter and nods of recognition or shared experiences. That was the only copy of the book which left that room in hands other than mine, though.
After a short break, Adam and I sat on a panel (again, thanks to the Sci-Fi Pittsburgh folks!) where we talked about our thoughts on and experiences with self-publishing.
Don’t get me wrong: It was fantastic to be invited and to take part, and I remain very grateful for the opportunity. And I know that from a logical standpoint, my presentation didn’t reach nearly as many people as if I’d had a table, but failing through my reading to convince a single person to buy my book really did hit me hard.
The thing is: I still had an absolutely frakking great day. We got there around 10:30 a.m. and within about 20 minutesof our arrival, I met and chatted with Roy Thomas, whose Star Wars comics work absolutely enthralled me when I was little. He was incredibly polite and generous with his time, and when I mentioned I had been much more into Star Wars than comics, he launched into a few minutes about what it was like working on the original movie adaptation and then being among the first writers to work in what has since been labeled “expanded universe” territory.
Adam introduced me to Dave Wachter, who did the cover of Deus Ex Comica, and I bought a long-overdue convention preview edition of The Guns of Shadow Valley – which, by the way, is a-freaking-mazing and wholly deserving of its 2010 Eisner Awards nomination. And Dave put this nice sketch on the back, too:
Walking past one of the tables, my 1980s video-gaming eye was caught by this piece –
– and of course I had to stop, which is how I met Scott Derby. This is actually one of a three-piece series, and I had a blast talking to Scott about this sort of pop-culture stuff, and we got on the topic of original-era Star Wars because a) I was wearing my Kenner shirt, and b) he was sharing a table with Dave Perillo, whose retro-advertising-look pieces included this one –
– about which, naturally, I was also crazy. (He also had this Sgt. Pepper’s print, which, given Jenn’s reaction to the Star Wars art above, pretty much makes my next gift buy for her a no-brainer.)
Since I was still lugging around copies of my book after Adam and I did our panels, I went back to Dave and Scott’s table and we talked a bit more, and both of them were receptive to my books-for-signed-prints trade proposal, which was very much appreciated – they seemed exactly like the kind of readers who’ll enjoy it, and I sincerely hope they do. (Both of them were also familiar with Kirk Demarais‘ work from a couple Gallery 1988 shows, so it was cool to be able to share the book cover – and they picked up on one of my favorite bits: The slightly offset color register of the proof-of-purchase-inspired title logo.)
We paid a visit to Bryan J.L. Glass – yet another super-nice guy – whom Adam had gotten to know at the first Screaming Tiki Con. The three of us chatted for awhile and I bought a copy of his collaborated take on Quixote.
My only other purchase was a hardcover edition of Locke & Key: Welcome to Lovecraft, which I picked up because it was cheap, and I’ve heard good things about Joe Hill’s writing.
We left at about 5:30 or so, I think, and Adam had a craving for Red Robin, so we found one in the general direction we were headed and had dinner in Homestead, Pa. (Which I just learned was the home of the Grays, whom I know because my brother gave me a great book a few years back about Josh Gibson). The place was packed, but there were plenty of open seats in the bar, so we enjoyed a few burgers and then headed west again.
Driving through Pittsburgh and toward eastern Ohio, Adam and I got into this great debate over the use of 3-D in movies – unnecessary gimmick or the next logical evolution in cinema? – that lasted us awhile. It was one of those really fun, engrossing, being-adamant-but-not-an-asshole conversations with well-stated points and nicely-supported counterpoints and analogies and examples, and it carried us for at least the better part of an hour – and it ended up on a note about boobies. So, win.
We kept talking the whole way back about all sorts of stuff, and it really reminded me of our junior and senior years of high school, when we regularly would just get together on Sunday nights after dinner and just hang out and BS, and it was something Adam and I haven’t done in a long time. I mean, if we had planned something like this – you know, a “Hey, the wives are out of town, let’s grab some beer and shoot the shit,” it would have somehow had a different feel than this trip did. Or as Adam put it, when we’ve taken road trips to Bowling Green, we have had similar lengthy conversations, but those, by nature of the trip, have always come with an expectation of back-in-the-day talk.
By the time we were back home, the low points of the day seemed a long way behind me.
I’ll be nerding out ’77-’83 style for good portions of today and tomorrow, getting my Collect All 21 reading/presentation/Time Travel Belt ready for the Pittsburgh Comicon this weekend.
Star Wars looks to be well-represented at the show, with a dozen saga-related guests and artists. The biggie on the comics side is, of course, original Marvel Star Wars writer Roy Thomas – yes, he’s way more than that in the comic world, what with being Stan Lee’s successor as editor-in-chief and all, but for me he’ll always be the guy behind the only comic books I owned as a kid.
Artist-wise, you’re looking at a long list of varied names and their visions of the saga:
David Michael Beck – Star Wars: Republic and Star Wars: Empire comics
Daxiong – Star Wars Adventures: Luke Skywalker and the Treasure of the Dragonsnakes
Sean Forney – Very nice guy who I run into a couple times a year; designed these T-shirts for 2009 Star Wars Weekends.
Ron Frenz – Another respected Marvel veteran with a ton of cool credits, he worked on Star Wars later in its Marvel run.
John Haun, Brian Kong, Mike Lilly, Monte Moore and Tod Allen Smith have all done impressive pieces for lines like Topps Star Wars Galaxy, Heritage, Clone Wars and Empire Strikes Back as well as sketch cards and prints – and yes, they’re all scheduled to be in Pittsburgh this weekend, too.
So, yes, that’s a lot of Star Wars to run around and take in over the three-day stretch (to say nothing of all the rest of the stuff going on), so may I suggest that on Saturday afternoon, if you’re at the show, why not give your feet a break and join me at 1 p.m. for a trip down vintage Star Wars memory lane and into the prequel era and fandom from a Dad perspective. Naturally, I’d also suggest that you should also stick around for the 2 p.m. book publishing panel Deus Ex Comica author Adam Besenyodi and I are sharing with Paul Anderson. Thanks to the Science Fiction Alliance of Pittsburgh for the invite!
Come on out and say hello!
My calendar checked itself out this morning and honestly seemed a little surprised: “You know,” it said, “I don’t look half-bad the next eight weekends.”
“Don’t sell yourself short,” I said. “Four of those weekends look fantastic.” I did my best Peter Venkman (which isn’t very good) and added, “I love this plan! I’m excited to be a part of it! Let’s do it!”
First, there’s this coming weekend, which begins for me on Thursday with a road trip to kick off PAX East, and while there’s no direct Collect All 21! tie-in, the topic of growing up on Star Wars and sharing it with the next generation seems awfully likely to come up on the GeekDad panel (Friday night – 7 p.m.!) which I’m lucky enough to be a part of. To say nothing of the rest of the weekend. Can you tell I’m a wee bit thrilled about all this?
Then I’ve got three weekends off to get ready for April 23-25 and the Pittsburgh Comicon, where I’m doing two panels thanks to the members of the Science Fiction Alliance of Pittsburgh: First up is a Collect All 21! presentation/reading, Super Deluxe Special But-Han-Still-Shoots-First Extended Edition, and that’s followed by a publishing panel which also includes my friend and Deus Ex Comica author Adam Besenyodi, and writer Paul Anderson, too.
Bonus Points: Adam went to last fall’s Pittsburgh con and met Stan Lee, so for me, the incredible thing about this edition of the con is that Roy Thomas is going to be there – and while I didn’t grow up a comic-book addict, I most certainly did read and re-read and re-re-read the early-run Marvel Star Wars comics. (And I don’t care what anybody says, Roy, JAXXON RULES!)
The weekend after that includes Saturday, May 1, which is Free Comic Book Day, and I should be spending the day alongside Stormtroopers and the Batmobile and a bunch of other pop-culture coolness at The Toys Time Forgot in Canal Fulton, Ohio.
Finally, on May 15 I’ll be at the Fairlawn-Bath branch of the Akron-Summit County Public Library to celebrate the 30th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back with a 1 p.m. presentation, “Memories of an Empire: Reminiscing and Readings from Collect All 21!“
So, to sum up: Eight weeks. Four weekends of gaming, comics, toys and Star Wars. I like those numbers.
Quick Monday morning catch-up on weekend stuff:
Jenn & Kelsey were out of town Friday night, and after some brief waffling over an evening of videogaming or catching a 3-D showing of Avatar, I went for the latter. (After which, of course, I came home and played video games.)
I went into the movie with expectations set to medium, and those were exceeded on most counts.
From a visual and immersive standpoint, there is absolutely nothing like this movie, and I’m glad I shelled out the extra bucks to see it in 3-D, because it was absolutely incredible, as advertised. Story-wise, well … look, I’m going to skip all the heavy overtone drama discussion because, frankly, it’s all been said elsewhere and I went into this thing for the ride, because that’s what you get in a James Cameron movie.
The story is decent enough, though there’s never any doubt where it’s going, and how it’s going to end, and given the rich setting and environment, I was pulled in pretty easily, though I never reached that pit-of-your-stomach connection you get with a really well-written story and characters. As opposed, say, to District 9 – also a science-fiction movie with a too-easily-trumped-up-and-heavy-handed-allegory and, at its heart, the story of one human’s literal and metaphorical transformative journey – which absolutely did hit me in that fantastic, unexpected sock-in-the-gut way.
I won’t be surprised if Avatar wins the Best Picture Oscar, and while part of me thinks it would be great to finally see a science fiction movie take home that trophy, it will also bug me because it will mean epic visuals and a wave of hype will have – not for the first time, either – beaten better storytelling.
Now to the small screen for just a minute: Last week, I picked up The Big Bang Theory season one DVDs from the library to do a little flashback test and see if the early shows were as cringe-inducing as I remembered. I had fun writing up my thoughts in a Friday morning post for GeekDad, and got a nice Twitter reply about it from one of the show’s writers. (Incidentally, it’s very difficult for me to write that and adequately express how neat a feeling it is. Even the briefest note of appreciation for something I’ve written never fails to move me. And when it comes from someone whose own work has inspired and entertained me, well damn, that’s something to keep tucked away for those “Hey, You Suck” kind of days.) Saturday morning, I woke up to find that the GeekDad post had gone popular on Digg, which is a first among my contributions to the site and another nice surprise.
I spent Saturday afternoon in Hudson for a shared Collect All 21! and Deus Ex Comica reading at The Learned Owl, and hanging out with Adam and catching up with some friends I hadn’t seen in a few years. This marked the second time I’ve done a presentation based on my Star Wars memories, and I built on the reading I did at JediCon WV last October and had a lot of fun doing it. I’ve got another one on the calendar in May around the 30th anniversary of The Empire Strikes Back which I’ll share details on as it gets closer.
Which brings me back to the Quest for 1,000 Star Wars Fans & Friends I decided to shoot for about two-and-a-half weeks ago. I’ve gotten a lot of great notes of support and sharing on Twitter, for which I remain inexpressibly grateful, and on the advice and encouragement of friends, I built a Facebook page for the book. I’ve also added a direct-buy button for the PDF version of the book on the Collect All 21! home page, which includes, as a bonus, the front and back cover images that the Lulu electronic edition lacks.
Adding up distribution sales estimates plus Lulu buys plus the copies I sold over the weekend and last week at the Harper Comics Akron-Canton Comic Con, I’m up to 1/67th of my goal and thankful for every reader and supporter and friend along the way.
One of the things I love about reading Adam‘s ongoing series of music recollections is the sheer avalanche of quick-hit memories and images and emotions they trigger.
His latest entry, on Cowboy Junkies’ “Sweet Jane,” for instance, includes this bit:
I remember discovering the The Trinity Session wasn’t their first album when I stumbled upon Whites Off Earth Now!! on vinyl at Madhatter Music Co. (another independent music store now gone) in downtown Bowling Green.
Now, it’s entirely possible that I knew Madhatter was gone, but the last time Adam and I visited our old college town, it was still there. According to its Myspace page –
Madhatter Music Co. was founded in 1988 by Billy Hanway and Ed Cratty. Its first customer was a madman by the name of Jim Cummer, who became manager and eventually bought the store. For 18 years, Madhatter has stood for good music, flying under the radar of a diseased popular culture, communing with fellow like-minded freaks and lifers, and rocking out at all costs.
In October 2006, PB Army drummer and local music journalist/heart patient Keith Bergman took the torch and attempted to lead Madhatter from its recalcitrant teenage years into the murky waters of young adulthood. Sadly, he’s packed his bags and inventory, never to return. The store is officially closed.
Now, I remember Billy Hanway. At least inasmuch as he was “that guy Billy” who owned Madhatter.
And while I’ve lost track of which CDs of mine may have come from Madhatter – They Might Be Giants Flood, I’m pretty sure is one, though – I know for certain that I have two flawless LPs I got there when I still had my first stereo system, since it still included a turntable. One is Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, which I have still never owned in any other format, and the other is The Police, Synchronicity, which I picked up to replace my cassette. I think I paid maybe three bucks each for these.
But what really socked me while reading that blurb was that Madhatter was founded in 1988, meaning that when we started our freshman year at BG in the fall of ’89, the store was only a year or so old. The thing is, it felt like the sort of place that had existed for decades, sandwiched in that dingy little building between bars and gas stations and alleys. Frankly, I figured Madhatter had in all likelihood, been there since the one year my Dad attended BG back in the late 1960s. I would have at least figured the place dated back to the ’70s, but man, I’m telling you: It felt like it could have.
I mean, if you’re what, older than 30, you know this kind of store. You walk in, and there’s a rack of local music rags and a wall that’s been tacked over with countless layers of band flyers and bar show announcements. And there’s one glass case layered with stuff like “Corporate Rock Sucks” patches and anarchy logo buttons and bumper stickers, and another case filled with CDs from Europe and rare reissues and B-side collections and concert bootlegs. The walls are covered in posters and lined with racks of CDs and LP records – and one sadly-neglected bin of cassette tapes is over in a corner – and you go in and start flipping through stuff that you’ve seen before, but maybe something new is out this week, or maybe someone traded in a collection you’re looking for.
Odds are the place smells like someone’s basement that you know – like an old couch and a candle and patchouli and a bit of mustiness that never quite congeals into “rank,” but still kind of encloses you a little bit claustrophobically. It’s not anything you’d call a pleasant smell, but recalling it, by association, puts me in a mood of remembering an important and special time in my life.
Suck it, iTunes. Bite me, Amazon. Yeah, you’re convenient and wondrous and I can’t live without you, but you’ll never be my Madhatter, you hear me?